Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I have two more biographies arriving any day now courtesy of various old book sellers.
The quote from the Aubrey book that leaves me the most unsettled:
If it be true that poetry lives by contrasts,
what subject more touching than
the fate of a young man
who has received from his father
as his only inheritance
a name that permits him neither glory or obscurity.
Its amazing how Napoleon is still garnering headlines.
186 year later. Now that is fame.
Our major Toronto paper dedicated half a page to a story about Napoleon's death mask yesterday. The story focuses on research by a french lawyer and "amateur historian" who believes that the desk mask in Paris is not Napoleon, but his valet. He also believes the body in the coffin is the valet's as well. The French government has not allowed DNA testing so the conspiracy theory of a body switch continues.
My favorite part of the article is when a French historian refers to the people interested in investigating this issue as "amateur historians and weekend historians."
I'm quite proud to be an amateur historian, although in my case, I'm a midnight historian when I do most of my reading.
On a personal note, I have to say, the mask in question does seem to be a little odd. It really does not look like Napoleon at all. He was sick I know. But the nose and cheeks don't seem to match his portraits at all.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Oh boy. Not sure I can call Napoleon II "big head" anymore, but here is yet another painting illustrating my point.
I have finished the first book I tracked down about the King of Rome.
I am stunned that it has taken me this long to read about him. The book was published in 1932, so the author does not know that Napoleon's sons remains/ashes were finally sent back to France by Hitler in the 40's. It concluded with the authors belief that even in death, he is a captive of the Austrians.
I am going to start the second book tonight.
But a few thoughts are top of mind for me right now.
Napoleon II did not receive his father's legacy. When he turned 16, he was supposed to receive:
-The Coronation Sword
-The sword of Austerlitz
-the Legion of Honour collar
-the Golden Fleece collar
plus a whole bunch of other mementos. He was also supposed to receive Napoleon's death mask.
I am going to have to find out what happened to all these items.
Metternich, the Austrian diplomat responsible for politicizing Napoleon II life has a lot of explaining to do.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Known as Napoleon's Oracle or originally as Osirus's Will for Man the scroll is apparently from a royal tomb in the valley of the kings in Egypt.
I have a recently reprinted version and I finally got round to testing it.
Apparently Napoleon lost this oracle at the battle of Leipzig in 1813 and did not have any good luck after that. It was first published in 1822 in book form. I gather attempts were made by persons who came into possession of it to return it to Maria Louis, but she refused to accept any of Napoleon's personal belongings after his death. (She did want the cash though.)
It seemed a bit complicated whenever I have looked at it in the past. There are 32 questions you can ask and several hundred possible answers. A much better magic eight ball, so to speak.
Anyway, I asked the oracle a question today, and I am not too happy with the answer.
I think I'll ask again later.
Monday, August 20, 2007
A major Toronto newspaper had a tiny reference to strange laws today:
There is no reference to the actual law statute or code in France, so I suspect this law was either repealed, never actually was on the books or perhaps this is a new urban legend.
Given how France feels about Napoleon generally, I would think a farmer might get paid if they called their pig Napoleon.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Since I started this blog I have been calling him "big head." Shame on me.
To be fair, I blame this title on the numerous ridiculous paintings of him, all portraying him with a head way to large for his body.
So, feeling guilty about the fact I know so little about him, I began to dig around various antique book stores to see if there were any biographies about him. Ebay to the rescue, two fantastic books arrived in the last week.
I am reading the Aubry book first, and I have to say, I have shed more than one tear in the last few days.
Napoleon Jr. was clearly loved by his father. He was doted on and during the three years he lived with Napoleon in Paris before the whole Russia debacle, he was a regular visitor to Napoleon's study. These visits are all well documented. (see painting to the right)
Also well documented is the fact that his mother spent absolutely no time with him, so he was raised by loving nannies who supervised every aspect of his upbringing.
Before the abdication, Napoleon II was a beloved son, heir to the French Empire and given the honorary title of "King of Rome." He was a lovely little boy, smart, funny, well behaved and beautiful.
But that was before the first abdication.
When Maria Louise left Paris to return to her father in Austria, she made little Napoleon a virtual prisoner of Austria. I had no idea.
They slowly but methodically took away his French nannies, his tutors, his French toys, his books, his name and ultimately his language. They wanted him to be Austrian. He was to become Franz, the Duke of Reichstadt. His mother left him with her father while she went off with her lover to rule Parma, which was her gift for leaving France. But lets not talk about her.
Right now I am at the point in the biography where he is four years old. The last French diplomat has been asked to leave Austria because Napoleon has returned from Elba, so Austria is using this as an excuse to kick all the french out of the Palace. The diplomat Meneval has received permission to say good bye to the little boy.
Meneval took his hand and asked him if he had anything to say to his papa, for he was going soon to see him.
The child looked at him sadly without answering. Then, he gently withdrew his hand and went away, still silent, towards the embrasure of a distant window.
(Meneval bade goodbye to the women in the room who were now appointed to care for Napoleon II)
As he was leaving, he stepped over to the little boy who stood watching him from the window. He bent low to bid him goodbye.
And at that moment he felt a tug at his coat, and heard a trembling little voice say:
"Monsieur Meva, you will tell him that I still love him dearly."
He was only four years old and for fourteen months he had not seen his father. When he reached the antichamber, Meneval burst into tears…..and so did I at this point in the book.
Another strange bit of trivia I learned this week:
In 1940 Adolf Hitler gave France a gift.
He transfered Napoleon II remains from Vienna to Paris. He is now resting beside Napoleon in the Invalides in Paris.
In the end, he finally got out of Austria.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
My summer reading pile gets higher and higher. I have managed to get several great books on Ebay. As the parcels trickle in through the mailbox I can see a lot of great hours of reading to come this fall. One of my favorite books is Ben Weider's "The Murder of Napoleon." His theory that Napoleon was murdered with arsenic has always received a great deal of press and I understand that the book has been translated into over twenty languages. The first book was published in 1982. I found it at a used book store and read it in one sitting. It was fascinating. What I did not know was that a second book was published in 1995. This one was renamed "Assassination at St. Helena Revisited." (Doesn't "assassinated" sound more like an X-File than "murdered?") Anyway, while doing an online search I came across the second book and now have a copy.
This year there have been several announcements that Napoleon died of cancer of the stomach like his father.....but if you read Ben's book, see the F.B.I. analysis and read the calendar of activity compared to the levels of arsenic in the hair samples, you too will become a Bonapartist Conspiracy supporter. He was poisoned.......I really believe it.
Napoleon, being a master spin doctor wrote the following in his last Will: I die prematurely, murdered by the English oligarchy* and its hired assassin.
Oligarthy defined: a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
As a North American girl, I know that I have been raised with certain biases.
One of them is – if someone is banished to an island, they are a prisoner under some sort of guard.
I always thought that Napoleon's life on Elba was very hard due to his prisoner restrictions. I also assumed that big heads mother didn't want to go with him because she feared the prisoner lifestyle.
It's only this year that I am finally realizing that he was essentially made the governor or leader of Elba. He arrived and immediately began creating laws and taxes to support his new country. I had no idea. No wonder he managed to escape and return to France.
Of interest to me always is how he managed his country. He built a hospital, paved roads, created public entertainment, vineyards, created a tax system and opened up the mines. He even developed an island close by for potential grain farming. To do this, he had to use a lot of his own money. Shame on Maria Louis for not going into exile with him. He even had apartments made up for her!
This week I tracked down this image of the flag he designed for Elba. Apparently this was sent ahead of his May 4rth arrival. It was white with three golden bees on a red diagonal stripe.
When he had time to design a flag…I do not know.
This image is of a flag up for auction last year.
Original flag & flagpole used on Napoleon Bonaparte's launch at Elba – Auction By James D. Julia, Inc., Fairfield, ME