REPRESENTATIVE FOR FRANCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL NAPOLEONIC SOCIETY OF MONTREAL
Reviews THE REAL NAPOLEON: The Untold Story
At the I.N.S., I personally know a good number of “Napoleon’s soldiers” and valiant are they all, but without wishing offence to the others, I think there is one who has demonstrated exceptional merit.
In fact, John Tarttelin is a "Soldier of Napoleon" cut off in enemy territory, that is to say in this particular context, England – not an easy task – and he belongs to that select cohort of the most active members of the I.N.S., and as such is an honorary member.
English-speaking visitors to our site (not forgetting that you can read some of his writings translated on our French site) are familiar with his articles that are in equal measure erudite and scathing, and always solidly argued. This makes them a formidable challenge. And unacceptable to some. And those “some” are numerous.
John practices the profession of historian, and how controversial he is in his own country, as mentioned earlier!
In France, just giving Napoleon an image different from the stereotype of bloodthirsty tyrant, etc. is a herculean challenge, a “rash” act that immediately arouses accusations of “Napoleonatry."1 So, imagine the energy that John had to deploy to try to have his work published and I do not think that I am betraying any confidences by here briefly mentioning his endless “arm wrestling” with his publisher, because in so doing, I merely wish to pay tribute to his perseverance during a long “manhunt" in which he was “taken for a ride.”
1 A small experience of my own along the same lines: through a professional contact, I sent my book on the 1812 campaign in Russia to a well-known, major London literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg. I was looking for an opening abroad, but definitely not in England. After expressing his appreciation of the work, his verdict was that my book was “too favourable to Napoleon and too hostile to England.” No comment needed!
Two examples: John, who reveres Ben Weider as much as I do and in fact dedicated his work to him, discovered that his publisher had, without consulting him, added an appendix to his text. And not just about some detail, but about the famed “discovery” of eminent Swiss scientists, who concluded, after measuring his pants, that the Prisoner of Saint Helena had indeed died from his iconic stomach cancer.
How could John possibly accept such a dishonest and dishonourable compromise? A second example: after eight months of procrastination, he had another surprise, an unpleasant one as you might suspect. When he received the proofs for correction, he found that this same publishing wheeler-dealer had of his own accord cut 3,000 words from the original text, and – coincidence? – including everything that was favourable to Napoleon, all references to the I.N.S., and all articles citing the “affair” – meaning the poisoning of Napoleon.
Who could still doubt that on the other side of the Channel also, this is a topic that must be suppressed?
“GO LOOK ELSEWHERE!”
Obviously it would take a very cynically minded person to suspect for an instant that there may have been the slightest connection between the publisher in question and the Fondation Napoléon, where, unless I am very much mistaken, two of the officials are... English.
You should also have a dirty mind to suspect any possible collusion between this British publisher, panic-stricken to see such “heretical” material bear his imprint, and the reigning authorities of Napoleonic studies in France, who are known for their great honesty on this subject, together with their relentless efforts to impose a stony silence using all means at their disposal – and I assure you, they are many.
For the last straw in dishonesty, the publisher, without informing the author – the mind boggles at such contempt! – began to advertise this adulterated manuscript on a major online site, Amazon US and UK, not that I wish to mention any names.
And we thought censorship was a thing of the past! It continues to thrive where
Napoleon is concerned. And this is just as true in France.1
1 In contrast, the sordid pamphlet in which Claude Ribbe gleefully spews his venom over Napoleon has
had no difficulty in being republished.
John gave instructions that his manuscript be published as provided for under the terms of the contract. The only response from the publisher, taken aback by the author’s resistance to his dictates, was, “Go look elsewhere!”
If, as often happens in France, where many more or less amateur authors are willing to accept any conditions in order to get published, John had indeed given way, his book would had been published, but in a completely emasculated form. Ultimately, he decided to appeal to Amazon’s publishing platform that, not much bothered with these absurd and dishonest disputes, published the book whose cover you see below.
A PLEA FOR THE TRUTH
More than a book in the ordinary sense of the term, “The Real Napoleon - The Untold Story” is above all a passionately argued, factual refutation that consigns to the trash, where it rightly belongs, all the dishonour heaped on the memory of Napoleon since his death in 1821.
I shall not dwell on what John Tarttelin has written on the career of the Emperor, but I do note his original approach in recounting some major episodes of what we justly term the “Epic” of Napoleon’s life. He draws upon the accounts of two icons of the Grande Armée, Coignet and the endearing and intelligent Sergeant Bourgogne of the Imperial Guard, the great “reporter” of the Russian campaign.
And John’s tirades, what verve!
Tirades against the bad faith and dishonesty of so many English historians, authors and journalists, who, in the tradition of the cartoonists and polemicists of the time, heap insults on Napoleon that we French have the imbecility and cowardice to take for granted, without ever questioning or refuting or even protesting the attack. So Tarttelin rejects the alleged atrocities – don’t be afraid of the word, it’s in common use – which Napoleon was supposed to be guilty of. I shan’t go over it again, we all know how that tune goes. So the author counterattacks where it hurts and takes on England’s two “superstars” – Nelson and Wellington.
The author gives us a timely reminder of what can only be called the Massacre of Copenhagen in 1807. Since Denmark did not want to join in the anti-French crusade, its capital was attacked without any warning or declaration of war by the combined forces of the army and the Royal Navy, at the head of which we find the names Wellington and Nelson. This constituted an act of piracy that was unprecedented in the ethos of the time, which caused some two thousand civilian casualties and reduced to ashes over half of the city.
Was Napoleon ever guilty of such a violation, or such a crime, to be more precise?
And on the question of Wellington, John Tarttelin clearly demolishes the clever manipulation that has always tried to pass off the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo as a victory for England’s symbolic hero. Completely overlooked is that detestable thug Blucher, who “saved his skin!”
Regarding Nelson, John recounts a little known, or rather, carefully concealed fact: in 1799, in the kingdom of Naples, he hanged – yes, I say hanged like a bandit – the Neapolitan Admiral Francesco Caracciolo, Duke of Brienza, off the yardarm of the frigate Minerva. They were brothers in arms, since both had fought the French under the command of Admiral Hood!
THE TRUTH? “A CASUALTY OF THE PROPAGANDA WAR”
Chapter 13 opens with a statement that I think deserves to be quoted:
“In his lifetime, Napoleon faced the most vitriolic and scabrous attacks imaginable from the British press and Establishment. No lie was too big, no exaggeration too outrageous, no defamation was beyond the pale. English gold for the sweaty palms of his would-be assassins was not enough, the Cabinet and the warmongers in parliament wanted to ensure his political assassination as well. Even today, this pathetic one-sidedness continues – and from people who consider themselves historians. Correspondents and academics, some with titles and others without, seem to be writing as if they still lived in the C19th. To them it is as if the British Empire still exists. To many, truth is a mere casualty of a continuing propaganda war.”
The quotation has a painful relevance when one knows the appalling vileness that has always characterized, and continues to typify, the British press, and not just the aptly named “gutter press”.
A few representative examples.
Here is a contemptible comparison with the "Emperor" of the Central African
Republic, Bokassa the First, described by the Daily Mail as an “imperial clown” following in the footsteps of his “hero.”
And guess who that hero is!
In the Daily Telegraph, a review of a book on Napoleon and his family was titled as follows by Nigel Nicholson, the name of the journalist (sic): “Childhood of a Monster.”
The same individual does not hesitate to state pedantically that “Napoleon saw nothing of the retreat from Russia.”
Another journalist (still sic) named Peter Vansittart of the Sunday Telegraph flings in his readers’ faces the supreme insult to Napoleon, the one that gets Claude Ribbe licking his lips and on which he bases his business:
“It’s not a great distance from Napoleon to Hitler.”
Our friend Tarttelin also takes the opportunity to issue a timely reminder that the real “inventors” of the evil of concentration camps were not the Nazis but... the English during the Boer War (1899-1902), and that another English hero, Lord Kitchener, interned some two hundred thousand people in camps in order to break the resistance of the Boer people.
At least twenty thousand women, children and old people perished miserably of hunger and disease. The brave fellow! But he is not an “ogre” like the detested Napoleon I.
A COURAGEOUS BOOK AGAINST DISHONESTY
I shall cease quoting examples and leave readers to discover in this uncompromising work all the charges of infamy – unparalleled in history – by means of which the British government wanted – and still wants – to destroy a good man by spitting on his memory, while accusing him of being guilty of all the evils that England itself had wrought. Shame on it and its ministers!
However, make no mistake, “The Real Napoleon - The Untold Story” is not a book against England – which would be rather unpalatable from an English writer – this is a book against dishonesty, against misinformation, and against meanness, cynicism and manipulation of all kinds.
One could also write the same, and doubtless worse, about France.
No, this courageous book is the work of a man of honour, saddened to see his country compromised in a degrading plot to discredit the most famous person in history, not only in France, but in all of Europe.
This is a salutary volume for history in general and, more specifically, for the man to whom Ben Weider dedicated this site: Napoleon.
A book you must read.
© 2013 Jean-Claude Damamme
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