“She possessed the pure Grecian contour; her head was exquisitely formed, her forehead fair and shapely, her eyes large and dark, with an expression of tenderness that did not belong to her character; and the delicate loveliness of her mouth and chin, the soft bloom of her complexion, together with her beautifully rounded shoulders and tapering arms, combined to form one of the loveliest of women.”
-quote about Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by an unknown admirer
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was born Baltimore, Maryland, February 6 1785, the eldest of 13 children . Known as “Betsy”, she was the daughter of a Baltimore, Maryland merchant, the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte, and sister-in-law of Emperor Napoleon I of France.
Elizabeth’s father, William Patterson, had been born in Ireland and came to North America prior to the American Revolutionary War. He was a Catholic, and the wealthiest man in Maryland after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Elizabeth’s brother, Robert, married Carroll’s granddaughter, Marianne Caton (but more on her later…)
How they met is a mystery, but Elizabeth and Jérôme Bonaparte (at the time 18 and 20, respectively) were married on December 24, 1803, at a ceremony presided over by John Carroll, the Archbishop of Baltimore. Betsy quickly became known for her “risqué” taste in fashion, starting with her wedding dress.
Jérôme’s brother Napoleon ordered him back to France and demanded that the marriage be annulled. Jérôme ignored Napoleon’s initial demand that he return to France without his wife. When Napoleon threatened to imprison him, Elizabeth’s brother rushed to France to intervene, but nothing would change the mind of the French dictator who had far grander plans for his brother than some American socialite.
When James Madison and even Tallyrand could do nothing about the situation, Jérôme and a pregnant Betsy attempted to travel to France. It was the fall of 1804 and they hoped to arrive in time for Napoleon’s coronation, but a number of false starts delayed them. When they finally arrived, Elizabeth was denied permission to set foot in continental Europe by order of Napoleon. Jérôme traveled to Italy in an attempt to reason with his brother, writing to his wife,
“My good wife, have faith in your husband. The worst that could happen now would be for us to have to live quietly in some foreing country….My dearest Elisa, I will do everything that must be done.”
After remaining in limbo, unable to disembark in either France or the Netherlands, Betsy made her way to England, where she gave birth to a son on July 7, 1805, at 95 Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London.
She would never see her husband again. Jérôme, threatened with loss of rank and title, and being forced to account for his staggering debt, gave in to his brother, returned to the French Navy, and was created 1st Prince of Montfort and King of Westphalia, which he ruled from 1807 until 1813. The Pope had refused to allow a divorce or annul his marriage to Elizabeth, but that did not stop Napoleon– the man who crowned himself emperor–from dissolving it himself, and forcing his young brother to marry a German princess Catharina of Württemberg.
Once king of Westphalia, his lavish lifestyle and constant philandering brought censure and as Napoleon’s hold on the empire fragmented, Jérôme’s fortunes fell as well. Eventually, he had two more children with his German wife, before marrying an Italian widow. His final placement came as governor of Les Invalides, Paris, the burial place of his lauded brother.
As King of Westphalia, Jérôme offered Elizabeth a home within his dominions, with the title of Princess of Smalcalden and a pension of two hundred thousand francs per year. In regard to the former, she replied that Westphalia was a large kingdom, but not quite large enough for two queens, and with regard to the pension, having already accepted Napoleon’s annuity of sixty thousand francs, she made the oft-quoted response that she preferred “being sheltered under the wing of an eagle to being suspended from the bill of a goose.” Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century, Virginia Tatnall Peacock, K. B. Lippincott Company, 1901
Betsy returned to Baltimore with her son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, called “Bo” by his mother, and lived with her father while she continued to flaunt her royal connection and skimpy attire. After the Battle of Waterloo, she returned to Europe, She styled herself “Madame Bonaparte”. Here, she was well received in the most exclusive circles and much admired for her beauty and wit.
In 1815, by special Act of the Legislature of Maryland, she at last secured a divorce. Her last years were spent in Baltimore in the management of her estate, the value of which she increased to $1.5 million. Betsy died in the midst of a court battle over whether the state of Maryland could tax her out of state bonds. The case reached the Supreme Court (Bonaparte v. Tax Court, 104 U.S. 592) where the Court decided in favor of Maryland. She is buried in the Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.
Her grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, served as United States Secretary of the Navy and United States Attorney General. He founded the precursor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1908.
Ironically, Betsy’s brother’s widow, Marianne (Caton) Patterson, married Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, older brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. The Caton sisters, born to the wealthiest man in Maryland (and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, who built what he claimed was “the most English house in America” ) were social climbers in the extreme. Of this six marriages made by the four sisters (Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily) three of them were to titled English nobility. Like the Irish Lennox sisters, a generation before, these heiresses, to quote a Carroll cousin, had the privilege , “[Had] the liberty of refusing those we don’t like, but not of selecting those we do.” Obviously, they, like so many American heiresses to come, liked titles and land, however entailed the estate might be.
That two women, so closely related to an orchestrator of the American Revolution should marry a Bonaparte and a Wellesley– that their respective brothers-in-law should be arch enemies and international heroes, seems beyond believing , but as they say, “truth is stranger than fiction”. The stories of these amazing ladies have been told both in print and on film. Biographies include, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: An American Aristocrat in the Early Republic and Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad. The story of Elizabeth and Jérôme’s marriage and annulment is the basis for the 1908 play Glorious Betsy by Rida Johnson Young and the two film adaptations, Glorious Betsy (1928) and Hearts Divided (1936). She was portrayed by Dolores Costello in the former and by Marion Davies in the latter. The episode “Duty” of the Hornblower television series features Elizabeth and Jérôme trying to land in France and the diplomatic difficulties.
Napoleon’s Russian Campaign
by Count Phillipe-Paul de Segur
This is a raw account of Napoleon’s Russian 1812 Russian Campaign from not just an eye witness, but a French officer and aide to Napoleon. Phillipe-Paul de Segur was rarely more than a few feet from Napoleon’s side throughout this campaign and doesn’t swerve from making observations on Napoleon both positive or negative. But a great deal of the power of this book comes from the stark observations of the horror this heedless march into Russia caused.
There is good reason that this account, first published in 1824, has been republished so many times – It is very good – and was used as a main source for a number of authors including Tolstoy (who cobbled a number of events for War and Peace from it), Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand. Interestingly it was not until 1965 that the first English version was published.
It is such a short period of history, fewer than six months, but the foolish action cost Napoleon his dominance in Europe and marked his turn in power. For it is here that he lost thousands of men, and showed just how vulnerable he could be.
In the Spring of 1812, Napoleon, angry that the Russian Emperor had deifed the Treaty of Tilsit and ignored his Continental system, decided to throw all his forces into invading Russia. The Russian Army met and tried to stop the relentless onslaught of the French at the River Neimen, but defeated they fell back in retreat, burning everything as they went.
Napoleon pushed hard on to Moscow – thinking the Russians would sue for peace once he was in that all important city. They didn’t – and by October 19th with a huge army, few supplies and the harsh winter approaching, he realised had to retreat through the burnt decimated country back to the safety of the west. Napoleon knew, as all the army did, it was already too late….yet they had to go.
That is the background to this very moving account
Paperback: 306 pages Publisher: Greenwood Press Reprint Language: English ISBN: 0837184436 List Price: from £5.50
The Black Room at Longwood:
Napoleon’s Exile on Saint Helena
by Jean-Paul Kauffmann
This is a strange mixture and I have to admit to very much disliking it when I first picked it up. It is a translated version of what was originally a French work and the English to me seemed a bit florid and dramatic. I am not sure if that is the translation or if the French naturally write in that style. I would, however, recommend people who are interested in Napoleon to persevere – it is a strange sort of book but worth the read.
I say this for two other reasons – firstly because Kauffmann has read just about every primary source about Napoleon’s exile on St Helens – a tiny island pretty much in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and secondly because Kauffmann knows first hand about captivity.
After reading this book a little, and not enjoying it, I read the author biography – this man spent some years as a captive in Beirut in the 1980’s. Returning to the book I started to realise that this is more than just a book about Napoleon, or about a travellogue to the island. This is a story about captivity and its psychological side. Kauffmann is very clearly the right man to write about it. The oppression of captivity overwhelms the writing sometimes. Kauffman clearly found the place oppressive – he keeps talking of the town itself squeezed between two mountains – it is one of his repetitive themes and I get the sense that if he didn’t sail out there expecting to dislike the place, his dislike of it coloured his later writings about it.
I think this book could just as easily be named 8 days on St Helens as the book is divided into chapters for each day. So his trip is dealt with chronologically – the information about Napoleon ducks and dives – often with seemingly little logic to it. However if you are looking to learn about Napoleon’s last years they are touched on – more so Napoleon as a man is revealed. His impatience (he drove each day on the island in a carriage with two wives of his officers – but went at such high speed as to throw them around – a demonstration of power?) and his arrogance.
There are also interesting insights into the man prior to his captivity – for instance I never knew Napoleon couldn’t speak perfect French – (he spoke it badly and confusingly at times – muddling his words and pronunciations). However I don’t think Kauffman explains anything new to most scholars of Napoleon. He mentions that Napoleon considered going to America before settling for surrendering to the English – why did he change his mind?
You can read this book on many different levels – a story of St Helens, a mixed bag of Napoleonic history, or a story of captivity. All have different merits in this – but they are all mixed together. I don’t know that I would recommend making a special trip to get it – but worth reading if you haven’t much else to do.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows Language: English ISBN: 1568581718 List Price: £7.85
Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.
Joséphine de Beauharnais (nee Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie June 23, 1763 – May 29, 1814) was the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and thus the first Empress of the French.
Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, to a slave-owning family that owned a sugar plantation. She was a daughter of Joseph-Gaspard de Tascher, chevalier, seigneur de la Pagerie, lieutenant of infantry of the navy, and his wife, the former Rose-Claire des Vergers de Sanois, whose maternal grandfather was English.
The family struggled financially when hurricanes destroyed their estate in 1766. Edmée, Joséphine’s paternal aunt, had been the mistress of François, vicomte de Beauharnais, a French aristocrat. When Francois’ health began to fail, Edmée arranged the advantageous marriage of her niece Catherine-Désirée to François’ son, Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais. This marriage would be highly beneficial for the Tascher family, because it would keep the de Beauharnais money in their hands. However, 12-year-old Catherine died on October 16, 1777, before even leaving Martinique for France. In service to their aunt Edmée’s goals, Catherine was replaced by her older sister Joséphine.
In October 1779, Joséphine went to Europe with her father. She married Alexandre on December 13, 1779, in Noisy-le-Grand. Although their marriage was not extremely happy, they had two children: a son, Eugène de Beauharnais (1781–1824), and a daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783–1837), who married Napoleon’s brother Louis Bonaparte in 1802.
On March 2, 1794, during the Reign of Terror, the Committee of General Security ordered the arrest of her husband. He was jailed in the Carmes prison. Considering Joséphine as too close to the counter-revolutionary financial circles, the Committee ordered her arrest on April 19, 1794. A warrant of arrest was issued against her on 2 Floréal, year II (April 21, 1794), and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until 10 Thermidor, year II (July 28, 1794). She was freed thanks to the trial of Robespierre. Her husband, accused of having poorly defended Mainz in 1793, and considered an aristocratic “suspect”, was sentenced to death. He was guillotined on July 23, 1794, one year after the Siege of Mainz, together with his brother Augustin, on the Place de la Révolution (today’s Place de la Concorde) in Paris.
On July 27, 1794 (9 Thermidor), Tallien arranged the liberation of Thérèse Cabarrus, and soon after that of Joséphine. In June 1795, thanks to a new law, she was allowed to recover the possessions of Alexandre.
As a widow, Joséphine de Beauharnais reportedly was mistress to several leading political figures, supposedly including Paul François Jean Nicolas Barras. She met General Napoleon Bonaparte, who was six years younger than she, in 1795, when their romance began. He wrote in a letter to her in December “I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.” Joséphine was a renowned spendthrift and Barras may have encouraged the relationship with Napoleon in order to get her off his hands.
In January 1796, Napoleon proposed to her and they married on March 9, 1796. Until meeting Napoleon, she had always been Rose. Instead of calling her this name, which he apparently disliked, he called her ‘Joséphine,’ which she adopted from then on. Soon after the wedding, Napoleon left to lead the French army in Italy, but sent her many intensely romantic love letters. Many of his letters are still intact today, while very few of hers have been found; it is not known whether this is due to their having been lost or to their initial scarcity.
Joséphine had a pug named Fortune, and he was used by Joséphine to send Napoleon secret messages. It is also said that on their wedding night Napoleon refused to allow Fortune to sleep with them in the bed, and Fortune then bit him. Joséphine said, “If the pug doesn’t sleep in our bed, neither do I!” From then on, Napoleon shared his bed with Joséphine and her pug.
Joséphine, less in love than Napoleon, is rumoured to have begun an affair with high society playboy Hippolyte Charles in 1796. There is no way of knowing whether or not this is the case, but regardless of the truth of the matter, the rumours so infuriated and hurt Napoleon that his love changed entirely. Around this time he took as his own mistress Pauline Bellisle Foures, the wife of a junior officer who became known as “Napoleon’s Cleopatra”, the affair having begun during the Egyptian campaign of 1798. The relationship between Joséphine and Napoleon was never the same after her affair. His letters became less loving. No subsequent lovers of Joséphine are recorded, but Napoleon continued to take on mistresses. In 1804 he said “power is my mistress.”
Shortly before their coronation, there was an incident at the Château de Saint-Cloud that nearly sundered the marriage between the two. Josephine caught Napoleon in the bedroom of her lady-in-waiting, Elisabeth de Vaudey, and Napoleon threatened to divorce her as she had not produced an heir. This was impossible for Joséphine, who was infertile, due either to the stresses of her imprisonment during the Terror triggering menopause or to injuries she suffered in a fall from a collapsing balcony in 1799. Eventually, however, through the efforts of Joséphine’s daughter Hortense, the two were reconciled and Napoleon and Joséphine were crowned Emperor and Empress of the French in 1804 in the Notre-Dame cathedral.
When it was clear they would not have children, she agreed to be divorced so he could remarry in the hopes of having an heir to succeed him. The divorce took place on 10 January 1810.
On 11 March 1810, Napoleon married Marie Louise of Austria by proxy; the formal ceremony took place at the Louvre on 1 April. They had one child, Napoleon II of France, who was born in 1811.
After her divorce, Joséphine lived at the Château de Malmaison, near Paris. She remained on good terms with Napoleon, who once said that the only thing to come between them was her debts.
When she died in 1814, she was buried not far from Malmaison, at the St. Pierre and St. Paul church in Rueil. Her daughter Hortense is interred near her.
Napoleon claimed to a friend, whilst in exile on Saint Helena, that “I was really in love with Josephine, but I did not respect her.” Despite their numerous affairs, eventual divorce, and Napoleon’s remarrying, the Emperor’s last words on the Island of St. Helena were “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Josephine.”
Hortense’s son became Napoleon III of France. Her granddaughter Josephine, daughter of Eugène, married King Oscar I of Sweden, the son of Napoleon’s one-time fiancée, Désirée Clary. Through her, Josephine is a direct ancestor of the present heads of the royal houses of Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden.
I had just left off writing and put on my things for walking to Alton, when Anna and her friend Harriot called in their way thither, so we went together. Their business was to provide mourning against the King’s death, and my mother has had a bombasin bought for her. I am not sorry to be back again, for the young ladies had a great deal to do, and without much method in doing it.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 6, 1811
George III was king of England for Jane Austen’s entire life. When incapacitated by illness in 1811 (with his death predicted at every turn) power was transferred from the King to the Prince of Wales, thereby making the future George IV Regent and giving the era the name “The Regency”. In reality, George III would linger on for another nine years, outliving Jane Austen, herself, who died in 1817.
George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) (New Style dates) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. He was concurrently Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and thus Elector (and later King) of Hanover. The Electorate became the Kingdom of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, and the first of Hanover to be born in Britain and speak English as his first language. In fact, he never visited Germany.
It was during George III’s reign that Great Britain lost many of its colonies in North America in the wake of the American Revolution. These colonies would eventually become the United States. Also during his reign the realms of Great Britain and Ireland were joined together to form the United Kingdom.
Later in his reign George III suffered from recurrent and, eventually, permanent mental illness. This baffled medical science at the time, although it is now generally thought that he suffered from the blood disease porphyria. Recently, owing to studies showing high levels of the poison arsenic in King George’s hair, arsenic is also thought to be a possible cause of King George’s insanity and health problems. After a final relapse in 1810, George’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. Upon George’s death, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father as George IV.
His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales was born in London at Norfolk House and was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the grandson of George II. Prince George’s mother was Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. As Prince George was born two months premature and was thought unlikely to survive, he was baptised the same day by the Rector of St James’s. He was publicly baptised by the Bishop of Oxford, Thomas Secker, at Norfolk House on 4 July 1738 (New Style). His godparents were the King of Sweden (for whom Lord Baltimore stood proxy), the Duke of Saxe-Gotha (for whom the Duke of Chandos stood proxy) and the Queen of Prussia (for whom Lady Charlotte Edwin, a daughter of the Duke of Hamilton, stood proxy).
George grew into a healthy child but his grandfather George II disliked the Prince of Wales and took little interest in his grandchildren. However, in 1751 the Prince of Wales died unexpectedly from a lung injury, and Prince George became heir apparent to the throne. He inherited one of his father’s titles and became the Duke of Edinburgh. Now more interested in his grandson, three weeks later the King created George Prince of Wales. In the spring of 1756, as George approached his eighteenth birthday, the King offered him a grand establishment at St James’s Palace, but George refused the offer, guided by his mother and her confidante, Lord Bute, who would later serve as Prime Minister. George’s mother, now the Dowager Princess of Wales, mistrusted her father-in-law and preferred to keep George separate from his company.
In 1759 George was smitten with Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, but Lord Bute advised against the match and George abandoned his thoughts of marriage. “I am born for the happiness and misery of a great nation,” he wrote, “and consequently must often act contrary to my passion.” Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Princess Sophia Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother.
The following year, George inherited the Crown when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on 25 October 1760. The search for a suitable wife intensified. On 8 September 1761, the King married in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he met on their wedding day. A fortnight later, both were crowned at Westminster Abbey. George remarkably never took a mistress (in contrast with both his Hanoverian predecessors and his sons), and the couple enjoyed a genuinely happy marriage. They had 15 children — nine sons and six daughters.
The first few years of George’s reign were marked by political instability, largely generated as a result of disagreements over the Seven Years’ War. The favouritism which George initially showed towards Tory ministers led to his denunciation by the Whigs as an autocrat in the manner of Charles I. In May 1762, George replaced the incumbent Whig ministry of the Duke of Newcastle with one led by the Tory Lord Bute. The following year, after concluding the Peace of Paris ending the war, Lord Bute resigned, allowing the Whigs under George Grenville to return to power. Later that year, the British government under George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that placed a boundary upon the westward expansion of the American colonies. The Proclamation’s goal was to force colonists to negotiate with the Native Americans for the lawful purchase of the land and, therefore, to reduce the costly frontier warfare that had erupted over land conflicts. The Proclamation Line, as it came to be known, was extremely unpopular with the Americans and ultimately became another wedge between the colonists and the British government that would eventually lead to war. With the American colonists generally unburdened by British taxes, the government found it increasingly difficult to pay for the defence of the colonies against native uprisings and the possibility of French incursions. In 1765, Grenville introduced the Stamp Act, which levied a stamp duty on all documents in the British colonies in North America. Meanwhile, the King had become exasperated at Grenville’s attempts to reduce the King’s prerogatives, and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade William Pitt the Elder to accept the office of Prime Minister. After a brief illness, which may have presaged his illnesses to come, George settled on Lord Rockingham to form a ministry, and dismissed Grenville.
Lord Rockingham, with the support of Pitt, repealed Grenville’s unpopular Stamp Act, but his government was weak and he was replaced in 1766 by Pitt, whom George created Earl of Chatham. The actions of Lord Chatham and George III in repealing the Act were so popular in America that statues of them both were erected in New York City. Lord Chatham fell ill in 1767, allowing the Duke of Grafton to take over government, although he did not formally become Prime Minister until 1768. His government disintegrated in 1770, allowing the Tories to return to power.
The government of the new Prime Minister, Lord North, was chiefly concerned with discontent in America. To assuage American opinion most of the custom duties were withdrawn, with the exception of the tea duty, which in George’s words was “one tax to keep up the right [to levy taxes]”. In 1773, a Boston mob threw 342 crates of tea, costing approximately £10,000, into Boston Harbour as a political protest, an event that became known as the Boston tea party. In Britain, opinion hardened against the colonists, with Chatham now agreeing with North that the destruction of the tea was “certainly criminal”. Lord North introduced the Punitive Acts, known as the Coercive Acts or the Intolerable Acts by the colonists: the Port of Boston was shut down and legislative elections in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay were suspended. Up to this point, in the words of Professor Peter Thomas, George’s “hopes were centred on a political solution, and he always bowed to his cabinet’s opinions even when sceptical of their success. The detailed evidence of the years from 1763 to 1775 tends to exonerate George III from any real responsibility for the American Revolution.”
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War began when armed conflict between British regulars and colonial militiamen broke out in New England in April 1775. A month later, delegates of the thirteen British colonies drafted a peace proposal known as the Olive Branch Petition. The proposal was quickly rejected in London because fighting had already erupted. A year later, on July 4, 1776 (American Independence Day), the colonies declared their independence from the Crown and became a new nation, the “United States of America”. The Declaration was a long list of grievances against the British King, legislature, and populace. Amongst George’s other offences, the Declaration charged, “He has abdicated Government here… He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.” George was indignant when he learned of the opinions of the colonists. In the war the British captured New York City in 1776, but the grand strategic plan of invading from Canada failed with the surrender of the British Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. In 1778, France (Great Britain’s chief rival) signed a treaty of friendship with the new United States. Lord North asked to transfer power to Lord Chatham, whom he thought more capable. George, however, would hear nothing of such suggestions; he suggested that Chatham serve as a subordinate minister in Lord North’s administration. Chatham refused to cooperate, and died later in the same year. Great Britain was then at war with France, and in 1779 it was also at war with Spain.
George III obstinately tried to keep Great Britain at war with the rebels in America, despite the opinions of his own ministers. Lord Gower and Lord Weymouth both resigned rather than suffer the indignity of being associated with the war. Lord North advised George III that his (North’s) opinion matched that of his ministerial colleagues, but stayed in office. Eventually, George gave up hope of subduing America by more armies. “It was a joke,” he said, “to think of keeping Pennsylvania”. There was no hope of ever recovering New England. But the King was determined “never to acknowledge the independence of the Americans, and to punish their contumacy by the indefinite prolongation of a war which promised to be eternal.” His plan was to keep the 30,000 men garrisoned in New York, Rhode Island, in Canada, and in Florida; other forces would attack the French and Spanish in the West Indies. To punish the Americans the King planned to destroy their coasting-trade, bombard their ports, sack and burn towns along the coast (like New London, Connecticut), and turn loose the Indians to attack civilians in frontier settlements. These operations, the King felt, would inspire the Loyalists; would splinter the Congress; and “would keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse” and they would beg to return to his authority. The plan meant destruction for the Loyalists and loyal Indians, and indefinite prolongation of a costly war, as well as the risk of disaster as the French and Spanish were assembling an armada to invade the British isles and seize London.
In 1781, the news of Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at the Siege of Yorktown reached London; Lord North’s parliamentary support ebbed away and he subsequently resigned in 1782. After Lord North persuaded the king against abdicating, George III finally accepted the defeat in North America, and authorised the negotiation of a peace. The Treaty of Paris and the associated Treaty of Versailles were ratified in 1783. The former treaty provided for the recognition of the United States by Great Britain. The latter required Great Britain to give up Florida to Spain and to grant access to the waters of Newfoundland to France. When John Adams was appointed American Minister to Britain in 1785, George had become resigned to the new relationship between his country and the United States, “I was the last to consent to the separation; but” he told Adams, “I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.”
With the collapse of Lord North’s ministry in 1782, the Whig Lord Rockingham became Prime Minister for the second time, but died within months. The King then appointed Lord Shelburne to replace him. Charles James Fox, however, refused to serve under Shelburne, and demanded the appointment of the Duke of Portland. In 1783, the House of Commons forced Lord Shelburne from office and his government was replaced by the Fox-North Coalition. The Duke of Portland became Prime Minister; Fox and Lord North, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary respectively, really held power, with Portland acting as a figurehead.
George III was distressed by the attempts to force him to appoint ministers not of his liking, but the Portland ministry quickly built up a majority in the House of Commons, and could not easily be displaced. He was, however, extremely dissatisfied when the government introduced the India Bill, which proposed to reform the government of India by transferring political power from the Honourable East India Company to Parliamentary commissioners. Immediately after the House of Commons passed it, George authorised Lord Temple to inform the House of Lords that he would regard any peer who voted for the bill as his enemy. The bill was rejected by the Lords; three days later, the Portland ministry was dismissed, and William Pitt the Younger was appointed Prime Minister, with Temple as his Secretary of State. On 17 December 1783, Parliament voted in favour of a motion condemning the influence of the monarch in parliamentary voting as a “high crime” and Temple was forced to resign. Temple’s departure destabilised the government, and three months later the government lost its majority and Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave Pitt a firm mandate.
For George III, Pitt’s appointment was a great victory. The King felt that the scenario proved that he still had the power to appoint Prime Ministers without having to rely on any parliamentary group. Throughout Pitt’s ministry, George eagerly supported many of his political aims. To aid Pitt, George created new peers at an unprecedented rate. The new peers flooded the House of Lords and allowed Pitt to maintain a firm majority. During Pitt’s ministry, George III was extremely popular. The public supported the exploratory voyages to the Pacific Ocean that he sanctioned. George also aided the Royal Academy with large grants from his private funds. The British people admired their King for remaining faithful to his wife, unlike the two previous Hanoverian monarchs. Great advances were made in fields such as in science and industry.
However, by this time George III’s health was deteriorating. He suffered from a mental illness, now widely believed to be a symptom of porphyria. A study of the King’s hair samples reveal high levels of arsenic, a possible trigger for the disease. The King may have previously suffered a brief episode of the disease in 1765, but a longer episode began in the summer of 1788. George was sufficiently sane to prorogue Parliament on 25 September 1788, but his condition worsened and in November he became seriously deranged, sometimes speaking for many hours without pause. With his doctors largely at a loss to explain his illness, spurious stories about his condition spread, such as the claim that he shook hands with a tree in the mistaken belief that it was the King of Prussia. When Parliament reconvened in November, the King could not, as was customary, communicate to them the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. According to long-established practice, Parliament could not begin the transaction of business until the King had made the Speech from the Throne. Parliament, however, ignored the custom and began to debate provisions for a regency.
Charles James Fox and William Pitt wrangled over the terms of which individual was entitled to take over government during the illness of the Sovereign. Although both parties agreed that it would be most reasonable for George III’s eldest son and heir-apparent, the Prince of Wales, to act as Regent, they disagreed over the basis of a regency. Fox suggested that it was the Prince of Wales’s absolute right to act on his ill father’s behalf; Pitt argued that it was for Parliament to nominate a Regent. Proceedings were further delayed as the authority for Parliament to merely meet was questioned, as the session had not been formally opened by the Sovereign. Pitt proposed a remedy based on an obscure legal fiction. As was well-established at the time, the Sovereign could delegate many of his functions to Lords Commissioners by letters patent, which were validated by the attachment of the Great Seal. It was proposed that the custodian of the Great Seal, the Lord Chancellor, affix the Seal without the consent of the Sovereign. Although such an action would be unlawful, it would not be possible to question the validity of the letters patent, as the presence of the Great Seal would be deemed conclusive in court. George III’s second son, the Prince Frederick, Duke of York, denounced Pitt’s proposal as “unconstitutional and illegal”. Nonetheless, the Lords Commissioners were appointed and then opened Parliament. In February 1789, the Regency Bill, authorising the Prince of Wales to act as Prince Regent, was introduced and passed in the House of Commons. But before the House of Lords could pass the bill, George III recovered from his illness under the treatment of Dr Francis Willis. He confirmed the actions of the Lords Commissioners as valid, but resumed full control of government.
French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
After George recovered from his illness, his popularity, and that of Pitt, greatly increased at the expense of Fox and the Prince of Wales. The French Revolution, in which the French monarchy had been overthrown, worried many British landowners. France subsequently declared war on Great Britain in 1793, and George soon represented the British resistance. George allowed Pitt to increase taxes, raise armies, and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the war attempt.
As well-prepared as Great Britain may have been, France was stronger. The First Coalition (which included Austria, Prussia, and Spain) was defeated in 1798. The Second Coalition (which included Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire) was defeated in 1800. Only Great Britain was left fighting Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul of the French Republic. Perhaps surprisingly, a failed assassination attempt of May 15, 1800 was not political in origin but motivated by the religious delusions of his assailant, James Hadfield, who shot at the King in the Drury Lane Theatre during the playing of the national anthem.
Soon after 1800, a brief lull in hostilities allowed Pitt to concentrate on Ireland, where there had been an uprising in 1798. Parliament then passed the Act of Union 1800, which, on 1 January 1801, united Great Britain and Ireland into a single nation, known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George used the opportunity to drop the claim to the Throne of France, which English and British Sovereigns had maintained since the reign of Edward III. It was suggested that George adopt the title “Emperor of the British and Hanoverian Dominions”, but he refused. A. G. Stapleton writes that George III “felt that his true dignity consisted in his being known to Europe and the world by the appropriated and undisputed style belonging to the British Crown.”
As part of his Irish policy, Pitt planned to remove certain legal disabilities that applied to Roman Catholics after the Union. George III claimed that to emancipate Catholics would be to violate his coronation oath, in which Sovereigns promise to maintain Protestantism. The King declared, “Where is the power on Earth to absolve me from the observance of every sentence of that oath, particularly the one requiring me to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion? … No, no, I had rather beg my bread from door to door throughout Europe, than consent to any such measure. I can give up my crown and retire from power. I can quit my palace and live in a cottage. I can lay my head on a block and lose my life, but I cannot break my oath.” Faced with opposition to his religious reform policies from both the King and the British public, Pitt threatened to resign. At about the same time, the King suffered a relapse of his previous illness, which he blamed on worry over the Catholic question. On 14 March 1801, Pitt was formally replaced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington. As Addington was his close friend, Pitt remained as a private advisor. Addington’s ministry was particularly unremarkable, as almost no reforms were made or measures passed. In fact, the nation was strongly against the very idea of reform, having just witnessed the bloody French Revolution. Although they called for passive behaviour in the United Kingdom, the public wanted strong action in Europe, but Addington failed to deliver. In October 1801, he made peace with the French, and in 1802 signed the Treaty of Amiens.
George did not consider the peace with France as “real”; in his view it was an “experiment”. In 1803, the two nations once again declared war on each other. In 1804, George was again affected by his recurrent illness; on his recovery, he discovered that public opinion distrusted Addington to lead the nation in war, and instead favoured Pitt. Pitt sought to appoint Fox to his ministry, but George III refused as the King disliked Fox, who had encouraged the Prince of Wales to lead an extravagant and expensive life. Lord Grenville perceived an injustice to Fox, and refused to join the new ministry.
Pitt concentrated on forming a coalition with Austria, Russia, and Sweden. The Third Coalition, however, met the same fate as the First and Second Coalitions, collapsing in 1805. An invasion by Napoleon seemed imminent, but the possibility was extinguished after Admiral Lord Nelson’s famous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The setbacks in Europe took a toll on William Pitt’s health. Pitt died in 1806, once again reopening the question of who should serve in the ministry. Lord Grenville became Prime Minister, and his “Ministry of All the Talents” included Charles James Fox. The King was conciliatory towards Fox, after being forced to capitulate over his appointment. After Fox’s death in September 1806, the King and ministry were in open conflict. The ministry had proposed a measure whereby Roman Catholics would be allowed to serve in all ranks of the Armed Forces. George not only instructed them to drop the measure, but also to make an agreement to never set up such a measure again. The ministers agreed to drop the measure then pending, but refused to bind themselves in the future. In 1807, they were dismissed and replaced by the Duke of Portland as the nominal Prime Minister, with actual power being held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Spencer Perceval. Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave the ministry a strong majority in the House of Commons. George III made no further major political decisions during his reign; the replacement of the Duke of Portland by Perceval in 1809 was of little actual significance.
In 1810, already virtually blind with cataracts and in pain from rheumatism, George III became dangerously ill. In his view the malady had been triggered by the stress he suffered at the death of his youngest and favourite daughter, Princess Amelia. As the Princess’s nurse reported, “the scenes of distress and crying every day…were melancholy beyond description.” By 1811, George III had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death. He accepted the need for the Regency Act 1811, to which the Royal Assent was granted by the Lords Commissioners, appointed under the same irregular procedure as was adopted in 1788. The Prince of Wales acted as Regent for the remainder of George III’s life.
Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812 (the only British Prime Minister to have suffered such a fate) and was replaced by Lord Liverpool. Liverpool oversaw British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The subsequent Congress of Vienna led to significant territorial gains for Hanover, which was upgraded from an electorate to a kingdom.
Meanwhile, George’s health deteriorated, eventually he became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He never knew that he was declared King of Hanover in 1814, or of the death of his wife in 1818. Over Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. On 29 January 1820, he died at Windsor Castle. His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him. His death came six days after that of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent. George III was buried on 15 February in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.
George was succeeded by two of his sons George IV and William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to their niece, Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover and the only legitimate child of the Duke of Kent.
George lived for 81 years and 239 days and reigned for 59 years and 96 days — in each case, more than any other English or British monarch until that point. This record has been surpassed only twice, by George’s granddaughter Queen Victoria and by Elizabeth II, who was 81 years old as of 2007. George III’s reign was longer than the reigns of all three of his immediate predecessors (Queen Anne, King George I and King George II) combined.
While tremendously popular in Britain, George was hated by rebellious American colonists (approximately one-third of the population in the colonies). The grievances in the United States Declaration of Independence were presented as “repeated injuries and usurpations” that he had committed to establish “an absolute Tyranny” over the colonies. The Declaration’s wording has contributed to the American public’s perception of George as a tyrant. Another factor that exacerbated American resentment was the King’s failure to intercede personally on the colonists’ behalf after the Olive Branch Petition. George was hated in Ireland for the atrocities carried out in his name during the suppression of the 1798 rebellion. British historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Trevelyan, promoted hostile interpretations of George III’s life, however, scholars of the later twentieth century, such as Butterfield and Pares, and Macalpine and Hunter, are more inclined to be sympathetic, seeing him as a victim of circumstance and illness. Today, the long reign of George III is perceived as a continuation of the reduction in the political power of monarchy, and its growth as the embodiment of national morality.
The British Agricultural Revolution reached its peak under George III. The period provided for unprecedented growth in the rural population, which in turn provided much of the workforce for the concurrent Industrial Revolution. George III has been nicknamed Farmer George, for “his plain, homely, thrifty manners and tastes” and because of his passionate interest in agriculture.
“The mightiest breath of life which ever animated human clay. ”
Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution, and the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from 11 November 1799 to 18 May 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des Français) and King of Italy under the name Napoleon I from 18 May 1804 to 6 April 1814, and again briefly from 20 March to 22 June 1815.
Napoleon developed a number of innovative military strategies that led to many successful campaigns and surprising victories, as well as some spectacular failures. Over the c=ourse of little more than a decade, he fought virtually every European power and acquired control of most of the western and central mainland of Europe by conquest or alliance until his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, followed by defeat at the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in October 1813, which led to his abdication several months later. He staged a comeback known as the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours), but was again defeated decisively at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium on June 18, 1815, followed shortly afterwards by his surrender to the British and his exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he died.
Aside from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code. He is considered to have been one of the “enlightened despots”.
Napoleon appointed several members of the Bonaparte family as monarchs. Although their reigns did not survive his downfall, a nephew, Napoleon III, ruled France later in the nineteenth centur
Early Life and Military Career
He was born Napoleone Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione) in the city of Ajaccio on Corsica on 15 August 1769, only one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte.
His family was of minor Corsican nobility. His father, Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI of France in 1778, where he remained for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon’s childhood was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino. Her firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious Napoleon as a boy, nicknamed Rabullione (the “meddler” or “disrupter”).
Napoleon’s noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. At age ten, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes, on 15 May 1779. He had to learn to speak French before entering the school, which he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life, and never learned to spell properly. He earned high marks in mathematics and geography, and passable grades in other subjects. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the two year course of study in only one year. Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire. Upon graduation in September, 1785, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery, and took up his new duties in January 1786, at the age of 16.
Napoleon served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 (although he took nearly two years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period). He spent most of the next several years on Corsica, where a complex three-way struggle was played out among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction, and gained the position of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family were forced to flee to France in June 1793.
Through the help of fellow Corsican Saliceti, he was appointed as artillery commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen in revolt against the Terror and was occupied by British troops. He formulated a successful plan: he placed guns at Point l’Eguillete, threatening the British ships in the harbour with destruction, thereby forcing them to evacuate. A successful assault of the position, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led to the recapture of the city and a promotion to brigadier-general. His actions brought him to the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, and he became a close associate of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. As a result, he was briefly imprisoned following the fall of the elder Robespierre in 1794, but was released within two weeks.
The ‘Whiff of Grapeshot‘
In 1795, Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries organized an armed protest against the National Convention on 3 October. Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, who later became his brother-in-law. He utilized the artillery the following day to repel the attackers. He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a “whiff of grapeshot”. This triumph earned him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory, particularly that of its leader, Barras. Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras’s former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he married on March 9, 1796.
The Italian Campaign
Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French “Army of Italy”, leading it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Lodi, he gained the nickname of “The Little Corporal” (le petit caporal), a term reflecting his camaraderie with his soldiers, all of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States. Because Pope Pius VI had protested the execution of Louis XVI, France retaliated by annexing two small papal territories. Bonaparte ignored the Directory’s order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. It was not until the next year that General Berthier captured Rome and took Pius VI prisoner on February 20. The pope died of illness while in captivity. In early 1797, Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced that power to sue for peace. The resulting Treaty of Campo Formio gave France control of most of northern Italy, along with the Low Countries and Rhineland, but a secret clause promised Venice to Austria. Bonaparte then marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending over 1,000 years of independence. Later in 1797, Bonaparte organized many of the French dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.
His remarkable series of military triumphs were a result, in part, of his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his infantry. As he described it: “I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning.” Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign depict his use of the world’s first telecommunications system, the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception. He often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments.
While campaigning in Italy, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as well. In May 1797 he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris, entitled Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux. Elections in mid-1797 gave the royalist party increased power, alarming Barras and his allies on the Directory. The royalists, in turn, began attacking Bonaparte for looting Italy and overstepping his authority in dealings with the Austrians. Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d’etat and purge the royalists on 4 September (18 Fructidor). This left Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent on Bonaparte’s military command to stay there. Bonaparte himself proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, then returned to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force in government, far more popular than any of the Directors.
The Egyptian Expedition
In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed an expedition to colonize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain’s access to India. The Directory, although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from the centre of power.
An unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of a large group of scientists assigned to the invading French force: among the other discoveries that resulted, the Rosetta Stone was found. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered by some an indication of Bonaparte’s devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda obfuscating the true imperialist motives of the invasion. In a largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations casting himself as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praising the precepts of Islam.
Bonaparte’s expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June 9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding (temporarily) pursuit by the Royal Navy. Although Bonaparte had massive success against the native Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids (his 25,000 man strong invading force defeated a 100,000 man army), his fleet was largely destroyed by Nelson at The Battle of the Nile, so that Bonaparte became land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated nationalist uprisings.
In early 1799 he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria, now modern Israel, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease and poor supplies. He was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was forced to retreat to Egypt in May. On 25 July, he defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir. Eventually Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Egypt in 1801, under constant British and Ottoman attacks.
Ruler of France
While in Egypt, Bonaparte had kept a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly. On 23 August, he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading French coastal ports.
Although he was later accused by political opponents of abandoning his troops, his departure actually had been authorized by the Directory, which had suffered a series of military defeats to the forces of the Second Coalition, and feared an invasion.
By the time he returned to Paris in October, the military situation had improved thanks to several French victories. The Republic was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was more unpopular with the French public than ever.
Bonaparte was approached by one of the Directors, Sieyès, seeking his support for a coup to overthrow the constitution. The plot included Bonaparte’s brother Lucien, then serving as speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, and Talleyrand. On 9 November (18 Brumaire), and the following day, troops led by Bonaparte seized control and dispersed the legislative councils, leaving a rump to name Bonaparte, Sieyès, and Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government. Although Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmanoeuvred by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul. This made him the most powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which made him First Consul for life.
The First Consul
Bonaparte instituted several lasting reforms including centralized administration of the départements, higher education, a tax system, a central bank, law codes, and road and sewer systems. He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, seeking to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime. His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code or Civil Code, has importance to this day in many countries. The Code was prepared by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, who held the office Second Consul from 1799 to 1804; Bonaparte, however, participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although contemporary standards may consider these procedures as favoring the prosecution, when enacted they sought to preserve personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts.
An Interlude of Peace
In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered during his absence in Egypt. He and his troops crossed the Alps in spring (although he actually rode a mule, not the white charger on which David famously depicted him). While the campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually routed in June at Marengo, leading to an armistice. Napoleon’s brother Joseph, who was leading the peace negotiations in Lunéville, reported that due to British backing for Austria, Austria would not recognize France’s newly gained territory. As negotiations became more and more fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result the Treaty of Lunéville was signed in February 1801, under which the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased; the British signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, which set terms for peace, including the division of several colonial territories.
The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The “legitimate” monarchies of Europe were reluctant to recognize a republic, fearing that the ideas of the revolution might be exported to them. In Britain, the brother of Louis XVI was welcomed as a state guest although officially Britain recognized France as a republic. Britain failed to evacuate Malta and Egypt as promised, and protested against France’s annexation of Piedmont, and Napoleon’s Act of Mediation in Switzerland (although neither of these areas was covered by the Treaty of Amiens).
In 1803, Bonaparte faced a major setback when an army he sent to reconquer Santo Domingo and establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Recognizing that the French possessions on the mainland of North America would now be indefensible, and facing imminent war with Britain, he sold them to the United States—the Louisiana Purchase—for less than three cents per acre ($7.40/km²). The dispute over Malta provided the pretext for Britain to declare war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.
Emporor of France
In January 1804, Bonaparte’s police uncovered an assassination plot against him, ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbons. In retaliation, Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Duc d’Enghien, in a violation of the sovereignty of Baden. After a hurried secret trial, the Duke was executed on 21 March. Bonaparte then used this incident to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France, with himself as Emperor, on the theory that a Bourbon restoration would be impossible once the Bonapartist succession was entrenched in the constitution.
Napoleon crowned himself Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Claims that he seized the crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII during the ceremony in order to avoid subjecting himself to the authority of the pontiff are apocryphal; in fact, the coronation procedure had been agreed upon in advance. After the Imperial regalia had been blessed by the Pope, Napoleon crowned himself before crowning his wife Joséphine as Empress. Then at Milan’s cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.
By 1805 Britain instigated a Third Coalition against Napoleon. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and therefore arranged to lure the British fleet away from the English Channel so that a joint Spanish and French fleet could regain control of the Channel for twenty-four hours, enough for French armies to cross to England. However, with Austria and Russia preparing an invasion of France and its allies, he had to change his plans and turn his attention to the continent. The newly born Grande Armee secretly marched towards Germany. On 20 October 1805 it surprised the Austrians at Ulm. The next day, however, at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), Britain gained lasting control of the seas. A few weeks later, Napoleon secured a major victory against Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (2 December), forcing Austria yet again to sue for peace.
A Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806). He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland, and was attacked at the bloody Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a major victory at Friedland he signed a treaty at Tilsit in East Prussia with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, dividing Europe between the two powers. He placed puppet rulers on the thrones of German states, including his brother Jerome as king of the new state of Westphalia. In the French part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813 Napoleon also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.
Ludwig van Beethoven initially dedicated his third symphony, the Eroica (Italian for “heroic”), to Napoleon in the belief that the general would sustain the democratic and republican ideals of the French Revolution, but in 1804, as Napoleon’s imperial ambitions became clear, renamed the symphony as the “Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il Sovvenire di un grand Uomo”, or in English, “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”.
The Peninsular War
In addition to military endeavors against Britain, Napoleon also waged economic war, attempting to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the “Continental System”. Although this action hurt the British economy, it also hurt the French economy and was not a decisive factor.
Portugal did not comply with this Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon sought Spain’s support for an invasion of Portugal. When Spain refused, Napoleon invaded Spain as well. After mixed results were produced by his generals, Napoleon himself took command and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then defeated a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast and forcing withdrawal from Iberia (in which its commander, Sir John Moore, was killed). Napoleon installed one of his marshals and brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, as the King of Naples, and his brother Joseph Bonaparte, as King of Spain.
The Spanish, inspired by nationalism and the Catholic Church, and angry over atrocities committed by French troops, rose in revolt. At the same time, Austria unexpectedly broke its alliance with France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. A bloody draw ensued at Aspern-Essling (May 21-22, 1809) near Vienna, which was the closest Napoleon ever came to a defeat in a battle with more or less equal numbers on each side. After a two month interval, the principal French and Austrian armies engaged again near Vienna resulting in a French victory at Battle of Wagram (6 July).
Following this a new peace was signed between Austria and France and in the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie-Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.
Invasion of Russia
Although the Congress of Erfurt had sought to preserve the Russo-French alliance, by 1811 tensions were again increasing between the two nations. Although Alexander and Napoleon had a friendly personal relationship since their first meeting in 1807, Alexander had been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break off the alliance with France.
The first sign that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing of the application of the Continental System in Russia, angering Napoleon. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire (and the recapture of Poland).
Large numbers of troops were deployed to the Polish borders (reaching over 300,000 out of the total Russian army strength of 410,000). After receiving the initial reports of Russian war preparations, Napoleon began expanding his Grande Armée to a massive force of over 600,000 men (despite already having over 300,000 men deployed in Iberia). Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared his forces for an offensive campaign.
Napoleon, in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, termed the war the “Second Polish War” (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria). Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, although this was rejected by Napoleon, who feared it would bring Prussia and Austria into the war against France. Napoleon also rejected requests to free the Russian serfs, fearing this might provoke a conservative reaction in his rear.
The Russians under Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly were unable to successfully defeat Napoleon’s huge, well-organized army and retreated instead. A brief attempt at resistance was offered at Smolensk (August 16-17), but the Russians were defeated in a series of battles in the area and Napoleon resumed the advance. The Russians then repeatedly avoided battle with the Grande Armée, although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity presented itself.
Criticized over his tentative strategy of continual retreat, Barclay was replaced by Kutuzov, although he continued Barclay’s strategy. Kutuzov eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September. Losses were nearly even for both armies, with slightly more casualties on the Russian side, after what may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history – the Battle of Borodino (see article for comparisons to the first day of the Battle of the Somme). Although Napoleon was far from defeated, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle the French hoped would be decisive. After the battle, the Russian army withdrew, and retreated past Moscow.
The Russians retreated and Napoleon was able to enter Moscow, assuming that the fall of Moscow would end the war and that Alexander I would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city’s military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, fearing loss of control back in France, Napoleon left Moscow.
The French suffered greatly in the course of a ruinous retreat; the Army had begun as over 650,000 frontline troops, but in the end fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River (November 1812) to escape. In total French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand civilian deaths.
There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to the German states to rejoin the expanding force there – numbering 130,000 with the reinforcements from Poland. This force continued to expand, with Napoleon aiming for a force of 400,000 French troops supported by a quarter of a million German troops.
Heartened by Napoleon’s losses in Russia, Prussia soon rejoined the Coalition that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and soon inflicted a series of defeats on the Allies culminating in the Battle of Dresden on August 26-27, 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000).
Despite these initial successes, however, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the Battle of Nations (October 16-19) at Leipzig. Some of the German states switched sides in the midst of the battle, further undermining the French position. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost both sides a combined total of over 120,000 casualties.
After this Napoleon withdrew in an orderly fashion back into France, but his army was now reduced to less than 100,000 against more than half a million Allied troops. The French were now surrounded (with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the Coalition forces moving in from the German states) and vastly outnumbered. The French armies could only delay an inevitable defeat.
Exile in Elba, Return and Waterloo
Paris was occupied on March 31, 1814. At the urging of his marshals, Napoleon abdicated on 6 April in favour of his son. The Allies, however, demanded unconditional surrender and Napoleon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean 20 km off the coast of Italy.
In France, the royalists had taken over and restored King Louis XVIII to power. Separated from his wife and son (who had come under Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours that he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic, Napoleon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the mainland on 1 March 1815. King Louis XVIII sent the Fifth Regiment, led by Marshal Michel Ney who had formerly served under Napoleon in Russia, to meet him at Grenoble. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within earshot of Ney’s forces, shouted “Soldiers of the Fifth, you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor, he may do so now”. Following a brief silence, the soldiers shouted “Vive L’Empereur!” and marched with Napoleon to Paris. He arrived on 20 March, quickly raising a regular army of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000 and governed for a Hundred Days.
Napoléon’s final defeat came at the hands of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815.
Off the port of Rochefort, Napoléon made his formal surrender while on board HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815.
Exile in Saint Helena and Death
Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea) from 15 October 1815. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers, he dictated his memoirs and criticized his captors. Sick for much his time on Saint Helena, Napoleon died, on 5 May 1821. His last words were: “France, the Army, head of the Army, Joséphine”.
Napoléon had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but was buried on Saint Helena. In 1840, his remains were taken to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and entombed in Les Invalides, Paris. Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date.
The cause of Napoleon’s death has been greatly disputed. Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon’s personal physician, listed stomach cancer as the reason for Napoleon’s death in his death certificate.
The diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoleon’s valet, have led some (most notably Sten Forshufvud and Ben Weider) to conclude that Napoleon was killed by arsenic poisoning, although whether he was murdered or ingested arsenic in some accidental way (it was used in wallpaper, as a pigment, and in some medicines) is still disputed. In 2001, Pascal Kintz, of the Strasbourg Forensic Institute in France, added credence to this claim with a study of arsenic levels found in a lock of Napoleon’s hair preserved after his death that were seven to thirty-eight times higher than normal (although this is disputable, because another use of arsenic at the time of Napoleon’s death was to preserve samples of hair).
Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other states eventually followed.
In France, Napoleon is seen by some as having ended lawlessness and disorder in France, and that the Napoleonic Wars also served to export the Revolution to the rest of Europe; the movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably in Italy and Germany, may have been precipitated by the Napoleonic rule of those areas.
The Napoleonic Code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained in force after Napoleon’s defeat. Professor Dieter Langewiesche of the University of Tübingen describes the code as a “revolutionary project” which spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by expanding the right to own property and breaking the back of feudalism. Langewiesche also credits Napoleon with reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire made up of more than 1,000 entities into a more streamlined network of 40 states providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.
In mathematics Napoleon is traditionally given credit for discovering and proving Napoleon’s theorem, although there is no specific evidence that he did so. The theorem states that if equilateral triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle (all outward or all inward), the centres of those equilateral triangles themselves form an equilateral triangle. See the discussion in about the significance of the theorem.
Critics of Napleon argue that his true legacy was a loss of status for France and many needless deaths:
After all, the military record is unquestioned—17 years of wars, perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas colonies lost. And it was all such a great waste, for when the self-proclaimed tête d’armée was done, France’s “losses were permanent” and she “began to slip from her position as the leading power in Europe to second-class status—that was Bonaparte’s true legacy.
Contrary to popular belief (perpetuated by the above-mentioned caricatures), Napoleon was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in Imperial (British) feet, or 1.686 meters, making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 19th century. The metric system was introduced during his lifetime, so it was natural that he would be measured in feet and inches for much of his life. A French inch was 2.71 centimetres, an Imperial inch is 2.54 centimetres. In addition to this miscalculation, his nickname ‘le petit caporal’ adds to the confusion, as non-francophones mistakenly take petit literally as meaning “small”; in fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers. He also surrounded himself with soldiers, his elite guard, who were always six feet tall or taller.
I have unpacked the gloves and placed yours in your drawer. Their colour is light and pretty, and I believe exactly what we fixed on.
Jane Austen to Cassandra, October 27, 1798
“The wearing of gloves by women had been popular since the time of Catherine de Medici, but the Empress Josephine, by her fancy for long gloves, started a nationwide craze, which rapidly spread throughout all Europe and America, during the Napoleonic period. (She actually wore gloves for somewhat prosaic reasons, since she was very dissatisfied with her hands, thinking them ugly…)
Napoleonic and Regency (as this period was called in England – this was the era Jane Austen wrote about, and ladies wearing long gloves are often to be seen in films made of her books, such as Sense and Sensibility and Emma) gloves were of many materials and a bewildering variety of colors. Kidskin and cloth were favored materials, and the gloves were often made so that they fitted loosely around the wearer’s arm and could be “scrunched” down toward the wrist at the wearer’s option.
Starting from about 1810, sleeves began to grow longer, and the length of gloves in most cases shortened correspondingly. However, long gloves were still customarily worn with formal dress until around 1825:
Long gloves first became a staple of women’s fashion during the time of Napoleon, the English Regency and the reign of George IV (the former “Regent” of the Regency) (ca. 1795 to 1825). The short sleeves of Greco/Roman-inspired Directory and Empire dresses and gowns were well suited to complementation by long gloves, and their popularity received an additional boost with their frequent wear by the Empress Josephine. Gloves in that period were commonly constructed so as to fit the arm and hand in a looser fashion than gloves of the later Victorian and Edwardian periods, and longer gloves (elbow-length or longer) would often be worn “crumpled” below the elbow. When the longest gloves were stretched out above the elbow, they were often actually held in place by garters. In this gallery, a sampling of representative fashion plates displays long gloves as they were worn during this time.
Napoleon himself was a great lover of gloves; he is reported, as of 1806, to have in his wardrobe no fewer than 240 pairs of gloves! He was very much appreciative of beautiful and interesting feminine attire, and encouraged his Empress, Josephine, and the other ladies of his court to dress in the height of style and fashion. For example, at his and Josephine’s coronation in 1804, the gloves made for the ceremony cost thirty-three francs per pair, a considerable sum in these days – but then, good gloves have always been costly!” (Severn, p. 38)
According to the City of Worcester Museums, the city of Worcester was “famous for it’s gloving industry, which reached its peak between 1790 and 1820 when 150 manufacturers of gloves employed over 30,000 people in and around Worcester. At this time nearly half of all glovers in Britain were based in and around the city of Worcester. It is quite possible that Jane Austen wore a pair (or pairs) of gloves manufactured here.
Trade was strictly regulated by the government to protect home industries from foreign competition by placing large taxes on goods. Under this system the Worcester glove industry prospered greatly.
However during the 19th century the government encouraged free trade eventually lifting taxes in 1826 on foreign gloves. This happened at a time when French gloves had increased in popularity and causing a huge reduction in trade which eventually led to mass employment throughout the city.
While many of the smaller businesses did not survive this period, two of Worcester’s most famous gloving firms, Dent Allcroft and Co Ltd. and Fownes Gloves Ltd. survived by reorganising their workforce, introducing a factory system and improving the overall quality of the products. Both these firms went on to become leading glove manufacturers in Europe. ”
Poor soul! I am sure if I had had a notion of it, I would not have joked her about it for all my money. But then, you know, how should I guess such a thing? I made sure of its being nothing but a common love letter, and you know young people like to be laughed at about them. Sense and Sensibility
The love letter has been composed and treasured for centuries. Through the years, the letter’s form, media, and content have changed. Its purpose, however, remains the same–to communicate via written word the true and raw emotion of human passion.
The history of love letters begins early on. The love letter’s earliest manifestation may perhaps be the Bible’s Song of Solomon. Letter writing was furthered by Cicero and Pliny, turn-of-the-century Romans who affectionately wrote letters to their wives. As a literary form, the history of love letters probably began in the early Renaissance. The Age of Chivalry produced a series of discreet correspondences that were based on the chaste compliments and excessive self-deprecation of courtly love.
In the early eighteenth century, love letters became much more personal and pure. Missives from this period showed tenderness, charm, and even humor.
As the eighteenth century progressed and romantic ideals were cast aside, love letters, too, were changing. Intellectuals applied their ideas to the art, which they considered not to be trivial, but rather essential to the search for self-knowledge and happiness.
The nineteenth century spawned the great private love letters of Beethovan to his “Immortal Beloved”, as well as the literary romance of poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett.
Computers, fax machines, and modern transportation have not outdated the art of the love letter. Instead, they have fueled its interest and effect. The history of love letters continues to write itself. Love letters can now be emailed, faxed, and even sent overnight to lovers separated by oceans and continents. Clearly, the love letter has evolved through the ages, still to be treasured and meaningful in the present day.
Although letters play pivotal roles in all of Jane Austen’s works, she rarely attempts to actually spell out the contents of a love letter. One exception to this is Captain Wentworth’s immortal letter to Anne Elliot, in Persuasion, Austen’s final work. Not only does it quickly turn the plot and bring about a satisfactory resolution to the story, it remains today, a standard by which all other love letters can be measured. On par with Mr. Darcy’s passionate proposal, Captain Wentworth’s heartfelt words stand out as some of the most memorable lines, not only in Austen’s novels, but in all of literature.
The private letters of many of Jane Austen’s contemporaries have been published, among them, these, from Regency notables. Written from the battlefield, from a foreign country–even from next door, the theme is the same–love, longing, desire for reunion. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.
General Napoleon Bonaparte To Citizeness Joséphine Bonaparte:
A few days ago I thought I loved you; but since I last saw you I feel I love you a thousand times more. All the time I have known you, I adore you more each day; that just shows how wrong was La Bruyére’s maxim that love comes all at once. Everything in nature has its own life and different stages of growth. I beg you, let me see some of your faults: be less beautiful, less graceful, less kind, less good…
My one and only Josephine, apart from you there is no joy; away from you the world is a desert where I am alone and cannot open my heart. You have taken more than my soul; you are the one thought of my life. When I am tired of the worry of work, when I fear the outcome, when men annoy me, when I am ready to curse being alive, I put my hand on my heart; your portrait hangs there, I look at it, and love brings me perfect happiness…Oh, my adorable wife! I don’t know what fate has in store for me, but if it keeps me apart from you any longer, it will be unbearable! My courage is not enough for that.
Come and join me; before we die let us at least be able to say: “We had so many happy days!”
Percy Bysshe Shelley To Mary Godwin Shelley
Bagni di Lucca, Sunday, 23rd August, 1818
My dearest Mary,
We arrived here last night at twelve o’clock, and it is now before breakfast the next morning. I can of course tell you nothing of the future, and though I shall not close this letter till post-time, yet I do not know exactly when that is. Yet, if you are still very impatient, look along the letter, and you will see another date, when I may have something to relate…Well, but the time presses. I am now going to the banker’s to send you money for the journey, which I shall address to you at Florence, Post Office. Pray come instantly to Este, where I shall be waiting in the utmost anxiety for your arrival… Do you know, dearest, how this letter was written? By scrap and patches and interrupted every minute. The gondola is now coming to take me to the banker’s. Este is a little place and the house found without difficulty. I shall count four days for this letter, one day for packing, four for coming here–and the ninth or tenth day we shall meet.
I am too late for the post, but I send an express to overtake it. Enclosed is an order for fifty pounds. If you know all that I have to do! Dearest love, be well, be happy, come to me. Confide in your own constant and affectionate
P.S. Kiss the blue eyed darlings* for me, and do not let William forget me. Clara cannot
*Their son and baby daughter
John Keats to Fanny Brawne
25 College Street, 13 October 1819
My dearest Girl,
This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my mind for ever so short a time. Upon my soul I can think of nothing else. The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you against the unpromising morning of my Life. My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again–my life seems to stop there–I see no further. You have absorbed me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving–I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love…