10 Fun Facts about John Quincy Adams
April 21, 2023
John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States, from 1825 to 1829. He was also a diplomat, a senator, a secretary of state, a congressman, and an antislavery advocate. Here are some things you might not know about him. 1) John Quincy Adams was a sloppy dresser.
Virginie Ghesquière: A Female Napoleonic Soldier
March 24, 2023
Virginie Ghesquière was a French woman who disguised herself as a man and fought as a soldier in Napoleon’s army. She first came to public attention in an article in the October 31, 1812 edition of the Journal de l’Empire. Readers were told: “There is much talk of the courage and devotion of a young lady who replaced her brother, a conscript of 1806, and returned from the army covered with honorable wounds.” Her story formed the basis of many popular tales, but how much of it was true?
Napoleon the Horseman
February 24, 2023
Although the most famous painting of Napoleon Bonaparte shows him on a horse, Napoleon was not a skilled horseman. In fact, the scene depicted by Jacques-Louis David never actually happened. Napoleon crossed the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass on a mule, not a white stallion. He nonetheless told David that he wanted to be portrayed “calm on a fiery horse.” Napoleon wanted people to think he was a better rider than he was.
Letters of Introduction in the 19th Century
January 20, 2023
Letters of introduction were the reference letters of the past, particularly among the upper classes. They were a way to say, “I know this person and can vouch for them.” If you wanted to become acquainted with someone of a higher social status, a letter of introduction written by a mutual friend was necessary to set up the meeting. Letters of introduction were also useful for travelers. If you were going to a place where you didn’t know anyone, a letter of introduction to someone who lived there would give you entry to the social or business community.
Christine-Egypta Bonaparte, Lady Dudley Stuart
December 16, 2022
Christine-Egypta Bonaparte was the second child of Napoleon’s younger brother Lucien Bonaparte and his first wife, Christine Boyer. She had two rather scandalous marriages, became an unconventional figure in the London social scene, and was a godmother and namesake of the poet Christina Rossetti, who wrote “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
The Palace of Saint-Cloud
November 4, 2022
The Palace of Saint-Cloud, also known as the Château de Saint-Cloud, was a French royal residence overlooking the Seine River approximately 5 kilometres (3 miles) west of Paris. It was an important site of Napoleonic history, used by both Napoleon I and his nephew, Napoleon III. The Palace of Saint-Cloud was also the summer residence of the 19th-century Bourbon kings and their successor, King Louis-Philippe. In Napoleon in America, Louis XVIII lurches across the palace’s terrace in his wheelchair while his great-niece, Louise d’Artois, twirls on the grass.
Post-houses and Stage-houses in the Early 1800s
October 7, 2022
If you were taking a trip before the onset of rail travel, you’d likely be spending time at a post-house. Post-houses – often called stage-houses, especially in the United States – were essential stopping places in the days when vehicles were pulled by horses. Situated approximately every 10-15 miles (16-24 km) along routes known as post roads or stage roads, post-houses were houses or inns with stables where coaches could obtain a fresh set of horses for the next stage of the journey. Mail, packages, and passengers could be dropped off and picked up. Drivers could be swapped out. Travellers could get something to eat, and spend the night. If you wanted to travel in a private vehicle, rather than a public one, you could rent horses and a small carriage at a post-house, along with postilions.
10 More Napoleon Quotes in Context
September 9, 2022
Further to my earlier posts about Napoleon quotes and misquotes, here are 10 more quotes by Napoleon Bonaparte, with information about the context in which he wrote or said them. 1) It is better to eat than be eaten.
San Antonio in the Early 1800s
May 27, 2022
When Napoleon fictionally arrives at San Antonio in Napoleon in America, he finds an insecure and impoverished outpost in the sparsely-populated Mexican province of Texas. In the early 1800s, San Antonio was made up of the military presidio of San Antonio de Béxar, the civilian town of San Fernando de Béxar, and the religious-Indian settlements of several Franciscan missions. What follows is a look at how San Antonio appeared to early-19th-century visitors and residents. But first, some background.
Alternate History Books by Canadians
April 15, 2022
If you’re looking for a fascinating read for Canada Book Day, consider the often overlooked category of alternate history books by Canadians. Alternate history – also called alternative history – is a genre of speculative fiction that explores what might have come to pass if particular historical events had happened differently. Alternate history involves a point of divergence from actual history: a moment at which the fictional timeline departs from the historical record. Alternate history books explore questions of “what if,” or what might have been. Canadians are among the most prominent writers in the genre.
The Duke of Wellington and Religion
March 18, 2022
The Duke of Wellington, best known for commanding the coalition of forces that defeated Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Waterloo, was a man of sincere, unpretentious religious belief and habits. His attendance at church was not just a matter of duty or keeping up appearances. He had faith in God, and a belief that he was under God’s protection.
Glimpses of Ukraine in the 19th Century
March 4, 2022
Although Ukraine has not always been an independent state, it has a long history as a region with its own identity. Here are some captivating descriptions of Ukraine provided by visitors to the Russian Empire in the mid-19th century.
The Palais-Royal: Social Centre of 19th-Century Paris
February 18, 2022
The Palais-Royal, a former royal palace in Paris, was a spectacular shopping, entertainment and dining complex for the first half of the 19th century. It attracted all of Parisian society, from the high to the low. In Napoleon in America, when General Jean-Pierre Piat is trying to confuse the policeman who is following him, he heads for the galleries of the Palais-Royal, “aiming to lose himself among the philosophers and rogues, the idle and the profligate, the pickpockets and ladies of fair virtue.”
Napoleon the Workaholic
January 21, 2022
Napoleon Bonaparte was an incredibly hard worker. He had tremendous energy and self-discipline, was action-oriented, and possessed an innate drive to achieve. Napoleon’s obsessive devotion to work made it possible for him to command armies – he fought more than 70 battles in 22 years – while also being a hands-on ruler of France and a vast empire. Here are some of Napoleon’s work habits and characteristics that enabled him to accomplish so much.
John Quincy and Louisa Adams: Middle-Aged Love
January 7, 2022
America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was not a romantic man. He was pedantic, sharp-tempered, domineering and generally hard to get along with. His wife, Louisa, was more charming, with a love of society and a desire to please, however she was also moody, inclined to self-doubt and depression, and a hypochondriac. They frequently exasperated each other. Looking back at their early years together, Louisa wrote, “Happy indeed would it have been for Mr. Adams if he had broken his engagement, and not harassed himself with a wife altogether so unsuited to his peculiar character, and still more peculiar prospects. When we were married every disappointment seemed to fall upon us at once. … [O]ur views of things were totally different on many essential points.” Despite John Quincy and Louisa Adams’s differences, there was a genuine affection and closeness between them. Their marriage lasted fifty years, until John Quincy Adams’ death in early 1848. In 1822, they marked their 25th wedding anniversary. Their correspondence that summer, at the midpoint of their married life, shows something of the companionable love that bound them together.
Christmas in Mexico in the 1800s
December 24, 2021
In the years after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, many visitors arrived from Europe and the United States hoping to establish profitable diplomatic and commercial relations with the new country. Here are glimpses of some of the Christmas celebrations they encountered.
How did people shop in the early 1800s?
December 10, 2021
Although people in the early 1800s could not shop at supermarkets or department stores, they had plenty of other shopping opportunities, especially if they lived in cities. Markets, peddlers and hawkers, specialty stores, general stores and cheap shops all catered to early 19th-century shoppers. Here’s a look at what it was like to go shopping 200 years ago.
Was Napoleon religious?
November 26, 2021
Napoleon Bonaparte was religious in that he believed in God. However, he was not devoted to any particular religious doctrines or practices. Napoleon respected the power of religious belief and used religion to further his political goals.
How to Make Small Talk in the 19th Century
November 12, 2021
In 1818, future first lady Louisa Adams wrote to her father-in-law, John Adams: “How much practice…is required to receive company well, and how much the greatest talents are obscured by that want of ease and small talk which, though in itself trifling, always produces the happy effect of socializing a company and by insensible degrees warming it into brilliancy and solidity. This is one of those arts that everybody feels, but few understand, and is altogether inexplicable.” As Louisa knew, small talk does not always come naturally. Here’s a guide to how it was done in the early 19th century.
Assassination Attempts on the Duke of Wellington
October 29, 2021
Although the Duke of Wellington did not face as many assassination attempts as Napoleon did, there were at least two serious plots to assassinate him. In the first attempt, the bullet fired by the would-be assassin failed to hit the Duke. The second attempt, in which Wellington was one of many intended victims, was foiled before it could be carried out.
François d’Orléans, Prince of Joinville: Artist & Sailor
October 15, 2021
François d’Orléans, Prince of Joinville, is perhaps best known to Napoleon fans as the commander of La Belle Poule, the ship that returned Napoleon’s remains to France in 1840. The Prince of Joinville – the son of a French king – had a storied naval career, was a notable painter of watercolours, and wrote some delightful memoirs. You might remember him from my post about vintage photos of French royalty, in which he stood out as one of the princes who served in the American Civil War. Here’s a closer look at his life and his art.
Marshal Grouchy in America
October 1, 2021
Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy was a skilled cavalry officer who had a long career of service in the French army. This record has been overshadowed by accusations – originating with Napoleon and his followers on Saint Helena – that Marshal Grouchy was in large part responsible for Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. After Waterloo, Grouchy went into exile in the United States, where he began the frustrating process of defending himself against allegations of incompetence, cowardice and treachery.
Symbols of Napoleon: The Eagle
September 17, 2021
What is it with Napoleon and eagles? Napoleon’s troops carried an eagle standard into battle; his son was nicknamed the eaglet; Napoleon’s return to France in 1815 was called the flight of the eagle. Here’s a look at how the eagle became a symbol of Napoleonic France, and what those Napoleon eagle standards were all about.
Currency, Exchange Rates & Costs in the 19th Century
June 11, 2021
What currency was used in France, the United States, and Britain in the early 19th century? What were the historical exchange rates? How much did things cost? Since Napoleon in America occasionally mentions financial transactions, these were questions I had to look into when writing the novel. Here’s what I found out.
Marie Louise of Austria, Napoleon’s Second Wife
May 28, 2021
At the age of 18, Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria was obliged to marry 40-year-old French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who had spent years waging war against her country. Despite the circumstances, the marriage was relatively happy. Napoleon and Marie Louise spent four years together and then never saw each other again. While he was destined for an early death in faraway exile, she went on to govern the Duchy of Parma.
The 19th-Century Comedy Routines of Charles Mathews
May 14, 2021
What made people laugh 200 years ago? Among other things, old jokes and comedy performances in theatres. One of the leading comedians of the early 19th century was British actor Charles Mathews. Famous for his wit and his skill at mimicry, he kept audiences in stitches with his one-man shows, which were a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. How funny would we find his comedy routines today? Read on and decide for yourself.
The Tuileries Palace under Napoleon I and Louis XVIII
April 30, 2021
One thing that Napoleon I and Louis XVIII had in common was a fondness for the Tuileries Palace, a magnificent building in Paris that no longer exists. The Tuileries Palace stood on the right (north) bank of the River Seine, at the eastern end of the Tuileries Garden, next to the Louvre Palace, to which it was joined. It was home to the rulers of France for almost 300 years.
Robert Fulton & the First Steam Warship
April 16, 2021
Robert Fulton, an American engineer and inventor best known for bringing steamboats to commercial success, also built the world’s first steam-powered warship. Although Demologos, or Fulton the First, heralded the conversion from sail to steam in naval warfare, she never saw battle and met a tragic end in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
A Sailor’s Easter in California in 1835
April 2, 2021
In 1834-35, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., sailed as a merchant seaman from Boston to Alta California, which was then a province of Mexico. The ship’s arrival in Santa Barbara coincided with the Easter holidays. Dana left a vivid description of the festivities on shore, including activities not usually associated with Easter.
The Duke of Wellington and Women
March 19, 2021
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, attracted plenty of female attention. Wellington was very much at ease with women and enjoyed their company, especially if they were good-looking and intelligent. Stuck in an unhappy marriage, he developed many close friendships with women and had numerous mistresses.
Caroline Bonaparte Murat, Napoleon’s Treasonous Sister
March 5, 2021
Napoleon’s sister Caroline Bonaparte Murat was ambitious and enterprising. Although Caroline and her husband owed their crowns to Napoleon, when it looked like Napoleon was going to be defeated, they allied with his enemies. French Foreign Minister Talleyrand wrote that Caroline “had the head of Cromwell upon the body of a well-shaped woman. Born with much grandeur of character, strong mind, and sublime ideas; possessing a subtle and delicate wit, together with amiability and grace, seductive beyond expression; she was deficient in nothing but in the art of concealing her desire to rule.”
Lafayette’s Visit to America in 1824-25
February 19, 2021
In 1824-25, the Marquis de Lafayette, one of the last surviving generals of the American Revolutionary War, made a grand visit to America. He toured all 24 states of the Union and received a hero’s welcome everywhere he went. The visit cemented his fame in America for a new generation and left a lasting impact in the names and monuments found around the United States.
François-Joseph Talma, Napoleon’s Favourite Actor
February 5, 2021
Napoleon’s favourite actor was François-Joseph Talma, the leading French tragedian of the period. They became friends before Napoleon became Emperor. Napoleon maintained a close relationship with Talma during his years in power and Talma remained a loyal friend.
One Thing at a Time: 19th-Century Multitasking Advice
January 22, 2021
Long before the word multitasking was coined, common sense frowned on the practice. “Who chases two rabbits catches neither” has been attributed both to Confucius (551-469 BC) and Publilius Syrus (85-43 BC). “The human mind can attend to only one thing at a time,” wrote 17th-century philosopher Pierre-Daniel Huet, presaging some modern neuroscientific findings. In the 19th century, this turned into some rather fierce instruction about the importance of single-tasking, as well as some pseudoscience regarding the ability to concentrate.
Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s Capable Sister
January 8, 2021
Elisa Bonaparte was not as well-known as her sisters, beautiful Pauline and treasonous Caroline, but she was more capable than either of them. In fact, she was the Bonaparte sibling most like Napoleon, although she had the least influence over him. Napoleon himself said, “Elisa has the courage of an Amazon; and like me, she cannot bear to be ruled.”
A 19th-Century Austrian Christmas
December 25, 2020
In 1836, English writer Frances Trollope visited Austria, accompanied by her 26-year-old son Thomas and her 20-year-old daughter Cecilia. She provided the following description of Christmas in Vienna, including a party at the home of Austrian chancellor and foreign minister Clemens von Metternich.
Shopping in the Early 19th Century
December 11, 2020
Frustrated by long line-ups and unhelpful websites when doing your holiday shopping? Here are some situations you might have encountered if you went shopping 200 years ago, taken from early-19th-century newspapers.
Things People Were Thankful For 200 Years Ago
November 27, 2020
Although Thanksgiving traditions have changed over the years, giving thanks for life’s blessings has been customary for centuries. Here are some things people were thankful for 200 years ago.
Napoleon’s Hair and its Many Locks
November 13, 2020
Every once in a while, a lock of Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair comes up for auction. Is it likely to be authentic? What does Napoleon’s hair look like? Where can one see a sample? And how much does it cost? Here are answers to your burning questions about Napoleon’s hair.
Davy Crockett on How to Get Elected
October 30, 2020
American folk hero Davy Crockett, known for his hunting skills and his defence of the Alamo, was also a politician. “Endowed with a good measure of common sense, an uncommon streak of pure honesty, and a warm sense of humor, Crockett was a natural for the rough-and-tumble, down-home brand of backwoods electioneering.” In 1835, on his way to Texas, Crockett reportedly provided advice on how to get elected, based on his own experience.
The Wreck of the Schooner Lively
October 16, 2020
The Lively, a schooner that many 19th-century Texans believed had been lost with all its passengers, did meet its end in a shipwreck, but not with loss of life. Here’s how events got conflated in early Texas folklore.
When People Knew How to Speak: Oratory in the 19th Century
October 2, 2020
At a time when the quality of public discourse is often complained of, it’s interesting to look back to when people took oratory, or eloquence in public speaking, seriously. One such period was 200 years ago, in the early 19th century. Inspired by Greek and Roman ideals, politicians, lawyers, religious leaders and other public speakers sought to stir emotions, change minds and inspire action by speaking so masterfully that people would pack rooms just to hear what they said.
When an Englishman Met a Napoleonic Captain in Restoration France
September 18, 2020
France and England were at war for most of the period between 1793 and 1814. This made tourism between the two countries extremely difficult. After Napoleon was defeated and exiled to Elba in April 1814, English visitors flocked across the English Channel, eager to see Paris now that France was under the rule of England’s ally, King Louis XVIII. One of those making the trip was British journalist John Scott, who left the following account of one of his countrymen.
Was Napoleon good or bad?
June 26, 2020
Was Napoleon Bonaparte a good leader? Was he a hero or a tyrant? I often get asked questions that boil down to “was Napoleon good or bad?” It is not an easy question to answer. Like most of us, he was neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. Reasonable people can disagree about how Napoleon’s life and legacy should be regarded. The answer depends on what you value, and by what standards you are judging him. Below is a brief summary of arguments usually made in favour of, and against, Napoleon.
The Duke of Wellington and Children
June 12, 2020
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was fond of children and children were very fond of him.
Taking the Waters at Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa
May 29, 2020
“Taking the waters,” the practice of drinking and bathing in mineral springs to treat illness and promote health, was a popular habit in 19th-century America. Two of the most renowned resorts were Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa in upstate New York.
Napoleonic Telecommunications: The Chappe Semaphore Telegraph
May 15, 2020
The telegraph used by France during the Napoleonic Wars was an optical system based on the use of semaphore signals. When the Chappe semaphore telegraph was introduced during the French Revolution, it revolutionized communications by dramatically reducing the length of time it took for messages to travel. Although the semaphore telegraph was costly and could not operate at night or during bad weather, it was used for over 60 years, and paved the way for the introduction of the more efficient electrical telegraph later in the 19th century.
Humour in the 19th Century: 200-Year-Old Jokes
May 1, 2020
In addition to being dependent on personal taste, humour tends to be specific to culture, to place and to time. This makes it tricky to weave jokes into fiction set in the past, like Napoleon in America. What did people find funny 200 years ago? How well have those jokes held up over time? You be the judge of this humour from the early 19th century.
10 Napoleon Quotes About Family
April 17, 2020
Napoleon’s family was instrumental in his rise to power. Family also played a role in his downfall. Here are some Napoleon quotes about family.
How to Deal with Boredom: Tips from the 19th Century
April 3, 2020
Are you stuck at home and wondering what to do? Here are some tips for dealing with boredom – or ennui, as it was commonly called – from the 1830s, when a cholera pandemic was raging around the world.
Quarantine in the 19th Century: Some Vignettes
March 20, 2020
Quarantine, or the practice of enforcing isolation upon people to prevent the spread of disease, goes back to at least the seventh century BC. The word quarantine comes from 14th-century Venice, where ships were required to lay at anchor for 40 (quaranta) days before landing, in an attempt to curb the outbreak of bubonic plague known as the Black Death. Quarantine was the main method of combatting the spread of transmissible disease in the 19th century, when there was no effective medical response. Here are some accounts of what quarantine was like in practice.
Napoleon in Advertising
March 6, 2020
Napoleon Bonaparte’s name and image have been used to sell a huge number of products since the Emperor’s death in 1821. In many cases, the advertised item has no obvious connection with Napoleon. Here are some examples of how Napoleon has appeared in advertising over the years.
Medical Advice for Travellers to Mexico in the Early 19th Century
February 21, 2020
Scottish physician James Copland provided medical advice to British collector William Bullock, who travelled to Mexico for six months in 1823.
Advice to Texas Settlers in the 1830s
February 7, 2020
In 1823, Stephen F. Austin received permission from the Mexican government to establish a colony in Texas between the Colorado and Brazos Rivers. By 1828, Austin’s colony contained about 8,000 inhabitants. In 1831, Austin’s widowed cousin, Mary Austin Holley, visited Texas with a view to settling there with her family. She was 47 years old, cultured, well-educated and adventurous. Austin described her as “this very superior woman.” Here is some of her advice to prospective Texas settlers.
Gaëtan-Octavien d’Alvimart: Soldier, Adventurer, Artist
January 24, 2020
When writing Napoleon in America, I considered making French officer Gaëtan-Octavien d’Alvimart one of the characters. Like Generals Lallemand and Humbert, d’Alvimart was a spirited adventurer who tried to make his way into Mexico when it was still a possession of Spain. D’Alvimart claimed to be acting on the direct orders of Napoleon, whom he had known since his youth. But was he really Napoleon’s emissary? Here is the curious tale of a self-styled general, who was also an artist and a poet.
Symbols of Napoleon: The Violet
January 10, 2020
In Napoleon in America, as General Piat leaves his house to command an uprising in favour of Napoleon, his mother twists a violet around her son’s button. How did the violet become a symbol of Napoleon?
New Year’s Day in 19th-Century New York
December 27, 2019
Visiting friends and sharing food were features of New Year’s Day in early 19th-century America. James Stuart, a visitor from Scotland, described a New Year’s Day in New York in 1830.
A 19th-Century Spanish Christmas
December 13, 2019
In 1829, Caroline Cushing, a resident of Newburyport, Massachusetts, travelled to Europe with her husband Caleb Cushing, a lawyer and member of the Massachusetts Senate. While Caleb employed himself in studying the laws and institutions of the countries they visited, Caroline wrote a fascinating account of their journey through France and Spain. She provided the following description of Christmas in Madrid in 1829.
National Stereotypes in the Early 19th Century
November 29, 2019
If you think of a particular European nationality, what stereotype comes to mind? For one British writer in 1822, it was “the mercurial Frenchman, the ignorant and sluggish Spaniard, the profligate Italian, and, perhaps, the enthusiastic and imagination-led German.” Here are some of the national stereotypes found in the writings of early 19th-century travellers.
Visiting the Habsburg Imperial Crypt
November 15, 2019
The Imperial Crypt of the Habsburg family lies beneath the Capuchin Church in Vienna, Austria. Today the tomb that receives the most visitor attention is that of Empress Elisabeth, also known as Sisi, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916). She was assassinated in Geneva in 1898. In 1837, the year that Sisi was born, English writer Frances Milton Trollope paid a visit to the Imperial Crypt. At that time, Emperor Francis I (1768-1835) was the star exhibit. He was the father of Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise, who is also buried in the crypt.
November 1, 2019
In Napoleon in America, when Marie Laveau casts her healing spell on Napoleon, he says, “She has let me dream at ease.” Though some might say that Napoleon dreamed of European conquest, the French Emperor’s actual dreams, as reported by his companions, were less grandiose.
Spain Before the Peninsular War
October 18, 2019
In 1805, British writer Robert Semple travelled across Spain. His observations on the journey, published in London in 1807, provide a sense of what Spain was like before the Peninsular War (1807-1814), and before Napoleon placed his elder brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the Spanish throne. At the time of Semple’s visit, Charles IV – a member of the Bourbon family – was the king of Spain. Charles took little interest in matters of government, leaving them in the hands of his wife, Queen Maria Luisa, and the Spanish prime minister, Manuel de Godoy, who was thought to be the queen’s lover.
Accounts of the Battle of Jena
October 4, 2019
In the Battle of Jena, fought on October 14, 1806, in what is today Germany, the French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Prussian army led by the Prince of Hohenloe in a quick and decisive engagement. Further north, near Auerstädt, French marshal Louis Nicolas Davout dealt a similar blow to the Prussians under the Duke of Brunswick and King Frederick William III. Here are two accounts of the battle.
The Humour of President James Monroe
May 3, 2019
James Monroe, president of the United States from 1817 to 1825, was hardly a barrel of laughs. His speeches and correspondence exhibit little playfulness. Yet James Monroe was said to be warm and good-natured in person, with a sense of humour that could surprise his acquaintances. Judge E.R. Watson of Charlottesville, Virginia, recalled: “I have several times seen [Monroe and James Madison] together at Montpelier, and, as it seemed to me, it was only in Mr. Madison’s society that Mr. Monroe could lay aside his usual seriousness and indulge in the humorous jest and merry laugh, as if he were young again.” Here are some quotes and anecdotes that illustrate the gentle humour of James Monroe.
Napoleon’s Looted Art
April 19, 2019
Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t the first or the last leader to steal art from conquered territories, and he wasn’t the largest wartime looter, but he and his troops pillaged art on a vast scale. What did they take and what happened to Napoleon’s looted art?
Snake Tales from 19th-Century America
April 5, 2019
As a threat to life and as a spectacle, snakes were a staple of stories about young America. Here are some examples of snake tales from the early 1800s.
The Duke of Wellington’s Shooting Adventures
March 22, 2019
Despite his skill as a military commander, Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, was not particularly adept at handling a gun. This led to some noteworthy incidents after he retired from the battlefield.
What did Napoleon think of women?
March 8, 2019
Although Napoleon Bonaparte respected his mother and put two of his sisters in charge of small territories, he believed that women were generally inferior to men. In Napoleon’s view, women were destined to play a domestic role, rather than a public one.
The Restaurateur: Dining in Paris in the Early 19th Century
February 22, 2019
A restaurateur is a person who owns or runs a restaurant. Dining options in France increased dramatically after the French Revolution, when unemployed cooks from aristocratic and royal households became restaurateurs.
Pauline Bonaparte on Elba
February 8, 2019
Pauline Bonaparte was the only one of Napoleon’s siblings to join him in exile on Elba. She became the life of his small court, and helped to finance his stay on the island, as well as his escape from it.
What did Napoleon like to wear?
January 25, 2019
Even if you’re not sure what Napoleon actually looked like, you can usually identify him in pictures thanks to his hat and his coat. This is no accident. Napoleon cultivated an easily recognizable image by keeping his wardrobe simple.
A Buffalo Hunt & Other Buffalo History Tidbits
January 11, 2019
One thing that early European visitors to the Great Plains commented on was the sight of vast herds of buffalo. Here is a description of a 19th-century buffalo hunt as well as some interesting facts about buffaloes.
New Year Wishes from the 19th Century
December 28, 2018
New’s Year’s Day is traditionally a time for reflecting on events of the previous year and expressing hopes for the year to come. On January 1, 1823, the editors of Galignani’s Messenger, an English-language newspaper published in Paris, conveyed their New Year wishes as follows. They undoubtedly hoped that the government of King Louis XVIII was paying attention.
Napoleon’s Funeral in Paris in 1840
December 14, 2018
Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821 as a British prisoner on the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena. In 1840, his remains were dug up and transported to France on the ship La Belle Poule. On December 15, 1840, they were conveyed through Paris in a grand funeral procession, culminating in a mass at the Dôme des Invalides. In the words of a British observer, Napoleon’s funeral was “the strangest mixture of sorrow and triumph that human ingenuity could have derived.”
Photos of 19th-Century French Royalty
November 30, 2018
The reign of Napoleon I ended in 1815, more than a decade before the world’s oldest surviving photograph was taken in France in 1826-27. The restored Bourbons were pushed off the throne in 1830, eight years before Louis Daguerre took the oldest surviving photograph that shows people. Yet photographs of members of the royal family from both the First Empire and the Second Restoration exist, as do photographs of King Louis-Philippe, who was forced to abdicate in 1848. There are numerous photos of Napoleon III and his family, who reigned from 1852 to 1870. Enjoy these vintage photos of 19th-century French royalty.
5 People Driven to America by the Napoleonic Wars
November 16, 2018
Like the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars – which raged across Europe from 1803 to 1815 – caused a number of French people to flee to America. Some regarded themselves as Frenchmen living in exile and returned to France at the first opportunity. Others stayed and became part of American society. Here are five prominent French refugees who wound up in the United States during the Napoleonic Wars.
Does historical accuracy of place matter?
November 2, 2018
Does historical accuracy of place matter? By historical accuracy of place, I mean the concept that a specific physical location – a building, a piece of ground, a geographic coordinate – that is claimed to be of historical significance actually was the site of the historical event from which the claim is derived. The question is not ‘did the historical event happen?’ The question is ‘did the historical event happen here?’ In short, does it matter if historical markers are in the wrong place?
Battle of Leipzig: Largest Battle of the Napoleonic Wars
October 19, 2018
The Battle of Leipzig, fought from October 16 to 19, 1813 in Saxony (Germany), was the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. Over half a million soldiers were involved. Napoleon Bonaparte and his army of roughly 200,000 men were defeated by over 300,000 soldiers from the armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden, led by Russian Tsar Alexander I and Austrian field marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg. Because of the number of countries involved, the Battle of Leipzig is also known as the Battle of the Nations. It was the biggest battle in Europe prior to World War I.
Blood Transfusion History: Infusing Life
October 5, 2018
In 1818, British obstetrician James Blundell performed the first human-to-human blood transfusion. Although the patient died, Blundell’s transfusion experiments, and his certainty that human patients required human blood, led to advances in transfusion medicine that continue into the present. Here’s a bit of blood transfusion history. There’s even a Bonaparte connection.
Supporters of Napoleon in England
September 21, 2018
Notwithstanding the unflattering caricatures, mocking songs, and other portrayals of Napoleon Bonaparte as the number one enemy of England, the French Emperor had British sympathizers during the Napoleonic Wars. They were primarily liberal Whigs, who opposed the ruling Tory Party, criticized the absolute monarchs of Europe, and did not want the Bourbons restored to power in France. Here is a look at some of the most prominent supporters of Napoleon in England.
Battle of Borodino: Bloodiest Day of the Napoleonic Wars
September 7, 2018
The Battle of Borodino, fought on September 7, 1812, was the bloodiest single day of fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon had marched his Grande Armée into Russia in June of 1812. He hoped to quickly engage the Russian army, win a decisive victory, and force Tsar Alexander I to agree to his terms. However, the Russians kept retreating, setting fire to military stores, crops, and towns along the way. Napoleon had counted on his troops being able to forage for sustenance, but as they were drawn further into Russia, they became increasingly reliant on overstretched supply lines. By September, Napoleon – who had entered Russia with more than 400,000 soldiers, one-third of them French, the rest from French-occupied or allied territories – had lost a third of his men to starvation, straggling, desertion and disease.
Joseph Bonaparte and the Crown of Mexico
May 25, 2018
When Joseph Bonaparte was King of Spain, he was also, by default, the ruler of Mexico, or New Spain as it was called at the time. The Mexicans didn’t like him. Did they then offer Joseph a crown when he was in exile in the United States and they were seeking independence from Spain?
Royal Wedding? Humbug!
May 18, 2018
Tired of syrupy talk about royal weddings? Here’s a corrective from the 1816 marriage of Princess Charlotte of Wales – granddaughter of England’s King George III – to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. It’s a bracing antidote for anyone suffering from royal wedding overdose.
Exercise for Women in the Early 19th Century
May 11, 2018
Women who wanted to keep fit in the early 19th century had to contend with the notion that they were too delicate for many forms of exercise. They also had to deal with clothing that constrained their physical movement. The following recommendations were aimed at women in the upper and middle classes of society. Women in the labouring class tended to get plenty of exercise just going about their work.
Vignettes of Napoleon’s Final Months
May 4, 2018
Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821, on St. Helena, an isolated island in the South Atlantic where the British imprisoned him after his 1815 defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. He probably died of stomach cancer. Napoleon noticed that his health was declining in the fall of 1820. By the end of that year, his illness had become apparent to those around him. Here are some vignettes of Napoleon’s final months, as recorded by those closest to him.
Living Descendants of Napoleon and the Bonapartes
April 27, 2018
One question I am often asked is whether Napoleon Bonaparte has any living descendants, or whether a particular sibling of Napoleon has any living descendants. Another version of the question is whether there are any Bonaparte descendants living in America. Here’s a handy summary to help you keep track.
John Quincy Adams and the White House Billiard Table
April 20, 2018
John Quincy Adams was the first president to install a billiard table in the White House. This “gambling furniture” in the “President’s Palace” exposed Adams to much unfair criticism, and was used against him by supporters of Andrew Jackson in the presidential election campaign of 1828.
Spring Cleaning in the 19th Century
April 13, 2018
How do you feel about spring cleaning? At least anyone undertaking the task today can rely on modern appliances to help. Spare a thought for 19th-century housekeepers, for whom spring cleaning involved considerable time, elbow grease, and disruption.
When Napoleon Attempted Suicide
April 6, 2018
Napoleon Bonaparte tried to commit suicide in 1814, rather than resign himself to a life in exile on Elba.
Foot Washing by a Habsburg Empress
March 30, 2018
Foot washing, or the Washing of the Feet, is a religious ceremony performed by many Christians on the Thursday before Easter. On Maundy Thursday in 1837, Empress Maria Anna of Austria washed the feet of elderly paupers.
Stupid News in the 19th Century
March 23, 2018
Ever get the feeling that you’ve seen a particular news story before? Is it a story about a supposedly interesting or unusual occurrence that gives the appearance of having just happened, but in fact has been circulating for months, or years, on many different sites, and is not even very interesting or unusual? You’re not alone. Stupid news has been around for at least 200 years. Here’s what one early 19th-century writer thought of these ‘little sneaking fetid nothingnesses.’
The New Orleans Riot of 1817
March 16, 2018
New Orleans, where Napoleon lands in Napoleon in America, was an accommodating place for his supporters in the years after 1815. French speakers constituted about three-quarters of the city’s population of some 27,000. Many of the French and Creole inhabitants were sympathetic to Napoleon. They disliked England, their opponent in the Battle of New Orleans. Something of the feeling of the time can be gathered from a riot that took place in the city over a French flag on a British ship in March of 1817.
The Josephine Delusion: A Woman Who Thought She Was Napoleon’s Wife
March 9, 2018
The “Napoleon delusion,” a form of mental illness in which a person believes he is Napoleon Bonaparte, has long been a popular stereotype. “Delusions of grandeur” accounted for more than 25 percent of diagnoses of insanity in France in the 1830s. While there is only one identified case of a woman claiming to be Napoleon, many women claimed to be Napoleon’s wife.
Of Sealing Wax and Emperor Francis
March 2, 2018
Emperor Francis I of Austria – the father of Napoleon’s second wife Marie Louise – was known for his skill in making sealing wax. Like door knockers, sealing wax used to be a feature of everyday life. Sealing wax was used to securely close letters and other documents before the introduction of gummed envelopes in the late 19th century. When stamped with an engraved stone or piece of metal, such as a signet ring, sealing wax was also used to confirm the identity of a document’s signatory.
The Wellington Door Knocker & Other Door Knocker History
February 23, 2018
Napoleon in America opens with a knock on a door, disturbing Sir Hudson Lowe at his toilet. Though that particular door on St. Helena did not sport a knocker inspired by the Duke of Wellington, many doors in England did. Door knockers were a common feature of 19th-century life, until they were replaced by the electric doorbell.
A Murder and Hanging in Louisiana in the 1820s
February 16, 2018
In doing research for my novel Napoleon in America, I came across the following sad tale of a murder committed by a Frenchman in Louisiana in 1824. It was written by clergyman Timothy Flint, a native of North Reading, Mass., who visited Natchitoches in early 1825.
Etiquette in Napoleon’s Court
February 9, 2018
When Napoleon Bonaparte became the leader of France, he was an upstart general from Corsica. Unlike other European rulers of the time, he did not come from a royal or a noble background. He seized power through a coup d’état. How could Napoleon give his regime the appearance of legitimacy? By creating a court with rules of etiquette drawn from the monarchy that the French Revolution had done away with.
Sunday in Paris in the 1830s
February 2, 2018
In describing Jean-Pierre Piat’s excursion through the streets of Paris in Napoleon in America, I tried to give an impression of what it was like to walk through the French capital in the early 1820s, during the reign of Louis XVIII. For a description of a stroll through Paris a decade later, it’s hard to beat the following extract from a 19th-century travel book. The anonymous British author provides a lively sense of a Sunday in Paris in the 1830s, during the reign of King Louis Philippe.
Visiting Niagara Falls in the Early 19th Century
January 26, 2018
What would Niagara Falls be like without all of its tourist trappings? To get an idea, we can look at the accounts of people who visited Niagara Falls before tourism became the area’s main industry.
Songs About Napoleon Bonaparte
January 19, 2018
More songs have been written about Napoleon Bonaparte than about any other military leader in history. Here’s a look at English popular songs about Napoleon.
Morganatic Marriage: Left-Handed Royal Love
January 12, 2018
A morganatic marriage is a marriage contracted between a member of a royal or noble family and someone (typically, but not necessarily) of lower status, in which the spouse and any resulting children have no claim to royal or noble rank, title, or hereditary property. Another term for a morganatic marriage is a left-handed marriage, stemming from the custom of the groom extending his left hand, rather than his right hand, to the bride. Morganatic marriages primarily took place in the Germanic areas of the Holy Roman Empire and its successors between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Giuseppina Grassini, Mistress of Napoleon & Wellington
January 5, 2018
Giuseppina Grassini was a famous Italian opera singer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though her voice was a contralto, she worked it into a higher register to sing roles written for mezzo-sopranos. Napoleon Bonaparte was enraptured by the quality of Madame Grassini’s singing, as well as by her physical beauty. He took her as his lover and paid her to sing at his court for many years. Giuseppina Grassini also became the lover of Napoleon’s nemesis, the Duke of Wellington.
New Year’s Day in Paris in the 1800s
December 29, 2017
New Year’s Day was a bigger celebration than Christmas in 19th-century France. New Year’s Day in Paris was “the most remarkable day in the whole year.”
Christmas Eve in Early 19th-Century Pennsylvania
December 22, 2017
European immigrants brought many Christmas traditions to America between the 17th and 19th centuries. Pennsylvania, with its mix of Swedish, Dutch, Quaker, German, French, Welsh, Scots-Irish and other settlers, had a rich assortment of Christmas customs to draw upon. Joseph Bonaparte and the other Napoleonic exiles who settled in the Philadelphia area after 1815 probably encountered some of the Christmas Eve traditions described in this article.
Christmas Gift Ideas from the 19th Century
December 15, 2017
If you’re doing some Christmas shopping, consider these Christmas gift ideas from the 19th century. Presents ranged from “a well-chosen book” to “elegant preparations for the toilet” to bread, bullocks, and coal.
What did Americans think of the Napoleonic exiles?
December 8, 2017
In writing Napoleon in America, it was easy to find French exiles in the United States in the early 1820s who could fictionally help Napoleon carry out his schemes. From Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte to scoundrels like Louis-Joseph Oudart, many Bonapartists fled to the United States after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat, to avoid persecution by the government of Louis XVIII. What was the American attitude toward the Napoleonic exiles in their midst?
The Bedroom Adventures of a Napoleonic Soldier
December 1, 2017
The adventures of a Napoleonic soldier in the bedroom can be as entertaining as his exploits on the battlefield. At least that’s the case when Jean-Roch Coignet, a grenadier in Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, tells the tale. In late 1809, at the age of 33, Coignet was back in Paris after the Austrian campaign, during which he had been promoted to sergeant. Wanting to improve his appearance to suit his new rank, he bought some false calves – padded attachments for the lower limbs – to make his legs look more shapely. Shortly thereafter, Coignet was invited to dinner at his captain’s house, along with some “distinguished military men and citizens and ladies of high degree.”
When John Quincy Adams Met Madame de Staël
November 24, 2017
John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, met the French writer Madame de Staël in Russia in 1812, and again in France in 1815. Though Adams admired her eloquence more than her logic, he found that on the subject of Napoleon, there was “no difference of sentiment” between them.
Betting on Napoleon’s Life
November 17, 2017
In 1812, a case went to trial in England involving a wager on Napoleon Bonaparte’s life. Ten years earlier, Sir Mark Masterman Sykes had rashly committed to pay Reverend Robert Gilbert one guinea per day as long as Napoleon lived. Famous at the time, the case raised the question: was it legal to bet on the assassination of a national enemy?
Natchitoches, Louisiana: Glimpses from History
November 10, 2017
Founded in 1714, Natchitoches is the oldest permanent European settlement located within the area covered by the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The settlement was named after a local Native American tribe that is part of the Caddo Confederacy. As for how to pronounce Natchitoches, though locals now say “Nakadish,” in the 19th century people said “Nakitosh.”
Self-Help Lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte
November 3, 2017
Napoleon has been used as an example in self-help books ever since the genre was invented. The self-help lessons drawn from Napoleon say as much about the preoccupations of the author, and the age in which he or she is writing, as they do about the former French Emperor.
10 Interesting Facts About Napoleon’s Family
October 27, 2017
If you liked “10 Interesting Facts About Napoleon Bonaparte,” you might enjoy these interesting facts about Napoleon’s family.
The Scene at Cádiz after the Battle of Trafalgar
October 20, 2017
At the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the southwest coast of Spain on October 21, 1805, a British fleet led by Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet under Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. It was the most decisive naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars. More than 4,800 people were killed, including Lord Nelson, and over 3,700 were wounded. The majority of the casualties were French and Spaniards. Traveller Robert Semple described the horrible scene at Cádiz, the closest Spanish port, a week after the battle.
John Quincy Adams’ Report Upon Weights and Measures
October 13, 2017
In 1821, after years of obsessive work (which frustrated his wife), John Quincy Adams produced a Report Upon Weights and Measures for submission to Congress. He thought it would be his most important literary accomplishment.
The Girl with Napoleon in her Eyes
October 6, 2017
In the years after Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1815 defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, London hosted numerous exhibits related to the fallen French Emperor. Napoleon’s carriage was displayed, his battles formed the subjects of panoramas, the events of his life were depicted, and his portrait and various effects appeared on show. The oddest exhibit was a girl with Napoleon in her eyes.
Some 19th-Century Packing Tips
September 29, 2017
Do you make a packing list before a trip? Do you fold your clothes or just shove them in? Many 19th-century packing tips sound like those of today.
When the King of France Lived in England
September 22, 2017
When Louis XVIII, King of France, returned to his country to ascend the throne after Napoleon’s 1814 abdication, he sailed from England, his home for the preceding seven years. The King’s younger brother, the Count of Artois (future King Charles X of France), had lived in England for even longer. In fact, the entire French royal family lived in England throughout much of the Napoleonic Wars, generously subsidized by the British government.
Advice on Settling in New York in 1820
September 15, 2017
What was life like for a foreigner in the United States in the early 19th century? Journalist William Cobbett provides a hint in his advice to an Englishman on settling in New York in 1820.
10 Myths about Napoleon Bonaparte
September 8, 2017
When Napoleon Bonaparte called history “a fable agreed upon,” he was talking about his own life and times. There are so many myths about Napoleon that it is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. Here are ten popular myths about the French Emperor.
The Texas Hurricane of 1818
September 1, 2017
In September 1818, a hurricane struck the coast of Texas. It destroyed pirate Jean Laffite’s settlement on Galveston Island and visited fresh horrors on the Bonapartists who had taken refuge there after abandoning their attempt to establish a colony beside the Trinity River. Though Spaniards had reported hurricanes along the Texas coast as early as the 16th century, the 1818 Texas hurricane was one of the first to be recorded in detail.
The Battle of Dresden: A Soldier’s Account
August 25, 2017
In the Battle of Dresden, fought on August 26-27, 1813, French troops under Napoleon Bonaparte defeated a much larger Austrian, Prussian and Russian force commanded by Austrian Field Marshal Karl Philipp Schwarzenberg. The battle took place on the outskirts of Dresden, then capital of the Kingdom of Saxony, in what is today Germany. Captain Jean-Roch Coignet, a grenadier in Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, takes up the tale.
Cancer Treatment in the 19th Century
August 18, 2017
Cancer treatment in the 19th century had not advanced much beyond the methods used during the time of Hippocrates (circa 460-370 BC). These consisted of diet, bloodletting and laxatives. Surgery was also used, but operations were extremely painful and had a poor prognosis.
How to Spend Summer in London in the Early 19th Century
August 11, 2017
In the early 19th century, fashionable and would-be fashionable residents of London considered it desirable to leave the city for at least part of the summer, “when there is nobody of any consequence in town, excepting a few mad dogs.” If one couldn’t get out of London, it was important to pretend to.
Paris in the Summer of 1820
August 4, 2017
Feel like being transported to Paris in the summer of 1820? Louis XVIII was the King of France, Napoleon Bonaparte was in exile on St. Helena, and a plot to overthrow the Bourbon monarchy (in which Napoleon in America character Charles Fabvier was implicated) had just been uncovered. Here is a letter written by a visitor to Paris on August 25, 1820.
A Summer Night in New York City in the 1800s
July 28, 2017
Do you find it hard to get a good night’s sleep in the summer? Pity the inhabitants of New York City in the summer of 1822.
Napoleon at the Pyramids: Myth versus Fact
July 21, 2017
Before leading the French army to victory at the Battle of the Pyramids on July 21, 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte rallied his troops by pointing to the distant pyramids and saying, “Soldiers, forty centuries look down upon you.” Napoleon’s encounter with the pyramids during his Egyptian campaign led to at least three myths about him.
John Quincy Adams’ Swimming Adventures
July 14, 2017
From the age of 50 until two years before his death at age 80, sixth US President John Quincy Adams went swimming almost every summer in the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Despite the protests of his wife and his friends, he refused to give up swimming, even after he nearly drowned.
Napoleon and the Ice Machine on St. Helena
July 7, 2017
Napoleon had a number of admirers in Britain, including Lord and Lady Holland, who regularly sent books and other gifts to him when he was in exile on St. Helena. In the summer of 1816, they sent Napoleon an ice machine.
Glimpses of Canada in 1817
June 30, 2017
Fifty years before Confederation, the land we now call “Canada” consisted of the colonies of British North America: Upper Canada, Lower Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. British North America also included Rupert’s Land, which was nominally owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company and encompassed a large chunk of the north and the west. Through the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, the British also had a permanent presence in what is now British Columbia. In practice, vast tracts of Canada were populated solely or mainly by aboriginal peoples.
Gustave Aimard, the Frenchman Who Wrote Westerns
June 23, 2017
In doing research for Napoleon in America, I read several novels set in Texas in the mid-19th century. One of the authors of such works was Gustave Aimard, a French adventurer who wrote over 70 popular novels about the New World. Aimard was the illegitimate son of the wife of René Savary, Napoleon’s police minister. Through his Corsican father, Aimard may have been distantly related to Napoleon himself.
How to Throw a Party in Regency London
June 16, 2017
When one imagines a party in London during the Regency era, 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. This was considerable, even if she did have servants to help her.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What happened to Napoleon’s body?
May 5, 2017
Napoleon’s tomb is in the Dôme des Invalides in Paris, but that’s not where he was first laid to rest. Here’s what happened to Napoleon’s body after he died
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?
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.
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.
When the King & Queen of the Sandwich Islands Visited England
April 7, 2017
In 1824, King Kamehameha II & Queen Kamamalu of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) visited England hoping to meet King George IV. The trip cost them their lives.
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.
10 More Interesting Napoleon Facts
March 24, 2017
Here are 10 interesting Napoleon facts you may not have come across. Did you know Napoleon was a bad dancer? And that he was hard to shave?
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.
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.
Assassination Attempts on Napoleon Bonaparte
March 3, 2017
Napoleon Bonaparte faced between 20 and 30 attempts to assassinate him during his reign over France. Here’s a look at the best-known assassination attempts on Napoleon.
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.
Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s
February 17, 2017
Pity the poor pedestrian in Vienna in the early 19th century! Here’s what an English visitor had to say about the dangers of walking in Austria’s capital in the early 1820s.
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.
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.
Charades with the Duke of Wellington
January 27, 2017
Charades, which began in 18th-century France as a type of riddle, became a popular 19th-century parlour game. Sit in on a game played by the Duke of Wellington in 1821.
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.
Was Madame de Genlis Napoleon’s spy?
January 13, 2017
Madame de Genlis, a popular French writer, became a regular correspondent of Napoleon, leading to suspicions that she was his spy.
The Karankawa Indians of Texas
January 6, 2017
The Karankawa Indians lived along the Gulf of Mexico in what is today Texas. Calling them cannibals, American settlers tried to exterminate them.
The New Year’s Day Reflections of John Quincy Adams
December 30, 2016
Every New Year’s Day, 6th US President John Quincy Adams offered his reflections on the past year. Here is a sample of his New Year’s Day musings.
Celebrating a 19th-Century Christmas
December 23, 2016
Here’s a selection of newspaper extracts to give you the flavour of an early 19th century Christmas, including some puzzles to amuse you during the holidays.
Able was I ere I saw Elba: 19th-Century Palindromes & Anagrams
December 16, 2016
Napoleon Bonaparte did not say, “Able was I ere I saw Elba,” although this palindrome is often attributed to him. Anagrams were a more popular form of word play in the early 19th-century. Napoleon even made a pun or two.
Watching French Royals Eat: The Grand Couvert
December 9, 2016
The grand couvert was a ceremony in which French kings and queens ate their dinner in front of members of the public. When Napoleon became Emperor of the French, he re-introduced the custom.
The Coronation of Napoleon
December 2, 2016
Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of the French on December 2, 1804 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Things did not go smoothly.
Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1800s
November 25, 2016
Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday in the United States until 1863. What began as a New England tradition gradually spread to other states, although not without resistance.
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.
When the Duke of Wellington Met Napoleon’s Wife
November 11, 2016
The Duke of Wellington met Marie Louise at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and again at the Congress of Verona in 1822. Lord Byron wrote a poem about it.
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. The outcome had to be decided by the House of Representatives.
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.
Drinking Cold Water & Other 19th-Century Causes of Death
October 21, 2016
Many people died young in the 19th century. Here’s how even drinking cold water could kill you.
Celebrating with Light: Illuminations and Transparencies
October 14, 2016
Light displays were part of public celebrations in France since 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.
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.
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. To further confuse things, actual sweets – candies, cakes, pastries, preserves – used to be called sweetmeats.
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).
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.
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.
Some 19th-Century Money-Saving Tips
September 2, 2016
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?
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, Mexico) during the 1820s. He spent the early part of his military career in Texas. De la Garza led a failed revolt against Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide. He later led Iturbide to his execution.
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. Twenty Questions was introduced to Americans through British Prime Minister George Canning. Let’s sit in on a game he played in 1823.
The Birth of Napoleon Bonaparte
August 12, 2016
Napoleon Bonaparte was born on Tuesday, August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica. There are several myths about Napoleon’s birth, and one myth-like thing that is actually true.
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.
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?
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 21 years old.
Remarkable Cases of Longevity in the 19th Century
July 15, 2016
Napoleon Bonaparte died when he was 51 years old. 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.
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?
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.” Thus began an editorial by journalist and politician George Brown in the Toronto Globe on Monday, July 1, 1867.
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.” Though he claimed to be a democrat, he remained at heart an aristocrat, pining for his family’s lost throne and inherited wealth.
Stephen F. Austin, Founder of Anglo-American Texas
June 17, 2016
Stephen F. 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.
Napoleon’s Castrato: Girolamo Crescentini
June 10, 2016
Italian singer, teacher and composer Girolamo Crescentini (1766-1846) was one of Napoleon’s favourite singers. As a castrato, Crescentini had the voice of a male soprano.
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. In 1821, American filibuster James Long captured La Bahía while García and his men slept.
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.” 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.
Claude Victor Perrin, Duke of Belluno, Marshal of France
May 20, 2016
Claude Victor Perrin, the Duke of Belluno, was one of Napoleon’s marshals and one of the few senior Napoleonic officers who continued to serve in a high position under the Bourbons, as Louis XVIII’s Minister of War.
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.
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. Here’s what the newspapers had to say about Napoleon’s death – or, rather, about his life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise
April 1, 2016
Fancy a royal wedding? Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife Marie Louise 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.
Napoleon and the Veronese Easter
March 25, 2016
On April 17, 1797, the inhabitants of Verona revolted against the French forces stationed there. The Veronese Easter gave Napoleon the excuse he had been looking for “to efface the Venetian name from the face of the globe.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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 other famous historical figures, including Louis XVIII, John Quincy Adams, the Duke of Wellington, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Valentine’s Day in Early 19th-Century America
February 12, 2016
Here’s how St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the United States in the early 19th century, as gleaned from newspapers of the time.
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 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.
What did Napoleon’s wives think of each other?
January 29, 2016
Napoleon Bonaparte had two wives: Josephine (Rose de Beauharnais) and Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. What did they think of each other?
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.
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?
Texas Governor José Félix Trespalacios
January 8, 2016
José Félix Trespalacios, who fought for Mexico’s independence from Spain, became the first governor of Texas in newly-independent Mexico in 1822. 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.
Napoleon’s First New Year’s Day on St. Helena
January 1, 2016
Napoleon revived France’s New Year’s Day celebrations, which had been banned in the French Revolution. His first New Year in exile on St. Helena in 1816 was less festive.
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. He nonetheless occasioned some Christmas cheer in England, judging from a seasonal recipe appearing in a London newspaper.
Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (Duwali) and his Tragic Quest for Land
December 18, 2015
Cherokee Indian Chief Bowles (1756-1839), also known as Duwali or Di’Wali, led his tribe into Texas, where he repeatedly tried to secure land for them.
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-a-half years later. What did Napoleon think of Longwood?
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.
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.
Fanny Fern on Marriage in the 19th Century
November 20, 2015
Sara Payson Willis Parton, writing under the pen name of Fanny Fern, was the first female newspaper columnist in the United States and one of the most highly paid authors of her time. She satirized marriage and other aspects of life in the mid-19th century.
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.
Frontier Colonel James B. Many
November 6, 2015
Colonel James B. Many spent most of his career on America’s western frontier. His life was 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.
Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye: French Soldier, American Teacher
October 30, 2015
Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Texier de la Pommeraye was a Bonapartist who, after 30 years in the French army, wound up scraping a living in the United States after 1815. He taught languages and wrote grammar texts in Philadelphia.
Texas Entrepreneur Ben Milam
October 23, 2015
Ben Milam is known for his role in the Texas Revolution, particularly the capture of San Antonio in 1835. His earlier adventures in Texas are even more interesting.
Napoleon’s Arrival at St. Helena
October 16, 2015
Former French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte arrived at St. Helena, his final place of exile, in October 1815. What were his first impressions of the island, and what did the inhabitants think of him?
What was Napoleon’s favourite music?
October 9, 2015
Though Napoleon 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. What kind of music did Napoleon like best?
John C. Calhoun: War Hawk
October 2, 2015
John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina planter and politician who never doubted the necessity of slavery, has often been judged harshly. TIME put him on the list of the worst vice presidents in America’s history. Calhoun’s career was long, complex and accomplished. He was a vigorous promoter of states’ rights, a strong advocate for the South, and an effective US war secretary.
James Monroe and Napoleon
September 25, 2015
President James Monroe met Napoleon when he was in France to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He later became alarmed at Napoleon’s “overweaning ambition.”
George Canning: Britain’s Intriguing Foreign Secretary
September 18, 2015
George Canning was a clever, ambitious and controversial politician who held important government posts during the Napoleonic Wars and aftermath. He later became the country’s shortest-serving prime minister.
The 1823 French Invasion of Spain
September 11, 2015
In 1823, France invaded Spain to restore absolutist King Ferdinand VII to the throne. It was a huge deal at the time, both in Europe and the Americas.
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.
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.”
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, many of them innocent of wrongdoing.
Napoleon’s Birthday at Sea
August 14, 2015
Napoleon Bonaparte celebrated his 46th birthday (August 15, 1815) as a prisoner on a British ship off the northwest coast of Spain. How did he spend the day?
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.
What did Napoleon like to eat and drink?
July 31, 2015
Napoleon was not a gourmand. He liked simple meals, he ate very quickly, and he diluted his wine with water. Here’s a look at his favourite food and drink.
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.
General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert: Soldier, Lothario, Filibuster
July 17, 2015
Jean Joseph Amable Humbert was a French Revolutionary general who led a failed invasion of Ireland, romanced Napoleon’s sister, fought in the Battle of New Orleans, and tried to invade Mexico.
Louis-Joseph Oudart, a Downright Scoundrel
July 10, 2015
Louis-Joseph Oudart (Houdard) was a Napoleonic soldier who disgraced himself during the Bourbon Restoration. He then joined the Champ d’Asile, a Bonapartist invasion of Texas.
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.
Why didn’t Napoleon escape to the United States?
June 26, 2015
After his 1815 abdication from the French throne, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to start a new life in the United States. Why didn’t he?
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.
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 was not the only Canadian at the battle.
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?
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.
Coiffure à la Titus
May 22, 2015
In an earlier post I looked at Napoleon in America character Barthélemy Bacheville, who was described in an 1816 police report 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?
Barthélemy Bacheville: Napoleonic Soldier, Outlaw & Perfumer
May 15, 2015
A great admirer of Napoleon, Captain Barthélemy 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.
Demi-soldes, the Half-Pay Napoleonic War Veterans
May 8, 2015
What happened to Napoleon’s officers after the Battle of Waterloo? 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. They became demi-soldes, France’s half-pay veterans of the Napoleonic Wars.
What were Napoleon’s last words?
May 1, 2015
Given the number of people surrounding Napoleon during his final days, there should be a clear record of his last words. But, as with most things involving Napoleon, there are several accounts of his dying hours and differences regarding what he actually said.
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.
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.
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.
Napoleon and the Easter Insurrection in Corsica
April 3, 2015
On Easter Sunday in Corsica in 1792, a quarrel between children erupted into a gunfight that pitted Napoleon against the residents of his hometown.
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. Lafayette became a continuing thorn in Napoleon’s side.
Napoleon’s Illegitimate Children: Léon Denuelle & Alexandre Walewski
March 20, 2015
In addition to his legitimate son (Napoleon II), Napoleon had at least two stepchildren and two illegitimate children: the wastrel Charles Léon Denuelle and the accomplished Alexandre Colonna Walewski.
Napoleon’s Children: Eugène & Hortense de Beauharnais
March 13, 2015
In addition to his legitimate son (Napoleon II), Napoleon had two stepchildren and at least two illegitimate children. In the first of a two-part post about Napoleon’s children, I focus on his stepchildren: Eugène and Hortense de Beauharnais.
René Savary, the Duke of Rovigo: Napoleon’s Henchman
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. 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.
Louisa Adams, First Foreign-Born First Lady
February 27, 2015
Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, was the first foreign-born First Lady of the United States. A native of London, she had Continental polish and charm from many years spent in Europe. In 1815, Louisa Adams made a dangerous journey to join her husband in Paris, in which she encountered the effects of the Napoleonic Wars firsthand.
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. Despite Betsy’s efforts to raise her son as a European, he preferred life in the United States.
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, Napoleon’s American Sister-in-Law
February 13, 2015
Baltimore belle Elizabeth Patterson became an international celebrity when she married Napoleon’s youngest brother Jérôme Bonaparte. When Napoleon convinced Jérôme to abandon her, Betsy (as she was known) became America’s most famous single mother.
What did Napoleon like to read?
February 6, 2015
Napoleon was an avid reader. He had some lifelong favourite authors, including Plutarch, Homer and Ossian. What else did he like to read?
Napoleon’s Banker, Jacques Laffitte
January 30, 2015
Jacques Laffitte is a banker and politician who rose from poverty to become one of France’s richest men. Napoleon entrusted his fortune to Laffitte when he went into exile on St. Helena.
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.
Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon’s Artistic Niece
January 16, 2015
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. She herself died in sad circumstances at a relatively young age.
Napoleon in French Canada
January 9, 2015
Though Napoleon tends to be idolized in Quebec, this was not the case when he was in power. People vilified Napoleon in French Canada in the early 1800s.
Napoleon in Historical Fiction
January 2, 2015
A look at historical fiction books about Napoleon. 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
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. 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.
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.
Archduke Franz Karl of Austria
December 12, 2014
Archduke Franz Karl of Austria loomed large in the brief life of his nephew, Napoleon II. He also fathered two emperors: Franz Joseph of Austria and Maximilian of Mexico.
Caroline Augusta, Empress of Austria
December 5, 2014
Caroline Augusta was a Bavarian princess who 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. She tried to bring warmth to the boy’s life in the Viennese court.
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? 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.
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.
Louise Marie Thérèse d’Artois: Mademoiselle of France
November 14, 2014
Louise Marie Thérèse d’Artois, granddaughter of Charles X of France, lived a life marked by murder, revolution and exile.
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. He lost his royal privilege when his grandfather, Charles X, was compelled to abdicate. When Henri did have the opportunity to reclaim his throne, he didn’t take it.
Dorothea Lieven, a Diplomat in Skirts
October 31, 2014
As the wife of the Russian ambassador to Great Britain from 1812 to 1834, Dorothea Lieven 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. Girard was a friend of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, who dined with him regularly.
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 his country, and his eccentric dress.
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. But take away his hat and coat and are you sure you’d recognize Napoleon if you met him on the street?
Joseph Hopkinson, Joseph Bonaparte’s Great Friend
September 12, 2014
A 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 the lyrics to America’s unofficial national anthem. Hopkinson’s wife Emily had a sharp wit and a talent for art and writing.
Nicholas Biddle, Proud American
September 5, 2014
Nicholas Biddle was a Philadelphia lawyer, politician, man of letters, gentleman farmer and president of the Second Bank of the United States. As a young man, he encountered Napoleon in person. Biddle came to ruin in the 1830s Bank War with President Andrew Jackson.
Henry Clay: A Perfect Original
August 29, 2014
Henry Clay served as Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than anyone else in the 1800s, and was named one of the greatest senators in US history by a committee chaired by John F. Kennedy. Though he never held the country’s highest office, he had as much impact on the United States as most presidents of his era.
Charles & Delia Stewart: An Ill-Assorted Match
August 22, 2014
Commodore Charles Stewart and his wife Delia were neighbours of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte in Bordentown, NJ. 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.
10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes in Context
August 15, 2014
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.
Achille & Joseph Archambault: Napoleon’s Grooms on St. Helena
August 8, 2014
Achille and Joseph Archambault joined the imperial household around 1805 and remained with Napoleon when he went into exile. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joseph Bonaparte: From King of Spain to New Jersey
July 4, 2014
Joseph Bonaparte was in many respects the opposite of his younger brother Napoleon. Amiable and obliging, Joseph was fond of literature, gardening and entertaining. He was 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.
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).
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.
Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau
June 13, 2014
Marie Laveau was a 19th-century New Orleans Voodoo queen whose life is shrouded in legend. Her magic relied in part on trickery.
Napoleon’s View of Slavery & Slavery in New Orleans
June 6, 2014
While Napoleon condemned the slave trade, he had no strong opposition to slavery. This makes it interesting to imagine how he might have reacted to the slavery he encounters in New Orleans and the other places he visits in my novel Napoleon in America.
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. There’s a sad coda to their story, involving descendants who tried to pass for white.
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 in late 18th-century Louisiana.
General Charles Lallemand: Invader of Texas
May 16, 2014
Charles Lallemand was a soldier, adventurer and conman who 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jean Laffite: Mexican Gulf Pirate and Privateer
April 4, 2014
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. Here is some of what’s known about him.
Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Napoleon’s Art-Collecting Uncle
March 28, 2014
Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch, was a good-natured luxury-lover who used his takings from Napoleon’s stint in power to amass a huge amount of paintings. Fesch got caught in the struggle between Napoleon and the Pope, and tried to soften Napoleon’s policy towards the church.
Napoleon’s Mother, Letizia Bonaparte
March 21, 2014
Napoleon’s mother Letizia Bonaparte was a pragmatic, stoical and domineering woman who 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.”
How Pauline Bonaparte Lived for Pleasure
March 14, 2014
A commoner from Corsica who counted a famous French actor 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 older brother Napoleon. Known for her beauty, impulsiveness and questionable moral sense, Pauline loved Napoleon and was the least demanding of his siblings.
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.
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.
Napoleon II: Napoleon’s Son, the King of Rome
February 21, 2014
Napoleon had 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.
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.
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.
The Count of Artois: Charles X of France
January 31, 2014
Charles Philippe, the Count of Artois – later Charles X of France – was a wastrel and a reactionary whose behaviour helped to discredit French royalty. Known as the “Don Juan” of Versailles, he became a royal pain in the side of his brother, King Louis XVIII.
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 flee his country as his brother and sister-in-law were guillotined in the French Revolution. He then spent years shuffling around Europe while Napoleon ran France.
The Duke of Wellington: Napoleon’s Nemesis
January 17, 2014
Napoleon Bonaparte and Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, never met or corresponded, and they fought only one battle directly against each other: Waterloo. Here’s what they thought of each other.
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 era, though not exactly a social success.
Louis-Joseph Marchand: Napoleon’s Valet and Friend
January 3, 2014
Louis-Joseph-Narcisse Marchand devoted himself to Napoleon’s service from 1811 until the latter’s death in 1821. As Napoleon’s first valet, Marchand did everything he could to maintain Napoleon’s comfort and illusion of power when the latter was diminished to the status of an English prisoner on St. Helena.
Louis Étienne Saint-Denis: Napoleon’s French Mameluke
December 27, 2013
Napoleon called Louis Étienne Saint-Denis (his French-born servant) Mameluke Ali and required him to dress in the style of the mamelukes, the slave horsemen of the Ottoman Empire. Saint-Denis went to Russia with Napoleon, joined Napoleon on Elba, returned to France for the “Hundred Days,” and accompanied Napoleon into exile on St. Helena, where he served as second valet and as Napoleon’s librarian.
Charles de Montholon: Napoleon’s Murderer or Devoted Bonapartist?
December 20, 2013
General Charles-Jean-François-Tristan de Montholon spent years serving Napoleon and his nephew, Napoleon III. His reputation has suffered over the years, mainly due to the theory that Napoleon died of arsenic poisoning and that Montholon was the most likely poisoner.
Napoleon and Arthur Bertrand
December 13, 2013
Napoleon was fond of all the children in his entourage on St. Helena, but Arthur Bertrand became his favourite. Glimpses of the two of them in various memoirs provide an amusing contrast to the often formidable portrait of Napoleon as Emperor.
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. He lacked the tact and intelligence necessary to handle Napoleon well, but he had a difficult job.
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.
Could Napoleon have escaped from St. Helena?
November 22, 2013
My novel Napoleon in America imagines what might have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from St. Helena. That was the remote South Atlantic island to which Napoleon was banished after being forced off the French throne in 1815 following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. How difficult would it have been for him to escape?
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?
We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.