Blog

  • How to Throw a Party in Regency London

    How to Throw a Party in Regency London

    June 16, 2017

    When one imagines a party in London during the Regency era – like the soiree at which the Duke of Wellington learns of Napoleon’s escape in Napoleon in America – one tends to think of lavish rooms, pretty gowns and fancy dancing. Less thought is given to the work the hostess had to do to get her house ready for the party, which was considerable, even if she did have servants to help her.

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  • Fake News about Napoleon Bonaparte

    Fake News about Napoleon Bonaparte

    June 9, 2017

    Was the King of Rome really Napoleon’s son? Was Napoleon killed by Cossacks? Did he escape from St. Helena? Lest you think fake news is a recent problem, here are some samples from the Napoleonic era.

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  • What did the Duke of Wellington think of Louis XVIII?

    What did the Duke of Wellington think of Louis XVIII?

    June 2, 2017

    Though Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, is usually associated with Napoleon Bonaparte, he had an equally large impact on Napoleon’s successor, King Louis XVIII. It was thanks to Wellington’s and Prussian Field Marshal von Blücher’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 that Louis XVIII, a member of the House of Bourbon, regained the throne of France. While Louis had a pronounced fondness for the British field marshal, Wellington thought rather less of the French king.

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  • When the Great Plains Indians met President Monroe

    When the Great Plains Indians met President Monroe

    May 26, 2017

    In 1821, a delegation of Great Plains Indians travelled to Washington, DC, where they met President James Monroe. The trip was organized by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun and Indian agent Benjamin O’Fallon. The aim was to impress the tribal leaders with the strength and wealth of the United States, and to persuade them to keep the peace.

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  • Watching French Kings Rise: The Grand Lever

    Watching French Kings Rise: The Grand Lever

    May 19, 2017

    Have you ever wanted to watch a king get up and get dressed? If so, you would have enjoyed the grand lever, the traditional rising ceremony of French monarchs. It was a moment when people could speak to the king without having to request a formal audience. The grand lever may have started with Charlemagne, who invited friends into his bedchamber when he was dressing. If a dispute was brought to his attention, he adjudicated the matter.

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  • The American Habit of Spitting Tobacco Juice

    The American Habit of Spitting Tobacco Juice

    May 12, 2017

    When Emily Hopkinson complains to Napoleon Bonaparte about the habits of young American men in Napoleon in America, she says, “If a young lady should happen to accost one of those elegant figures, it is a considerable time ere she can be answered, as the gentleman must first dispose of the mouthful of delicious juice he has been extracting from a deposit secreted in one of his cheeks.” The “deposit” to which Emily refers is chewing tobacco. Disposal of the juice involves spitting – a practice early 19th-century Americans lustily engaged in, often without benefit of a spittoon. British visitors to the United States were appalled.

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  • What happened to Napoleon’s body?

    What happened to Napoleon’s body?

    May 5, 2017

    Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821 at the age of 51 on the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena. His tomb is in the Dôme des Invalides, but that is not where Napoleon was first laid to rest. How did his remains end up in Paris? And why are there reports of Napoleon’s penis being in the United States? Here’s what happened to Napoleon’s body after he died.

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  • Was Napoleon good at billiards?

    Was Napoleon good at billiards?

    April 28, 2017

    Napoleon was not known for his sportsmanship (see my post on interesting Napoleon facts). Billiards was one of the most popular games in late 18th-early 19th century France. How was Napoleon at billiards?

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  • The Wreck of the Packet Ship Albion

    The Wreck of the Packet Ship Albion

    April 21, 2017

    The packet ship Albion, sailing from New York to Liverpool, was wrecked on the coast of Ireland on April 22, 1822. Of the 54 people on board, only 9 survived. Napoleonic General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, who appears in Napoleon in America, was among the dead. As this was the first loss suffered by a North Atlantic packet line, the disaster horrified people on both sides of the ocean. Survivors left harrowing accounts of the Albion’s final hours.

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  • 5 Easter Traditions No Longer Practiced

    5 Easter Traditions No Longer Practiced

    April 14, 2017

    Will you be going to church for Easter? Decorating Easter eggs? Eating hot cross buns? These are old Easter traditions that are still common today. But how about watching the sun dance? Heaving someone into the air? Rolling down a hill? Here are five Easter traditions that have generally been abandoned.

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  • When the King & Queen of the Sandwich Islands visited England

    When the King & Queen of the Sandwich Islands visited England

    April 7, 2017

    One of the things I try to bring out in Napoleon in America is how Europeans in the early 19th century tended to regard Native Americans and other indigenous people as exotic savages. Such views are illustrated by the tragic visit of the King and Queen of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) to England in 1824. King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu travelled to London hoping to meet King George IV. The trip cost them their lives.

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  • A Skeleton City: Washington DC in the 1820s

    A Skeleton City: Washington DC in the 1820s

    March 31, 2017

    During the time in which Napoleon in America is set, Washington DC exhibited “more streets than houses.” Visitors commented on the dirt roads, the distance between buildings, and the generally unimpressive appearance of America’s national capital. They also noted Washington DC’s beautiful setting, its potential for grandeur, and the city’s social life, which revolved around Congressional sittings.

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  • 10 More Interesting Napoleon Facts

    10 More Interesting Napoleon Facts

    March 24, 2017

    Further to “10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte,” here are 10 more fun Napoleon facts you may not have come across. 1) Napoleon was a bad dancer. 2) Napoleon didn’t like women to wear black. 3) Napoleon was hard to shave. 4) Napoleon liked to eat with his fingers.

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  • The First Texas Novel

    The First Texas Novel

    March 17, 2017

    Two books vie for the honour of being the first Texas novel, and both were written by Frenchmen. One of the books has a connection with Napoleon and includes several of the characters in Napoleon in America. The other – set during the Texas Revolution – was written by a disaffected Catholic priest who played a role in the early church in the United States. Though Texas was described in non-fiction books as early as 1542, with the publication of La relación of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, it was not until 1819 that the first novel set in Texas appeared.

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  • The John Quincy Adams Portrait by Gilbert Stuart & Thomas Sully

    The John Quincy Adams Portrait by Gilbert Stuart & Thomas Sully

    March 10, 2017

    In researching John Quincy Adams for Napoleon in America, I came across a portrait in which Adams’ head was painted by Gilbert Stuart and his body by Thomas Sully. The story of how that painting came about is an interesting one, involving two of America’s great artists, the perseverance of Adams’ cousin Ward Nicholas Boylston, and the intervention of Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, the first doctor to test the smallpox vaccine in the United States. It also tells us something about John Quincy Adams’ dress sense.

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  • Assassination Attempts Against Napoleon

    Assassination Attempts Against Napoleon

    March 3, 2017

    Napoleon Bonaparte feared assassination and reportedly took precautions against it. His friend Betsy Balcombe asked him about this when he was in exile on St. Helena. “I told him I had heard that he wore armour under his dress, to render him invulnerable, as he was continually in dread of assassination, and that he never slept two nights together in the same bedroom. He told us all these things were fabrications; but he adopted one rule – never to make public his intention whither he meant to go, five minutes before he actually took his departure, and he doubted not many conspirators were thus foiled, as they were ignorant where he was at any time to be found.”

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  • Anecdotes of Napoleon’s son, the King of Rome

    Anecdotes of Napoleon’s son, the King of Rome

    February 24, 2017

    Napoleon’s only legitimate son, Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, also known as the King of Rome, was born on March 20, 1811. By all accounts he was a cute, strong-willed and kind-hearted little boy. He was also greatly spoiled. Here are some anecdotes of the King of Rome as a young child. The first comes from Captain Jean-Roch Coignet, a grenadier of Napoleon’s guard.

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  • Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s

    Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s

    February 17, 2017

    Pity the poor pedestrian in Vienna during the time in which Napoleon in America is set. Here’s what an English visitor had to say about the dangers of walking in Austria’s capital in the early 1820s. “The Art of walking the streets in London is an easy problem compared with the art of walking them in Vienna. In the former, there is some order and distinction, even in the crowd; two-legged and four-legged animals have their allotted places, and are compelled to keep them; in the latter, all this is otherwise.”

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  • When Louisa Adams met Joseph Bonaparte

    When Louisa Adams met Joseph Bonaparte

    February 10, 2017

    In Napoleon in America, Louisa Adams – the English-born wife of then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams – listens with interest as Elizabeth Hopkinson talks about travelling with Napoleon and his older brother Joseph to upstate New York. That vignette is set in April of 1822. In real life, Louisa Adams met Joseph Bonaparte in September of that year. Joseph was a ladies’ man who had already fathered two illegitimate children in the United States. Louisa was an elegant woman, comfortable in the courts of Europe, who liked to charm and be charmed. Here’s how the two of them got along.

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  • Alternate History by Napoleon

    Alternate History by Napoleon

    February 3, 2017

    In view of all the alternate history written about Napoleon, of which Napoleon in America is an example, it is worth noting that a prolific speculator about Napoleonic “what-ifs” was Bonaparte himself. Napoleon often posited counterfactuals, particularly when he was in exile on St. Helena. Here are some of Napoleon’s alternate history scenarios.

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  • Charades with the Duke of Wellington

    Charades with the Duke of Wellington

    January 27, 2017

    Have you ever played charades? Charades began in France in the late 18th century as a type of riddle. In a charade, each syllable of the answer (a word or short phrase) was described enigmatically as a separate word, then the answer as a whole was described in similar cryptic fashion. In the early 19th century, people began to act out charades as a parlour game. Let’s sit in on a game of charades played by the Duke of Wellington in 1821.

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  • The Inauguration of John Quincy Adams

    The Inauguration of John Quincy Adams

    January 20, 2017

    America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was inaugurated on March 4, 1825 at the age of 57 years and 7 months. Adams, who was Secretary of State in the outgoing administration of President James Monroe, finished behind Andrew Jackson in the number of popular votes and electoral votes received in the 1824 presidential election. However, since no candidate reached the 131 electoral vote majority necessary to win, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, which voted in favour of John Quincy Adams. Aware of his lack of popularity, Adams tried to heal electoral divisions in his inaugural address.

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  • Was Madame de Genlis Napoleon’s spy?

    Was Madame de Genlis Napoleon’s spy?

    January 13, 2017

    Madame de Genlis was a popular and prolific writer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Her works were widely read throughout Europe, as well as in her native France. As governor to the children of the Orléans branch of the royal family – a rare position for a woman – Madame de Genlis became known for her innovative approach to education. After losing her husband and fortune in the French Revolution, Madame de Genlis turned to Napoleon Bonaparte for support. In return, Napoleon required her to write him regular letters. This led to suspicions that she was Napoleon’s spy.

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  • The Extinct Karankawa Indians of Texas

    The Extinct Karankawa Indians of Texas

    January 6, 2017

    The Karankawa Indians were a group of now-extinct tribes who lived along the Gulf of Mexico in what is today Texas. Archaeologists have traced the Karankawas back at least 2,000 years. The tribes were nomadic, ranging from Galveston Bay to Corpus Christi Bay and as far as 100 miles (160 km) inland. During much of the 18th century, the Karankawas were at war with the Spaniards in Texas. They then fought unsuccessfully to stay on their land after it was opened to Anglo-American settlement in the 1800s. The last known Karankawas were killed or died out by the 1860s.

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  • The New Year’s Day reflections of John Quincy Adams

    The New Year’s Day reflections of John Quincy Adams

    December 30, 2016

    Of all the characters who appear in Napoleon in America, John Quincy Adams wins the prize for most diligent diarist. Besides giving readers a first-hand look at 19th-century American politics and diplomacy, Adams’ diaries reveal the habits and mindset of America’s sixth president. Every New Year’s Day, John Quincy Adams was prone to offering his reflections on the year that had just passed and his wishes for the future. To help ring in the New Year, here is a sample of his New Year’s Day musings.

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  • The flavour of a 19th century Christmas

    The flavour of a 19th century Christmas

    December 23, 2016

    In researching my novels, I spend a lot of time immersed in newspapers, letters, diaries and memoirs from the first half of the 1800s. Here’s a selection of extracts to give you the flavour of Christmas in 1824, including some puzzles to amuse you during the holiday. “Whatever may be said of the dissipation of Christmas, we think its recurrence is attended with many excellent effects.”

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  • Able was I ere I saw Elba: 19th century palindromes & anagrams

    Able was I ere I saw Elba: 19th century palindromes & anagrams

    December 16, 2016

    Although attributed to him, Napoleon Bonaparte did not say, “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” This well-known palindrome – a word or phrase that reads the same backward and forward – first appeared in 1848, 27 years after Napoleon’s death. Someone named “J.T.R.” came up with the Elba line, along with “Snug & raw was I ere I saw war & guns.” According to a periodical published in 1821, the year Napoleon died, there was at the time only one known palindrome phrase in English. Even that was “only procured by a quaintness of spelling in one word, and the substitution of a figure for another: Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwel.”

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  • Watching French Royals Eat: The Grand Couvert

    Watching French Royals Eat: The Grand Couvert

    December 9, 2016

    The desire to peek into royal lives goes back a long way. In France, people could indulge their curiosity at the “grand couvert,” a ritual in which the king and queen ate their dinner in front of members of the public. The tradition is usually associated with Louis XIV, who dined au grand couvert at Versailles almost every evening. Louis XV disliked the ceremony, which was governed by elaborate rules of etiquette. He took more of his meals in private. By the end of their reign, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette dined au grand couvert only on Sundays. When Napoleon became Emperor of the French, he re-introduced the grand couvert.

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  • The Bumpy Coronation of Napoleon

    The Bumpy Coronation of Napoleon

    December 2, 2016

    Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of the French on December 2, 1804 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A victorious general who had become leader of France through a coup d’état, Napoleon wanted to establish the legitimacy of his regime. He also needed to show – in the wake of plots against his life – that even if he was killed, his dynasty would live on. Making his rule hereditary would reassure those who had acquired land and other benefits from the French Revolution that their gains were secure. Not everything went smoothly.

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  • Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1800s

    Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1800s

    November 25, 2016

    Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday in the United States until 1863. In the early 19th century, Thanksgiving was celebrated on a state by state basis, with each state scheduling its own holiday on dates that could range from October to January. What began as a New England tradition gradually spread to other states, although not without resistance.

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  • Panoramas: 19th century virtual reality

    Panoramas: 19th century virtual reality

    November 18, 2016

    Like transparencies, panoramas were extremely popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A panorama was a large circular painting that aimed to give the viewer the experience of being physically present in the scene being depicted, whether that was a landscape, a city, a battle or other historical event. Panoramas served as mass entertainment, popular education and propaganda. Visiting them was more like going to the theatre or the opera than to an art gallery. At their best, panoramas provided convincing illusions of the real, transporting the audience to another place and time.

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  • When the Duke of Wellington met Napoleon’s wife

    When the Duke of Wellington met Napoleon’s wife

    November 11, 2016

    While Napoleon took a dim view of the Duke of Wellington, his wife Marie Louise was more forgiving. Wellington met Marie Louise at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and again at the Congress of Verona in 1822. By this time, Marie Louise was the Duchess of Parma and married to Count von Neipperg (Napoleon had died in 1821). As Wellington tells Dorothea Lieven in Napoleon in America, he played cards with Marie Louise and paid in gold Napoléon coins. Marie Louise’s warmth towards Wellington at Verona inspired Lord Byron to write a poem.

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  • The Presidential Election of 1824

    The Presidential Election of 1824

    November 4, 2016

    There were five candidates in the United States presidential election of 1824, which was held to determine the successor to President James Monroe. Three of the candidates – Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House of Representatives – appear in Napoleon in America. The other two candidates were General Andrew Jackson and Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford. All of them were members of the Republican Party. Although there were differences among the candidates on issues such as the tariff, internal improvements and slavery, the election was also a personality contest.

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  • Napoleon’s Ghost

    Napoleon’s Ghost

    October 28, 2016

    Given the huge influence that Napoleon Bonaparte had during his lifetime, it’s not surprising that his ghost has popped up from time to time since his death. The Museum of The Black Watch has transcribed a letter describing a British soldier’s encounter with Napoleon’s ghost during the removal of Napoleon’s remains from St. Helena to France in 1840. Albert Dieudonné, who played Napoleon in Abel Gance’s 1927 film of that name, talked about spooking a night watchman at the Château de Fontainebleau. The following story about Napoleon’s ghost first appeared in British newspapers in January 1832.

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  • Drinking cold water & other 19th century causes of death

    Drinking cold water & other 19th century causes of death

    October 21, 2016

    Given the rudimentary nature of medical care in the early 19th century, Napoleon is probably right when he complains to Dr. Formento in Napoleon in America that “you kill more men than you save.” Disease was thought to be caused by imbalances within the body. There was little understanding of how infections began and spread, or of the importance of hygiene. Treatments included bloodletting and mercury. Many people died young, and some causes of death were unusual.

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  • Celebrating with Light: Illuminations and Transparencies

    Celebrating with Light: Illuminations and Transparencies

    October 14, 2016

    When the inhabitants of New Orleans hold a banquet in Napoleon’s honour in Napoleon in America, the site of the festivities is decorated with coloured lamps and transparencies. Light displays had been part of public celebrations in France since at least the reign of Louis XIV. In the late 18th century, transparencies (paintings on see-through paper or cloth) began to enhance public illuminations. In a DIY craze, they also featured in home decoration. “[B]y means of artificial and brilliant lights placed behind them, they have a very gay and sprightly effect.”

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  • When Napoleon met Goethe

    When Napoleon met Goethe

    October 7, 2016

    In 1808, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the greatest German literary figure of the modern era. Each man admired the other, although Napoleon’s motives were not solely to greet the author of one of his favourite books. Born in Frankfurt on August 28, 1749, Goethe was 20 years older than Napoleon. His fame as a writer was already well-established by the time Napoleon came to power in France.

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  • Sweetbreads, Sweetmeats and Bonaparte’s Ribs

    Sweetbreads, Sweetmeats and Bonaparte’s Ribs

    September 30, 2016

    Would you rather eat sweetbreads or sweetmeats? While sweetbreads might sound like sugary buns, they are actually a form of meat. They consist of the pancreas or thymus glands of an animal, usually a calf or a lamb. The first known use of the word occurred in the 16th century. To further confuse things, actual sweets – candies, cakes, pastries, preserves – used to be called sweetmeats. Some popular 19th century British sweetmeats took their names from prominent figures of the Napoleonic Wars.

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  • Boney the Bogeyman: How Napoleon scared children

    Boney the Bogeyman: How Napoleon scared children

    September 23, 2016

    In the same way that early 19th century British caricaturists portrayed Napoleon Bonaparte as a devilish tyrant, British parents and teachers used Napoleon as a threat to scare children into good behaviour during the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, the word “bogeyman” is sometimes said to be derived from “Boney,” the popular British nickname for Napoleon, even though it actually comes from the Middle English bogge/bugge (hobgoblin).

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  • Canada and the Louisiana Purchase

    Canada and the Louisiana Purchase

    September 16, 2016

    Ever wonder about that bit of the Louisiana Purchase that extends into Canada? Here’s how parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan once came under Napoleon’s rule.

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  • Caricatures of Napoleon on St. Helena

    Caricatures of Napoleon on St. Helena

    September 9, 2016

    Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and subsequent imprisonment on the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena provided opportunity for the last great blast of Napoleonic caricatures. Most of them appeared in 1815, the year of Napoleon’s second and final abdication from the French throne. Relatively few appeared in the years up to his death in 1821. Further to my post about caricatures of Napoleon on Elba, here’s a look at some caricatures about Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena.

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  • Some 19th century money saving tips

    Some 19th century money saving tips

    September 2, 2016

    When looking into the history of the 20 Questions game, I came across some splendid money saving tips published in 1829. Although intended for young men, these “Twelve Golden Rules of Prudent Economy Necessary to be Studied in Early Youth, that they May be Practiced at Maturer Age” could usefully be heeded by anyone at any age, even today. They were written by William Fordyce Mavor (1758-1837), a Scottish teacher, priest and prolific author of educational books. Perhaps something to show the student in your life?

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  • Felipe de la Garza, the general who captured Iturbide

    Felipe de la Garza, the general who captured Iturbide

    August 26, 2016

    Felipe de la Garza was the most important military figure in Nuevo Santander (present-day Tamaulipas) during the 1820s. A member of the regional elite, he spent the early part of his military career in Texas. Though De la Garza remained on the royalist side during Mexico’s war for independence, he soon embraced revolutionary politics in the new nation. He became notorious for leading a failed revolt against Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide. He later led Iturbide to his execution.

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  • How the 20 Questions game came to America

    How the 20 Questions game came to America

    August 19, 2016

    Have you ever played 20 Questions? This popular 19th century parlour game became the basis for a number of 20th century radio and television quiz shows. Though it has been said that the 20 Questions game was invented in the United States, it actually originated on the other side of the Atlantic. Twenty Questions was introduced to Americans through British Prime Minister George Canning. Let’s sit in on a game he played in 1823.

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  • The birth of Napoleon Bonaparte

    The birth of Napoleon Bonaparte

    August 12, 2016

    Napoleon Bonaparte was born on Tuesday, August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica. France had acquired Corsica from the Italian city-state of Genoa the year before. Napoleon’s parents were Carlo and Letizia (Ramolino) Buonaparte. Their first surviving child, Giuseppe (Joseph), was 19 months old when Napoleon was born. Two older children, born in 1765 and 1767, had died in infancy. There are several myths about Napoleon’s birth, and one myth-like thing that is actually true.

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  • A guillotine execution in Napoleonic times

    A guillotine execution in Napoleonic times

    August 5, 2016

    The guillotine scene in Napoleon in America required me to do some research on beheading in early 19th century France. Best known for its use during the French Revolution, the guillotine continued to be the primary method of judicial execution during Napoleon’s reign and during the Bourbon Restoration. In fact, the guillotine remained France’s standard means of carrying out the death penalty until capital punishment was abolished in 1981. The last guillotine execution took place at Marseilles on September 10, 1977.

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  • José Antonio Díaz de León, the last Franciscan missionary in Texas

    José Antonio Díaz de León, the last Franciscan missionary in Texas

    July 29, 2016

    Father José Antonio Díaz de León, the last Franciscan missionary in Texas, was an ardent defender of the Spanish mission system. In the 1820s, he waged a long campaign against secularization of the Texas missions. Brave and pious, Father Díaz de León came to a bloody end. Was he murdered or did he kill himself?

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  • The death of Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt

    The death of Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt

    July 22, 2016

    Napoleon’s only legitimate child, Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, also known as the King of Rome, Napoleon II or the Duke of Reichstadt, died of tuberculosis at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna on July 22, 1832. He was only 21 years old. Although Franz had been a healthy child, when he was 16 years old those around him noted that his chest did not seem to be developing at the same rate as the rest of his body. His doctor, a celebrated Viennese physician named Staudenheim, diagnosed a “scrofulous tendency.”

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  • Remarkable cases of longevity in the 19th century

    Remarkable cases of longevity in the 19th century

    July 15, 2016

    Napoleon Bonaparte died when he was 51 years old. Though his life was cut short by stomach cancer, he lived a reasonable life span for someone who was born in 1769, when life expectancy at birth was no more than 40 years. Even factoring out infant mortality, the life expectancy for white men in the early 1800s was probably less than 60 years. People looked to the very old for clues about how to live a long life, just as they do today.

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  • How were Napoleonic battlefields cleaned up?

    How were Napoleonic battlefields cleaned up?

    July 8, 2016

    Somewhere in the range of 3.5 million to 6 million people died as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1803 to 1815. This includes both military and civilian casualties, and encompasses death from war-related diseases and other causes. Estimates of the number of soldiers killed in battle range from 500,000 to almost 2 million. What happened to all of those bodies? What did Napoleonic battlefield cleanup entail?

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  • Canada Day in 1867

    Canada Day in 1867

    July 1, 2016

    “With the first dawn of this gladsome midsummer morn, we hail the birthday of a new nationality. A united British America, with its four millions of people, takes its place this day among the nations of the world. Stamped with a familiar name which in the past has borne a record sufficiently honourable to entitle it to be perpetuated with a more comprehensive import, the DOMINION OF CANADA on this First day of July, in the year of grace, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven, enters a new career of national existence.” Thus began an editorial by journalist and politician George Brown in the Toronto Globe on Monday, July 1, 1867.

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  • Achille Murat, the Prince of Tallahassee

    Achille Murat, the Prince of Tallahassee

    June 24, 2016

    Napoleon’s nephew Achille Murat was one of the more eccentric Bonapartes. After growing up as the Crown Prince of Naples, he became a colourful Florida pioneer known as the “Prince of Tallahassee.” Achille was independent-minded, restless and adventuresome, always seeking an elusive fortune. Though he claimed to be a democrat, he remained at heart an aristocrat, pining for his family’s lost throne and inherited wealth.

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  • Stephen F. Austin, the founder of Anglo-American Texas

    Stephen F. Austin, the founder of Anglo-American Texas

    June 17, 2016

    It’s hard to avoid the name of Stephen F. Austin in Texas. The state capital is named after him, as are Austin County, Austin College, Stephen F. Austin State University, Stephen F. Austin State Park and numerous schools, buildings and associations. He has been called the father of Texas and the founder of Texas. Austin led the Anglo-American colonization of Texas, paving the way for the state’s independence from Mexico, although this was not something he initially wanted.

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  • Napoleon’s castrato: Girolamo Crescentini

    Napoleon’s castrato: Girolamo Crescentini

    June 10, 2016

    In Napoleon in America, Joseph Bonaparte laments the lack of fine arts in the United States. “There are plays in the cities,” he tells Napoleon, “but not one Italian singer.” Joseph knew that his brother was particularly fond of Italian musicians. Napoleon’s favourite composer was Giovanni Paisiello. His favourite singers were the Italian opera virtuosos Girolamo Crescentini and Giuseppina Grassini. In future, I’ll write about Madame Grassini, who became the lover of both Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. This week, I take a look at her teacher, the castrato Girolamo Crescentini.

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  • Presidio Commander Francisco García

    Presidio Commander Francisco García

    June 3, 2016

    Captain Francisco García was the military commander of Presidio La Bahía (present-day Goliad, Texas) from 1821 to 1823. He is thus the commandant who parleys with Napoleon outside La Bahía in Napoleon in America. In 1821, American filibuster James Long captured La Bahía while García and his men slept.

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  • Alternate History Books by Women

    Alternate History Books by Women

    May 27, 2016

    The BBC Radio 4 “Open Book” program recently characterized alternate history as “an exclusively male domain in terms of authorship.” While some exceptions were noted, including speculative fiction by Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood and Marge Piercy, neither the presenter nor her guest appeared familiar with more recent alternate history books by women. Fortunately, female-authored alternate history is alive and well. To clear up the BBC’s misconception, and to introduce you to some novels you may not have come across, here’s a list of alternate history books written by women.

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  • Claude Victor Perrin, Duke of Belluno, Marshal of France

    Claude Victor Perrin, Duke of Belluno, Marshal of France

    May 20, 2016

    Claude Victor Perrin, the Duke of Belluno, makes a brief appearance in Napoleon in America as the man who delivers the welcome news to the Duke of Angoulême that French forces have resisted Colonel Charles Fabvier’s attempt to subvert them. Victor was Louis XVIII’s Minister of War. He had been one of Napoleon’s marshals, and was thus one of the few senior Napoleonic officers who continued to serve in a high position under the Bourbons. “Not specially dowered by fortune with talents for war, but possessed of a resolute character, a high sense of honour, great courage, and that intrepidity which Napoleon maintained was so absolutely essential for high command, the Duke of Belluno is a striking instance of how large a factor is character in the struggle of life which ends in the survival of the fittest.”

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  • When Princess Caroline met Empress Marie Louise

    When Princess Caroline met Empress Marie Louise

    May 13, 2016

    It’s like a set piece from a movie: the wives of two famous enemies meet, gossip about their estranged husbands, and have a lovely time together, ending in the singing of a Mozart duet. Such was the scene in the Swiss city of Bern on September 23, 1814, when Princess Caroline of England visited Empress Marie Louise of France. Caroline was the lusty, eccentric 46-year-old wife of England’s Prince Regent, the future King George IV. Marie Louise was the 22-year-old second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. At the time, Napoleon was in exile on Elba.

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  • How was Napoleon’s death reported?

    How was Napoleon’s death reported?

    May 6, 2016

    Napoleon Bonaparte died at 5:49 p.m. on May 5, 1821 as a prisoner on St. Helena, an isolated British island in the South Atlantic. On May 7, St. Helena’s governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, sent news of Napoleon’s death to London on the Royal Navy sloop Heron. On July 4, Captain William Crokat (who had replaced poor Engelbert Lutyens as orderly officer at Napoleon’s residence of Longwood) delivered Lowe’s message to Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. Here’s what the newspapers had to say about Napoleon’s death – or, rather, about his life.

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  • General Louis Vallin, a man for all masters

    General Louis Vallin, a man for all masters

    April 29, 2016

    Louis Vallin was a competent and long-serving French cavalry officer whose career spanned the French Revolution, Napoleon’s Empire, the Bourbon Restoration and the government of Louis-Philippe. Unlike many of his compatriots, he managed to distinguish himself under all of his various political masters. In 1823, Louis Vallin confronted Charles Fabvier’s band of insurrectionists at the Bidassoa River, both in real life and in Napoleon in America.

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  • The Palace of the King of Rome

    The Palace of the King of Rome

    April 22, 2016

    Imagine in Paris, across the river from the Eiffel Tower, a palace as magnificent as the one at Versailles, with a park covering about half of the present 16th arrondissement. This was Napoleon’s dream. In 1811, work began on a great imperial dwelling on the hill that is today known as the Trocadéro, where the Palais de Chaillot (built in 1937) now stands. Intended as a residence for Napoleon’s infant son, the planned complex was known as the palace of the King of Rome.

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  • Charles Fabvier: Napoleonic soldier & Greek hero

    Charles Fabvier: Napoleonic soldier & Greek hero

    April 15, 2016

    Charles Fabvier was a hotheaded French soldier who began his career under Napoleon Bonaparte. After Napoleon’s defeat, Fabvier tried working for King Louis XVIII. He was so outraged by ultra-royalist excesses that he wound up plotting against the crown. A disastrous attempt to subvert the French army at the Bidassoa River led to Fabvier being branded as a traitor. He salvaged his career by serving with distinction in the Greek War of Independence. Fabvier finished his days as a respected French politician and diplomat. He even gets a mention in War and Peace.

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  • Texas Pioneer Josiah Hughes Bell

    Texas Pioneer Josiah Hughes Bell

    April 8, 2016

    Josiah Hughes Bell, the founder of East and West Columbia, Texas, was one of Stephen F. Austin’s original colonists and Austin’s trusted friend. Austin left Bell in charge of the colony when he had to go to Mexico City in 1822 to confirm his empresario grant with the new Mexican government. Thus Napoleon and his men meet with Bell, rather than Austin, when they arrive at the Brazos River in Napoleon in America. At the time, Bell was finding it hard to keep the colonists’ spirits up.

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  • The Marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise

    The Marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise

    April 1, 2016

    Fancy a royal wedding? Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife Marie Louise – the “good Louise” to whom he writes about their son in Napoleon in America – had three of them. They were married in a religious ceremony on March 11, 1810, though Napoleon was not present for the occasion. They then had a civil wedding on April 1 and another religious wedding on April 2. Here’s a look at the festivities.

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  • Napoleon and the Veronese Easter

    Napoleon and the Veronese Easter

    March 25, 2016

    During Napoleon Bonaparte’s Italian campaign, the inhabitants of Verona revolted against the French forces stationed in the area. The bloody fighting started on April 17, 1797, Easter Monday, thus the rebellion became known as the Pasque Vernesi or Veronese Easter. It ended on April 25, with the capture of the town by 15,000 French soldiers. The Veronese Easter gave Napoleon the excuse he had been looking for “to efface the Venetian name from the face of the globe.”

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  • The perilous birth of the King of Rome

    The perilous birth of the King of Rome

    March 18, 2016

    Napoleon’s only legitimate child, Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, also known as the King of Rome, Napoleon II or the Duke of Reichstadt, was born at the Tuileries Palace in Paris on March 20, 1811. His birth was a touch-and-go affair. The attending doctor, Antoine Dubois, feared that either Napoleon’s wife Marie Louise, or the baby, might die. Here’s how Napoleon described the King of Rome’s birth when he was in exile on St. Helena.

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  • The charmingly deceptive Baron de Bastrop

    The charmingly deceptive Baron de Bastrop

    March 11, 2016

    Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop, was a prominent resident of Texas in the early 19th century. Charismatic and enterprising, Bastrop brought some pioneers into northern Louisiana and encouraged the Anglo-American colonization of Texas when it was part of Mexico. He also lied about his past and left a trail of litigation involving questionable land titles that lasted for over 20 years after his death.

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  • Caricatures of Napoleon on Elba

    Caricatures of Napoleon on Elba

    March 4, 2016

    While Napoleon Bonaparte provided rich fodder for caricaturists throughout his reign, his exile to Elba in 1814 (see last week’s post) occasioned a burst of gleeful activity among the cartoonists of the time. England had been fighting against France for over 20 years. Audiences there were jubilant about Napoleon’s defeat and receptive to anything that made fun of the fallen French Emperor. Here’s a look at some caricatures related to Napoleon’s sojourn on Elba.

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  • How did Napoleon escape from Elba?

    How did Napoleon escape from Elba?

    February 26, 2016

    In April 1814, with a European coalition occupying Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to abdicate the French throne. He was sent into exile on Elba, a small Mediterranean island located 260 km (160 miles) south of France and 10 km (6 miles) west of the Italian coastline. Ten months later, in one of those life-is-stranger-than-fiction episodes, Napoleon managed to spirit himself off the island and regain the French crown. How did Napoleon escape from Elba?

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  • Last Words of Famous People

    Last Words of Famous People

    February 19, 2016

    Though not as well-known as Napoleon’s last words, here are the reported last words uttered by some of the other famous historical figures who appear in Napoleon in America. King Louis XVIII died suffering from obesity, gout and gangrene at the Tuileries Palace in Paris on September 16, 1824, at the age of 68. He had a long, slow decline, and many of the things he is claimed to have said in his dying days sound like official propaganda. The most credible account is from his good friend Madame du Cayla.

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  • Valentine’s Day in early 19th century America

    Valentine’s Day in early 19th century America

    February 12, 2016

    The custom of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day came to America with English and German settlers. Though mass-produced valentine cards did not appear in the United States until the mid-19th century, handmade valentines were exchanged as early as the Revolutionary War. Here’s a peek at how St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the early 19th century, as gleaned from American newspapers of the time.

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  • Texas Priest Francisco Maynes

    Texas Priest Francisco Maynes

    February 5, 2016

    Francisco Maynes was a Spanish-born Catholic priest and occasional military chaplain who served in Texas in the early 19th century under Spanish, and then Mexican, rule. Maynes proved quite successful in petitioning the San Antonio town council for land that belonged to the former Spanish missions, thus establishing a precedent for local clergymen to become land speculators. In Napoleon in America, Father Maynes insists he is ready to give his life to prevent Napoleon from entering San Antonio.

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  • What did Napoleon’s wives think of each other?

    What did Napoleon’s wives think of each other?

    January 29, 2016

    Napoleon Bonaparte had two wives: Josephine and Marie Louise. What did they think of each other? Josephine was born in Martinique on June 23, 1763 as Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie. Her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. Josephine married Napoleon on March 9, 1796, when she was 32 and he was 26. Though Josephine already had two children (Eugène and Hortense) from her first marriage, she was unable to produce an heir for Napoleon, a matter that troubled him once he became Emperor of France. On December 16, 1809, Napoleon had the marriage dissolved, much to Josephine’s regret.

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  • Texas Revolutionary José Francisco Ruiz

    Texas Revolutionary José Francisco Ruiz

    January 22, 2016

    José Francisco Ruiz was a Mexican soldier who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain and later supported Texas’s struggle for independence from Mexico. He is most noted for being one of only two native-born Texans to sign the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence, even though he was “horrified” by the idea. Ruiz spent considerable time among the Texas Indians, most notably the Comanches. He was well thought of by the Indians and was influential in brokering peace agreements with several Texas tribes. Ruiz thus appears as the Mexican Indian administrator in Napoleon in America.

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  • A tomb for Napoleon’s son in Canada

    A tomb for Napoleon’s son in Canada

    January 15, 2016

    Did you know that a tomb originally intended for Napoleon’s son is sitting in a Canadian cemetery? Napoleon’s son, otherwise known as Napoleon II, the King of Rome or Duke of Reichstadt, died of tuberculosis in Vienna on July 22, 1832, at the age of 21. Since his mother, Marie Louise, was the Duchess of Parma, a burial monument for the young man was constructed in Italy. When the Duke of Reichstadt was interred in the Habsburg family crypt at the Capuchin Church in Vienna, the Italian monument was left unused.

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  • Texas Governor José Félix Trespalacios

    Texas Governor José Félix Trespalacios

    January 8, 2016

    José Félix Trespalacios, an insurgent who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain, became the first governor of Texas in newly-independent Mexico in 1822. As such, he has to deal with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte on the Texas frontier in Napoleon in America. Trespalacios was a hard-working and optimistic governor. He established the first Texas bank, negotiated an agreement with the Cherokees, supported Stephen Austin’s colony, and introduced the first printing press to Texas. His term was short, however, and most of his innovations came to naught.

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  • Napoleon’s First New Year’s Day on St. Helena

    Napoleon’s First New Year’s Day on St. Helena

    January 1, 2016

    In early 19th century France, New Year’s Day was a more important festival than Christmas. Families gathered, friends visited and gifts were exchanged. It was thanks to Napoleon that January 1st was celebrated in France. The New Year’s celebrations had been abandoned in 1793, when the French Republican calendar was adopted. Each Republican year started on the autumnal equinox in September, without fanfare. Napoleon’s official celebration of New Year’s Day in 1800 assured the French that the Revolution was over.

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  • Bonypart Pie and Questions for Christmas

    Bonypart Pie and Questions for Christmas

    December 24, 2015

    There is no mention of Napoleon Bonaparte doing anything special for his first Christmas in exile on St. Helena. One of his companions, Count de Las Cases, wrote on December 25, 1815: “The Emperor, who had not been well the preceding evening, was still indisposed this morning, and sent word that it would be impossible for him to receive the officers of the 53rd, as he had appointed. He sent for me about the middle of the day, and we again perused some chapters of the Campaign of Italy.” Napoleon nonetheless occasioned some Christmas cheer in England, judging from a seasonal recipe appearing in a London newspaper.

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  • Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (Duwali) and his tragic quest for land

    Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (Duwali) and his tragic quest for land

    December 18, 2015

    Cherokee Indian Chief Duwali or Di’Wali, also known as John Bowles or Bowl, was born around 1756, possibly in North Carolina. He is thought to have been the son of a Scotch or Scotch-Irish trader and a Cherokee woman. It is claimed that Bowles’ father was killed by white settlers when Bowles was a boy, and that the son killed his father’s murderers in revenge when he was 14. Bowles never learned how to read or write, and could not speak English. Late in his life, he was described as being “somewhat tanned in color,” and having “neither the hair nor the eyes of an Indian. His eyes were gray, his hair was of a dirty sandy color; and his was an English head.”

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  • Napoleon and Longwood House

    Napoleon and Longwood House

    December 11, 2015

    On December 10, 1815, former French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte moved to Longwood House on the British island of St. Helena. He was confined there until his death, five and half years later. Longwood lay on a windswept plateau about five miles from the island’s main settlement of Jamestown. It had the advantages of being isolated, clear of large vegetation, and near a plain called Deadwood, where the regiment guarding Napoleon could live. Longwood is where the opening chapter of Napoleon in America takes place. What did Napoleon think of the place?

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  • Caddo Indian Chief Dehahuit

    Caddo Indian Chief Dehahuit

    December 4, 2015

    Dehahuit was the great chief of the Caddo Indians who lived in what is now southwest Arkansas, western Louisiana and eastern Texas in the early 19th century. As his tribes were positioned on the disputed border between Spanish-held Mexico and the United States, Dehahuit became a shrewd diplomat, skilful at playing the Spaniards and the Americans off against one another. He aimed to gain the best gifts, trading terms and protection from each, as well as respect for the independence and integrity of traditional Caddo lands. In Napoleon in America, Dehahuit hopes to obtain the same concessions from Napoleon.

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  • Indian Interpreter Gaspard Philibert

    Indian Interpreter Gaspard Philibert

    November 27, 2015

    Gaspard Philibert, Napoleon’s Indian interpreter in Napoleon in America, appears in the historical record thanks to Dr. John Sibley, a Massachusetts-born physician who moved to Louisiana in 1802, the year before Napoleon sold the territory to the United States. Sibley settled in Natchitoches, where he worked initially as a surgeon on contract with the Department of War to care for the new US troops stationed in the area. In 1805, Sibley was commissioned as the Indian Agent for Orleans Territory and the region south of the Arkansas River. Sibley’s job was to keep the Indians at peace among themselves and with the white settlers in Louisiana. He hired Philibert to interpret for him.

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  • Fanny Fern on marriage in the 19th century

    Fanny Fern on marriage in the 19th century

    November 20, 2015

    When I was researching Napoleon in America character James Many, I came across an amusing piece of satire in the March 9, 1852 edition of the Richmond, Virginia Daily Dispatch. It appeared on the same page as the description of Many’s Mardi Gras funeral, under the headline: “Aunt Hetty on Matrimony.” Further digging revealed that the author was Sara Payson Willis, writing under the pen name of Fanny Fern. I had stumbled onto the work of the first female newspaper columnist in the United States, and one of the most highly paid authors in mid-19th century America. Before I talk about Sara, here’s the article that caught my attention – and there’s even a mention of Napoleon.

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  • Was Napoleon superstitious?

    Was Napoleon superstitious?

    November 13, 2015

    Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica, an island known at the time for the “egregious superstition” of its inhabitants. A 19th century guidebook observed that the Corsicans “believe in the mal’occhio, or ‘evil eye,’ and in witchcraft as sturdily as their ancestors of the sixteenth century.” While Napoleon did not believe in witchcraft, he was prone to more everyday superstitions and has been credited with some fantastical beliefs. Here’s a summary of the superstitions attributed to Napoleon.

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  • Frontier Colonel James B. Many

    Frontier Colonel James B. Many

    November 6, 2015

    Colonel James B. Many, the US Army officer who is sent to investigate Napoleon’s activities in Napoleon in America, spent most of his career on America’s western frontier. His life is typical of that of many frontier officers during the first half of the 19th century: protecting settlers, dealing with Indians, guarding against foreign intrusions, and charting a vast territory in which transportation and communications were difficult, all the while making do with few resources from Washington.

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  • Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye: French soldier, American teacher

    Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye: French soldier, American teacher

    October 30, 2015

    Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye was yet another Bonapartist who, after 30 years in the French army, wound up scraping a living in the United States after 1815: in this case, by teaching languages and writing grammar texts in Philadelphia. In Napoleon in America, Texier de la Pommeraye has a chance to exercise his military talents once again.

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  • Texas entrepreneur Ben Milam

    Texas entrepreneur Ben Milam

    October 23, 2015

    Ben Milam is primarily known for his role in the Texas Revolution, particularly his leadership and death in the capture of San Antonio in December 1835. In Napoleon in America, Milam hitches up with Jim Bowie in the hopes of taking advantage of Napoleon’s activities in Texas. Milam’s motives are related to his hostility towards another Napoleon in America character, Texas governor José Félix Trespalacios. To fully understand what that was about, we need to look at Milam’s earlier Texas adventures.

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  • Napoleon’s arrival at St. Helena

    Napoleon’s arrival at St. Helena

    October 16, 2015

    In October 1815, former French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte arrived at his final place of exile, the island of St. Helena. What were his impressions when he first saw it, and what did the inhabitants of St. Helena think of him?

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  • What was Napoleon’s favourite music?

    What was Napoleon’s favourite music?

    October 9, 2015

    Though French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had no musical talent, he thoroughly enjoyed music. Napoleon valued music both for the pleasure it gave him, and because it could serve political ends. He wrote: “Among all the fine arts, music is the one which exercises the greatest influence upon the passions, and is the one which the legislator should most encourage. A musical composition created by a master-hand makes an unfailing appeal to the feelings, and exerts a far greater influence than a good work on morals, which convinces our reason without affecting our habits.” What kind of music did Napoleon like best?

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  • John C. Calhoun: War Hawk

    John C. Calhoun: War Hawk

    October 2, 2015

    As a planter from South Carolina who never doubted the necessity of slavery, 19th century American politician John C. Calhoun has often been judged harshly. TIME put him on the list of the worst vice presidents in America’s history. That is a glib assessment. Calhoun’s career was long, complex and accomplished. He served in the House of Representatives (1811-1817) and the Senate (1832-1843, 1845-1850), in the Cabinet as secretary of war (1817-1825) and secretary of state (1844-45), and as vice president (1825-1832). Calhoun was a vigorous promoter of states’ rights and a strong advocate for the South. In Napoleon in America, he appears as the US Secretary of War, with a hawkish interest in Napoleon’s activities.

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  • James Monroe and Napoleon

    James Monroe and Napoleon

    September 25, 2015

    When Napoleon Bonaparte lands in New Orleans in Napoleon in America, James Monroe is president of the United States. Imagining how he might have reacted to Napoleon’s request for asylum required looking into what he thought about Napoleon. Monroe met Napoleon when he was in France to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He later became alarmed at Napoleon’s “overweaning ambition.”

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  • The intriguing George Canning

    The intriguing George Canning

    September 18, 2015

    George Canning, who appears as Britain’s foreign secretary in Napoleon in America, later became the country’s shortest-serving prime minister. Canning was a clever, ambitious and controversial politician who held important government posts during the Napoleonic Wars and aftermath. A skilful propagandist, he promoted the scathing caricatures of Napoleon that appeared in Britain at the time. In 1809 Canning fought a duel with the war secretary, Lord Castlereagh, which severely damaged his career. Supported by his friend, Lord Liverpool, Canning returned to government after Napoleon’s defeat. Though most of his colleagues disliked him, and King George IV hated him, the Tories couldn’t stay in power without him.

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  • The 1823 French invasion of Spain

    The 1823 French invasion of Spain

    September 11, 2015

    Napoleon in America takes place, in part, against the backdrop of a French invasion of Spain. This invasion was not invented for the novel. It actually happened, in 1823, to restore a Spanish Bourbon king to the throne. It was a huge deal at the time, both in Europe and the Americas. Newspapers, diplomatic reports, memoirs and letters of the period are full of commentary on the events leading up to the invasion, the resulting war, and its aftermath. Here is a very abbreviated account of what transpired.

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  • Weird pictures of Napoleon

    Weird pictures of Napoleon

    September 4, 2015

    We’ve all seen the classic pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte: riding across the Alps, sitting on his imperial throne, standing with a hand in his waistcoat. Here are some less well-known pictures of Napoleon that are downright weird.

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  • Joseph de Villèle, the least unreasonable ultra-royalist

    Joseph de Villèle, the least unreasonable ultra-royalist

    August 28, 2015

    Joseph de Villèle served as prime minister of France from 1822 to 1828 under Kings Louis XVIII and Charles X. Often vilified as an ultra-royalist, Villèle tried to steer a prudent course between the far right and the political centre, and was the architect of a sound economic policy. Although Villèle was a capable politician, it is said that “outside of business, [he] was incapable of sustaining a conversation.”

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  • Restoration policeman & spymaster Guy Delavau

    Restoration policeman & spymaster Guy Delavau

    August 21, 2015

    Guy Delavau, the police chief who interrogates Pierre Viriot in Napoleon in America, presided over an elaborate and inefficient network to spy on suspected enemies of Bourbon rule during the Second Restoration. Those targeted range from the exalted, such as the Marquis de Lafayette, to the lowly (see my post on demi-soldes for examples), many of them innocent of wrongdoing. Delavau’s agents violated privacy, and jumped to conclusions based on appearance rather than fact.

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  • Napoleon’s birthday at sea

    Napoleon’s birthday at sea

    August 14, 2015

    Napoleon Bonaparte celebrated his 46th birthday – August 15, 1815 – as a prisoner on a Royal Navy ship off the northwest coast of Spain. How did he spend the day? After losing the Battle of Waterloo, abdicating from the French throne, and giving himself up to England (see my post about why Napoleon didn’t escape to the United States), Napoleon was taken to Plymouth Sound on the British frigate Bellerophon. On August 7, 1815 he was transferred to HMS Northumberland, a 74-gun ship of the line, and placed under the supervision of Rear Admiral George Cockburn.

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  • Jim Bowie before the “gaudy legend”

    Jim Bowie before the “gaudy legend”

    August 7, 2015

    Before Jim Bowie became one of the most mythologized figures in American history, he was a con artist. One of his partners in crime was the pirate Jean Laffite, who introduces Bowie to Napoleon in Napoleon in America. James Rhesa Bowie was born nine miles northwest of Franklin, Kentucky in the spring of 1796. He was the eighth of ten children, four of whom died young. His father, Rezin Bowie, Sr., was a planter who had fought in the American Revolutionary War.

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  • What did Napoleon like to eat and drink?

    What did Napoleon like to eat and drink?

    July 31, 2015

    At his birthday party at Joseph Bonaparte’s New Jersey estate in Napoleon in America, Napoleon is served some of his favourite food and wine. What were these, and what else did Napoleon like to eat and drink?

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  • Napoleon & New Orleans in 1821

    Napoleon & New Orleans in 1821

    July 24, 2015

    The New Orleans in which Napoleon lands in Napoleon in America was fertile ground for Bonapartists. In 1821 New Orleans was the nation’s fifth-largest city (after New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston), with a population of approximately 27,000. French speakers accounted for some three-quarters of that total. About 1,500 of these were actual French citizens, fresh from Europe. Another 10,000 or so were refugees from Saint-Domingue who had arrived in 1809 and 1810. The remainder were other Creoles, American-born descendants of the Europeans. But the predominantly French character of New Orleans was changing.

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  • Soldier, lothario, filibuster: General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert

    Soldier, lothario, filibuster: General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert

    July 17, 2015

    General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert is one of those larger than life characters thrown up by the French Revolution. A passionate republican who led a failed invasion of Ireland, a ladies’ man who romanced Napoleon’s sister, an aide to Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, a would-be invader of Mexico, and an associate of the pirates Laffite – there are so many tales about Humbert that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. This, as best I can determine, is his story.

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  • Louis-Joseph Oudart, a downright scoundrel

    Louis-Joseph Oudart, a downright scoundrel

    July 10, 2015

    Louis-Joseph Oudart (Houdard) was born on November 22, 1788 in Versailles, to Joseph Oudart and Marie Joseph Flahaut. He served as an infantry corporal in Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Oudart became a chevalier of the Legion of Honour on October 3, 1814, during the First Restoration. It’s not clear what he did during the Hundred Days, but he remained loyal enough to the king to obtain the commission of sub-lieutenant during the Second Restoration. Unfortunately, Oudart used his new position to steal tableware from the officers’ mess, as well as items from his corps’s master tailor.

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  • Celebrating July 4th in early 19th century New Orleans

    Celebrating July 4th in early 19th century New Orleans

    July 3, 2015

    On July 4, 1821, in Napoleon in America, Mr. Renault puts on a balloon and fireworks display to honour Napoleon’s presence in New Orleans, and to celebrate “the liberty of our country.” Such a display took place – or at least was planned – for Independence Day in New Orleans in 1821. On May 28 of that year, Mr. Renault advertised in the Courrier de la Louisiane / Louisiana Courier as follows: “Mr. Renault has the honor of informing the inhabitants of New Orleans and its vicinity that on Sunday the 3rd of June he will start a Balloon 70 feet in circumference, with a gondole carrying off two figures of natural size.”

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  • Why didn’t Napoleon escape to the United States?

    Why didn’t Napoleon escape to the United States?

    June 26, 2015

    Why didn’t Napoleon follow through on his plan to start a new life in the United States in 1815? After losing the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, Napoleon returned to Paris with the aim of shoring up his domestic support before continuing the war. When he arrived on June 21, the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Peers called for his abdication. On June 22, Napoleon relinquished the throne in favour of his son, Napoleon II, whom the provisional government soon deposed.

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  • What if Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo?

    What if Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo?

    June 19, 2015

    Napoleon winning the Battle of Waterloo is one of the ten most popular scenarios in English-language alternate history, and the most popular one in French. The Waterloo “what if?” pops up repeatedly in alternate history forums and has been the subject of numerous books, stories and articles. Broadly speaking, exploring what might have happened if Napoleon had won at Waterloo involves pursuing one or more of the following questions.

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  • Were there Canadians at the Battle of Waterloo?

    Were there Canadians at the Battle of Waterloo?

    June 12, 2015

    If you’re ever visiting the Duke of Wellington’s tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, take a moment to look for the bust of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. Nearby you will find a plaque sacred to the memory of Captain Alexander Macnab, a Canadian who died in the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. Macnab, one of thousands killed in the battle, did nothing special to distinguish himself. How did he wind up being commemorated in such a place of honour? Macnab was not the only Canadian at the Battle of Waterloo.

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  • What did Napoleon say about the Battle of Waterloo?

    What did Napoleon say about the Battle of Waterloo?

    June 5, 2015

    On June 18, 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by a coalition of British, German, Dutch-Belgian and Prussian forces led by the Duke of Wellington and Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher. As a result of this defeat, Napoleon was removed from the throne of France and spent the rest of his life in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena. There he had plenty of time to reflect on the last battle he ever fought. What did he say about it?

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  • The tragedy of Colonel Pierre Viriot

    The tragedy of Colonel Pierre Viriot

    May 29, 2015

    Pierre Viriot was a promising French soldier who wound up on the bad side of both the Napoleonic and the Bourbon regimes. His career was undone by his honourable involvement in the trial of the presumed kidnappers of French Senator Clément de Ris. Viriot’s sad tale shows the power of Napoleon’s police to ruin a man’s life.

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  • Coiffure à la Titus

    Coiffure à la Titus

    May 22, 2015

    Last week I looked at Napoleon in America character Barthélemy Bacheville, who a police report of 1816 described as being “coiffed à la Titus.” This got me wondering: what does a Roman Emperor have to do with hairstyles in early 19th century France? Titus ruled the Roman Empire from 79 to 81 A.D. He is best known for completing the Roman Colosseum and for being the emperor during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which destroyed Pompeii. He is also a character in the play Brutus by the French Enlightenment writer Voltaire.

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  • Barthélemy Bacheville: Napoleonic soldier, outlaw & perfumer

    Barthélemy Bacheville: Napoleonic soldier, outlaw & perfumer

    May 15, 2015

    Last week I looked at the demi-soldes, France’s half-pay veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, many of whom appear as characters in Napoleon in America. Captain Barthélemy Bacheville is a particularly interesting example of the species. A great admirer of Napoleon, Bacheville fought in most of the Emperor’s campaigns and followed him into exile on Elba. This meant he returned to France with Napoleon when the latter escaped from Elba. Bacheville thus started off on a bad footing with the Bourbons after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat. Things got worse from there.

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  • Demi-soldes, the half-pay Napoleonic War veterans

    Demi-soldes, the half-pay Napoleonic War veterans

    May 8, 2015

    What happened to Napoleon’s officers after the Battle of Waterloo? As we saw in an earlier post, General Jean-Pierre Piat was put on inactive service during the Bourbon Restoration. He was far from being the only one. In 1815-16, some 20,000 officers who had served under Napoleon were removed from active service, given reduced salaries and placed under tight restrictions. This week, I take a closer look at the demi-soldes, France’s half-pay veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, including several who make an appearance in Napoleon in America.

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  • What were Napoleon’s last words?

    What were Napoleon’s last words?

    May 1, 2015

    In Napoleon in America, Napoleon Bonaparte lands in New Orleans on May 5, 1821. In reality, he died at 5:49 p.m. on that date on St. Helena, an isolated island in the South Atlantic. Given the number of people surrounding the fallen Emperor during his final days, there should be a clear record of Napoleon’s last words. But, as with most things involving Napoleon, there are several accounts of his dying hours and differences regarding what he actually said.

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  • General Jean-Pierre Piat, staunch Bonapartist

    General Jean-Pierre Piat, staunch Bonapartist

    April 24, 2015

    Jean-Pierre Piat features in Napoleon in America because of his involvement in a Bonapartist plot against the government of Louis XVIII of France. In real life Piat was a courageous French soldier and devoted Bonapartist who was viewed with suspicion by the Bourbon regime. Late in his life Piat helped Napoleon’s nephew, Louis-Napoleon, rise to power after the 1848 French Revolution.

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  • George Schumph and the death of Pierre Laffite

    George Schumph and the death of Pierre Laffite

    April 17, 2015

    George Schumph, who meets with Napoleon in Charleston in Napoleon in America, is one of those shadowy historical figures about whom little is known. A native of Quebec, he is remembered in the historical record because of his association with the New Orleans-based pirates, Pierre and Jean Laffite. Thanks in part to Schumph’s testimony, we have the details of Pierre Laffite’s death.

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  • The moral courage of General Foy

    The moral courage of General Foy

    April 10, 2015

    General Maximilien Sébastien Foy was a model of military and civic virtue. A courageous soldier during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, he refused to kowtow to Napoleon. Following Napoleon’s defeat, General Foy became an eloquent defender of liberty in the Chamber of Deputies. Foy was modest, hardworking and a man of integrity. He was greatly respected in France, as shown by the tributes paid to him and his family upon his death.

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  • Napoleon and the Easter Insurrection in Corsica

    Napoleon and the Easter Insurrection in Corsica

    April 3, 2015

    With Easter approaching, I’m going to take a break from blogging about the characters in Napoleon in America, and instead look at how Napoleon spent Easter in Corsica in 1792. That Sunday, a quarrel between children erupted into a gunfight that pitted Napoleon and his battalion against the residents of Napoleon’s hometown of Ajaccio. In an act of treason, Napoleon took advantage of the disturbance to attempt to neutralize his adversaries and capture the Ajaccio citadel from the French garrison.

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  • Napoleon and the Marquis de Lafayette

    Napoleon and the Marquis de Lafayette

    March 27, 2015

    Major General Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was a hero of both the American and French revolutions. Though Lafayette initially hoped that Napoleon would serve the cause of liberty, he was soon disillusioned. His low-key opposition and refusal to accept office under the Consulate and Empire made the Marquis de Lafayette a continuing thorn in Napoleon’s side.

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  • Napoleon’s Children, Part 2

    Napoleon’s Children, Part 2

    March 20, 2015

    In addition to his legitimate son (Napoleon II, who appears in Napoleon in America), Napoleon had at least two stepchildren and two illegitimate children: the wastrel Charles Léon Denuelle and the accomplished Alexandre Colonna Walewski.

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  • Napoleon’s Children, Part 1

    Napoleon’s Children, Part 1

    March 13, 2015

    In addition to his legitimate son (Napoleon II, who appears in Napoleon in America), Napoleon had two stepchildren and at least two illegitimate children. Who were they and what happened to them? In the first of a two-part post about Napoleon’s children, I focus on his stepchildren: Eugène and Hortense de Beauharnais.

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  • Napoleon’s henchman René Savary, the Duke of Rovigo

    Napoleon’s henchman René Savary, the Duke of Rovigo

    March 6, 2015

    French soldier, diplomat and police minister René Savary, the Duke of Rovigo, has the reputation of being one of Napoleon’s most bloodthirsty aides. Though Napoleon could, and did, count on Savary to carry out any number of dark deeds, Savary was not by nature an evil person. He seems to have been motivated by a desire for wealth and by a genuine devotion to Napoleon. Savary’s involvement in the death of the Duke of Enghien meant that he was not trusted by the Bourbons after Napoleon’s defeat. He was later rehabilitated for a brutal stint as commander of the French forces in Algeria.

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  • Louisa Adams, social charmer

    Louisa Adams, social charmer

    February 27, 2015

    Louisa Adams, the English-born wife of US president John Quincy Adams, was indispensable to her husband’s political career. Though not a great beauty, she was literate, a fashionable dresser and had Continental polish and charm from many years spent in Europe. Most importantly, she understood how to use her social skills to make up for her husband’s inadequacies, as we see in Napoleon in America. In 1815, Louisa made a dangerous journey across Europe to join her husband in Paris, in which she encountered the effects of the Napoleonic Wars firsthand.

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  • Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American nephew

    Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American nephew

    February 20, 2015

    Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte was the son of Napoleon’s youngest brother Jérôme and Baltimore socialite Elizabeth (Betsy) Patterson, the subject of last week’s post. As Napoleon had broken up his parents’ marriage before Jerome was even born, Napoleon never acknowledged the boy as a Bonaparte. Despite Betsy’s best efforts to raise her son as a European of rank and fortune, Jerome was not convinced that Europe was the place for him. He preferred life in the United States. Though Jerome ultimately married well, he lacked ambition and was content to be an American gentleman farmer.

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  • Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American sister-in-law

    Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American sister-in-law

    February 13, 2015

    Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte wrote in 1815 that “nature never intended me for obscurity.” A belle of Baltimore, Elizabeth became an international celebrity when she married Napoleon’s youngest brother Jérôme. When Napoleon convinced Jérôme to abandon her, Betsy (as she was known) became America’s most famous single mother. A hustler with a high opinion of herself, Betsy had a brilliant social career and a very long life, though her letters do not leave the impression of a kind or a happy person. As an early biographer wrote, “This Baltimore girl, married at eighteen and deserted at twenty, seems to have possessed the savoir vivre of Chesterfield, the cold cynicism of Rochefoucauld, and the practical economy of Franklin.”

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  • What did Napoleon like to read?

    What did Napoleon like to read?

    February 6, 2015

    Napoleon Bonaparte was a voracious reader. He had a personal librarian, he always travelled with books, and he took a great interest in constructing the ultimate portable library to accompany him on his military campaigns. Napoleon’s taste in books was primarily classical. He had some lifelong favourite authors, including Plutarch, Homer and Ossian. What else did he like to read?

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  • Napoleon’s banker, Jacques Laffitte

    Napoleon’s banker, Jacques Laffitte

    January 30, 2015

    A financier and politician who rose from poverty to become one of France’s richest citizens, Jacques Laffitte is considered one of the creators of modern public credit in France. He also opened the road for French international investment banking. Napoleon trusted Laffitte’s ability with money, as well as his integrity, though Laffitte’s leanings were more republican than imperial. A supporter of the 1830 July Revolution, Laffitte ran into trouble when Louis-Philippe ascended the throne.

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  • Adam Albert von Neipperg, Lover of Napoleon’s wife

    Adam Albert von Neipperg, Lover of Napoleon’s wife

    January 23, 2015

    Adam Albert von Neipperg was an Austrian nobleman, soldier and diplomat who seduced Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise, while Napoleon was in exile on Elba. Charged with this task by Marie Louise’s father, Emperor Francis I of Austria, Neipperg discouraged Marie Louise from joining her husband and eventually erased any feelings of loyalty Marie Louise had towards Napoleon. Count von Neipperg had three children with Marie Louise. He then quietly married her after Napoleon’s death. Together they proved to be relatively popular governors of the Duchy of Parma.

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  • Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon’s artistic niece

    Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon’s artistic niece

    January 16, 2015

    Though not considered beautiful, Charlotte Bonaparte – the daughter of Napoleon’s brother Joseph – was intelligent and cultivated, with a romantic temperament. Known for her talent as an artist, Charlotte lived with her father in the United States for three years, where she drew and painted a number of landscapes. In Europe, she studied with Jacques-Louis David and with Louis-Léopold Robert, who killed himself when his passion for her was not requited. Constrained by Napoleon’s will to marry her cousin, Charlotte made the best of the situation, though her short marriage ended in sorrow. She herself died in sad circumstances at a relatively young age.

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  • Napoleon in French Canada

    Napoleon in French Canada

    January 9, 2015

    I have been blogging about the historical characters in Napoleon in America in order of their appearance in the novel. We now reach the point in the tale where Jean-Baptise Norau, from Saint-Constant, Quebec, arrives at Pierre-François Réal’s home in Cape Vincent wanting to see Napoleon. As I already wrote about Jean-Baptiste when discussing the history behind my short story “A Petition for the Emperor,” I will instead take a broader look at how Napoleon was viewed by French Canadians in the early 19th century. This topic has already been masterfully covered by Serge Joyal in Le Mythe de Napoléon au Canada Français (Del Busso, 2013). If you read French, I highly recommend this book. Even if you don’t understand French, you will enjoy the stunning illustrations.

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  • Napoleon in Historical Fiction

    Napoleon in Historical Fiction

    January 2, 2015

    Some weeks ago I looked at Napoleon in alternate history, of which Napoleon in America is one example. The books on that list are also examples of Napoleon in historical fiction. This week I’ll delve more into that category. While a vast number of novels are set in the Napoleonic era, relatively few have Napoleon as the main character. There are at least four challenges facing anyone who wants to write historical fiction about Napoleon.

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  • Napoleon’s policeman, Pierre-François Réal

    Napoleon’s policeman, Pierre-François Réal

    December 26, 2014

    Pierre-François Réal was an ardent French Revolutionist who helped Napoleon seize power and then served in key police positions throughout Napoleon’s reign. His supporters called him a champion of liberty who defended the rights of the falsely accused. His detractors regarded him as a hypocritical monster, responsible for many deaths. After Napoleon’s fall, Réal found exile in the United States. He built a “cup and saucer” house in Cape Vincent, New York, and may have sought to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena.

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  • Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s scandalous brother

    Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s scandalous brother

    December 19, 2014

    Lucien Bonaparte was Napoleon’s most articulate brother, and the only one unwilling to subordinate himself to Napoleon. Politically ambitious, he played an indispensable role in Napoleon’s rise to power. However, he refused to give up his wife when Napoleon demanded, thus – unlike his siblings – he never sat on a throne. Lucien spent most of the imperial years in exile with his large family, nursing his literary vanity.

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  • Archduke Franz Karl of Austria

    Archduke Franz Karl of Austria

    December 12, 2014

    Though he merits only a sentence in Napoleon in America, Archduke Franz Karl of Austria loomed large in the brief life of Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt. Born on December 17, 1802, in Vienna, Franz Karl was the 10th child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (Francis 1 of Austria). His mother was Francis’s second wife, Prince Maria Theresa, a member of the Naples branch of the House of Bourbon. She died when Franz Karl was four. As his parents were first cousins on both sides, Franz Karl was not particularly favoured in the intellectual department. Neither was he physically strong. He was generally regarded as rather odd and dull.

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  • Caroline Augusta, Empress of Austria

    Caroline Augusta, Empress of Austria

    December 5, 2014

    Caroline Augusta was a Bavarian princess who, in 1816, became Empress of Austria thanks to an arranged marriage with Emperor Francis I. Much younger than her husband, she became a “second mother” to Francis’s grandson, Franz, who happened to be Napoleon’s son, Napoleon II. Pious, well-educated and good-hearted, she tried to bring warmth and enlightenment to the boy’s life in the Viennese court.

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  • Napoleon in Alternate History

    Napoleon in Alternate History

    November 28, 2014

    What if Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo? What if he defeated Russia in 1812? What if he escaped from exile on St. Helena? Napoleon in America is part of a long tradition of alternate history books about Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact, the first novel-length alternate history was about Napoleon. The Napoleonic era offers many opportunities for divergence from the historical timeline, and authors have let their imaginations roam. Here are some of the results.

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  • Maurice Dietrichstein, governor of Napoleon’s son

    Maurice Dietrichstein, governor of Napoleon’s son

    November 21, 2014

    Little did Napoleon realize, when releasing Major Maurice Dietrichstein from a French prison in 1800, that the Austrian nobleman would one day be responsible for the education of his son, Napoleon II. More a musical connoisseur than a military man, Dietrichstein became the child’s governor after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat and remained in that capacity until the boy’s death in 1832. Though Dietrichstein was a strict taskmaster with impossibly high expectations, Franz (as Napoleon II was called in Austria) was grateful for the pains his governor took with his education.

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  • Louise Marie Thérèse d’Artois: Mademoiselle of France

    Louise Marie Thérèse d’Artois: Mademoiselle of France

    November 14, 2014

    Like others in her family, Louise Marie Thérèse d’Artois lived a life marked by murder, revolution and exile. Born a French princess of the Bourbon line, Louise spent the majority of her years separated from France. When she finally obtained, through marriage, a kingdom in the form of the Duchy of Parma, it was torn from her by war. One hopes she at least took comfort in her children.

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  • Henri d’Artois, unready to be king

    Henri d’Artois, unready to be king

    November 7, 2014

    Henri d’Artois, Duke of Bordeaux and Count of Chambord, was the last representative of the senior branch of the French Bourbon kings. Born to great fanfare as a presumed heir of the French throne, he lost his royal privilege when his grandfather, King Charles X, was compelled to abdicate in 1830. Henri lived the rest of his life in exile. When he did have the opportunity to reclaim his throne, he didn’t take it.

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  • Dorothea Lieven, a diplomat in skirts

    Dorothea Lieven, a diplomat in skirts

    October 31, 2014

    Sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued and a diplomatic force to be reckoned with, Princess Dorothea Lieven became another one of my favourites when researching Napoleon in America. As the wife of the Russian ambassador to Great Britain from 1812 to 1834, Dorothea had easy access to royalty, ministers, diplomats and politicians. This, combined with her considerable social skills and political acumen, gave her more influence than any other woman of the time. Her letters provide scintillating commentary on the notable persons and events of the post-Napoleonic years.

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  • 10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

    10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

    October 24, 2014

    There’s no shortage of Napoleon Bonaparte facts. Here are 10 you may not be aware of. They struck me as interesting when I was researching Napoleon in America. For example: 1) Napoleon couldn’t carry a tune. 2) He loved licorice. 3) He cheated at cards.

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  • Simon Bernard, Napoleon’s general in the US Army

    Simon Bernard, Napoleon’s general in the US Army

    October 17, 2014

    In an illustration of Napoleon’s “career open to all talents,” Simon Bernard rose from modest origins to become an engineering general in the Grande Armée. He attracted Napoleon’s personal attention when, as a young officer, he had the nerve to give the Emperor unsolicited advice about campaign plans. After Napoleon’s 1815 defeat, Bernard spent 15 years as a military engineer in the United States Army, where he had a huge impact on America’s coastal defences and roads and canals. Later in his career, Bernard served as France’s Minister of War.

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  • Napoleonic General Henri Lallemand: Improving the US artillery

    Napoleonic General Henri Lallemand: Improving the US artillery

    October 10, 2014

    Though overshadowed by his hotheaded older brother Charles, Henri Lallemand was a skilled Napoleonic officer whose influence on artillery practice was felt in the United States, which is where he sought exile after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat. Henri did not accompany Charles to the Champ d’Asile in Texas, but was keenly involved in planning and equipping the ill-fated expedition. His much younger wife Henriette was the niece of America’s richest man, Stephen Girard.

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  • Stephen Girard, America’s Napoleon of commerce

    Stephen Girard, America’s Napoleon of commerce

    October 3, 2014

    Stephen Girard was a French-born, Philadelphia-based merchant, banker, land speculator and philanthropist who became one of the richest Americans of all time. The leading business titan of his day, he personally saved the US government from financial collapse during the War of 1812. Girard was a friend of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, who dined with him regularly. One of Napoleon’s generals, Henri Lallemand, married Girard’s niece, Henriette. Thus Girard makes a small but important appearance in Napoleon in America, where his money is of use to the former French emperor.

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  • Charles Jared Ingersoll, a dinner-party delight

    Charles Jared Ingersoll, a dinner-party delight

    September 26, 2014

    Charles Jared Ingersoll was a prominent 19th century Philadelphia lawyer, member of Congress and writer. A good friend of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, Ingersoll was known for his lively conversation, his admiration for the United States, and his eccentric dress. He thought that Napoleon, “apart from rabid ambition, was a model of domestic, particularly matrimonial virtues, far exceeding most of not only the royalty, but the aristocracy of Europe.”

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  • What did Napoleon look like?

    What did Napoleon look like?

    September 19, 2014

    What did Napoleon look like? A silly question, you might think. Napoleon is one of the most painted and sculpted persons in history. When Matt Dawson was designing the cover for Napoleon in America, we agreed he didn’t have to show Napoleon’s face – the hat and coat would be enough. But take away those props and are you sure you’d recognize Napoleon if you met him on the street?

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  • Joseph Hopkinson, Joseph Bonaparte’s great friend

    Joseph Hopkinson, Joseph Bonaparte’s great friend

    September 12, 2014

    A 19th century lawyer, musician, writer, politician and judge, Joseph Hopkinson was one of Joseph Bonaparte’s closest friends and neighbours in the United States. He also composed America’s unofficial national anthem. Hopkinson’s wife Emily was a sharp wit with a talent for art and writing. The Hopkinsons moved in America’s highest political and social circles and ran a lively Philadelphia literary salon. John Quincy Adams and his wife were very fond of their daughter, Elizabeth Borden Hopkinson.

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  • Nicholas Biddle, proud American

    Nicholas Biddle, proud American

    September 5, 2014

    Nicholas Biddle, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, politician, man of letters, gentleman farmer and the president of the Second Bank of the United States. As a young man, he encountered Napoleon in person, leaving us vignettes of Napoleon reviewing his troops and of the Emperor’s coronation. Biddle’s time in Europe persuaded him of the superiority of his own country. Biddle came to ruin in the 1830s Bank War with President Andrew Jackson.

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  • Henry Clay, a perfect original

    Henry Clay, a perfect original

    August 29, 2014

    Named one of the greatest senators in US history (by a committee chaired by John F. Kennedy), Henry Clay was a formidable 19th century American politician. He served as Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than anyone else in the 1800s. Though he never held the country’s highest office, Clay had as much impact on the United States as most presidents of his era. Clay was a strong supporter of Latin American independence and was also a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, which is how he winds up in Napoleon in America.

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  • Charles & Delia Stewart: An ill-assorted match

    Charles & Delia Stewart: An ill-assorted match

    August 22, 2014

    Among the guests at Napoleon’s Point Breeze birthday party in Napoleon in America are Commodore Charles Stewart and his wife Delia, neighbours of Napoleon’s brother Joseph. Stewart was a national hero – the commander of the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) during the War of 1812. Delia was the belle of Boston, with a talent for spending other people’s money. They had one of the worst marriages in early 19th century America.

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  • 10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes in Context

    10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes in Context

    August 15, 2014

    Having looked at 10 things Napoleon never said, here are 10 Napoleon Bonaparte quotes that are often taken out of context. Considering the circumstances in which Napoleon said them may put a different spin on them. Note that all of these quotes have variants, depending on how the French was translated, and on how the phrases have mutated over the past 200 years.

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  • Achille & Joseph Archambault: Napoleon’s grooms on St. Helena

    Achille & Joseph Archambault: Napoleon’s grooms on St. Helena

    August 8, 2014

    Achille and Joseph Archambault are two more names to add to the category of Napoleon’s faithful servants. They joined the imperial household around 1805 and stuck with Napoleon when he went into exile on Elba and on St. Helena. Achille was known for his fast and furious driving. Joseph wound up in the United States, where he ran a hotel in Pennsylvania and became a cavalry major during the American Civil War.

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  • Joseph Bonaparte’s Secretary, Louis Mailliard

    Joseph Bonaparte’s Secretary, Louis Mailliard

    August 1, 2014

    When Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, arrived in the United States in August 1815, he was accompanied by four people, including his secretary Louis Mailliard. Mailliard served Joseph faithfully for 36 years and became his closest confidant. In 1817 Joseph sent Mailliard on a hunt for buried treasure in Europe.

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  • Jean-Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, a 19th century knight-errant

    Jean-Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, a 19th century knight-errant

    July 25, 2014

    Jean-Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, France’s ambassador to the United States from 1816 to 1822, was a staunch royalist with a heart of gold. A counter-revolutionary who was exiled by Napoleon, he became a doctor, a farmer, a diplomat and a politician who was generous to his opponents. His wife was a noted watercolourist who left many sketches of early 19th century America.

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  • John Quincy Adams and Napoleon

    John Quincy Adams and Napoleon

    July 18, 2014

    As an American diplomat in Europe during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, John Quincy Adams had ample opportunity to observe the effects of Napoleon’s military adventures. Though critical of Napoleon and pleased to see the end of his rule, Adams developed a sneaking admiration for the French Emperor, especially compared to the hereditary rulers of Europe.

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  • 10 Things Napoleon Never Said

    10 Things Napoleon Never Said

    July 11, 2014

    Napoleon is one of the most quoted people in history, and thus also one of the most misquoted. Here are 10 supposed Napoleon Bonaparte quotes that did not originate with him.

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  • Joseph Bonaparte: From King of Spain to New Jersey

    Joseph Bonaparte: From King of Spain to New Jersey

    July 4, 2014

    Amiable and obliging, Joseph Bonaparte was in many respects the opposite of his younger brother Napoleon. Joseph was fond of literature, gardening and entertaining, and Joseph perfectly happy to spend his days pottering about his estate. Napoleon, however, had grander plans for his brother, most notably the Spanish throne. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, Joseph fled to the United States, where he is credited with bringing European culture to the locals.

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  • Narcisse & Antonia Rigaud: Survivors of the Champ d’Asile

    Narcisse & Antonia Rigaud: Survivors of the Champ d’Asile

    June 27, 2014

    Narcisse-Périclès Rigaud and his sister Antonia were the children of General Antoine Rigaud, one of Napoleon’s officers. They joined their father in the 1818 Bonapartist attempt to form an armed colony in Texas called the Champ d’Asile (Field of Asylum). Narcisse’s distaste for Charles Lallemand in Napoleon in America stems from his experience at the colony.

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  • General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes: Unhappy in Alabama

    General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes: Unhappy in Alabama

    June 20, 2014

    Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes was a loyal and gifted Napoleonic cavalry commander. Sentenced to death after Napoleon’s 1815 abdication, Lefebvre-Desnouettes fled to the United States where he settled on the Vine and Olive colony in Alabama. Despite his wealth, he was miserable and longed to return to France. He finally received permission to do so, only to meet a tragic end on the journey home.

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  • Voodoo queen Marie Laveau

    Voodoo queen Marie Laveau

    June 13, 2014

    Like Jean Laffite, Voodoo queen Marie Laveau is a New Orleans character whose life is shrouded in legend. She was born on September 10, 1801, daughter of the free persons of colour Marguerite Henry D’Arcantel and Charles Laveaux. In 1819, Marie married Jacques Paris, a quadroon. They had two daughters: Felicité, born in 1817, and Marie Angèlie, born in 1822. Both are presumed to have died young. Jacques died or disappeared sometime between March 1822 and November 1824. Thereafter Marie went by the name the Widow Paris and supported herself as a hairdresser, going to the homes of wealthy white women to style their coiffures.

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  • Slavery in New Orleans, and Napoleon’s view thereof

    Slavery in New Orleans, and Napoleon’s view thereof

    June 6, 2014

    Nicolas Girod’s slave Rose is the only character in Napoleon in America for whom I had to invent a name. The 1820 US census lists Girod as having a female slave age 26-44, which means she was born before 1795. I decided to give her a Saint-Domingue origin. This connects her with Napoleon’s view of slavery, which can best be described as pragmatic. While Napoleon condemned the slave trade, he had no strong opposition to slavery. He based his policies on what would most benefit him and France.

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  • Pirate consorts: Marie and Catherine Villard

    Pirate consorts: Marie and Catherine Villard

    May 30, 2014

    Sisters Marie and Catherine (Catiche) Villard were the mistresses of the New Orleans-based pirate brothers Pierre and Jean Laffite. Pierre had at least seven children with Marie. His relationship with her also proved handy for shielding the Laffites’ property from creditors. There’s a sad coda to their story, involving descendants who tried to pass for white.

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  • Josephine Lauret: Namesake of a New Orleans Street

    Josephine Lauret: Namesake of a New Orleans Street

    May 23, 2014

    Though not much is known about her life, Napoleon in America character Josephine Lauret has a New Orleans street named after her. Quite a lot is known about her parents and grandparents, providing glimpses into the French-Spanish-American dynamic of the late 18th century, particularly in Louisiana. Josephine was the daughter of Revolutionary War officer Pierre George Rousseau, and the granddaughter of Joseph Milhet, one of New Orleans’ Frenchmen Street’s original Frenchmen.

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  • General Charles Lallemand: Invader of Texas

    General Charles Lallemand: Invader of Texas

    May 16, 2014

    Soldier, adventurer and conman, Charles Lallemand had a distinguished career as a Napoleonic officer. He was a member of Napoleon’s inner circle in the days following the Emperor’s 1815 abdication. Under a French death sentence and unwilling to settle for a quiet life, Lallemand turned to Texas filibustering, Spanish insurgency and a Greek ship-building fiasco before eventually becoming governor of Corsica.

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  • Vincent Nolte: Reminiscences of an extraordinary businessman

    Vincent Nolte: Reminiscences of an extraordinary businessman

    May 9, 2014

    A 19th century businessman with an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, Vincent Nolte had a long career on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a merchant, financier, caricaturist, medallion maker and writer. He made and lost more than one fortune, encountered Napoleon, Andrew Jackson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Queen Victoria and other luminaries, and left a highly entertaining book recounting his adventures.

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  • François Guillemin: Spying and scandal in 19th century New Orleans

    François Guillemin: Spying and scandal in 19th century New Orleans

    May 2, 2014

    François Guillemin was the French consul in New Orleans during the time in which Napoleon in America is set. As part of his job consisted of spying on Napoleon’s followers, Guillemin has his hands full in the book when Napoleon himself arrives in the city. In real life, much of what we know about Guillemin is thanks to his encounters with two other well-known figures: Alexis de Tocqueville and Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba.

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  • Félix Formento and medicine in 19th century New Orleans

    Félix Formento and medicine in 19th century New Orleans

    April 25, 2014

    An Italian immigrant who served in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Félix Formento became a prominent medical practitioner in 19th century New Orleans. He fathered a son who similarly became a doctor and worked for a Napoleon on the battlefield. Formento also holds the distinction of being the Napoleon in America character who lived the longest non-fictional life.

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  • Nicolas Girod and the history of Napoleon House in New Orleans

    Nicolas Girod and the history of Napoleon House in New Orleans

    April 18, 2014

    Napoleon in America was inspired by the story that Nicolas Girod built or furbished Napoleon House in New Orleans as a residence for Napoleon, and organized a group of pirates to rescue the former Emperor from exile on St. Helena. Though unsubstantiated, this tale first appeared in print in the late 19th century, was commonly recounted in the press in the early 20th century, and remains popular today.

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  • What happened to the Bonapartists in America? The story of Louis Lauret

    What happened to the Bonapartists in America? The story of Louis Lauret

    April 11, 2014

    One of hundreds of Bonapartists who went to the United States after Napoleon’s final defeat, Captain Louis Lauret ended up defrauded, disillusioned and probably wistful for the days of glory with his Emperor, with whom he is reunited fictionally in Napoleon in America.

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  • Jean Laffite: Mexican Gulf pirate and privateer

    Jean Laffite: Mexican Gulf pirate and privateer

    April 4, 2014

    To romantic minds, Jean Laffite could have been a model for Pirates of the Caribbean. Variously called the “gentleman pirate,” “the terror of the Gulf” and “the Hero of New Orleans,” his life is shrouded in myth. Napoleon in America is based on one of many unsubstantiated tales about Laffite.

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  • Napoleon’s art-collecting uncle, Cardinal Fesch

    Napoleon’s art-collecting uncle, Cardinal Fesch

    March 28, 2014

    One of France’s finest collections of old masters can be found in Ajaccio, Corsica, in the Palais Fesch. The museum is named after its benefactor, Napoleon’s uncle Joseph Fesch, a good-natured luxury-lover who used his takings from Napoleon’s stint in power to amass a huge amount of paintings. A Catholic cardinal, Fesch got caught in the struggle between Napoleon and the Pope, and tried to soften Napoleon’s policy towards the church.

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  • Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Bonaparte

    Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Bonaparte

    March 21, 2014

    Pragmatic, stoical and domineering, Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Bonaparte, saw the world from the perspective of a Corsican clan. She was devoted to her children and expected them to be devoted to her, and to each other, in return. Years of hardship left her tough and thrifty, with a keen business sense and a habit of hoarding money. She once told Napoleon, “It’s not poverty I’m afraid of, it’s the shame.”

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  • How Pauline Bonaparte lived for pleasure

    How Pauline Bonaparte lived for pleasure

    March 14, 2014

    A commoner from Corsica who counted the composer Niccolò Paganini, the actor François-Joseph Talma and the writer Alexandre Dumas senior among her lovers, bathed in milk baths to which she was carried by a Negro servant, and married a wealthy Italian prince could be said to have led a rather fortunate life. Pauline Bonaparte’s journey from rags to riches would not have been possible without her brother. Known for her beauty, her impulsiveness and her questionable moral sense, Pauline loved Napoleon and was the least demanding of all his siblings.

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  • Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s defiant puppet

    Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s defiant puppet

    March 7, 2014

    Napoleon’s younger brother Louis Bonaparte failed to become the great soldier Napoleon had trained him up to be, or even the pliable puppet Napoleon would have settled for. Instead, he became an irritable hypochondriac and literary dilettante who fathered another emperor.

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  • Clemens von Metternich: The man who outwitted Napoleon?

    Clemens von Metternich: The man who outwitted Napoleon?

    February 28, 2014

    As Austrian foreign minister from 1809 to 1848, Clemens von Metternich was a major player in European affairs for twice as long as Napoleon Bonaparte. A closet admirer of the French Emperor, he was concerned to show himself as the man who had outwitted him. Metternich was born in Coblenz on May 15, 1773 to an old aristocratic family whose members had held many high offices in the Holy Roman Empire. After studying philosophy, law and diplomacy, he followed his father into a diplomatic career.

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  • Napoleon II: Napoleon’s son, the King of Rome

    Napoleon II: Napoleon’s son, the King of Rome

    February 21, 2014

    Napoleon had at least two illegitimate children and two stepchildren, but only one legitimate child: Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, also known as the King of Rome, Napoleon II, the Prince of Parma and the Duke of Reichstadt. He did not hold all those titles at the same time, and you can tell whether someone was a supporter of Napoleon based on how they referred to the boy after 1815. His nickname was l’Aiglon, or the Eaglet.

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  • Francis I of Austria: Napoleon’s father-in-law

    Francis I of Austria: Napoleon’s father-in-law

    February 14, 2014

    When you marry into the Austrian royal family, you might expect some benefits from the situation – say, perhaps, that Austria will not attack you. But no such luck, as Napoleon discovered in 1813, when Francis I of Austria joined the leaders of Great Britain, Russia, Prussia and Sweden in their coalition against France. But then Napoleon had a history of fighting Austria, and had already divested his father-in-law of a good portion of his kingdom.

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  • Who was the man in the Duke and Duchess of Angoulême?

    Who was the man in the Duke and Duchess of Angoulême?

    February 7, 2014

    Married cousins Louis Antoine and Marie-Thérèse of France, children of the Bourbon kings Louis XVI and Charles X, led lives of disappointment, exile and sorrow. This ultimately strengthened the bond between them, which included, as one contemporary observed, “absolute leniency towards each other’s failings.” Napoleon admired Marie-Thérèse. She thought less highly of him.

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  • The Count of Artois: Charles X of France

    The Count of Artois: Charles X of France

    January 31, 2014

    A wastrel and a reactionary whose behaviour helped to discredit French royalty, Charles Philippe, the Count of Artois – later King Charles X of France – did not have much to recommend him. Known as the “Don Juan” of Versailles, he became a royal pain in the side of his brother, King Louis XVIII.

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  • Louis XVIII of France: Oyster Louis

    Louis XVIII of France: Oyster Louis

    January 24, 2014

    Louis XVIII le Desiré (the Desired), King of France. was born in the wrong place and time. He had to run from his country as his brother and sister-in-law were guillotined in the French Revolution. He then spent years shunting around Europe while Napoleon ran France. He barely had time to warm the throne before he again had to flee Paris, after the humiliation of watching his army desert him for Napoleon.

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  • Napoleon’s Nemesis: The Duke of Wellington

    Napoleon’s Nemesis: The Duke of Wellington

    January 17, 2014

    Napoleon Bonaparte and Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley never met or corresponded, and they fought only one battle directly against each other, on June 18, 1815. The fact that it was the Battle of Waterloo, which resulted in Napoleon’s permanent removal from the French throne, cemented them together in history. Here’s what they thought of each other.

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  • Lord Liverpool was not a Ninny

    Lord Liverpool was not a Ninny

    January 10, 2014

    Lord Liverpool (Robert Banks Jenkinson) was an accomplished Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Napoleonic period, though not exactly a social success.

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  • Louis-Joseph Marchand: Napoleon’s Valet and Friend

    Louis-Joseph Marchand: Napoleon’s Valet and Friend

    January 3, 2014

    When Napoleon disappears from his St. Helena residence of Longwood in Napoleon in America, there is one other person missing: Napoleon’s valet, Louis-Joseph-Narcisse Marchand. Marchand devoted himself to the Emperor’s service from 1811 until Napoleon’s death in 1821. He idolized the Emperor – not an easy man to serve – and did everything he could to maintain Napoleon’s comfort and illusion of power when diminished to the status of an English prisoner. His memoirs provide an inside look at Napoleon.

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  • Louis Étienne Saint-Denis: Napoleon’s French Mameluke

    Louis Étienne Saint-Denis: Napoleon’s French Mameluke

    December 27, 2013

    Louis Étienne Saint-Denis was born September 22, 1788 at Versailles, where his father served King Louis XVI as an overseer of the royal stables. According to family lore, Saint-Denis’ maternal grandfather once made a bird cage out of nougat, containing a real bird. The concoction was placed on the table at a court fête. When the nougat was broken, the bird flew out and perched on Marie Antoinette’s head.

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  • Charles de Montholon: Napoleon’s murderer or devoted Bonapartist?

    Charles de Montholon: Napoleon’s murderer or devoted Bonapartist?

    December 20, 2013

    In Napoleon in America, when Sir Hudson Lowe confronts the residents of Longwood with questions about Napoleon’s disappearance, among those denying any knowledge of the Emperor’s escape is Count Charles-Jean-François-Tristan de Montholon. Like Lowe, Montholon has a bad reputation. While Lowe’s star has risen over the years, Montholon’s has sunk, mainly due to the theory that Napoleon died of arsenic poisoning and that Montholon was the most likely poisoner.

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  • Napoleon and Arthur Bertrand

    Napoleon and Arthur Bertrand

    December 13, 2013

    In the opening chapter of Napoleon in America, Napoleon gives a gift to Arthur Bertrand. Arthur was the son of General Henri-Gatien Bertrand and his wife Fanny. Napoleon was fond of all the children in the Longwood entourage, but Arthur became his favourite. Glimpses of the two of them in the various St. Helena memoirs provide an amusing contrast to the often formidable portrait of Napoleon as Emperor.

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  • Hudson Lowe gets a bad rap

    Hudson Lowe gets a bad rap

    December 6, 2013

    British general Sir Hudson Lowe was the governor of St. Helena during Napoleon’s imprisonment on the island. Napoleon reached St. Helena before Lowe did and looked forward to the arrival of a fellow soldier. “Did you not tell me,” he reportedly said to his companions, “that he was at Champ Aubert and at Montmirail? We have then probably exchanged a few cannon balls together, and that is always, in my eyes, a noble relation to stand in.”

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  • General Bonaparte vs. Emperor Napoleon: The sad case of Engelbert Lutyens

    General Bonaparte vs. Emperor Napoleon: The sad case of Engelbert Lutyens

    November 29, 2013

    Captain Engelbert Lutyens, a member of Britain’s 20th Regiment of Foot, was the orderly officer at Napoleon’s residence of Longwood on St. Helena from February 10, 1820 to April 26, 1821. This meant he was the officer in charge of security. Lutyens was required to confirm Napoleon’s presence on a daily basis, preferably by actually seeing him. This was a sensitive task as Napoleon threatened to shoot anyone who invaded his privacy.

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  • Could Napoleon have escaped from St. Helena?

    Could Napoleon have escaped from St. Helena?

    November 22, 2013

    The premise of Napoleon in America is that Napoleon has escaped from St. Helena. That was the island to which he was banished after being forced off the French throne in 1815 following his defeat at Waterloo. A volcanic speck in the South Atlantic Ocean – 1,200 miles (1,900 km) west of Africa and 2,000 miles (3,200 km) east of Brazil – seemed an ideal place to stash a public menace, especially one who had earlier in the year managed to escape from the considerably less remote island of Elba.

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  • Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?

    Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?

    November 15, 2013

    Excluding artists, religious figures, royals with numbers attached, and people from a period or culture in which last names were not commonly used, Napoleon is one of the few historical figures readily identifiable by only his first name. Who was he, and what are the best websites about Napoleon?

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We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.

Napoleon Bonaparte