This blog is designed to show the real Napoleon, not the man disparaged by countless writers devoid of the facts who merely regurgitated the same misinformation either in blissful ignorance or in wilful spite.





Thursday, 18 June 2015


Napoleon at Toulon by Detaille

There are lies, damned lies - and the BBC website. This supposed bastion of truth and knowledge makes Goebbels look like an amateur. This is its take on Napoleon. The piece is entitled Napoleon versus Europe as if to state by definition that all of Europe was against Napoleon and all of Europe disagreed with him. It then goes on:
'To understand Waterloo, it's important to know Napoleon had
been trying to establish a European empire under his military dictatorship since 1804.'

Obviously, no hint of any bias there whatsoever.

'The British defeated him at Trafalgar in 1805, but Napoleon went on to invade 
countries across Europe before being forced to abdicate. He returned to Paris in 
March 1815, prompting Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria to declare war.'

So says the BBC in its sacred scrolls. Oh, so it must be true then...

Above is a picture of a young Napoleon at Toulon. The British Navy had been invited into harbour by Royalist rebels. After all, the British would not have minded if the French navy invaded Portsmouth would they? Napoleon personally placed the French guns under intense fire and braved the hazards his men faced - unlike the British politicians who repeatedly paid for Austrian and Russian soldiers to attack France. The British paid - the foreigners died. The British Navy had no right to be in French waters - but then the navy of his Britannic Majesty arrogantly believed that even a duckpond should be served by a British vessel.

 It was this consummate arrogance that led the Americans to declare war in 1812. The British impressed American sailors claiming they were still really 'British' despite the American Revolution. Incidently, at the battle of New Orleans on January 8th 1815, the same year as Waterloo, his Majesty's forces were utterly destoyed by Andrew Jackson and his "dirty shirts" - 2,000 redcoats killed for only seven American dead and six wounded. Why was I never taught this in my English grammar school? I wonder if this battle is covered on the BBC website...  It was a victory on a par with Waterloo which the British try to pretend never happened.

 As the English historian Walter Runciman has said, when the British Government rejected Napoleon's peace feelers in early 1805 - we had no cause to insult him treat him like an imposter and an inferior which is what we did. Runciman believes that had we treated with Napoleon honestly there need never have been war between the two countries.

But it was war that the British wanted. Pitt and his ilk could never accept the French Revolution. What - equal rights for the common people? Heaven forfend! So hierarchical was British Society, they could have taught the Indian caste system a thing or two. The Royal Family were literally a breed apart - like the Bourbons they believed God had put them in their illustrious stations and sanctioned their every utterance with gospel-like authority. This First Family consisted of a stammering nutter and a sex-crazed obese drunk and opium addict who believed he had fought at Waterloo himself. Like father - like son...  'Prinny' was a sexually incontinent imbecile who thought he was the bees' knees. God help poor Britannia!

So strict were the social conventions of the day that when Nelson wanted to sport Lady Hamilton on his one good arm at posh parties, the aristocratic toffs would have none of it. This pissed Nelson off no end. Nelson callously ignored his wife just like that other 'hero' Wellington, who treated his wife abominably. His descendant Lady Jane Welesley has said he was : 'A bad husband and an inadequate father.' At their only ever meeting, Wellington was shocked to discover that Nelson thought even more of himself than the Duke did of himself! Wellington was a snob, who treated his inferiors badly and sucked up to his superiors. No wonder he called his men 'scum'. They fought heroically for him and admired him as a general, but they didn't love him as Napoleon's soldiers loved him. In Tim Clayton's book Waterloo there are many accounts of British surgeons amputating the limbs of French soldiers who subsequently died with Napoleon's name upon their lips.  The word 'Emperor' was often the very last breathed by many a French soldier.

But none of this is on the BBC website...

To return to the gospel according to the BBC - and Napoleon versus Europe -  the British and French had been fighting each other for decades - long before Napoleon was born. Without French help, the Americans would never had gained their independence, a temporary mastery of the sea by the French Navy being particularly helpful. The French under Louis XVI bankrupted their nation to free the Colonists from British bondage. And incidently, Napoleon's 'right arm' Berthier got experience of warfare fighting in America.

Napoleon wanted to recreate France as a great nation. His Code Napoleon; his forming of the Bank of France; his Civil Code; his Concordat with the papacy; and his reorganization of the French school sytem were laudable achievements which benefited all of France. What did the aristocratic elite in London ever do for the common British man or woman? If the common man dared to ask for more bread, or for increased wages, or if they dared to question the God-Almighty Government,  they risked a hanging or being transported to Australia for life. So cruel was this British 'system' that a Unitarian minister was exiled to Australia just for proof reading a protest banner!

 But that isn't on the BBC website either... 

Today's Times newspaper has a leader that oozes this unctious sense of pride and self-importance.  It is an Orwellian: 'British good - Napoleon bad.' And the irony is that it was the poor Englishman who was labouring under the cosh of Big Brother Aristocrats and the 'Prinny' police state.

...  No, it's not even worth looking...

 The blessed BBC would have us believe that Napoleon was red in tooth and claw and that he was a Corsican bandit who certainly wouldn't be allowed at those high class royal parties. They state that he had 'his military dictatorship since 1804.' What they don't say is that there were so many assassination attempts upon his life, organised by the hideous Comte D'Artois (Mon-sewer) and paid for by the British, that he felt constrianed to make himself Emperor and see to his succession for the benefit of France. As Cadoudal said, after his failed plot on Napoleon's life - they had tried to kill a First Consul and had made an Emperor instead. So merciful was Napoleon, that he even invited Cadoudal to join his army as an officer. Similarly, Napoleon allowed the exiled French nobles to return to France.

The BBC website states that: 'The British defeated him at Trafalgar.' Napoleon wasn't at the Battle of Trafalgar - does the BBC realize this was a sea battle? In fact, Napoleon had given up on his cowardly naval commander Villeneuve and ordered him to sail to Naples. Only when he heard he had been sacked by Napoleon did he take the combined fleet out to sea. And despite all the British mythology about the 'Nelson touch' - Villeneuve predicted that Nelson would try to split the French and Spanish navies in the exact way he did.

The British Navy bombarded neutral Copenhagen in 1807 and murdered 2,000 innocent Danish men, women and children.  This was the first time that weapons of mass destruction - aka Congreve rockets - were used on a civilian population. I wasn't taught this at grammar school either. Neither was I taught that the British invented concentration camps during the Boer War and had a great victory starving Boer women and children to death. Even Kaiser Wilhelm complained about this despicable way of making war. But where British history is concerned so often it is a case of: Might equals Right. The British ruled the waves and waived the rules. Time after time. We have our heroes - like Churchill's favourite Alfred the Great. We don't need to look for them in the dregs of aristocratic society in London at the time of Prinny and his gang.

 The British reneged on the Treaty of Amiens by refusing to leave Malta. They then confiscated all French vessels without a declaration of war. This is commonly known as 'British fair play.' They then paid Austria and Russia to attack France - their own people safe across the Channel and behind that wooden fortress the British Navy.  Pitt died after he heard the news of Austerlitz - it was the best thing he ever did. He had been trying to drink himself to death for years, as well as taxing the native population to within an inch of their lives. Pitt's epitaph? Any port in a storm... and lots of it.

 What a bounder that chap Napoleon was - he kept defeating those Coalitions that attacked him! He was, in fact, far too trusting - whether it concerned his notorious brothers and sisters - or his dubious friends and allies like the starry-eyed mystic patricidal incestous Tsar Alexander of Russia. 'If I was a woman, I'd be his mistress,' Napoleon joked, taken in by the naive Russian blond bombshell. In the end (where else...) he was well and truly screwed by Alexander. Russia was a primitive country reliant on Gogol's Dead Souls  - the poor peasants. Peasant soldiers never expected to see their families again. Prussia also had serfs. That wicked Napoleon abolished serfdom in all the territories he controlled. Wasn't that just too much!

 Ah the BBC... Like all licence payers, I have to pay £145-50 a year to receive their pearls of wisdom. Why do they have to lie and deceive and misinform - with my money?!

Napoleon was the greatest man of the C19th as Goethe said. He deserves to be Heine's hero. He was Hazlitt's hero too - and Byron's. He touched the hearts and souls of millions and benefitted common humanity with his enlightened rule and policies. After Waterloo came the Reaction when the Undead Aristocrats from all across Europe rose again like an army of rapacious zombies - feeding off the corpses of the common man. Come back Napoleon - all is forgiven!

C.  JohnTarttelin 2015
A Souladream Production


Napoleon grants freedom to the Jews 

Dear Sir,
                 I have just read your puerile, jingoistic and highly inaccurate view of the Battle of Waterloo and its legacy. Such trite revisionism cannot go unchallenged. As you yourself say: ‘The Times of 1815 was highly partisan’ – so are you. As you yourself say: ‘the Times of 1815 observed no very clear distinction between news and comment’ – neither do you.
               You laud the tiny fraction of English soldiers at this battle as if they saved the world – hence your Pax Britannica. Your lack of historical context is breathtaking. Who are the office boys who compiled and wrote your inane tub-thumping twaddle?
             Firstly, the much vaunted grail of Hougoumont. You blow it up out of all proportion to its true importance on June 18th 1815. Napoleon’s initial plan was basically to ‘fix ‘ Hougoumont on his left with a decoy attack so that Wellington would not run again as he had after Quatre Bras. The first French attack was made by d’Erlon’s Corps on the Allied Centre. (D’Erlon’s 20,000 men had marched between Quatre Bras and Ligny on June 16th without fighting at either battle - in a real sense losing the whole Campaign for Napoleon that very same day. Even so, 65,000 French defeated 80,000 Prussians at Ligny.)
             D’Erlon’s attack was repulsed by British cavalry acting without direct orders from Wellington. However, the ill-trained riders galloped on regardless until their horses were blown and they were virtually annihilated. By now, the massive French artillery barrage was causing havoc amongst the Allied lines on the ridge at Mont St. Jean.
          Hougoumont on the French left was meant to be a decoy. As Tim Clayton shows in his book Waterloo, all the French had to do was bottle-up the troops in Hougoumont and this they could have done merely by manning the woods in front of the farm complex without attacking. French bravado and Jerome Bonaparte’s misplaced zeal led to hundreds of French troops being drawn into an unnecessary conflict.
            Have any of your staff actually read anything bout the Battle?
            Secondly, the Prussians were not latecomers to the field. Clayton’s Chapter 4 (p. 378) is entitled The Prussians Detected Rossomme, 12-30-2p.m. And Chapter 61 (p. 465) is entitled Lobau and the Prussians Eastern flank 4.30-5.30p.m.  By five o’clock, Wellington’s Army, left and centre, had been decimated, the French artillery in particular wreaking havoc. This was Napoleon’s chance. Clayton states (p. 465 ): ‘While the cavalry charged, 7000 fresh infantry commanded by George Mouton, comte de Lobau, were advancing to deliver the knockout blow east of La Haye Sainte.’ (Proving Hougoumont was a sideshow.)
             It was the pressure exerted by Bülow’s Prussians in the French right rear at Plancenoit that led to Lobau’s men being reassigned positions to the right of the French Army to repulse this new threat. All Napoleon’s reserves, including some of the Young Guard and the Old Guard were used up fighting the Prussians.  The late attack by the Middle Guard on the British at 7-30 was also reduced as a result: ‘the Old Guard consisting of fifteen battalions, five of which were engaged or drawn up in support near Plancenoit. There remained therefore only ten battalions for a strike force, fewer than 6000 men.’ (P.530). Hence the importance of the early arrival of the Prussians to the Battle.
             Thirdly, the legacy of Waterloo. You state Waterloo was: ‘the triumph of the nation state over autocracy as the natural focus of the citizens’ allegiance. It is a triumph that has endured ever since…’ Napoleon returned from Elba without a shot being fired or a drop of blood having been spilt, and resumed power. He was much more popular than Louis XVIII who had returned to Paris ‘in the baggage train of the Allies.’ What right had Wellington and Blücher to impose an unwanted King on the French people? Absolutely none! The Allies denied the French people the leader of their choice.
               It is seldom mentioned that the Bourbons refused to pay Napoleon the two million francs agreed by treaty for the upkeep of his staff and small army at Elba. They didn’t pay his sister Pauline the 300,000 francs she was entitled to or the other monies supposed to go to the wider Bonaparte family. As Walter Runciman has said, Napoleon repeatedly spared the lives of the defeated sovereigns who grovelled at his feet and who had attacked him in the first place, financed by the British. He could easily have disposed of them. They had no such sense of honour and mercy. Francis of Austria even denied Napoleon access to his wife and child in Elba. Napoleon was never to see his son again.
                Napoleon was an enlightened ruler who was far more popular than the useless and discredited monarchs of the day. Tsar Alexander acquiesced in the murder of his own father, and slept with his sister Catherine. George III was mad, and when he wasn’t he was so pig-headed and reluctant to compromise that he lost the American Colonies. The Prince Regent was a drunk opium addict who squandered tens of millions on his own pleasure at a time when ordinary people were in dire want. Russia and Prussia still had serfdom, in effect slavery, which Napoleon outlawed in his empire.
                  Napoleon believed in religious toleration. Jews had equal rights in his territories. After Waterloo Jews were again persecuted, especially in Russia and Germany – and we know what that led to. To Heine, the great German Jewish poet and writer, Napoleon was his hero. The internationally renowned German author Goethe thought that Napoleon was the greatest man of the C19th.
                Napier, in his history of the Peninsula War, begins by saying that the Wars Against Napoleon were the result of privilege – the nobles and Kings fought against France and then Napoleon to defend the rights entrenched in the old feudal systems that still prevailed in most of monarchical Europe. The French Revolution cast a dark shadow over the Continent as far as they were concerned and Napoleon embodied the revolutionary changes. No wonder they had a pathological hatred for him – he was also a much better ruler that they were.
                In 1815 Britain had a virtual caste system like India – a country we invaded and then milked for profit for centuries. Wellington’s older brother was an expert at this. Napier laments the fact that however brave, no ordinary British soldier would be given credit for his heroic actions under fire. Only officers got medals. And no Catholic could be a General in the British Army. Most ranks were bought. Compare that with Napoleon’s Army – nearly all his Marshals  were of humble birth.  Anyone, through talent, bravery or hard work could earn a Legion of Honour under the Emperor.  All had equal opportunity – it was a meritocracy, unlike oligarchic autocratic aristocratic England. 
               Napoleon was far more tolerant and forgiving than the merciless Allies. After Cadoudal tried to murder him – in a plot sanctioned by the British Cabinet and paid for by the Bank of England – Napoleon offered him a commission in the French Army!  Despite all the assassination plots upon his life financed by Pitt and the British Cabinet, Napoleon refused to respond in kind.  He was far more noble than the self-serving, self-satisfied, self-seeking creatures in charge of politics in Britain. This was a time when the poor were crippled by forced land removals sanctioned by the Enclosure Acts and the criminal Highland Clearances: a time when the leaders of starving strikers and the destitute were hanged as revolutionaries and rebels or transported to Australia for life. One clergyman was transported for merely proof reading a protest letter.
         In 1819 at Peterloo fields peaceful protesters gathered to discuss the way this country was governed. Alarmed local magistrates sent in the militia who sabred and butchered men, women and children who were no threat to anybody. Castlereagh lauded the magistrates with praise in Parliament. Wellington likewise believed in keeping the people down and he became a very reactionary Prime Minister.  Ironically, as Clayton mentions, a surviving Waterloo soldier died at Peterloo! A victim of the times – an unknown victim to The Times – then and now.
           England in 1815 was mired in poverty and inequality and real class warfare. To the powers-that-be the poor were by definition - revolting. No wonder that Hazlitt and Byron and many other Englishmen preferred Napoleon to the rapacious heartless oligarchs in London.
          So – the Times may not be a-changing – but the drivel it writes will be answered by those in the know. The Tabloid Times of 2015 is little better than the gutter press of 1815. It persists in uttering unmitigated tosh in the guise of English history. A pox be upon it!

John Tarttelin M.A. History; Fellow of the international Napoleonic Society, (Legion of Merit); author of  The Real Napoleon – The Untold Story.

© John Tarttelin 2015
 A Souladream Production


Monday, 15 June 2015

WATERLOO by Tim Clayton

I have just finished Tim Clayton's book which I much enjoyed. His narrative is fast paced and fair to all sides. In fact, he shows just how little Wellington deserves sole praise and the massive accolades given to him over the years by British writers for 'his' victory. Clayton says there were 26,000 English in Wellington's army and 30,000 Germans. And 45,000 Prussians fought at the battle. It was a battle 'the Germans won'. Basically, Wellington and the Allies hung on by the skin of their teeth and the smoke and confusion of battle was such that Wellington really did not know what was happening a lot of the time, especially on his weak left wing where he hoped and expected the Prussians to arrive. The losses that the British Army suffered at Quatre Bras meant that he did not really have much option but to hold on as best he could. He deserves credit for the foresight in having chosen the field at Mont St. Jean to fight a defensive battle and for his fortitude on the day - although the quote that he was in such despair before the Prussians attacked in force that he had tears in his eyes was interesting.
   The Prussians were beaten at Ligny - 65,000 French against 80,000 Prussians! Had D'Erlon's 20,000 men fought at either Quatre Bras or Ligny there would have been no Waterloo. And had Blucher, unhorsed and feared lost on June 16th, not had such an inveterate hatred of Napoleon and the French, Gneisenau would had led the Prussian army away from the British not towards them after Ligny. When the Prussians began arriving in force on the afternoon of June 18th Lobau's men and others who were preparing to attack the weakened Allied left and centre, were diverted and the day was 'saved' hours before the battle actually ended.
   Clayton pays due attention to the terrible weather - what he does not know was that the eruption of Tambora in April 1815 was very likely the reason for the very unusual weather that summer. It also led to the year 'without a summer' in 1816 when the weather was so atrocious that Mary Shelley, Byron et al were stuck indoors and decided to tell each other ghost stories - Frankenstein was the result.
   I was pleased to see that Clayton absolves Napoleon of the accusation that he lied to his own men when the Prussians attacked, saying it was Grouchy. Napoleon, he states, wanted and needed the 'new arrivals' to be Grouchy so much that he was only too pleased to latch onto his own hope. The author quotes several pro-Napoleonic British soldiers and surgeons etc, who say that the Bourbon restoration was hated by the French people and that Louis XVIII was only restored by British bayonets. However, Clayton also says: "Most Frenchmen were heartily sick of Bonaparte after Waterloo," mentioning a cartoon printed in August 1815 as proof - a cartoon published to please the Bourbons obviously. I think it safe to say that most Frenchmen and women preferred Napoleon to old Bungy!
   He mentions too, that the treaty of capitulation negotiated by Davout after Waterloo was ignored by the Bourbons who instituted The White Terror - and that Wellington lamely said that the treaty: "was not binding on the new royalist government." In fact, Lord Liverpool insisted that the French persecute former Bonapartists and many were murdered without trial.
   Above all, this book shows how sheer luck can have such an important affect on the affairs of men. Waterloo was not the great British 'victory' acclaimed over the years. So weak and decimated were the British and the Allies at the end of the battle that only the Prussians could pursue the retreating French. Clayton even infers that Wellington lost more men than Napoleon on the battlefield on June 18th.
   Napoleon never wanted to fight this campaign and having marched to Paris earlier that year without a shot being fired, and enthusiastically welcomed back by most Frenchmen, he should have been allowed to govern France accordingly. But the privileged European aristocratic elites who were still terrified by the Revolution were never going to allow that. And as an ironic footnote - at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, when ordinary people were attacked by the militia for merely discussing how their own country should be governed, a Waterloo veteran was killed by his own British cavalry. They can't blame Napoleon for that...
   Well deserving of four stars.
C. John Tarttelin 2015
A Souladream Production

Saturday, 30 May 2015


One of the worst books I have ever read - biased, bigoted and totally one-sided. According to Holmes, Napoleon was responsible for everything, even Prussia's attack on France in 1806 and the American war with England in 1812. He writes as a pseudo-historian of the Esdaille stripe with 'hater of Napoleon' stamped through every one of his inaccurate historical vignettes. To him and his ilk who class Napoleon as inherently evil and Great Britain as the font of all justice and mercy, there can be precious few redeeming features for the French Emperor. I read it in one day - all the better to swallow the unpalatable tosh it contains and get it over with. What a massive disappointment this book is. His mistakes are legion - he even describes the Battle of Waterloo as being fought at 1-30 a.m and 6.00 a.m on page 145! This book hasn't even been proof read!
   He talks of Nelson being made a duke by the King of Naples for his recapture of the territory without the merest mention of that one-armed bandit's murder of dozens of so-called rebels in Naples in 1798 who had surrendered in expectation of being shipped home. Nelson turned up after the surrender had been arranged and took it upon himself to execute the prisoners instead. No one knows how many he killed because the King had relevant papers burnt. Holmes mentions the Cadoudal plot without any reference to the British gold that financed it - one of many attempts on Napoleon's life financed by London even during the Peace of Amiens!
   He concludes his diatribe and character assassination with: "We too easily forget his overweening egotism and his shocking cynicism, his destructive wars and vain conquests..." having titled one passage "The 100 days: Return And Attack". There is no mention of the fact that Napoleon returned to Paris in 1815 without a drop of blood being spilt; that he was much more popular than the useless Bourbons; and that he personal wrote to all the European leaders requesting peace - letters that were ignored by the reactionary elites who proscribed him as a villain deserving of being murdered only. Oh what peace lovers were these Coalition members! 
   Napoleon had sought peace with England in early 1805 long before Trafalgar and long before the British bribes that coaxed Austria and Russia to attack France. Britain instigated most of the so-called 'Napoleonic Wars'. Britain massacred 2,000 Danes, men, women and children, as they slept in Copenhagen when their navy bombarded this neutral country without a declaration of war in 1807 just in case Napoleon siezed the Danish navy before they did.
   The policy of the corrupt warmongering British Cabinet was usually to pay other countries to do their dirty work for them. As Colonel John Elting has written - without British gold there could have been no European wars because Austria and Russia were basically bankrupt. Napoleon was attacked in 1805, 1806, 1807, and 1809, and only after his letters of peace were ignored in 1815 did he very reluctantly go to war. As an Englishman and historian myself, I despise fellow so-called historians who lie and misrepresent what REALLY happened merely to put their own nation or their own national heroes in the best light. In colloquial parlance - this book sucks.

 C. 2015 John Tarttelin
A Souladream Production

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


Eastlake – Napoleon on the Bellerophon


For Ben Weider – in fond memory


‘It was the infatuate resistance that England made from the beginning to Napoleon that raised him to the mighty pitch of power he attained. No sooner were the foreign powers humbled and exhausted by the arm of his power, than fresh out-pourings of our gold stimulated them to new resistance.’1

As the two hundreth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo rapidly approaches we can expect the usual vitriolic attacks upon Napoleon and misrepresentations of his achievements and legacy, especially here in Britain. One book published recently calls him a ‘monster’. Such language belongs to fairy stories and whenever a supposed historian uses such terminology he is undermining his own work by exhibiting naked and nationalistic prejudice of the most blatant kind.
   I have news for such writers. Not only are they often wrong in terms of historical fact, people were saying the exact opposite long before they were even born. George Home was one such person. A British sailor who actually fought against the French, Home was a midshipman on the Bellerophon when Napoleon sought asylum upon the vessel after Waterloo. He met Napoleon in person and therefore his words and views count for much more than the splenetic utterances of latter day historians who have obviously not done their Home work.
    George Home was born on December 8th 1794 in a poverty stricken cottage lost amidst the wild moors of Scotland and was lucky to survive his first winter. His humble origins belie the fact that his father was ‘the heir-male and representative of one of the most ancient families in the annals of Border history.’2 Hence George entitled his life story Memoirs Of An Aristocrat And Reminiscences of the Emperor Napoleon.3 Throughout his life he would try in vain to regain his noble title in a Dickensian legal battle with another branch of his family.
   Listening to the stories told by his half-blind father – the old Commodore – of ‘the swarthy beauties of Tongataboo’4 and his circumnavigation of the globe with Captain Cook must have fired the boy’s imagination. Indeed, the Commodore had been with the great explorer when he was killed at Owyhee (Hawaii) and had a host of tales from that intrepid voyage alone. So it comes as no surprise that George decided to go to sea himself.
   Born a Scot, Home fought for England against a Corsican who had become the Emperor of France. But unlike many of his fellow sailors, George would get to meet Napoleon in person and spend three weeks with him aboard the Bellerophon in 1815. It was a topsy-turvy time of changing allegiances and swapping sides for countries and individuals. The young Napoleon had even applied to join the British Navy! Many professional soldiers and sailors fought for nations that were not their own. The Captain of the Bellerophon, Maitland, was also a Scot, while the brutal captain of Home’s previous vessel had been Irish: ‘a more pestilential pigmy, and engrained petty tyrant never trode a quarter-deck.’5 Well might Churchill encapsulate the British Navy with the phrase ‘rum, sodomy and the lash.’ It was a harsh environment where many men were pressed into service much against their will. Although the British Admiralty might claim that they were fighting for the freedom of the seas, many of their own vessels were full of pressed men, little more than slaves forbidden to set foot ashore for months, or even years on end, in case they ‘deserted’.
   Despite such a background, George Home was a thoughtful and humane man who could clearly see the big picture. His empathy for Napoleon and his psychological awareness of the history being made around him makes for a remarkable account by an exceedingly perceptive eyewitness. Meeting Napoleon in the flesh was obviously the greatest event in his life: ‘How distinct is every feature, every trait, every line of that majestic countenance in my mind’s eye at this moment, now that two-and-twenty years have passed away: but who could witness such a scene and ever forget it.’6 Home wrote his memoir in 1838.
   It is worth repeating, that George Home had fought against Napoleon and was his enemy. All he would have heard from his superiors would have been negative and hostile references to the Emperor of France. Yet he describes how, on the Bellerophon: ‘us young gentlemen took up our station on the poop to feast our eyes with a sight of the great man whose name had been sounded in our ears since we drew our first breath, and become, like a second nature to us, - a name of fear.’7
   In his Napoleon’s Wars (sic), Charles Esdaile mentions none of the following historians and military men in either his index or bibliography: Bourgogne; Home; Maitland; Napier; Runciman; or a single line from any of the many books by Ben Weider. Of sources in general, the great American historian Colonel John Elting states at the opening of his bibliography in Swords Around A Throne : ‘In preparing this book I have used original sources whenever possible but have ignored the alleged memoirs of Louis Bourrienne, Paul Barras, Clare de Remusat, Laure Permon, and Miot de Melito, which are mendacious and worthless.’8 In contrast, Esdaile quotes Bourrienne eight times; Barras six; Remusat seven; Permon five times; and Miot de Melito twice.9 One is tempted to see a pattern here. It is strange how sources generally accepted to be more favorable to Napoleon are never even alluded to, yet alone quoted from. And Esdaile does not mention Colonel John Elting either…
   What George Home wrote in 1838 drives a coach and horses through Esdaile’s contrived thesis. And let us remember, Home was there, he was not writing nearly two hundred years after the events in question. He literally knew what he was talking about, having lived through it and experienced it. Home is an excellent primary source on Napoleonic history. As an enemy of Napoleon his testament is even more revealing.
   Home also warns us about Bourrienne: ‘No one who has lifted the pen has done anything like justice to the French Emperor save Bourrienne, and even he is often carried away by prejudice and envy.’10 He goes on to explain why he is not to be trusted. Napoleon’s ‘old school-fellow and worthy secretary was troubled with a small itching for the pecunia, which sometimes overran discretion and exceeded the bounds prescribed by the economical Napoleon; and in one or two instances we find, by his own confession, though under the head of complaint, that he is very unceremoniously stripped of his ill-gotten gains by his lynx-eyed schoolmate of Brienne…’11 Yet Esdaile appears to trust his doubtful scribblings and believes what he says.
   Similarly, Home warns us about Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist in regard to his biography of Napoleon: ‘really from him I expected something good; but it proved a complete failure… Sir Walter Scott has too much of the old school about him, and too much of the politician, I mean that petty policy, a fear of offending the powers that be… to do justice to the character of Napoleon.’ And Home adds: ‘The proper historian of that wonderful man is probably still unborn.’12
   Home’s description of Napoleon’s arrival on the Bellerophon mark the situation and the man as something truly exceptional: ‘when Admiral Hotham and the officers of the Bellerophon uncovered in the presence of Napoleon, they treated him with the respect due to the man himself, to his innate greatness, which did not lie in the crown of France, or the iron crown of Italy, but the actual superiority of the man to the rest of his species.’13 From the moment he appeared on the deck of the Billy Ruffian, Napoleon electrified the whole crew, all the officers and especially the men.
   From the very start, George Home had a great deal of sympathy for the fallen Emperor’s plight: ‘Most certainly, had he once imagined that we were capable of treating him the way we did, he would surely have made a desperate effort for personal liberty; but such a thought, I am convinced, never struck him. We had never before refused the protection of our shores to a fallen foe, or to anyone who claimed our protection.’14
   One of Home’s shipmates could barely contain himself as Napoleon’s barge approached the Bellerophon: ‘While in this state of eager anticipation, a young midshipman, one of the Bruce’s of Kennet, I think, walked very demurely up to Manning, the boatswain… (and) gently laid hold of one of his whiskers, to which the boatswain good-naturedly submitted, as  the youngster was a great favourite with him. “Manning” says he, most sentimentally, “this is the proudest day of your life; you are this day to do the honours of this side to the greatest man the world ever produced, or ever will produce… and along with the great Napoleon, the name of Manning, the boatswain of the Bellerophon, will go down to the latest posterity; and, as a relict of that great man, permit me, my dear Manning, to preserve a lock of your hair”.’15
   Grabbing a handful of his friend’s whiskers, the young midshipman ran off howling with laughter. Even in a jest, the common English sailor knew greatness when he saw it. Meanwhile, such an epoch making occasion was not even lost on the very youngest of the Bellerophon’s crew.
   After initially being greeted as a general officer by Captain Maitland – and not with the full honours due to him in Home’s eye – Napoleon asked for a tour of the ship. As he followed the Captain: ‘a young middy who, boy-like, had got before the Emperor, and was gazing up in his face, he honoured with a tap on the head, and a pinch by the ear, and, smiling, put him to a side, which the youngster declared was the highest honour he had ever received in his life, viz. to have his ears pinched by the great Napoleon!!!’16
   So overwhelming was the effect of the Emperor’s presence that, when he was invited aboard Admiral Hotham’s ship the Superb, a rumour swept the Bellerophon that Hotham’s men were going to have the honour of carrying Napoleon back to Blighty: ‘so that our man thought we would try the effect of our ten rounds upon the Superb, sooner than quit Boney; and so much alarmed was our ship’s company that this would really be attempted, that they came aft in a body to Captain Maitland, to state their intention of resisting by force any attempt of Admiral Hotham to detain the person of Napoleon…’17
   And how many bigoted and biased British historians have told us that Napoleon was hated and loathed by everyone in England? Here were the men of one of His Majesty’s vessels so besotted with their new guest that they were tempted to fire on their own Admiral rather than give him up prematurely.
   Furthermore, Home speaks at length on the underhand method of Napoleon’s capture in the first place and his admiration for: ‘the calm majesty of his deportment, through this most trying and truly tragic scene. I think, in saying tragic, I do not use an expression too strong. Castlereagh did not certainly imbrue his hands in the blood of Napoleon, but, beyond all question, the plot for his destruction was concerted between our minister and the Allies, even before this voluntary surrender, destined to commence on the deck of the Bellerophon, and to end on the scorching peak of St. Helena.’18
   George Home knew in his heart of hearts, that this was not British justice nor was it so-called English fair play.
   He had his own view of what should have happened that summer of 1815: ‘…Napoleon, instead of receiving that protection which it would have been the proudest page of our history to record, found a barren rock, a vertical sun, a tyrant of a governor, and a grave at Longwood.’19
   Home also describes a telling incident that would certainly never appear in a book by Esdaile, Black, Nicolson, Geyl, Strawson, Fregosi, or the myriad other detractors of Napoleon. During the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon: ‘observed a young British officer lying on the ground severely wounded, and likely to be crushed to death by the cavalry. Upon which he ordered him to be carried to the rear and duly attended by his own medical staff. The young man’s life was saved; - the battle was lost…’20
   The victim in question was a relative of Admiral Keith who, as fate would have it, became Napoleon’s jailor when the Bellerophon arrived at Plymouth. A letter of thanks from the Admiral to Napoleon led to Home asking some questions of the French party on board and thus he heard of this life-saving intervention. And if there was ever a riposte to those legions of ‘Napoleon-haters’, here it is in Home’s words: ‘Such an act as this, even in the plenitude of his power, when victory and his name seemed inseperable, would have redounded more to his praise than a battle won; but when one thinks of him exercising such acts of humanity, at a moment when his whole soul, great as it was, must have been absorbed in the death-struggle he was now in the midst of, where empire, name, fame, life, and liberty, hung on the slightest turn of the balance, I say, that no language can express the greatness and intrinsic humanity of that man’s character…’21
   A Home truth indeed.
   So next time you read how Napoleon supposedly covered the Continent in blood and never cared for the millions of individual soldiers who died, remember it was British gold that paid for those armies to attack him, and British politicians, safe across the Channel, who goaded their often reluctant allies to once more attack France. Yet, despite all that, here we have Napoleon himself, saving the life of a British soldier. Britannia should be hiding her face in shame.
   Home was also impressed by Napoleon’s personal manner and his attitude to the crew in general: ‘Nothing seemed so much to surprise him as the slowness of promotion in our service, and that men from before the mast, or soldiers from the ranks, were rarely promoted, be their services what they might.’22 The last thing the so-called aristocratic elite in power in Britain wanted was promotion on merit or careers open to talent. Heaven forfend! Officers bought their rank and the common soldier was brutally flogged at the drop of a hat. Whereas in France such punishment had been banned. As Home well knew: ‘With the French army, it was totally different; the most of Napoleon’s officers had been private soldiers, and owed their promotion entirely to their own merit and bravery. In his army, as well as in every other department of the state, the door was open to the humblest individual and promotion certain if the person possessed integrity and courage. With us it has been notoriously the reverse…’23
   As he studied Napoleon, Home felt that likenesses he had seen of the Emperor were accurate. He often put his hands in his breeches pocket rather than pose with his hands folded across his chest, or stood with one hand in his waistcoat while in the other his held his snuff-box. Accentuating the status of the Bellerophon’s guest even more Home adds: ‘But these are trifling matters, only worth recording of one man in a thousand years, and Napoleon being the most remarkable of the last four thousand, being thus particular in such trifles may be pardoned.’24
   When introduced to the officers of the Billy Ruffian, Napoleon had bowed slightly and smiled at each of them. Similarly, he knew how to appeal to the common man. One of the lieutenants of the marines suggested a play to while away the time: ‘What the piece was I do not recall, but when it was announced to the Emperor, by Captain Maitland, and the immortal honour of his imperial presence begged, for a few minutes, he laughed very heartily, consented instantly… Napoleon and his whole suite attended. He was much amused with those who took the female parts… after good-naturedly sitting for nearly twenty minutes, he rose, smiled to the actors, and retired.’25 There was no divine right hauteur with Napoleon. Can anyone imagine Louis XVIII, D’Artois, or even Wellington, deigning to pass the time with ‘the scum of the earth’?
   In one very moving passage, George Home shows both his sympathy and profound empathy with Napoleon. The occasion was the Emperor’s last sighting of Ushant – the very last glimpse of his beloved France. By sheer chance, Home had the morning watch: ‘I shall never forget that morning we made Ushant. I had come on deck at four in the morning… when, to my astonishment, I saw the Emperor come out of the cabin at that early hour, and make for the poop-ladder. Had I known what human misery is as well as I do now, when I have myself experienced the most cruel injustice and persecution on a lesser scale, the restlessness of Napoleon, or his being unable to close an eye, would have in no way surprised me. If a petty care can break our sleep, what must have been his feeling who had lost the fairest empire on the face of the globe; nay, who had lost a world?’26
   Anxious for the illustrious passenger’s safety on the slippery newly washed deck, Home offered him his arm and helped Napoleon up the ladder to the poop deck: ‘nodding and smiling thanks, for my attention, and pointing to the land he said, “Ushant, Cape Ushant.” I replied, “yes, sire,” and withdrew.’27 Once again, how many royals or members of the privileged elite of any of the European powers would have thanked a mere commoner for anything?
   Home could only imagine what Napoleon was thinking, but in his heartfelt sympathy he demonstrated a depth of humanity and feeling light years ahead of his ‘betters’ in London. Pocket-glass in hand, Napoleon stared at the shore, for hour, after hour, after hour: ‘In this position, he remained from five in the morning to nearly mid-day, without paying any attention to what was passing around him, or speaking to one of his suite, who had been standing behind him for several hours.’28
   Home continues: ‘No wonder he thus gazed, it was the last look of the land of his glory, and I am convinced he felt it such. What must have been his feelings in those few hours, how painful the retrospect, and how awful the look forward! – there still lay before him that land which he had made so famous, where his proud name had risen until it “o’er-shadowed the earth with his fame;” there had he been worshipped almost as a god, and bowed to by every servile knee, that now, in the hour of bitter adversity, had basely deserted and betrayed him.’29
   Napoleon had lost everything, his empire, all his power and influence, all those he had ever loved. They were gone forever, forever… It was enough to crush the soul of a stoic, yet Home admired the way Napoleon faced his fate. He said absolutely nothing: ‘his emotion was visible, he hung upon the land until it looked only a speck in the distance… He uttered not a word as he tottered down the poop ladder, his head hung forward, so as to render his countenance scarcely visible…’30
   Yet, on his daily walks upon the quarter-deck: ‘when the five children of Lady Bertrand were sure to find their way to the Emperor’s side, and, by touching his hand or taking hold of the skirts of his coat, endeavoured to attract his attention, looking imploringly up at him to be honoured with a smile or a tap on the head; this was never denied the tiny supplicant
   Napoleon had lost all his power and prestige, yet he had always had the time for a wounded British soldier or a simple child. So much for the puerile espousers of vitriol who called him an ‘ogre’; so much for Esdaile branding him the ‘ubiquitous brigand’; so much for Robert Harvey or Nigel Nicolson calling him a ‘monster’.32 So much tosh.
   Such verbal chaff had been common currency for years back in Blighty as the British Establishment scythed through Napoleon’s reputation and achievements and denigrated him as a man and as a ruler in any way they could. The result was apparent to George Home when the Bellerophon docked at Torbay. Captain Maitland sent dispatches to Lord Keith via a first lieutenant who was conveyed to the shore by Home. Almost immediately the small boat was besieged by a bevy of young ladies who had heard that Napoleon was on the ship. This is the sort of nonsense he heard: ‘What like was he – was he really a man? Were his hands and clothes all over blood when he came on board?... Were we not all frightened of him? Was his voice like thunder? Could I possibly get them a sight of the monster…’33
   Cartoons by Gilray depicting Napoleon as a malignant dwarf had also fed into the mix of slander and mockery flying in the Emperor’s direction. Home replied: ‘that the reports they had heard were all nonsense; that the Emperor was not only a man, but a very handsome man too; young withal, had no more blood upon his hands and clothes than was now upon their pure white dresses; that if by chance they got a look of him at the gangway, they would fall in love with him directly; that so far from his hands being red with blood, they were as small, white, and soft as their own charming fingers, and his voice, instead of resembling thunder, was as sweet and musical as their own. This account of the Emperor’s beauty perfectly astonished the recluses of Torbay; some misbelieved altogether, while the curiosity of others was excited beyond all bounds.’34
   The most famous man on Earth was soon at Plymouth Sound, the Bellerophon riding at anchor. No wonder thousands of small vessels all crowded around the ship, their occupants eager to catch the merest glimpse of the fallen Emperor. Napoleon had become ‘Enemy Mine’ and everyone wanted a piece of him. Home speaks of ‘the enormous rush that was made from every part of the country to Plymouth Sound, to get a single glance of the hero of Marengo and Lodi Bridge, he must have conceived that he was as much admired by the English, as by his own beloved French. The Sound was literally covered with boats; the weather was delightful; the ladies looked as gay as butterflies; bands of music in several of the boats played favourite French airs, to attract, if possible, the Emperor’s attention, that they might get a sight of him, which, when effected, they went off, blessing themselves that they had been so fortunate.’35 A strange reception for a monster and an ogre that…
   Then came the terrible news that the famous prisoner was to be banished to Saint Helena, a tiny speck of rock lost in the wilderness of the southern Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon was stunned and horrified. To rub salt into the wound, news came from the Admiralty saying that from henceforth he was to be addressed only as ‘general’ and not as Emperor. George Home was disgusted: ‘How ridiculous and contemptible was this conduct in or ministry. We had exchanged prisoners with him repeatedly as Emperor of France, and we had made peace with him as First Consul of the French Republic; but Castlereagh took his cue from the holy allies, who grudged him a mouthful of air, far less the title of Emperor…’36 He goes much further in denouncing the policy of his own government: ‘I never think of the proceedings which I then witnessed, without feeling my blood boil with indignation, and my face blushing crimson for my degraded country.’37 Home was as psychologically perceptive as ever: ‘Then why display such a mean fear of him, for our very cruelty bespoke our terror.’38
   Home compares Napoleon with Socrates: ‘both done to death by petty tyrants who feared and hated them.’39 Of England’s many wars with the French, he is equally forthright. In the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, Napoleon ‘lost the most numerous, best disciplined, best appointed, and most heroic army that ever the world witnessed, in the trackless regions of the frozen north. His invincible courage and perseverance, however, had re-assembled a second army, nearly as numerous as the first… even with those green troops, so mighty was the genius of the man, and so terrible his name, even in adversity, that the scales hung long nearly equally balanced between him and combined Europe.’40 And when France was invaded in 1814: ‘Still, I think, at that moment, Napoleon appeared greater than at any former period of his unparalleled career… Treachery, however, did what numbers could not effect.’41
   Home is scathing about the resultant peace and of how ‘most beneficial it might have been to this country, had the conclusion of the treaty fallen into the hands of a man of sense, or in his senses, or one who had the good of his country at heart; but Castlereagh sacrificed the best interests of the nation to a vain feeling of disinterested glory, instead if making those continental despots, into whose countries we had been pouring our money, as if our hordes were inexhaustible, for the previous twenty years, relinquish their mercantile advantages to us, who had saved them from destruction…’42 He calls it ‘a useless and unprofitable war, which, but for the catastrophe of Napoleon’s grand army in Russia, must have terminated in the complete subjugation of Europe to the French yoke and the downfall of this country.’43
   Notwithstanding his admiration for Napoleon, George Home was a patriot.
   He further decries all the poverty and misery suffered by the British people after the war ended as the country was virtually bankrupt after all the colossal subsidies it had given to its continental allies.
   Of Napoleon’s final campaign in 1815 Home says: ‘Thus, not unprepared for war, he asked for peace, which was indignantly rejected, and, of course, he had nothing for it but to submit his fate to the chance of arms, which ended in a wanton sacrifice of the lives of fifty thousand of the flower of Europe.’44 Yes, Esdaile, Black, Nicolson et al – Home blames the British Government for this unnecessary bout of renewed carnage.
   To Home, Napoleon’s legacy is obvious: ‘ He shewed us what one little human creature like ourselves could accomplish in a span so short. The fire of his intellect communicated like electricity to all around him and while under its influence, men performed actions quite beyond themselves.’45
   When Napoleon left the Bellerophon: ‘Here, indeed, was adversity, and here was true greatness struggling against it; but to a mere mortal it was a heart-rending scene.’46 When the moment came for the Emperor to disembark, it was a scene much more dramatic than any of Shakespeare’s plays: ‘What a horrid gloom overhung the ship: had his execution been about to take place there could not have prevailed a more dead silence, so much so, that had a pin fallen from one of the tops on the deck, I am convinced it would have been heard; and to any one who has known the general buz of our seventy-fours, even at the quietest hour, it is a proof how deeply the attention of every man on board must have been riveted.’47
   Quoting Gibbon, Home says: ‘when a nation loses its generosity, it is a proof of its being on the decline,’48 and adds: ‘we must only attribute the barbarous treatment of Napoleon to the vile faction by which the country was then governed, and not the absolute degradation of principle in the nation at large.’49 Home continues: ‘It will, however, be a vile stain upon our name to the latest ages; and the more the character of Napoleon gains its true place in the page of history, the more dastardly will appear our conduct. Could only Castlereagh and the Holy Allies feel the odium of indignant posterity, it would be well; but it is England, upon England will the odium fall…’50
   Thus does a true patriot describe the treatment of his Great Enemy.
   Home struggles to understand how ‘England’s great name was so degraded,’51 and how his own country could be so much in the wrong: ‘I have often asked what had we to do with the French and Napoleon. To drive him within his own frontier, I confess, our right extended, but no farther.’52 As for Napoleon’s return to France and the Hundred Days, Home describes how the French: ‘with shouts of love, almost amounting to adoration, they received in their bosom their glorious chief, covered with the laurels of a hundred victories…. But I still say, what had we to do with Napoleon and the French people? They hailed him to a man… yet nothing would serve England and the Allies, but they must depose Napoleon, and thrust a hated Bourbon upon France, even in the final struggle, at the expense of fifty thousands souls, the choicest in Europe.’53
   There are few things more noble in life than to offer succour to a vanquished foe. George Home’s attitude and behaviour is eminently worthy of respect and praise. As a great Briton, I salute him. Home’s disgust and revulsion with the political posturing and flagrant warmongering of his own government is still ringing down the years. After apportioning blame, his conclusion regarding England’s wars against Napoleon is stark and unforgiving: ‘Our very resistance had made him the great man he became.’54 The very last thing that loathsome politicians like Castlereagh, Canning, Liverpool and Pitt wanted to do, was to give peace a chance.

© 2014 John Tarttelin FINS

A Souladream Production


1.   Home George   Memoirs Of An Aristocrat And Reminiscences of the Emperor Napoleon (London: Whittaker & Co., 1838) Republished by Forgotten Books 2012   257
2.   Ibid. 3
3.   He also adds: By A Midshipman of the Bellerophon
4.   Ibid. 4
5.   Ibid. 171
6.   Ibid. 252
7.   Ibid. 237
8.   Elting Colonel John R.   Swords Around A Throne (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989) 735
9.   Esdaile Charles   Napoleon’s Wars (London: Penguin Books Ltd 2007) He quotes :-
      Barras, Paul de 27, 29, 33-7, 39, 49, 56
      Bourrienne, Louis de 19-20, 28, 31, 55-6, 62, 93, 112, 192
      Permon, Laure 22, 31, 57, 150, 152
      Miot de Melito, André 50, 55-6
      Rémusat, Claire de  63, 127, 129, 142, 192, 207, 358
10. Home op. cit. 220
11. Ibid. 221
12. Ibid. 223
13. Ibid. 226-227
14. Ibid. 212
15. Ibid. 218
16, Ibid. 225.
17. Ibid. 230
18. Ibid. 231
19. Ibid. 236
20. Ibid. 241-242
21. Ibid. 242
22. Ibid. 232
23. Ibid. 232
24. Ibid. 238
25. Ibid. 238-239
26. Ibid. 233
27. Ibid. 233
28. Ibid. 234
29. Ibid. 234
30  Ibid. 234-235
31. Ibid. 236
32. Esdaile describes him thus on the back cover of Michael Broers’ new book Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny. Robert Harvey and Nigel Nicolson call him a ‘monster’ in their books The War of Wars: The Great European conflict 1793-1815 and Napoleon 1812.
33. Home op. cit. 239
34. Ibid. 240
35. Ibid. 243
36. Ibid. 246
37. Ibid. 246
38, Ibid. 246
39. Ibid. 96
40. Ibid. 145-146
41. Ibid. 146
42. Ibid. 147
43. Ibid. 147
44. Ibid. 211
45. Ibid. 223
46. Ibid. 252
47. Ibid. 253
48. Ibid. 254
49. Ibid. 254
50. Ibid. 254
51. Ibid. 255
52. Ibid. 255
53. Ibid. 256
54. Ibid. 258


Elting Colonel John R. Swords Around A Throne (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989)
Esdaile Charles Napoleon’s Wars (London: Penguin Books Ltd 2007)
Home George Memoirs Of An Aristocrat And Reminiscences of the Emperor Napoleon (London: Whittaker & Co., 1838) Published by Forgotten Books 2012

A Must Read for all serious Napoleonic Scholars