Friday, April 26, 2013


Up until recently, all I knew about Napoleon was what I learned from watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Then I read Napoleon: A Life by Paul Johnson.  One thing's for sure; Bill and Ted's casting department came up with an actor who looks just like the real Napoleon.

This is the picture on the front of my book.  What a grumpleface.

Johnson is not a fawning biographer.  He presents the young Napoleon as an emo teenager, sallow, skinny, and not very popular with the ladies.  If he were alive today, I bet he would be one of those kids who wears a long, black trench coat, doesn't talk to anyone, and then one day shows up at school with an automatic weapon and kills a pile of innocent people.

Granted, he was a military genius.  It seems that he was the first commander who used math to actually calculate things like the quantities of supplies that would be required by his troops, and how long transportation would take, in order to keep his war efforts working efficiently.  He also knew how to read a map, which apparently wasn't a common talent, even among officers in the military.  I guess armies used to just head out in the approximate direction of the enemy with a random amount of supplies and hope for the best?

Unfortunately, once a war was won, Napoleon was not a natural at governing his conquered territories.  Being a sociopath and a narcissist (Dr. Spark's diagnoses) kind of got in the way of his understanding of human nature.  Many of the countries he conquered initially welcomed him as a potential reformer.  He thanked them by looting their wealth and artistic treasures, and disrespecting all cultures other than that of France.  The conquered peoples figured out pretty quickly that he was a jerk, and this diminished his popularity.  Thusly, his empire crumbled as quickly as it was built.

Napoleon could have learned a thing or two from Bill and Ted.  I guess no one had told him "Be excellent to each other!"

I'm glad that I'm finished reading this book, so that I can put it away and not have to see Napoleon's grumpy face anymore.


DarcKnyt said...

I can't comment on either Napoleon or his biographer, neither Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (never saw it), but I can say you are 100% accurate in a couple of things:

1) Napoleon's ego and psychoses did cost him his empire, and
2) That is a seriously grumpy face.

I remember hearing why he had his hand tucked in his vest, but I don't remember what the reason is now.

History can be interesting, when it's not being grumpy.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

He can't be all bad.. I mean he did invent Napoleon style ice cream, right??? Mmmm.... ice cream.

Sparkling Red said...

DarcKnyt: You need to go watch Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure immediately! But stay away from the sequel - it was terrible.

Ron: I hate to break it to you, but neapolitan ice cream has nothing to do with Napoleon.
That's good news, because I'd have a hard time reconciling my love of ice cream with my dislike of Napoleon.

Adam said...

not such a great guy

Granny Annie said...

Did the book mention Napoleon saying to Josephine, "don't wash, darling, I'll be home soon"?

And what about it being illegal to name a pig Napoleon?

Jenski said...

It sounds like a fascinating story. Thanks for the synopsis, because more I don't have to read about what a jerk he was.:-)

Lynn said...

I've never seen that movie either. Maybe I'll look for it on pay per view. :)

Sparkling Red said...

Adam: I'm glad that Canada's leaders don't behave like him.

Granny Annie: Ew, gross! Nope, that important detail was overlooked. As was the rule about naming pigs. Of course you know now that if I ever get a guinea pig I'm going to name him Napoleon.

Jenski: No problem. I was glad that I picked a short biography, because I didn't enjoy spending time thinking about him.

Lynn: You definitely have to see it if you can. :-)

Vanessa T said...

I have heard about his comment telling Josephine not to bathe. Apparently he liked the uh, full essence, of a woman. Pew!