Walter Runciman: Nelson and Napoleon
‘Napoleon, when at the height of his fame, was looked upon by the European Powers as a man whose lust for conquest was a terrible menace to all constituted authority. The oligarchies thought themselves bound to combine against him in order to reseat the Bourbons on the throne of France and restore law and order to that distracted country. What a travesty of the actual facts!’1
This was the Big Lie told to generations of British children and to which most English historians have subscribed. Baptized in this polluted historical font they have drenched their pages with liberal drops of venom and bile - proclaiming Napoleon to be a veritable Anti-Christ. Thus initiated, they have continued to casually toss mistruths and misrepresentations between themselves until they have constructed a catechism of calumny they all endorse. It is an original sin that few contemporary historians can escape from. At its most basic it is Orwellian: England Good - Napoleon Bad.
The truth was very different: ‘The people of France had risen against the tyranny and oppression of the French Kings and nobles, and out of the welter of the Revolution Napoleon rose to power and, by his magnetic personality, welded the chaotic elements into unity, framed laws which are still in operation, and led his country to wonderful heights of glory.’2
Walter Runciman was born on July 6th 1847 in Dunbar, Scotland, little more than a quarter of a century after the death of Napoleon on the island of Saint Helena. It could be said that that the young Scotsman had salt water in his veins. In 1855 the family was visited by three sailors over six feet three inches tall, a grandfather and two great-uncles. These seadogs had fought at Aboukir Bay, Copenhagen and Trafalgar and each of them had boarded Spanish and French vessels brandishing cutlasses. How the small boy must have revelled in their tales of the death of Nelson, storms, seamanship and derring-do. Not surprisingly young Walter soon saw himself as a ‘powder monkey’ in the making. However, three of his mother’s brothers had drowned at sea and her own father had been ruined by the infamous pressgang, so she was far from happy when he left home at twelve to become an apprentice seaman.3
In his book Drake, Nelson and Napoleon written while the First World War was still raging in 1917,4 Runciman’s love of the sea is obvious. Of Drake, he remarks that: ‘Having smashed his antagonist, he regarded it as plain duty in the name of God to live on his beaten foe and seize their treasure of gold, silver, diamonds, works of art, etc., wherever these could be laid hold of,’5 and he says of Queen Elizabeth Ist: ‘She was never mentally disturbed by the moral side of the great deeds that brought her vast stores of plunder.’6 This should be borne in mind by British writers who castigate Napoleon for seizing art treasures in Italy in 1796 on the orders of The Directory.
Brought up to see Nelson as a hero and Napoleon as the enemy, Runciman was surprised to find that many British sailors had a lot of sympathy for the fallen Emperor - there were many songs and sea shanties written about him. Nevertheless, when he purchased a copy of Walter Scott’s Napoleon7 to while away a long voyage, he expected his then anti-Napoleon views to be substantiated. However, he was so struck by the one-sided nature of the biography that he came to the conclusion that it was little more than an Establishment stitch-up. Its dual aims were to absolve the British Government of any wrongdoing during the so-called Napoleonic Wars and to damn Napoleon in the eyes of contemporaries and posterity.
In regard to Nelson and Napoleon, Runciman states in the preface of his book that: ‘It would be futile to draw a comparison between the two men. The one was a colossal human genius, and the other, extraordinary in the art of his profession, was entirely without the faculty of understanding or appreciating the distinguished man he flippantly raged at from his quarterdeck.’8
Although he admires Nelson and sees him as a great national figure, Runciman is one of the few British historians to point out that he was a hero with feet of clay and a very flawed human being. In particular he describes the catastrophic effect that two women had upon him - Queen Caroline of Naples and his real femme fatale, Emma Hamilton. Nelson had an almost childlike need for adoration and approbation, especially from women. When his ego was flattered he became as putty in their hands. Their baleful influence led him to make terrible mistakes both as an individual and as a representative of his country. He was also incredibly self-obsessed. He might accept that the earth revolved around the sun, but he was convinced that the universe was centred upon him personally: ‘Nelson was always an attractive personality and by no means the type of man to allow himself to be forgotten. He believed he was a personage with a mission on earth, and never an opportunity was given him that did not confirm this belief in himself.’9
To his mighty arrogance and undoubted bravery was allied a real penchant for self-dramatizing, particularly when it came to his own physical health. To avoid a situation he did not like he would often plead illness, even when it was obvious to those around him that he was not really ill at all. At times this aspect of his behaviour made him appear a virtual hypochondriac. At the Battle of the Nile he received a head wound that caused a piece of skin to fall over his good eye. In panic he called out to Captain Berry: ‘I am killed, remember me to my wife.’10 Despite being reassured by the ship’s surgeon, he was convinced that it was a mortal blow. Ever since a gypsy had told him years before that he would die early, his mind was forever plagued by the idea. Perhaps that is why he always seemed to be in such a rush to meet his destiny.11
Although he momentarily lost his head at Aboukir Bay, his victory over the French was to cost him his heart and some might say, his very soul. For it was after this battle that Emma Hamilton wrote a letter to him gushing with praise and hero worship. As if being made a baron and a pension of £2,000 a year was not enough reward, he received the undying affection of the wife of the British Ambassador to Naples.
He had met the couple in September 1793 during a brief visit to the Kingdom. Runciman describes the missive that came out of the blue five years later: ‘Every line of the letter sends forth crackling sparks of fiery passion. She begins, “My dear, dear sir,” tells him she is delirious, that she fainted and fell on her side “and am hurt,’ when she heard the joyful news. She “would feel it a glory to die in such a cause,” but she cannot die until she has embraced “the Victor of the Nile.” Then she proceeds to describe the transports of Maria Caroline. “She fainted too, cried, kissed her husband, her children, walked, frantic with pleasure, about the room, cried, kissed and embraced everybody near her.” Then she continues, “Oh! brave Nelson! Oh! God bless and protect our brave deliverer! Oh! Nelson, Nelson! Oh! Victor! Oh! But my swollen heart could now tell him personally what we owe to him.” ’12
Nelson lapped all this up like a kitten does cream.
When his vessel the Vanguard arrived at Naples the Ambassador’s wife virtually threw herself at him and he was a lost man. He: ‘allowed himself to be flattered with refined delicacy into a liaison which became a fierce passion, and tested the loyalty of his closest friends to breaking-point. How infinitely pathetic is the story from beginning to end!’13 Nelson became Emma’s toy and she played with his emotions from then on. He could not resist her tsunami of affection and praise and amidst it all he found himself beached on the notoriously corrupt shores of the Kingdom of Naples and under the sway of a Queen who would also use him at every opportunity.
So smitten was Nelson that he even told his wife that Emma was the very best woman in the world and what an honour it was to have her as his friend. The poor chap was in love and he had to tell everybody about the object of his affections. In a letter to Lord St. Vincent he spoke of his ‘angel’ and how she was his personal go-between to the Queen. He oozes: ‘Our dear Lady Hamilton, whom to see is to admire, but to know are to be added honour and respect; her head and heart surpass her beauty, which cannot be equalled by anything I have seen.’14
And so the disasters began…
Emma was his intermediary with the Court of Naples and: ‘it was on the advice of the Queen and Emma that Naples entered into a war, the result of which was the complete defeat of the Neapolitans.’15 As a result the King and Queen and the whole Court had to flee to Palermo in Sicily. There, Nelson lived with Hamilton and his wife in a ménage à trios. The love struck Nelson provided a sea-taxi service via the Vanguard to save the royals and their £500,000 fortune.
Nelson had a mission, one that was very personal: ‘Nelson was a true descendant of a race of men who had never faltered in the traditional belief that the world should be governed and dominated by the British. His King, his country, and particularly the profession to which he belonged, were to him the supreme authorities whose destiny it was to direct the affairs of the universe.’16 Nelson put it succinctly in his own words: ‘I hate your pen-and-ink men. A fleet of British warships are the best negotiators in Europe.’17
His fellow countrymen - at least those in power - had a similarly blinkered view of reality: ‘The British were not only jealous and afraid of Napoleon’s genius and amazing rise to eminence… but they determined that his power should not only be acknowledged, but destroyed, and their policy after twenty years of bitter war was completely accomplished.’18
There were clear similarities between the two great contemporary British commanders by land and sea: ‘The Duke of Wellington, of whom it is said no dose of flattery was too strong for him to swallow,’19 only met Nelson once. While he was waiting to see the Secretary of State at the Colonial Office in Downing Street he was shown into a small room where he recognized the one-armed Nelson from portraits he had seen of him. He was initially far from impressed: ‘He could not know who I was, but he entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it a conversation, for it was almost all on his side and all about himself, and in, really, a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me.’ When Nelson realized he was talking to someone of equal merit he changed his tone completely: ‘in fact, he talked like an officer and a statesman. The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly, for the last half or three-quarters of an hour, I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more.’20
Wellington was not used to being on the sidelines and he had a mighty opinion of himself. He: ‘showed it in a cold, haughty, unimaginative, repelling self-importance; fearful of unbending to his inferiors lest his dignity should be offended.’21 Although they both considered themselves the bee’s knees there was also a clear difference between the two men. Nelson believed in explaining his orders and tactics to his fellow officers and his personal generosity and enthusiasm motivated them and filled them with confidence.
Although he was a strict and harsh disciplinarian where others were concerned, Nelson thought that rules and regulations should apply to everyone but himself. At the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 he turned his famous ‘blind eye’ to a signal from his commanding officer: ‘He deliberately disobeyed orders, and saved England’s honour and fleet by doing so.’22 Furthermore, far from being hanged for ignoring a direct order in the presence of the enemy at a time of war, he was made a Viscount. To someone with an ego the size of Mars, this must have convinced him that he was a man apart - someone who could pick and choose which orders he should obey and dismiss those with which he disagreed. Similarly, with his infatuation with Emma Hamilton, he totally ignored the social conventions of his day. The couple flaunted their affair and Nelson even took personal affront if there was any criticism of his behaviour.
When he was back in England Emma Hamilton turned the house they shared with her husband into a shrine for Nelson. On March 22nd 1802, Lord Minto described a visit he made there in a letter to his wife:
‘I went to Lord Nelson’s (Merton) on Saturday. The whole establishment
and way of life makes me angry as well as melancholy… She goes on
cramming Nelson with trowels of flattery, which he takes as quietly as a
child does pap. The love she makes to him is ridiculous and disgusting.
The whole house, staircase and all, are covered with pictures of her and him
of all sorts and sizes. He is represented in naval actions, coats of arms, pieces
of plate in his honour, the flagstaff of the L’Orient. If it was Lady Hamilton’s
house, there might be pretence for it; but to make his own a mere looking-glass
to view himself all day is bad taste.’23
It should come as no surprise that George III turned his back on Nelson publicly on account of his dubious morals. This insult from his own King affected Nelson deeply. In like manner, when he and Emma visited the Duke of Marlborough’s estate to see the delights of Blenheim, they were virtually ignored as if they had been mere common interlopers, although the Duke condescendingly ordered some refreshments for them. Nelson was left boiling with rage, affronted personally and also maddened by the refusal of others to bend the knee to Emma - the goddess he himself worshipped. The self-aggrandizing temple to Nelson at Merton was their response. And these were the very privileged nobles and ‘betters’ that he would literally die for at Trafalgar, playing his part in upholding the vicious, corrupt and heartless hierarchy of his day.
As Runciman says: ‘There is always some fatal weakness about a great man that lures him into littleness, and this was an overwhelming tragedy in Nelson’s career. The approbation of men was gratefully received and even asked for, but the adoration of women reduced him to helplessness.’24
There was, of course, another woman in Nelson’s life - Caroline of Naples: ‘I declare to God, my whole study is how to best meet the approbation of the Queen.’25 He was under Emma’s spell and Caroline’s thumb: ‘He frankly avowed that he would prefer to resign if any distinction were to be drawn between loyalty to his rightful sovereign and that of his Sicilian Majesty [Ferdinand], who was the faithful ally of his King. The solemn audacity of this statement reveals a mind so far fallen to pieces by infatuation that it has lost the power of discrimination.’26
At Palermo, Nelson became totally wrapped up with the proceedings at Court. The capital was a gambling den and he was warned of the consequences of his lack of discernment by his friend and fellow British naval officer Troubridge: ‘I dread, My Lord, all the feasting etc., at Palermo. I am sure your health will be hurt. If so, all their saints will be damned by the navy.’27 Troubridge was based at Naples and saw things that Nelson either did not see or chose not to notice: ‘The King would be better employed digesting a good Government; everything gives way to their pleasures. The money spent at Palermo gives discontent here; fifty thousand people are unemployed, trade discouraged, manufactures at a stand. It is in the interest of many here to keep the King away; they all dread reform.’28
Troubridge was not only concerned about Nelson - he was a witness to the famine that was then raging in Naples. His appeals for succour from Palermo fell on deaf ears. His direct appeal to Nelson led to nothing. He wrote to Nelson begging him to intercede on behalf of the unfortunate population:
‘My Lord, we are dying off fast for want. I learn that Sir William Hamilton
says Prince Luzzi refused corn, some time ago, and Sir William does not
think it worth while making another application. If that be the case, I wish
he commanded this distressing scene, instead of me. Puglia had an immense
harvest: near thirty sail left Messina, before I did, to load corn. Will they let
us have any? If not, a short time will decide the business. The German
interest prevails. I wish I was at your Lordship’s elbow for an hour. All, all,
will be thrown on you: I will parry the blow as much as in my power, I foresee
much mischief brewing. God bless your Lordship! I am miserable, I cannot
assist your operations more… I am not very tender-hearted, but really the
distress here would even move a Neapolitan.’29
Troubridge wrote again soon after:
‘I have this day saved thirty thousand people from starvation, but with
this day my ability ceases. As the Government are bent on starving us,
I see no alternative but to leave these poor people to perish, without our
being witnesses of the disaster. I curse the day I ever served the Neapolitan
Govt. We have characters, My Lord, to lose; these people have none…
Girgenti is full of corn; the money is ready to pay for it; we do not ask it
as a gift. Oh! Could you see the horrid distress I daily experience, something
would be done.’30
But Nelson did absolutely nothing.
Troubridge goes on: ‘All I write is known at the Queen’s. For my own part, I
look upon the Neapolitans as the worst of intriguing enemies; every hour
shows me their infamy and duplicity. I pray Your Lordship be cautious;
your honest open manner of acting will be made a handle of. When I see
you and tell you of their infamous tricks, you will be as much surprised as
I am. The whole will fall on you.’31
When Nelson was told that the Court had withdrawn all restrictions on the export of corn he believed the lie completely. Instead, he moaned to the Duke of Clarence that his ‘constant thought was down, down with the damned French villains,’ and that his ‘blood boiled at the name of a Frenchman.’32 Meanwhile, the Queen he fawned upon did not care if her own people starved to death. At least her deceased relation Marie Antoinette had spoken of cake…
Nelson’s greatest act of moral turpitude concerned his treatment of Admiral Caracciolo. In 1798, Naples was in coalition with England, Russia, Austria, Turkey and Portugal against the French. The King of Naples, Ferdinand IV, urged on by his wife Queen Caroline and Emma Hamilton, struck before his allies were ready, attacking the Roman Republic held by the French in November. It was an utter debacle and in less than a month Nelson had to take the fleeing monarch and his court to Palermo in Sicily on his flagship as we have seen. The former Kingdom of Naples became the Parthenopean Republic in January 1799. By May, the tide had turned again and Cardinal Ruffo with his Sanfedisti peasant army along with Russian and Austrian soldiers, recaptured Naples for Ferdinand. Only three virtually impregnable forts remained in the hands of the French and their Neapolitan patriot allies, and the men behind the impressive walls hoped for rescue by French and Spanish ships.
Ruffo’s own troops were creating havoc in the city along with the lazzaroni, peasants who took advantage of the lawless situation to rob, murder and pillage, but an attack on the forts would lead to an even greater loss of life. As Ferdinand’s personal representative, Ruffo thought it wise to sign an armistice with his opponents before they could be rescued. As Tom Holmberg remarks: ‘The treaty gave the French and the patriots the full honors of war, with their persons and property guaranteed, and included that the garrisons of the forts could embark freely for France.’33 The Russian and Turkish representatives in Naples also signed, along with Captain Troubridge.
Nelson, back in Palermo was in a belligerent mood. He despised Ruffo and wrote to Troubridge: ‘Send me word some proper heads are taken off, this alone will comfort me.’34 He also wanted Ferdinand’s failed generals to be tried for cowardice, and ‘if found guilty… they shall be shot or hanged; should this be effected, I shall have some hopes that I have done good. I ever preach that rewards and punishments are the foundation of all good government.’35 In effect, Nelson saw himself as a one-man judge and jury.
As dozens of small vessels called polaccas were being readied as per the treaty to take away the republicans and former rebels, Nelson arrived at Naples with his squadron accompanied by Emma Hamilton and her husband, the English ambassador. Ruffo stood by his treaty and was backed by the Russians and the Turks, stating that if Nelson didn’t agree he could try and take the forts himself. Nelson was forced to back down and via Hamilton stated that he was resolved to do nothing that would break the armistice, nor would he prevent the embarkation of the rebels.
Then news came that Ferdinand and Caroline had discussed the treaty. The Queen wrote to Emma Hamilton urging ‘Lord Nelson to treat Naples as if it were a rebellious city in Ireland.’36 Thus: ‘Men, women and children were kept hungry, hot and disease-ravaged in the holds while their leaders were taken off and imprisoned on the English men-of-war.’37 At this terrible betrayal, Ruffo resigned, while Nelson wrote to his wife claiming ‘victory’ over the French: ‘Nelson came, the invincible Nelson, and they were all preserved and again made happy.’38
Over 8,000 people were tried for treason and dozens were executed. Lord Acton said 100 were executed, 222 condemned for life, 322 to shorter terms, 288 to deportation and 67 to exile. As Ferdinand destroyed the official records no one knows the real figures.39
The most famous victim was Admiral Francesco Caracciolo who had in the past fought alongside the British during the American War of Independence, helped control the Barbary pirates, and later distinguished himself alongside Admiral Hotham against the French at Genoa as recently as March 14th 1795. He had gone with the Royal Family to Palermo but as a personal friend of King Ferdinand he was allowed to return to Naples in January 1799 with the aim of protecting his own large estates. The French had seized his land because they saw him as a royalist. Caracciolo had to agree to command the Neapolitan fleet in order to have his property restored. He thus subsequently had to fight against the Royalist fleet under Admiral Thurn, a personal enemy. Hence when the French agreed to evacuate their forces from Naples he was left in a very invidious position. He tried to hide but was discovered and taken to HMS Foudroyant Nelson’s flagship with his hands tied. Runciman pulls no punches when he describes what happened next: ‘Nelson committed him for trial, which commenced at ten o’clock, and at twelve he was declared guilty. At five o’clock he was hanged at the yardarm of the Neapolitan frigate Minerva. This poor old man was tried solely by his enemies without being allowed to have counsel or call witnesses.’40 Thurn presided over the proceedings but it was Nelson who was in charge. So much for British justice.
Caracciolo had asked for a retrial but this was denied. Nelson also refused his request to be shot rather than hanged like a common criminal. He had also hoped that the wife of the British Ambassador, who he knew, might intercede for him, but she was nowhere to be seen. He had no idea that she was a party to the whole disgraceful episode. As his lifeless body dangled from the yardarm Emma said to Nelson: ‘Come, Bronte, come, let us take the barge and have another look at Caracciolo.’41 Nelson even refused to let the family have his body. Instead, he was given a common sailor’s send-of - weights were attached to his feet so that he would sink in an upright position. As Runciman says: ‘who can read the gruesome story of the trial and hanging of the aged Prince Caracciolo without feeling ashamed that a fellow-countryman in Nelson’s position should have stamped his career with so dark a crime?’42 He is equally scathing about his lover: ‘Neither did Emma Hamilton escape her just deserts for the vile part she played in one of the most abominable crimes ever committed.’43
As if in a story by Edgar Allan Poe, the Admiral took a post-mortem revenge. Not enough weight had been attached to his corpse so it resurfaced and was seen by the King and the pair of executioners from a boat, bobbing accusingly in the water. Ferdinand was horrified and he finally gave the body a Christian burial. Emma was likewise haunted by the event: ‘he had risen again to reproach her with the inhuman pleasure she had taken in watching the dreadful act. Nor did her shrieking avowal of repentance give the wretched Jezebel of a woman the assurance of forgiveness. She sought for distractions, and found most of them in wickedness, and passed into the presence of the Great Mystery with all her deeds of faithlessness, deceit, and uncontrollable revenge before her eyes.’44 And this was the woman Nelson adored and who, according to him, could do no wrong.
If Nelson assumed that by setting such a draconian example, peace would soon return to the benighted Kingdom of Naples, he was soon disabused of that notion: ‘No doubt Nelson thought, when he had the poor old Prince Caracciolo hung, that he would create a new earth by striking terror into the hearts of the Neapolitan race, but natural laws are not worked out by methods of this kind, and Nelson had the mortification of seeing his plan of regulating human affairs create a new and more ferocious little hell on earth. His judgment at this time was very much warped through the evil influence of the Court of Naples and more especially by his infatuation for Lady Hamilton.’45
Runciman makes a telling contrast in a footnote at the end of his book: ‘The terms of capitulation were agreed to and signed by Ruffo, the Russian and Turkish commanders, and by Captain Foote, representing the British Government. Thirty-six hours afterwards Nelson arrived in the Bay of Naples, and cancelled the treaty. Captain Foote was sent away and the shocking indefensible campaign of Nelson’s carried out. Nothing during the whole of Napoleon’s career can match this terrible act of Nelson’s ’46
Napoleon is a colossus compared to the diminutive British Admiral: ‘In every way he excels the Louis of France, the Georges of Great Britain and Hanover, the Fredericks of Prussia, and the Alexanders of Russia. The latter two he puts far in the shade, both as a statesman, a warrior, and a wise, humane ruler who saw far into futurity, and fought against the reactionary forces of Europe, which combined to put an end to what was called his ambition to dominate the whole of creation.’47
When the Government in London paid massive subsidies to their Allies to attack Napoleon - he fought back. Wasn’t that a wicked thing to do? It was even more ‘bad form’ when he usually licked his adversaries completely as at Austerlitz and Jena. What a bounder the chap was!
Another point made by Runciman was that England wasted an inordinate amount of time, effort, blood and gold in reseating useless selfish monarchs on their thrones - Ferdinand of Naples being a prime example: ‘No whitewasher, however brilliant and ingenious, can ever wipe out the fatal action of the British Government in embarking on so ill-conceived a policy as that of supporting the existence of a bloodsucking government, composed of a miscreant ruling class headed by an ignoble king, all living on the misery and blood of a semi-civilized population. It is a nauseous piece of history, with which, under sagacious administration, we should never have been connected.’48
Nelson helped perpetuate the rule of Ferdinand and Caroline who literally let their people starve. Naples did far better when Napoleon placed his older brother Joseph on its throne in February 1806: ‘Joseph ruled with marked moderation and distinction, sweeping away much of the foul canker of corruption and introducing many beneficent reforms during his two years of kingship.’49 This should be remembered when so many partial British historians claim again and again that Napoleon and his family were little better than the mafia or were all simply well-dressed Corsican bandits with a love of the vendetta and bent on feuding and revenge.
Even when a very reluctant Murat was put in charge of Naples he proved himself to be a better leader than the useless Bourbons: ‘His reign lasted from 1808 until 1815, and was no less distinguished than that of Joseph’s. The fall of the Napoleonic regime was followed by the fall of Murat, and the despicable and treacherous Ferdinand became again the king, and brought back with him the same tyrannical habits that had made his precious rule so disastrous to the kingdom and himself.’50
During all the sad and sorry saga of Nelson and Emma, our foremost sailor had made himself a laughing stock. The tolerance of his superior Admiral Keith was stretched to breaking point. Nelson had repeatedly disobeyed orders so that he could remain at the Court with the Queen and Emma. In a letter to her sister from Florence, Lady Minto wrote that Lord Keith had told Caroline that: ‘Lady Hamilton had had command of the fleet long enough,’ remarking of Nelson: ‘His zeal for the public service seems entirely lost in his love and vanity, and they all sit and flatter each other all day long.’51
However, the real blame lies with the politicians in London who supported such corrupt and reactionary rulers: ‘The benighted policy of keeping in power a mawkish Sicilian Court, saturated with the incurable vices of cowardice, falsehood, dishonesty, and treachery, failed; and the Government of the day was saddled with the crime of squandering human life, wealth, and energy without receiving any commensurate return.’52
The whole attitude of the British ruling class and government towards Napoleon and the French was rank with self-justification and hypocrisy: ‘We had no real grounds of quarrel with France nor with her rulers. The Revolution was their affair, and was no concern of ours, except in so far as it might harmfully reflect on us, and of this there was no likelihood if we left them alone. The plea of taking the balance of power under our benevolent care was a sickly exhibition of statesmanship, and the assumption of electing ourselves guardians of the rights of small nations mere cant. It was, in fact, the canker of jealousy and hatred on the part of the reactionary forces against a man, a principle, and a people.’53 Runciman adds: ‘Had we approached Napoleon in a friendly spirit and on equal terms, without haughty condescension, he would have reciprocated our cordiality and put proper value on our friendship.’54
He is absolutely frank when he turns to the leadership of Britain and the antics of politicians like Pitt, Castlereagh, Canning and their ilk: ‘we helped to impose on Europe twenty years of slaughter and devastation. Our dismal, plutocratic rulers, with solemn enthusiasm, plunged England with all her power and influence on the side of Prussia and her continental allies, and, in conjunction with the Holy Alliance, pledged themselves never to lay down arms until France was mutilated and the master-mind which ruled her beaten and dethroned.’55 He also thought their baleful influence was responsible for the First World War: ‘Their task was long, costly, and gruesome. What a ghastly legacy those aggressively righteous champions of international rights have bequeathed to the world! But for their folly and frenzy we should not be engaged in a European was to-day.’(1917)56
With another castigating reference to Naples and the consequences of our involvement, he says: ‘History is not altogether faithful to the truth in its honeyed records of the ministerial pashas who tranquilly increased the national debt, inflicted unspeakable horrors on the population, and smirched our dignity by entering into a costly bond of brotherhood with an inveterate swarm of hired bloodsucking weasels.’57
I think it fair to say that Runciman was not impressed.
When Nelson received his mortal wound on the Victory on October 21st 1805 at Trafalgar he asked Hardy for the famous kiss and told him to give ‘dear Lady Hamilton his hair and other belongings,’ and asked that his ‘body should not be thrown overboard.’ Just before he died he told Doctor Scott that ‘he had not been a great sinner.’58 All this contrasts very badly with his cruel treatment of Caracciolo whose family was denied the very corpse that Nelson dumped into the sea without a qualm. It was murder most foul. But then, the self-appointed elite in British society and the officers in the British Navy were utterly convinced that God was on their side.
Collingwood’s General Order of October 22nd written on the Eurylus off Cape Trafalgar stated that:
‘The Almighty God, whose arm is strength, having of his great
mercy been pleased to crown the exertions of his Majesty’s fleet
with success, in giving them a complete victory over their enemies,
on the 21st of this month; and that all praise and thanksgiving may
be offered up to the throne of grace, for the great benefit to our
country and to mankind, I have thought it proper that a day should
be appointed of general humiliation before God, and thanksgiving for
his merciful goodness, imploring forgiveness of sins, a continuation
of his divine mercy, and his constant aid to us, in defence of our
country’s liberties and laws, and without which the utmost efforts
of man are nought; and therefore that [blank] be appointed for this
The British state was extremely generous to the memory of its dead hero. Nelson’s widow was given £2,000 a year for life; his brother was made an earl and given £6,000 a year; £15,000 was given to each of his sisters and £100,000 provided to enable an estate to go with the title.60 These colossal sums contrast with the terrible conditions that the ordinary people had to cope with as a result of the British Government’s wars against Napoleon. The ‘liberties and laws’ that Collingwood spoke of were of precious little use to them.
Of Collingwood, Runciman says: ‘I have already drawn attention to Nelson’s blind prejudice to and hatred of the French. Collingwood was tainted with the same one-sided views, but tempered them with more conventional language.’61 Pleased by a letter from his daughter written in French, Collingwood ‘exhorts the mother to see that she converses when she can in that language, and to remember that she is never to admire anything French but the language… “that it is the only thing French that she needs to acquire, because there is little else in connection with that country which he would wish her to love or imitate.” ’62
Surprisingly, Collingwood did have a few words of backhanded praise for his enemy Admiral Villeneuve: ‘he was a well-bred man, and a good officer, who had nothing of the offensive vapourings and boastings in his manner which were, perhaps too commonly attributed to the Frenchmen.’63
Of Nelson and Collingwood, Runciman adds: ‘Neither of them knew the character or purpose of the exalted man on whom their Government was making war. Like simple-minded, brave sailors as they were, knowing nothing of the mysteries of political jealousies and intrigue, and believing that the men constituting the Government must be of high mental and administrative ability, they assumed that they were carrying out a flawless patriotic duty, never doubting the wisdom of it…’64
Although Collingwood’s ‘naval qualities were quite equal to Nelson’s,’65 and he played a vital part at Trafalgar, he did not get the same reward. He wanted his title to go to his daughters because he did not have any sons. In a letter to Mr. Blackett he says: ‘I was exceedingly displeased at some of the language held in the House of Commons on the settlement of the pension upon my daughters; it was not of my asking, and if I had a favour to ask, money would be the last thing I would beg from an impoverished country. I am not a Jew, whose god is gold; nor a Swiss, whose services are to be counted against so much money. I have motives for my conduct which I would not give in exchange for a hundred pensions.’66 The prejudices and stereotypes of his day are obvious. Napoleon’s greatness is exemplified by the fact that he could see such attitudes in his own contemporaries yet he still gave Jews equal rights throughout his Empire.
Turning to the fate of Villeneuve himself there has long been controversy. In his book The Savage Storm the author David Andress makes a claim that Napoleon had him murdered. He gives no footnote and no source whatsoever for this assertion: ‘Captured in battle, Pierre-Charles Villeneuve was exchanged back to France in early 1806, and discovered, dead, in a Rennes hotel room that April. A total of seven stab wounds to his chest made the official announcement of suicide a subject of much grim humour in the British Press.’67 The Savage Storm is one of the most one-side books ever written and the prolonged diatribe proves that the author had made up his mind long before he put pen to paper. He admits in the preface that: ‘I do not like the Emperor Napoleon,’68 - only Esdaile’s The Wars of Napoleon exceeds it in terms of sheer partiality.69
Let us turn to what Walter Runciman has to say on the matter, he who spent many long hours in the British Archives and gives detailed references for every statement that he makes: ‘There is not the remotest foundation for the unworthy report that was spread that he was put to death by Napoleon’s orders. The Emperor was too big a man, occupied with human projects too vast, to waste a moment’s thought or to stain his name over an unfortunate admiral who had brought his fleet to grief by acting against his instructions. It is only little men who write, not that which is founded on fact but that which they imagine will appeal to the popular taste of the moment; and so it was with the French Emperor; a lot of scandal-mongers were always at work hawking hither and thither their poisonous fabrications.’70
The Savage Storm vanishes in a puff of wind - it amounts to little more.
Napoleon never once responded in kind to the many attempts of Pitt and select members of the British Cabinet to assassinate him. He forgave, dismissed or ignored the dozens of traitorous acts of political sharks like Talleyrand and Fouché. To think that he would stoop to crush a minnow like Villeneuve is ridiculous. This is what Napoleon said to Dr. O’Meara on Saint Helena:
‘Villeneuve when taken prisoner and brought to England, was so much grieved at his defeat, that he studied anatomy on purpose to destroy himself. For this purpose he bought some anatomical plates of the heart, and compared them with his own body, in order to ascertain the exact situation of that organ. On his arrival in France I ordered that he should remain at Rennes, and not proceed to Paris. Villeneuve, afraid of being tried by a court-martial for disobedience of orders, and consequently losing the fleet, for I had ordered him not to sail or to engage the English, determined to destroy himself, and accordingly took his plates of the heart, and compared them with his breast. Exactly in the centre of the plate he made a mark with a large pin, then fixed the pin as near as he could judge in the same spot in his own breast, shoved it in to the head, penetrated his heart and expired. When the room was opened he was found dead; the pin in his breast and a mark in the plate corresponding with the own in his breast. He need not have done it, as he was a brave man, though possessed of no talent.’71
Runciman is forthright in his defence of Napoleon: ‘I have given this communication in full as it appears in O’Meara’s book, because the scribes would have it that Villeneuve was destroyed by the Emperor’s orders. There was not at the time, nor has there ever appeared since, anything to justify such a calumny on a man who challenged the world to make the charge and prove that he had ever committed a crime during the whole of his public career.’72 He makes another telling point about Napoleon and his acts of magnanimity: ‘It is more likely that Napoleon wished to save him from the consequences of a court-martial, so ordered him to remain at Rennes. He rarely punished offenders according to their offences. After the first flush of anger was over, they were generally let down easily, and for the most part became traitors afterwards.’73
If he could forgive Talleyrand and Fouché - he could forgive anybody!
British writers who condemn Napoleon for his supposed treatment of Villeneuve forget that Admiral Sir John Byng was court-martialled and shot after an engagement with the French off Minorca on May 20th 1756 for a mere error of judgment, while Admiral Sir Robert Calder who was victorious at Finisterre against the French, was court-martialled and ruined because the victory was deemed not great enough! For his repeated disregard of orders and abandoning his post during a time of war, Nelson might have suffered the same fate had he not been so victorious at Aboukir Bay and Trafalgar and perhaps, even more, been such a favourite with the British public. So Collingwood’s remark about ‘our countries liberties and laws’ can be taken with a large pinch of sea salt. If this was how the British Establishment treated its admirals - God help ordinary members of the public.74
Another ‘crime’ often thrown in Napoleon’s face is the execution of the Duc d’Enghien: ‘it was murder for Napoleon or some of his ministers to have the Duc d’Enghien shot for having conspired with others for the overthrow of the established French Government, but it is the saintly enforcement of discipline to have a British admiral shot and another ruined for no other reason than an error of judgment on the one hand and an insufficient victory on the other. Sir Robert Calder’s heart was broken by cruelty.’75
In his The Duke of Enghien Affair: A Plot Against Napoleon,76 General Michel Franceschi says:
‘Nearly all the historical literature characterizes this unfortunate affair as a bloody stain on Napoleon’s memory. A historically correct, single way of thinking became the norm.
But anyone who looks into the event with a minimum of objectivity quickly realizes that Napoleon is the victim of serious defamation and History of a crude manipulation.’77
Indeed, d’Enghien ‘was found guilty of:
1) Bearing arms against the French Republic.
2) Offering his services to the government of England, the enemy of France.
3) Receiving and accrediting agents of the English government, procuring the means for them to gather intelligence in France and conspiring with them against the interior and exterior security of the State.
4) Leading a group of émigrés and others, in the pay of England, on the border with France in Freiburg and Bad-Wuttemberg.
5) Gathering intelligence in Strasbourg and attempting to foment an uprising in the surrounding departments to create a diversion favorable to England.
6) Being one of the ringleaders and accomplices of the conspiracy hatched by the English against the life of the First Consul and, in the event of the conspiracy’s success, bringing about the invasion of France.’78
He was an accomplice in the infamous Cadoudal plot and was ordered shot by Savary before Napoleon had the chance to offer the criminal a pardon: ‘Napoleon was dumbfounded when he heard about the execution. Suddenly aware of the extreme seriousness of this hasty conclusion, the First Consul felt the earth move beneath his feet. He was staggered. Due to a horrible combination of circumstances, a dreadful political mistake had just been made against his will. The precious possibility of a pardon had just evaporated.’79
Throughout his time as ruler of France Napoleon faced the bitter opposition of all the so-called legitimate rulers. They would never forgive him for being the usurper: ‘He was an interloper who had nothing in common with the galaxy of monarchs who ruled Europe at that time.’80 Furthermore: ‘It was a period of wild, uncontrollable passion, and the survivors of the old aristocracy hated the man of genius who had risen to power from the ranks of the people to take the place of the Bourbons. This was the canker that stimulated their enmity.’81 The vilest things were said and written about him because he was ‘not one of us’. Hence the death of d’Enghien was portrayed as the most wicked crime since the crucifixion. The privileged elites of Europe: ‘sedulously nursed the Press, published books and pamphlets in every language, and employed the most poisoned pen that could be bought to portray the future ruler of kings in terms of obloquy.’82
Runciman points to the reams written about the death of d’Enghien in contrast to how little has been said about Nelson’s actions in Naples. However: ‘Fox made a speech on it in the House of Commons which was, and will ever continue to be, an awful indictment. There is nothing in the French Revolution, or in the whole of Napoleon’s career, than can be compared with it for ferocity… There cannot be found a more astonishing revelation of perfidy or inhuman violence in the archives of Europe than that related by Mr. Fox.’83
‘When the right honourable gentleman speaks of the last campaign,
he does not mention the horrors by which some of these successes
were accompanied; Naples, for instance, has been, among others
(what is called) delivered; and yet, if I am rightly informed, it has
been stained and polluted by murders so ferocious, and cruelties so
abhorrent, that the heart shudders at the recital… They made terms
… under the sanction of the British name. It was agreed that their
persons and property should be safe, and that they should be conveyed
to Toulon. They were accordingly put on board a vessel, but before
they sailed, their property was confiscated, numbers of them taken
out, thrown into dungeons, and some of them, I understand, notwith-
standing the British guarantee, absolutely executed.’84
Here was an English politician condemning the actions of his own countryman yet it is never mentioned now in English history books of the period. By castigating Napoleon and accusing him of every crime under the sun, the British Establishment tried to hide their own violations of international law and common decency: ‘So much for the vaunted fairness and impartiality of our treatment of Napoleon!’85
Runciman also portrays a Napoleon we seldom see described in the biased and partial works of nationalistic historians today: ‘It is only when we come to study the life of this man that we realize how he towered above all his contemporaries in thought, word, and deed. Napoleon’s authentic doings and sayings are wonderful in their vast comprehensiveness and sparkling vision, combined with flawless wisdom. When we speak or think of him, it is generally of his military genius and achievements and of what we term his “gigantic ambition”; and in this latter conclusion the platitudinarians, with an air of originality, languidly affirm that this was the cause of his ruin, the grandeur of which we do not understand. But never a word is said or thought of our own terrible tragedies, nor of the victories we were compelled to buy in order to secure his downfall. His great gifts as lawgiver and statesman are little known or spoken of.’86
Runciman then gives the opinions of two men who actually met Napoleon, the Swiss historian Mueller and the writer Wieland. Mueller said: ‘Quite impartially and truly, as before God, I must say that the variety of his knowledge, the acuteness of his observations, the solidity of his understanding (not dazzling wit), his grand and comprehensive views, filled me with astonishment, and his manner of speaking to me with love for him. By his genius and disinterested goodness, he has also conquered me.’87 The German Wieland actually spoke to Napoleon on the battlefield of Jena so he was hardly likely to be impressed yet he said: ‘I have never beheld any one more calm, more simple, more mild or less ostentatious in appearance; nothing about him indicated the feeling of power in a great monarch.’ Napoleon spoke to him for an hour and a half, ‘to the great surprise of the whole assembly.’88
Yet what does Pitt say in a scrap of manuscript found amongst his papers: ‘I see various and opposite qualities - all the great and all the little passions unfavourable to public tranquillity united in the breast of one man, and of that man, unhappily, whose personal caprice can scarce fluctuate for an hour without affecting the destiny of Europe. I see the inward workings of fear struggling with pride in an ardent, enterprising, and tumultuous mind. I see all the captious jealousy of conscious usurpation, dreaded, detested, and obeyed, the giddiness and intoxication of splendid but unmerited success, the arrogance, the presumption, the selfwill of unlimited and idolized power, ad more dreadful than all in the plenitude of authority, the restless and incessant activity of guilt, but unsated ambition.’89
Pitt never met Napoleon and as a consequence he talks utter rot, gushing forth with childish inchoate ramblings that just demonstrate the feebleness of his own bigoted tiny mind. One wonders how many bottles of port he got through before he consigned his insane scribble to paper. As Runciman says: ‘This scrap of mere phrases indicates a mind that was far beneath the calibre of a real statesman. It was a terrible fate for Great Britain to have at the head of the Government a man whose public life was a perpetual danger to the state. Had Pitt been the genius his eloquence led his contemporaries to believe he was, he would have availed himself of the opportunities the Great Figure, who was making the world rock with his genius, afforded the British Government from time to time of making peace on equitable terms.’90
Pitt had no vision just a blinkered enmity for everything that Napoleon stood for: ‘The “usurper” must be subdued by force of arms, the squandering of British wealth, and the sanguinary sacrifice of human lives… Had Pitt been talented in matters of international diplomacy, as he was in other affairs of Government, he would have seized the opportunity of making the Peace of Amiens universal and durable. It is futile to contend that Napoleon was irreconcilable. His great ambition was to form a concrete friendship with our Government, which he foresaw could be fashioned into a continental arrangement…’91 After all without British gold there could have been no battles and no war.
The events of 1789, The Terror, and especially the execution of Louis XVI, haunted the British Establishment and their fear of similar upheavals at home never left them: ‘The ruling classes were seized with alarm lest the spirit of the French Revolution would become popular in this country, and that not only their possessions might be confiscated, but that their lives would be in peril if the doctrines he stood for were to take hold of the public imagination. They were afraid, as they are now (1917), of the despotism of democracy, and so they kept the conflict raging for over twenty years.’92
Their stubborn rejection of change and reform blighted the lives of their own people and millions of others living on the continent. Even when Napoleon returned to Paris to popular acclaim in 1814 and without a drop of blood being spilt, Britain and her allies did not flinch from resuming their own blatant war-mongering policies. Even worse they decided to make war on Napoleon personally - something utterly unprecedented. They claimed that only he was the disturber of the peace. In fact, the opposite was the truth: ‘It was they who were the disturbers of the peace, and especially Great Britain, who headed the Coalition which was to drench the continent with human blood. Napoleon offered to negotiate, and never was there a more humane opportunity given to the nations to settle their affairs in a way that would have assured a lasting peace, but here again the ruling classes, with their usual impudent assumption of power to use the populations for the purpose of killing each other and creating unspeakable suffering in all the hideous phases of warfare, refused to negotiate…’93
Very few English history books mention the fact that in 1805 Napoleon wrote a very measured and friendly letter to George III when he assumed Imperial power asking for peace. He did his very best to avert the cataclysm that he foresaw if no one did anything to avoid future conflict:
‘Sir and Brother,
Called to the throne of France by Providence, and the suffrages of the
Senate, the people, and the Army, my first sentiment is a wish for peace.
France and England abuse their prosperity. They may contend for ages,
but do their Governments well fulfil the most sacred of their duties, and
will not so much blood shed uselessly, and without a view to any end,
condemn them in their own consciences? I consider it no disgrace to
adopt the first step. I have, I hope, sufficiently proved to the world that
I fear none of the chances of war, which presents nothing I have need to
fear; peace is the wish of my heart, but war has never been inconsistent
with my glory. I conjure your Majesty not to deny yourself the happiness
of giving peace to the world, or leave the sweet satisfaction to your
children; for certainly there never was a more fortunate opportunity nor
a moment more favourable than the present, to silence all the passions
and listen only to the sentiments of humanity and reason. This moment
once lost, what bounds can be ascribed to a war which all my efforts will
not be able to terminate. Your Majesty has gained more in ten years, both
in territory and riches, than the whole extent of Europe. Your nation is at
the highest point of prosperity, what can it hope from war? To form a
coalition with some Powers on the Continent? The Continent will remain
tranquil; a coalition can only increase the preponderance and continental
greatness of France. To renew intestine troubles? The times are no longer
the same. To destroy our finances? Finances founded on a flourishing
agriculture can never be destroyed. To wrest from France her colonies?
The colonies are to France only a secondary object; and does not your
Majesty already possess more than you know how to preserve? If your
Majesty would but reflect, you must perceive that the war is without an
Object; or any presumable result to yourself. Alas! What a melancholy
Prospect; to fight merely for the sake of fighting. The world is sufficiently
wide for our two nations to live in, and reason sufficiently powerful to
discover the means of reconciling everything, when a wish for reconciliation
exists on both sides. I have however, fulfilled a sacred duty, and one that
is precious to my heart.
I trust your Majesty will believe the sincerity of my sentiments, and my
wish to give you every proof of the same, etc, Napoleon.’94
No wonder that Runciman adds: ‘This letter indicates the mind and heart of a great statesman… We do not find a single instance of Pitt or Castlereagh expressing an idea worthy of statesmanship. What did either of these men ever do to uplift the higher phases of humanity by grappling with the problem that had been brought into being by the French Revolution.’95
Runciman believes that had Fox been in charge, the whole political situation would have changed for the better especially for the poor who had to deal on a daily basis with hunger, unemployment and hardship. As it was, the ruling families did not give a damn about their social and political inferiors and just wanted to keep them in their place: ‘Our people as a whole (but especially the poorer classes) were treated in a manner akin to barbarism, while their rulers invoked them to bear like patriots the suffering they had bestowed upon them.’96 And for what: ‘We made war on the French without any real justification, and stained our high sense of justice by driving them to a frenzy, we bought soldiers and sailors to fight them from impecunious German and Hanoverian princes. We subsidized Russia, Prussia, Austria, Portugal, Spain, and that cesspool Naples, at the expense of the starvation of the poorest classes in our own country.’97 Why isn’t all this in English history text books?
It was also a collective disaster for the ‘allies’. Urged on by the British Government to declare war on Napoleon, or, indeed to attack him without declaring war - as they had a habit of doing themselves - they lost thousands of men in unnecessary battles like Austerlitz and Jena that simply confirmed Napoleon’s military genius: ‘It is all moonshine to say that he broke the friendship. The power of Russia, Prussia, and Austria were hopelessly wrecked more than once, and on each occasion they intrigued him into war again, and then they threw themselves at his feet, grovelling supplicants for mercy, which he never withheld.’98 What a despicable bunch they all were, Pitt Canning, Castlereagh, and George III on our side and the pathetic rulers of backward European countries like Alexander, Frederick-William, Francis and their creatures like Metternich. And then there were the twin traitors Talleyrand and Fouché - both evil incarnate - who stabbed Napoleon in the back. Yet he still forgave them time after time as he did the cringing kings. No wonder that in 1814 he said to Caulaincourt his ambassador: ‘These people will not treat; the position is reversed; they have forgotten my conduct to them at Tilsit. Then I could have crushed them; my clemency was simple folly.’99 And he was right.
The truth of what happened during those momentous years is the exact opposite of the lies and mistruths repeated by lazy and bigoted ‘historians’. Napoleon: ‘In spite of what biassed writers have thought it their duty to say of him, was an unparalleled warrior-statesman, and his motives and actions were all on the side of God’s humanity and good government. From the time he was found and made the head of the French nation, he was always obliged to be on the defensive, and, as he stated, never once declared war. The continental Great Powers always made war on him… You may search English state papers in any musty hole you like, and you will find no authoritative record that comes within miles of justifying the opinions or the charges that have been stated or written against him.’100
Time after time, when people, even his enemies, met him in the flesh, they were forced to change their opinion of him: ‘The mind of this remarkable man was a palatial storehouse of wise, impressive inspirations. Here is one of countless instances where a prejudiced adversary bears testimony to his power and wisdom. A few republican officers sought and were granted an audience, and the following is a frank admission of their own impotence and Napoleon’s greatness: “I do not know,” their spokesman says, “from whence or from whom he derives it, but there is a charm about that man indescribable and irresistible. I am no admirer of his.” ’101 Runciman also says: ‘I might give thousands of testimonies, showing the great power this superman had over other minds, from the highest monarchical potentate to the humblest of his subjects.’102
And what did we have? George III… Fox said of him: ‘It is intolerable to think that it should be in the power of one blockhead to do so much mischief.’103 Fox was treated with nothing less than adoration when he went to Paris in 1802. It is highly probably that had Fox had his way there would have been peace between England and France: ‘Had Fox been supported by sufficient strong men to counteract the baneful influence of the weeds who were a constant peril to the country over whose destinies George III and they ruled, we should have been saved the ghastly errors that were committed in the name of the British people.’104
The terrible and totally unjustified attack on Copenhagen in 1807 was one of the dire results of government by utterly inept politicians. It was Canning’s idea to divest the country of its fleet. Again - no declaration of war - made worse by the fact that Denmark was a neutral country. British bullyboy tactics were very much in evidence, and not for the first or last time. It certainly did not impress the Tsar of Russia: ‘The outrage of attacking a small State which was at peace and with which she had no quarrel was powerfully denounced by Alexander. He accused the British Government “of a monstrous violation of straight dealing, by ruining Denmark in the Baltic, which it knew was closed to foreign hostilities under a Russian guarantee.” ’105
Oh dear - another fine mess we had got ourselves into…
The Tsar was further angered by the fact that the British had repeatedly said they did not have the soldiers to attack Napoleon on the mainland: ‘This bad statesmanship was deplorable. It set the spirit of butchery raging. It made a new enemy for ourselves, and in an economic sense added hundreds of thousands to our national debt, without deriving a vestige of benefit from either a military or political point of view. It undoubtedly prolonged the war, as all those squint-eyed enterprises are certain to do. It made us unpopular and mistrusted, and had no effect in damaging Napoleon’s activities, not of taking a single ally from him.”106 And not surprisingly at Tilsit, having had more than enough of perfidious Albion, Alexander made peace with Napoleon.
Canning found himself in the proverbial hot water: ‘Canning, like all tricksters, read extracts from documents, authentic and otherwise, to prove that Denmark was hostile to Britain, but when a demand was made for their inspection, he impudently refused to allow the very documents he had based his case of justification on to be scrutinized, and in consequence no other conclusion could be arrived at than that he was unscrupulously misleading the country.’107 Ah yes, another example of British justice and fair play. His fellow politicians looked down on Canning because his mother was an actress and he was not of noble birth. With his attack on Copenhagen he showed just how low he could go.
Similarly the British blue bloods looked down their noses at Napoleon the ‘usurper’. As Fox asked, why were they: ‘making such a fuss about acknowledging the new Emperor. May not the people give their own Magistrate the name they choose?’ And he added: ‘On what logical grounds did we claim the right to revoke by force of arms the selection by the French people of a ruler on whom they wished to bestow the title of Emperor?’108 Yet mad King George would have none of it: ‘George III raged at Pitt for including Fox in his ministry when he was asked to form a Government. “Does Mr. Pitt not know that Mr. Fox was of all persons most offensive to him? Had not Fox always cheered the popular Government of France, and had he not always advocated peace with bloodstained rebels? And be it remembered the indecorous language he had frequently used against his sovereign, and consider his influence over the Prince of Wales. Bring who you like, Mr. Pitt, but Fox never.’109
The aristocrats of Europe blamed Napoleon personally for the French Revolution and its consequences as if it was all his doing. Such perverted intellectual gymnastics still goes on today - more the product of abject ignorance than anything else. In my own hometown of Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England an exhibition about French prisoners of war at the local Heritage Centre began by stating that Napoleon had executed Louis XVI!110 Such crass and infantile errors can be avoided by a ten second search on Google, but such are the fixed mental errors and prejudices that many people cannot be bothered to check their ‘facts’ or maybe they are simply bent on perpetuating lies and information they themselves have been spoon fed from birth. George III inferring that Napoleon was a ‘bloodstained rebel’ is also fatuous - it is so obviously not true: ‘To class Napoleon as a bloodstained rebel and to put him on a level with the Robespierres and Dantons is an historic outrage of the truth. He had nothing whatsoever to do with bringing about the Revolution, though his services saved it, and out of the terrible tumult and wreck superhumanly re-created France and made her the envy of the modern world… In 1805 he was raised to the Imperial dignity, and one of his first acts was to write with his own hand that famous letter… pleading, with majestic dignity, for the King of England, in the name of humanity, to co-operate with him in a way that will bring about friendly relations between the two Governments and the spilling of blood to an end. The King “by the grace of God” and his horde of bloodsucking, incompetent ministers insulted the French nation and the great captain who ruled over its destinies by sending through Lord Mulgrave an insolent, hypocritical reply to the French ministers.’111
Time and again England forced war upon Napoleon and professed the exact opposite intentions - blaming him for everything. What a bunch of liars and cheats the British Cabinet contained. Pitt was indeed ‘the pits’ as the late Ben Weider once said to me: ‘The rage of war continued for another decade. If George III yearned for peace as he and his ministers pretended, why did the King not write a courteous autography letter back to Napoleon, even though he regarded him as an inferior and a mere military adventurer? The nation had to pay a heavy toll in blood and money in order that the assumptions and dignity of this insensate monarch might be maintained, whose abhorrence of “bloodstained rebels” did not prevent him and his equally insensate advisers from plunging the American colonists into a bloody rebellion, which ended so gloriously for them and so disastrously for the motherland.’112
Whatever was touched by the gracious and royal hand of mad King George crumbled to dust and ashes. As Runciman says quite tellingly: ‘even in his saner periods his acts were frequently those of an idiot.’113 And this gibbering creature is the national figurehead and a hero of biased British historians who try to claim that Britannia’s cause was just and righteous when in actually she was a whore to justice and the truth. And her trident was imbued with the blood of countless thousands who died in her name.
© John Tarttelin 2017 (M.A. History)
A Souladream Production
1. Runciman Walter Drake, Nelson and Napoleon (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1919) 121 ( Project
Gutenberg ebook when printed off on A4.)
2. Ibid. 121
3. See Significant Scots - Sir Walter Runciman www.electricscotland.com/history
4. The book was published in 1919 just after World War One ended.
5. Runciman Ibid. 7
6. Ibid. 12
7. Scott Walter Napoleon (1827)
8. Runciman Ibid. 3
9. Ibid. 24
10. Ibid. 25
11. Ibid. 46 As a young man he had a reading done and the gypsy said: ‘I can see no further than
12. Ibid. 29-30
13. Ibid. 30
14. Ibid. 30
15. Ibid. 30-31
16. Ibid. 26
17. Ibid. 35
18. Ibid. 27
19. Ibid. 46
20. Ibid. 46
21. Ibid. 47
22. Ibid. 36.
23. Ibid. 41
24. Ibid. 58
25. Ibid. 60
26. Ibid. 60
27. Ibid. 61
28. Ibid. 61
29. Ibid. 62
30. Ibid. 62
31. Ibid. 62
32. Ibid. 62
33. Holmberg Tom Nelson’s Honor article (1998)
34. Ibid. 1
35. Ibid. 1
36. Ibid 2
37. Ibid. 2
38. Ibid. 2
39. Ibid. 2
40. Runciman Ibid. 48 Runciman spelt the name Carraciolli. I have used Caracciolo throughout.
41. Ibid. 48
42. Ibid. 47-48
43. Ibid. 48
44. Ibid. 48
45. Ibid. 49
46. Ibid. 146 My italics
47. Ibid. 53-54
48. Ibid. 59
49. Ibid. 58
50. Ibid. 59
51. Ibid. 66
52. Ibid. 66-67
53. Ibid. 67
54. Ibid. 67
55. Ibid. 67
56. Ibid. 67
57. Ibid. 58
58. Ibid. 101
59. Ibid. 105-106
60. Ibid. 109.
61. Ibid. 110
62. Ibid. 110
63. Ibid. 111
64. Ibid. 111-112
65. Ibid. 112
66. Ibid. 112 My italics
67. Andress David The Savage Storm (London: Little Brown, 2012)
68. Ibid. Preface xiv
69. Esdaile Charles Napoleon’s Wars (New York: Penguin Books, 2007)
70. Runciman Ibid. 113
71. Ibid. 113 My italics
72. Ibid. 113
73. Ibid. 114
74. Ibid. 114
75. Ibid. 114
76. Franceschi General Michel The Duke of Enghien Affair: A Plot Against Napoleon (Translated by
Glenn Naumovitz, International Napoleonic Society, 2005)
77. Ibid. 5
78. Ibid. 21-22
79. Ibid. 25
80. Runciman Ibid. 122
81. Ibid. 122
82. Ibid. 122
83. Ibid. 123-124
84. Ibid. 124
85. Ibid. 125
86. Ibid. 126
87. Ibid. 126
88. Ibid. 126
89. Ibid. 127
90. Ibid. 127
91. Ibid. 127
92. Ibid. 129
93. Ibid. 129
94. Ibid. 130 My italics throughout
95. Ibid. 131
96. Ibid. 134
97. Ibid. 134
98. Ibid. 136
99. Ibid. 136
100. Ibid. 138
101. Ibid. 139
102. Ibid. 139
103. Ibid. 140
104. Ibid. 140
105. Ibid. 142
106. Ibid. 142
107. Ibid. 143
108. Ibid. 144
109. Ibid. 144
110. Grimsby Heritage Centre, Lincolnshire, England, UK. The main French prisoners exhibition was
111. Runciman Ibid. 144
112. Ibid. 144
113. Ibid. 145
Andress David The Savage Storm (London: Little Brown, 2012)
Esdaile Charles Napoleon’s Wars (New York: Penguin Books 2007)
Franceschi General Michel The Duke Of Enghien Affair: A Plot Against Napoleon International
Napoleonic Society publication 2005
Holmberg Tom Nelson’s Honor 1998
Runciman Walter Drake, Nelson and Napoleon (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1919)