This is the sad tale of a failed dictator who is still admired by so many, even in the UK. How is this possible ? After all, like Hitler he lost everything to die in ignominy.
For the glory of France ? No, Napoleon had nothing but contempt for the French. And that was nothing compared to his racist feelings against the Germans, Dutch, Spaniards, English, Austrians and all other peoples he subdued.
How many hundreds of thousands of men lost their life for nothing but the glory of this little man ? He didn't care a hoot about the lives of his soldiers.
And the horses that were stolen everywhere ? Let's not forget that horses did most of the heavy work for our ancestors. Napoleon won quite often thanks to the speed with which he moved his armies about. This came at a terrible price. Here is what Paul Johnson, an emminent historian, has to say on this:
His consumption of horsepower was unprecedented and horrifying. In the pursuit of speed by his armies, hundreds of thousands of these creatures died in their traces, driven beyond endurance. Millions of them died during his wars, and the struggle to replace them became one of his most formidable supply problems. The quality of French remounts deteriorated steadily during the decade 1805-15 and this helps to explain the declining performance of the French cavalry.
p 50, "Napoleon", by Paul Johnson, Penguin Group, 2002.
Women were surely an exception for this exceptional man ? Not so. There were many casual liaisons and sex encounters. He would call for a woman and his aides who knew his taste, would find a woman, strip her naked, no doubt to make sure she wasn't hiding a good sharp knife and push her into his room. No time for dilly-dallying. Yes he was a fast worker, I grant you that.
We didn't touch yet on his nepotism: he put family members on many thrones while fully aware of their incompetence.
And how many armies did he simply abandon ? Not only the "Grande Armée" he took to Moscow. He also abandonned an entire army in Egypt, Spain and Germany.
And of course he was also a great lyer. He lied about everything. And sometimes he believed his own propaganda lies. Bernard Coppens wrote a book called Les Mensonges de Waterloo (The Lies of Waterloo), published by Jourdan in 2009. He explains that Napoleon wrote three different accounts of the battle of Waterloo, all three to shove the responsibility for the disaster onto the shoulders of others. According to Coppens historians base their analyses of that battle almost exclusively on one of Napoleon's stories.
Military genius ? Perhaps. Except that he knew nothing about warfare at sea. We can't truthfully claim warfare at sea was a recent invention. So... quite a blind spot especially since France and its satellites were completely blockaded by the English for much of his time. Trafalgar, another disaster for the French ! That was in 1805, on his watch.
Some claim the decimal metric system as a positive point in a vain attempt to counterbalance all the bloodshed. Meters and kilograms all over Europe thanks to Napoleon ? Not so. Many systems of measurement remained in use until quite recently and even now we still have inches, pounds, acres and many other local systems of measurement. And we still have 24 hours in a day in France and just about everywhere else on this planet of ours.
On his website http://www.empereurperdu.com Mr. Bruno Roy-Henry of the "Association des Défenseurs Napoléoniens" tells anyone who cares to read all about his suspicions of the contents of the sarcophagus at the Invalides in Paris. In 1840 the Belle Poule—what a lovely name for the ship for the imperial voyage back to France—left St. Helena for Cherbourg with a mummified corpse on board. That corpse now rests at the Invalides. Some believe it might very well be the corpse of an English agent. English humor with a macabre touch ? Perhaps one fine day the French will open the tomb for an ADN test and discover the truth and the English will then perhaps have to admit the subterfuge and, let's hope, claim they don't know where the real Napoleon is.
Give him back ? Not too many Germans want back what remains of Hitler's corpse. It's no doubt in good company in Moscow. What's the difference ? In 1939 quite a few Germans also had a dream. In 1940 many Germans and Austrians thought they had something to be really proud of. Many in France remain proud of their failed Führer. As long as they can't rid themselves of the curse of the French Revolution that officially started in 1789 and its immediate aftermath...
Most recent update: 21 April 2021