An intriguing Emperor . . .

Napoleon 1Andrea/Cara here, I recently finished a new Lady Arianna mystery—the first full-length addition to the series since its original publication by NAL—which was great fun, as I love writing these books. In Smoke & Lies, (it releases on May 15, and is available for pre-order now) the mystery takes Lady Arianna and Lord Saybrook to Elba, where the scheming and intrigue of Napoleon’s court in exile tests their mettle . . .

Smoke and Lies-smallNow, weaving a plot line for this was an interesting challenge, given that we all know what ultimately happened! Since I wasn’t about to change history and have my intrepid protagonists stop him from returning to France, I had to figure out how to create tension and a compelling mystery within that context. I really enjoyed weaving together actual history with my own inventions to give them a compelling conundrum to solve (at least I hope readers find it compelling! You can read an excerpt here.)

 

Napoleon 2In some ways, I found it required even more research than usual, as I wanted to find little details of life on Elba and at court that I could use for my own nefarious purposes! I found some surprises. I had assumed that his “court” would be grander than it was, given his fame and former splendor of Imperial France. But the restored Bourbon King reneged on the generous stipend that Napoleon was granted in the Treaty of Fontainebleau. The fact is, he was skating on the thin ice of poverty. His sister, Pauline, Duchess of Guastalla—who was notorious for her amorous affairs—proved to be his only loyal sibling. She liquidated all her assets, moved to Elba to be with him, and supported his during his exile. His “palace” was a rather shabby affair, and refreshments at the frequent soirees were modest at best. (Though the French wine seemed to flow quite freely.)

Napoleon 3And while I didn’t want to make the Little Corsican himself too much of an element in the story (I try to keep real-life characters as small pops of color within the stories) it was hard to ignore him! And once I had figured out a plot thread that had Arianna matching wits with him (yes, over chocolate!) I found myself needing to go back and re-read about him, to refresh my memory.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading about Napoleon in the past, but in reviewing his life and achievements, I was once again struck by what an amazing figure he is in history. The French statesman Talleyrand said of him: “His career is the most extraordinary that has occurred in one thousand years . . . He was clearly the most Napoleon

extraordinary man I ever saw.” (Napoleon didn’t return the favor—he called Talleyrand “shit in silk stockings” for his constant betrayals) And some historians have called Napoleon “the most competent man in history.”

No matter your opinion of his having embroiled half the world in war for nearly two decades, you have to admit his list of social and political accomplishments is mind-boggling: as emperor of France, he revamped the judicial system (the Code Napoleon is still the basis of the legal system in much of Europe today) reformed education, oversaw innovative agricultural reforms and established freedom of religion.

Napoleon 5

Napoleon 7Personally, he was quite a polymath. He had a keen interest in science (his military expedition to Egypt included a bevy of scientists and naturalists) and law. His military prowess was impressive (as a young artillery officer, he helped win the very important Battle of Toulon.) And when he arrived in Elba, he promptly went too work rebuilding the roads and infrastructure as engineering was another passion. Dinner parties were apparently a lost cause with him—he rarely spent more than twenty minutes at the table, as he was chomping at the bit to get back to work.

Napoleon 11aI also learned that Napoleon was gifted in mathematics. As emperor he met regularly with Lagrange and Laplace, two of the greatest mathematicians of the era. In fact, there is a math theorem named for him—Napoleon’s Theorem, which has to do with equilateral triangles.

As I said, there aren’t many scenes with the emperor, but they were fun to write. As fiction would have it, I had made Lady Arianna a math whiz in the first book, so I do have a fun numbers duel between them!

“Boney” is an integral part of the Regency era, even if he simply looms as a shadow in many novels. It’s hard not to think of him in context of that world. So, what do you think of Napoleon? Love him? Hate him? Are there any other larger-than-life figures in history that capture your fancy? Please share!

50 thoughts on “An intriguing Emperor . . .”

  1. I find myself wondering about the psychology and ego of a man who was so talented and gifted – who could (and did) do wonderful things – yet felt the need to embroil half the world in war for two decades. What drives someone to be like that?
    It’s tragic, especially for all those who died or were maimed during those two decades of war.
    Your book sounds interesting Andrea. May is shaping up to be a good reading month.

    Reply
  2. I find myself wondering about the psychology and ego of a man who was so talented and gifted – who could (and did) do wonderful things – yet felt the need to embroil half the world in war for two decades. What drives someone to be like that?
    It’s tragic, especially for all those who died or were maimed during those two decades of war.
    Your book sounds interesting Andrea. May is shaping up to be a good reading month.

    Reply
  3. I find myself wondering about the psychology and ego of a man who was so talented and gifted – who could (and did) do wonderful things – yet felt the need to embroil half the world in war for two decades. What drives someone to be like that?
    It’s tragic, especially for all those who died or were maimed during those two decades of war.
    Your book sounds interesting Andrea. May is shaping up to be a good reading month.

    Reply
  4. I find myself wondering about the psychology and ego of a man who was so talented and gifted – who could (and did) do wonderful things – yet felt the need to embroil half the world in war for two decades. What drives someone to be like that?
    It’s tragic, especially for all those who died or were maimed during those two decades of war.
    Your book sounds interesting Andrea. May is shaping up to be a good reading month.

    Reply
  5. I find myself wondering about the psychology and ego of a man who was so talented and gifted – who could (and did) do wonderful things – yet felt the need to embroil half the world in war for two decades. What drives someone to be like that?
    It’s tragic, especially for all those who died or were maimed during those two decades of war.
    Your book sounds interesting Andrea. May is shaping up to be a good reading month.

    Reply
  6. One thing to remember is that many of the people in the countries with which Napoleon went to war were hoping for him to win. (Consider Cavaradossi in Tosca.) Even in England, despite what one might think from all the books featuring Regency spies, there were plenty of people who supported Napoleon. The aristocracy and ruling classes opposed him, but they were the ones who would be injured by his reforms. For everyone else, things like the Napoleonic code, under which the laws applied equally to everyone (even women), greatly expanded access to education, and the emancipation of the Jews, looked pretty appealing.

    Reply
  7. One thing to remember is that many of the people in the countries with which Napoleon went to war were hoping for him to win. (Consider Cavaradossi in Tosca.) Even in England, despite what one might think from all the books featuring Regency spies, there were plenty of people who supported Napoleon. The aristocracy and ruling classes opposed him, but they were the ones who would be injured by his reforms. For everyone else, things like the Napoleonic code, under which the laws applied equally to everyone (even women), greatly expanded access to education, and the emancipation of the Jews, looked pretty appealing.

    Reply
  8. One thing to remember is that many of the people in the countries with which Napoleon went to war were hoping for him to win. (Consider Cavaradossi in Tosca.) Even in England, despite what one might think from all the books featuring Regency spies, there were plenty of people who supported Napoleon. The aristocracy and ruling classes opposed him, but they were the ones who would be injured by his reforms. For everyone else, things like the Napoleonic code, under which the laws applied equally to everyone (even women), greatly expanded access to education, and the emancipation of the Jews, looked pretty appealing.

    Reply
  9. One thing to remember is that many of the people in the countries with which Napoleon went to war were hoping for him to win. (Consider Cavaradossi in Tosca.) Even in England, despite what one might think from all the books featuring Regency spies, there were plenty of people who supported Napoleon. The aristocracy and ruling classes opposed him, but they were the ones who would be injured by his reforms. For everyone else, things like the Napoleonic code, under which the laws applied equally to everyone (even women), greatly expanded access to education, and the emancipation of the Jews, looked pretty appealing.

    Reply
  10. One thing to remember is that many of the people in the countries with which Napoleon went to war were hoping for him to win. (Consider Cavaradossi in Tosca.) Even in England, despite what one might think from all the books featuring Regency spies, there were plenty of people who supported Napoleon. The aristocracy and ruling classes opposed him, but they were the ones who would be injured by his reforms. For everyone else, things like the Napoleonic code, under which the laws applied equally to everyone (even women), greatly expanded access to education, and the emancipation of the Jews, looked pretty appealing.

    Reply
  11. Yes, he was an amazing man who did extraordinary things, but the most competent man in history? No. Competent men don’t through who armies away for their own ego gratification. A more competent man could have created a lasting, stable French empire, not drowned a continent in blood. But without him, we’d have less plot conflicts for our books!

    Reply
  12. Yes, he was an amazing man who did extraordinary things, but the most competent man in history? No. Competent men don’t through who armies away for their own ego gratification. A more competent man could have created a lasting, stable French empire, not drowned a continent in blood. But without him, we’d have less plot conflicts for our books!

    Reply
  13. Yes, he was an amazing man who did extraordinary things, but the most competent man in history? No. Competent men don’t through who armies away for their own ego gratification. A more competent man could have created a lasting, stable French empire, not drowned a continent in blood. But without him, we’d have less plot conflicts for our books!

    Reply
  14. Yes, he was an amazing man who did extraordinary things, but the most competent man in history? No. Competent men don’t through who armies away for their own ego gratification. A more competent man could have created a lasting, stable French empire, not drowned a continent in blood. But without him, we’d have less plot conflicts for our books!

    Reply
  15. Yes, he was an amazing man who did extraordinary things, but the most competent man in history? No. Competent men don’t through who armies away for their own ego gratification. A more competent man could have created a lasting, stable French empire, not drowned a continent in blood. But without him, we’d have less plot conflicts for our books!

    Reply
  16. It always disgusts me to see someone like Napoleon who was so gifted use his abilities for his own self-aggrandizement and power.
    I think of Henry V who could have been an extraordinary king. His ability to rally 5,000 of his troops to fight the 20,000 French soldiers and beat them could have been used for defense of England instead of his desire to take over a country to which he had no claim.
    I read in Eric Jager’s “Blood Royal” that Henry listened to a cleric who told him to attack small French villages to work his way through to the French crown. This might have been the beginning of the hatred the French had toward the English. Henry was a vicious dictator cutting down those he wished to call his people.

    Reply
  17. It always disgusts me to see someone like Napoleon who was so gifted use his abilities for his own self-aggrandizement and power.
    I think of Henry V who could have been an extraordinary king. His ability to rally 5,000 of his troops to fight the 20,000 French soldiers and beat them could have been used for defense of England instead of his desire to take over a country to which he had no claim.
    I read in Eric Jager’s “Blood Royal” that Henry listened to a cleric who told him to attack small French villages to work his way through to the French crown. This might have been the beginning of the hatred the French had toward the English. Henry was a vicious dictator cutting down those he wished to call his people.

    Reply
  18. It always disgusts me to see someone like Napoleon who was so gifted use his abilities for his own self-aggrandizement and power.
    I think of Henry V who could have been an extraordinary king. His ability to rally 5,000 of his troops to fight the 20,000 French soldiers and beat them could have been used for defense of England instead of his desire to take over a country to which he had no claim.
    I read in Eric Jager’s “Blood Royal” that Henry listened to a cleric who told him to attack small French villages to work his way through to the French crown. This might have been the beginning of the hatred the French had toward the English. Henry was a vicious dictator cutting down those he wished to call his people.

    Reply
  19. It always disgusts me to see someone like Napoleon who was so gifted use his abilities for his own self-aggrandizement and power.
    I think of Henry V who could have been an extraordinary king. His ability to rally 5,000 of his troops to fight the 20,000 French soldiers and beat them could have been used for defense of England instead of his desire to take over a country to which he had no claim.
    I read in Eric Jager’s “Blood Royal” that Henry listened to a cleric who told him to attack small French villages to work his way through to the French crown. This might have been the beginning of the hatred the French had toward the English. Henry was a vicious dictator cutting down those he wished to call his people.

    Reply
  20. It always disgusts me to see someone like Napoleon who was so gifted use his abilities for his own self-aggrandizement and power.
    I think of Henry V who could have been an extraordinary king. His ability to rally 5,000 of his troops to fight the 20,000 French soldiers and beat them could have been used for defense of England instead of his desire to take over a country to which he had no claim.
    I read in Eric Jager’s “Blood Royal” that Henry listened to a cleric who told him to attack small French villages to work his way through to the French crown. This might have been the beginning of the hatred the French had toward the English. Henry was a vicious dictator cutting down those he wished to call his people.

    Reply
  21. FYI, Robert Harvey’s The War Of Wars is a fascinating take on the whole thing, from the beginning of the French revolution to the end of Napoleon. Of course it’s nearly a thousand pages, but I found it fascinating. And I think Napoleon might have once been about doing good things but it all devolved to staying in power. Still, nobody really knows why he was stupid about Russia. Even Hitler’s drive through Russia makes more sense (fuel reserves in Ukraine). Maybe he just needed to fail spectacularly.

    Reply
  22. FYI, Robert Harvey’s The War Of Wars is a fascinating take on the whole thing, from the beginning of the French revolution to the end of Napoleon. Of course it’s nearly a thousand pages, but I found it fascinating. And I think Napoleon might have once been about doing good things but it all devolved to staying in power. Still, nobody really knows why he was stupid about Russia. Even Hitler’s drive through Russia makes more sense (fuel reserves in Ukraine). Maybe he just needed to fail spectacularly.

    Reply
  23. FYI, Robert Harvey’s The War Of Wars is a fascinating take on the whole thing, from the beginning of the French revolution to the end of Napoleon. Of course it’s nearly a thousand pages, but I found it fascinating. And I think Napoleon might have once been about doing good things but it all devolved to staying in power. Still, nobody really knows why he was stupid about Russia. Even Hitler’s drive through Russia makes more sense (fuel reserves in Ukraine). Maybe he just needed to fail spectacularly.

    Reply
  24. FYI, Robert Harvey’s The War Of Wars is a fascinating take on the whole thing, from the beginning of the French revolution to the end of Napoleon. Of course it’s nearly a thousand pages, but I found it fascinating. And I think Napoleon might have once been about doing good things but it all devolved to staying in power. Still, nobody really knows why he was stupid about Russia. Even Hitler’s drive through Russia makes more sense (fuel reserves in Ukraine). Maybe he just needed to fail spectacularly.

    Reply
  25. FYI, Robert Harvey’s The War Of Wars is a fascinating take on the whole thing, from the beginning of the French revolution to the end of Napoleon. Of course it’s nearly a thousand pages, but I found it fascinating. And I think Napoleon might have once been about doing good things but it all devolved to staying in power. Still, nobody really knows why he was stupid about Russia. Even Hitler’s drive through Russia makes more sense (fuel reserves in Ukraine). Maybe he just needed to fail spectacularly.

    Reply
  26. I don’t know why he fell from his initial progressive views, but as others have said, he DID turn to retaining power, and therefore remains as a negative influence in my mind.

    Reply
  27. I don’t know why he fell from his initial progressive views, but as others have said, he DID turn to retaining power, and therefore remains as a negative influence in my mind.

    Reply
  28. I don’t know why he fell from his initial progressive views, but as others have said, he DID turn to retaining power, and therefore remains as a negative influence in my mind.

    Reply
  29. I don’t know why he fell from his initial progressive views, but as others have said, he DID turn to retaining power, and therefore remains as a negative influence in my mind.

    Reply
  30. I don’t know why he fell from his initial progressive views, but as others have said, he DID turn to retaining power, and therefore remains as a negative influence in my mind.

    Reply
  31. I neither love nor hate. I admire his intense loyalty to his family. I did not realize the extent of his intelligence, but I knew he was bright. You have made that seem like a huge understatement. His early plans and ideas were amazing.
    But, he also started believing his own personal publicity. Reminds me of many of the celebrities around today. He began to know for a fact that he was always more right than anyone else. Not a good idea for anyone.
    I look at him and wonder how in the world so much which could have been good went so very badly. But, again, when I look around today, I see a lot of the same thing.

    Reply
  32. I neither love nor hate. I admire his intense loyalty to his family. I did not realize the extent of his intelligence, but I knew he was bright. You have made that seem like a huge understatement. His early plans and ideas were amazing.
    But, he also started believing his own personal publicity. Reminds me of many of the celebrities around today. He began to know for a fact that he was always more right than anyone else. Not a good idea for anyone.
    I look at him and wonder how in the world so much which could have been good went so very badly. But, again, when I look around today, I see a lot of the same thing.

    Reply
  33. I neither love nor hate. I admire his intense loyalty to his family. I did not realize the extent of his intelligence, but I knew he was bright. You have made that seem like a huge understatement. His early plans and ideas were amazing.
    But, he also started believing his own personal publicity. Reminds me of many of the celebrities around today. He began to know for a fact that he was always more right than anyone else. Not a good idea for anyone.
    I look at him and wonder how in the world so much which could have been good went so very badly. But, again, when I look around today, I see a lot of the same thing.

    Reply
  34. I neither love nor hate. I admire his intense loyalty to his family. I did not realize the extent of his intelligence, but I knew he was bright. You have made that seem like a huge understatement. His early plans and ideas were amazing.
    But, he also started believing his own personal publicity. Reminds me of many of the celebrities around today. He began to know for a fact that he was always more right than anyone else. Not a good idea for anyone.
    I look at him and wonder how in the world so much which could have been good went so very badly. But, again, when I look around today, I see a lot of the same thing.

    Reply
  35. I neither love nor hate. I admire his intense loyalty to his family. I did not realize the extent of his intelligence, but I knew he was bright. You have made that seem like a huge understatement. His early plans and ideas were amazing.
    But, he also started believing his own personal publicity. Reminds me of many of the celebrities around today. He began to know for a fact that he was always more right than anyone else. Not a good idea for anyone.
    I look at him and wonder how in the world so much which could have been good went so very badly. But, again, when I look around today, I see a lot of the same thing.

    Reply
  36. I was always accustomed to thinking of him as a bad guy, that’s the way he’s painted in the Anglo-American view of history. I was amazed when I visited Paris and saw his monumental tomb and realized how many people admired him. When you mention all his interests, as a polymath, it reminds me a bit of Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, if Jefferson and Franklin had ambitions of military conquest! Thankfully, they did not.
    He’s certainly not the first or the last ruler, who started out with some good ideas and democratic principals, but fell in love with power.
    This may sound funny, but I’m kind of fascinated by how awful Stalin was, yet we may not have been able to defeat Hitler without him(speaking of being stupid about Russia).

    Reply
  37. I was always accustomed to thinking of him as a bad guy, that’s the way he’s painted in the Anglo-American view of history. I was amazed when I visited Paris and saw his monumental tomb and realized how many people admired him. When you mention all his interests, as a polymath, it reminds me a bit of Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, if Jefferson and Franklin had ambitions of military conquest! Thankfully, they did not.
    He’s certainly not the first or the last ruler, who started out with some good ideas and democratic principals, but fell in love with power.
    This may sound funny, but I’m kind of fascinated by how awful Stalin was, yet we may not have been able to defeat Hitler without him(speaking of being stupid about Russia).

    Reply
  38. I was always accustomed to thinking of him as a bad guy, that’s the way he’s painted in the Anglo-American view of history. I was amazed when I visited Paris and saw his monumental tomb and realized how many people admired him. When you mention all his interests, as a polymath, it reminds me a bit of Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, if Jefferson and Franklin had ambitions of military conquest! Thankfully, they did not.
    He’s certainly not the first or the last ruler, who started out with some good ideas and democratic principals, but fell in love with power.
    This may sound funny, but I’m kind of fascinated by how awful Stalin was, yet we may not have been able to defeat Hitler without him(speaking of being stupid about Russia).

    Reply
  39. I was always accustomed to thinking of him as a bad guy, that’s the way he’s painted in the Anglo-American view of history. I was amazed when I visited Paris and saw his monumental tomb and realized how many people admired him. When you mention all his interests, as a polymath, it reminds me a bit of Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, if Jefferson and Franklin had ambitions of military conquest! Thankfully, they did not.
    He’s certainly not the first or the last ruler, who started out with some good ideas and democratic principals, but fell in love with power.
    This may sound funny, but I’m kind of fascinated by how awful Stalin was, yet we may not have been able to defeat Hitler without him(speaking of being stupid about Russia).

    Reply
  40. I was always accustomed to thinking of him as a bad guy, that’s the way he’s painted in the Anglo-American view of history. I was amazed when I visited Paris and saw his monumental tomb and realized how many people admired him. When you mention all his interests, as a polymath, it reminds me a bit of Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, if Jefferson and Franklin had ambitions of military conquest! Thankfully, they did not.
    He’s certainly not the first or the last ruler, who started out with some good ideas and democratic principals, but fell in love with power.
    This may sound funny, but I’m kind of fascinated by how awful Stalin was, yet we may not have been able to defeat Hitler without him(speaking of being stupid about Russia).

    Reply

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