This is how Napoleon stole and sold the jewels of Spain to finance his wars

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Queen Maria Luisa of Parma she lived her last years of exiled life in Rome with her husband Carlos IV, who renounced the Spanish Crown up to three times and ended up wandering between France and Italy. In that small court of exiles, spies and courtiers fallen from grace, melancholy settled as one more guest. Not satisfied with humiliation, Napoleon Bonaparte and then Fernando VII spent years demanding María Luisa to return the supposedly stolen jewels to Spain.

The Bourbon Queen was required to return the “crown jewels,” that is, the linked diamonds. to the Royal Heritage that they should not have left Spain because they belonged to the State. The Italian would defend until her last breath that the only ones she took with her were her strict property and that she had been left behind The Pilgrim or The pond, both jewels obtained in the time of Felipe II and that had even survived the fire in the Alcázar de la Nochebuena de 1734.

Margaret of Austria wears the pearl known as La Peregrina and El Estanque

The Pilgrim It is a pearl of unusual size and shape that was discovered by an African slave, in Panama, around 1515, and nicknamed with a thousand names due to its beauty: “La Sola”, “La Margarita” … The jewel was offered decades later to King Felipe II by the chief bailiff of Panama, Diego de Tebes, who had taken her to Seville. According to a document of the time, it weighed 58.5 carats and was teardrop-shaped. Margarita de Austria, Isabel de Borbón and María Luisa de Parma posed with her in different portraits, although with a different montage adapted to fashion.

The pond It is the name that received a brilliant one hundred carats also obtained by the Prudent King, who bought it in Antwerp for a price of 80,000 gold shields from a Flemish named Carlo Affetato. It was carved in Spain and offered to Isabel de Valois, his third wife, on the occasion of his wedding. The Leonese goldsmith Juan de Arfe went on to say that it was a perfect diamond, cut in such a way that its entire area was square, with four perfect and equal sides at right angles, giving rise to full and entire angles and very sharp corners.

Napoleon’s trick

While Carlos IV was silent and Fernando VII It incited the thief accusation against her mother, for years it was assumed that, indeed, María Luisa had stolen the jewelry, and that thanks to them she had been able to pay for certain luxuries in Rome. Whoever benefited the most from this smear campaign, apart from Fernando, always happy to launch hoaxes against Godoy and his mother, was Napoleon, who took advantage of the confusion to cover his responsibility in what was a true looting of Spain.

The Great Corsican he asked his brother-in-law Joaquín Murat, sent to take Madrid, to dispatch and dismantle on the way to France any valuable object that he found in the palaces to defray the expenses of the occupation. The historian Izquierdo Hernández He claims that the French appropriated only in the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial with diamonds and jewels for an estimated value of four million francs from the 19th century. Murat’s wife Carolina Bonaparte (1782-1839) would have left Spain for Paris with a millionaire treasure.

José Bonaparte as King of Spain, by François Gérard
José Bonaparte as King of Spain, by François Gérard

José I ordered, among his first measures, his major stewardship to deliver to the Minister of Finance, Count of Cabarrús, the jewels of the Spanish Crown for their appraisal. In an inventory kept in the French National Archives, there is a list of all those jewels that give a total price of 22 million reais. According to this same document, the minister himself Cabarrús He gave the jewels to the help of the House of José Bonaparte, Christopher Chinvelli, who sent them to Julia Clary, the King’s consort, in Paris. The Pond was removed from the Royal Palace and sent, with an appraisal of 1,500,000 reais, to France, while La Peregrina passed directly into the hands of the Bonaparte.

That plunder meant the disappearance of the jewels related to and belonging to the Spanish Crown, and since then, the rest of the jewels are exclusive and private goods, the jewels they possess the Kings of Spain. Some jewels, such as El Estanque, were able to return home after the war. Ferdinand VII gave it to Francis I of Naples, set on the hilt of a sword, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Cristina de Borbón, who would eventually be his fourth wife.

Even today there are those who defend in Spain that that pearl of Taylor is not the authentic one

Other pieces lost their trail or, of course, moved away from Spain. When Napoleon’s brother broke up and went to United States with a lover, he took the Pilgrim with him. The jewel is believed to have ended at his death in the hands of Napoleon III, who in turn sold it to the Marquis of Abercorn, whose wife wore it at least once at a ball in the Tuileries Palace. After many twists and turns it ended up in the hands of the actor Richard Burton, who acquired it in the mid-20th century and gave it to his beloved Elizabeth Taylor.

Even today there are those who defend in Spain that this pearl of Taylor is not the authentic one and that, in fact, the Bourbons never got rid of it.

Marshal Soult out of control

Apart from the looting of the jewels, the Napoleonic troops carried out a complete looting of the Spanish artistic heritage. After the battle of Vitoria, the duke of wellington he intercepted José I’s luggage when he tried to flee Spain. In the car were found not only State documents, some love letters and a silver chamber pot, but also more than two hundred paintings on canvas, unhooked from its racks and rolled up, along with drawings and engravings.

Bonaparte’s luggage was only the tip of the iceberg of a process of institutional looting that began in 1808 under the false pretext of gathering the works in a museum in Madrid for its good conservation, but which later became a project to nurture the Louvre in France. Fifty paintings specifically selected for Napoleon arrived in Paris in July 1814 after a journey of more than a year. Previously Vivant Denon he had already sent two hundred and fifty selected works. Only six works were exhibited, as the rest were considered second row by those responsible for the Louvre, who did not believe in the existence of a Spanish school as such.

Calculate the Carlos Ballesta López Foundation In his work “The Expolio of Spanish Heritage during the War of Independence”, almost 2,000 paintings were stolen in Madrid, which added to the almost 1,000 in Seville, make almost 3,000 in the two Spanish cities alone. Among these works, a large part were by Flemish and Italian authors, such as Rubens, Rafael, Titian, or Corregio, highly appreciated in France, but also Spanish painters such as Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán or Ribera.

The situation became so scandalous and chaotic that on September 12, 1809, José I prohibited the extraction of precious metals and ordered the confiscation of everything that had been hidden and, by means of another subsequent decree, prohibited the exit of works of art from the country. Even so, these prohibitions did not affect the military governors of the different provinces, who enjoyed a total level of independence from Madrid and took advantage of the virgin land that was Spain to profit from the plunder.

José I prohibited the extraction of precious metals and ordered the confiscation of everything that had been hidden

Marshal Soult, general-in-chief of the Andalusian army, stood out as the most brilliant trilero when it came to obtaining works of art through extortion. As he extended his military power, he offered the religious of the Andalusian monasteries his help and protection, a euphemism for them to sell him at ridiculous prices the works of art that most interested him. The marshal maintained a constant flow of shipments to France until almost the end of the occupation, in 1813. A large part of the paintings were by Murillo, a painter who, unlike the rest of the Spanish, enjoyed a certain prestige abroad.

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“The confinement, I live it as when I am on mission on board, as on a long crossing”

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Georges Nivat: “In Russia there is the idea that there is no truth, only opinions”

The memories of Russia are multiple. It is this plurality that the specialist of Russian culture Georges Nivat continues to explore in the monument work Sites of Russian memory, whose second volume – “History and myths of Russian memory” – was recently published by Fayard editions. On several hundred pages are listed the topoi from this memory – from historians who over the centuries have ordered the national narrative to peasant folklore, from mythified figures like Peter the Great and Lenin to the founding myths of “Moscow, third Rome” or of the patriotic war against Napoleon in 1812, passing by saints and martyrs, encyclopedias, the image of the Jew or the question of women…

You are openly referring to Memory places by Pierre Nora. Is your approach the same?

Memorial place, that inspired me, were built little by little. I remain very modest, but I built right away. In France, literature begins earlier, cathedrals too, free cities and the franc-bourgeoisie appear before. In Russia, we realized very late that the “chronicle” had started as early as the XIe and XIIe centuries. The Chronicles Edition, which I called “The invention of chronicles”, starts under Nicolas Ier, in particular with the publication of Chronicles of Novgorod, in 60 volumes, and continues to this day. Russia really liked to build its scientific memory through this.

Amnesia-hypermnesia, eternal tension of Russian memory issues …

Russia has a long memory, if we compare to France, which has a short memory. Take the example of the glory of arms. In France, we no longer have the idea of ​​this glory, the public no longer knows what a war is. Napoleon, we don’t have a cult anymore. Young people no longer know who Clovis is … On the other hand, there is not a Russian who does not know Vladimir the Red Sun, the founder of “Holy Russia”.

And then there is what I call “the school of amnesia”, the one we knew during the French Revolution at certain times – Lyon was renamed into “nameless city” to punish it, it doesn’t only lasted a few months. While the Russian blackout during the Soviet period lasts seventy years, when cities are renamed and history rewritten. Or the hole in the peasant memory, the loss of popular folklore, as the sociologist Boris Firsov, from the working class, who so well started living oral history with peasants, shows so well. arrived in cities in the aftermath of the revolution.

Russian society is still sick of these mutilations of memory, of amnesia imposed at the state level …

From the point of view of memory, the truth does not make sense. One can very well keep the memory of a lie by being convinced that it is the truth, and all the efforts of authentic historians to demonstrate for example that the Katyn massacre is not due to the Germans, but well to the Soviets, will be in vain. Even when the government admitted it, Yeltsin first, Putin second, opinion did not change its mind. I also wanted to show another aspect of these extraordinary memory lapses: 95% of the churches and monasteries were destroyed, but at the same time there was a first-rate restoration school for the remaining 5%.

Today, is Russian history taught in a less mythical way?

Textbooks, from the first under Nicolas Ier until today, have always been and remain to the glory of the regime. Today’s textbook is inspired by President Putin, who demanded that nothing be excluded, neither the White Army, the Red Army, nor the Autocracy. A kind of consensus.

But this unique manual is rightly criticized for minimizing the terror, the gulag, and more generally the dark aspects of the communist regime …

Yes, but the Gulag Archipelago, in the abridged version by the widow of Solzhenitsyn, is on the school program. As long as Putin does not ban this book, he defends a certain idea of ​​the terror debate.

State violence, the fear it inspires are among the topoi that you describe …

Fear of the State was established by the great reformer Pierre the Great, in the XVIIIe century. He imports both science and technology, corresponds with Leibniz, and at the same time he creates the Third Section, a secret police which instills mad fear. Pierre is a despot, enlightened but despot. Another great figure in Russian history is Ivan the Terrible. Was he a madman, a madman, or a progressive man who understood that without terror you cannot hold a gigantic territory? It was he who gave Russia its present form …

Are the debates on historical memory fruitful in Russia?

There are very old debates, fundamental for the memory, but almost without exit. Like these series of collections entitled “Pro and Contra”, which present different points of view on the work of writers, poets, philosophers. It’s interesting but it creates the idea that there is no truth, only opinions. These debates give no key to find your way around. Take for example the character of Boris Godounov, at the end of the XVIe century: did he really order the murder of Tsarevich Dimitri to steal the throne from him? No, he did not sponsor it. Historians have confirmed this as early as 1920-1930. But the historian Nicolas Karamzine had found that this alliance of virtue and crime, it sounded good, this stain on the conscience of the virtuous man. The poet Alexander Pushkin took up the story [dans une célèbre tragédie, qui a par la suite inspiré, entre autres, un opéra de Moussorgski et une musique de scène de Prokofiev, ndlr]. From that moment on, it became the truth, the accepted version. Russian culture debates what its historical memory is, but it debates badly because it does not listen to the historical inquiry.


Veronika Dorman Photo Rémy Artiges for Liberation

Georges Nivat (under the direction of) Sites of Russian memory tome 2 Fayard, 880 pp., € 49.90 (ebook: € 39.99).

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the elderly general who destroyed Napoleon at Waterloo was hallucinating

Madrid

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He said it himself Napoleon on Saint Helena, the island to which he was banished after his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815: “Without him there, I do not know where His Grace would be now — in reference to General Wellington — ‌ but surely I I will not be here”. The French emperor spoke of the Prussian marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, whose name was relegated to the background in history, despite the fact that many historians today maintain that, without his appearance in the midst of the gigantic combat, France would have swept England.

The Italian historian Alessandro Barbero defends this same theory in his book “The battle. Waterloo History » (Destiny, 2004): Without the reinforcement of the Marshal’s more than 117,000 soldiers at a crucial moment in combat, Wellington’s 100,000 men would never have been able to defeat Napoleon’s 124,000 alone. English would never have changed the world balance without the miraculous and saving appearance of Blücher on horseback, cheering on his soldiers in the front line of combat, with no less than 73 years. Proud Wellington knew this and expressed it once in private, but British historiography insisted from that moment on burying the figure of the brave and eccentric old man who, at this point in his life, abused alcohol, had shown signs of deterioration of his mental health and he had even experienced episodes of schizophrenia.

When the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was celebrated five years ago, both Britain and France – with less pride – plunged into countless tributes, exhibitions and retrospectives. Thousands of publications and reports focused on the apocalyptic confrontation between Napoleon and Wellington. All kinds of portraits were made of them, they analyzed their personalities and valued the role that both had played in the birth of contemporary Europe … as if Blücher had little to do with it.

The Depression

It was in the decisive battle of Auerstädt, in 1806, where Blücher first confronted Bonaparte within the well-known Fourth Coalition against the French empire. He did so six times, more than most generals of his time. This first time, however, he fought under the Duke of Brunswick against the French Davout, where the veteran general displayed his foolish momentum. He launched brave cavalry charges against the enemy, but Prussia was equally defeated. Berlin was occupied by Napoleon, the Royal Family had to flee and Blücher himself was taken prisoner after being cornered near Denmark.

Preparations began at that time for the Prussian army to be reborn from its ashes and take revenge, but the marshal entered a phase of deep depression facilitated by alcohol abuse and the increasingly frequent episodes of schizophrenia. That deterioration further his mental faculties, a problem that dragged much of his life. In the following years, he even came to believe that he was pregnant with an elephant thanks to a French soldier. He even mentioned it to Wellington in one of his meetings, which he could not believe his ears. While on other occasions he seemed convinced that his servants conspired against him in support of the French, to the point of heating the floor of his rooms under the orders of Napoleon himself, with the aim of burning his feet. And not infrequently they saw him fight against imaginary enemies, destroying the furniture of his own house, as if it were Don Quixote against the mills.

The marshal also lived worried about his son Franz, who also suffered from mental illness. That did not help the quarterback recover, while the problems were increasing. During the campaign of 1814, these psychological setbacks left him incapacitated for combat, which caused the Prussian general Yorck refuse to comply with your orders. They had come through him too General Gneisenau, but this argued that they were signed backwards. “You see that the old man is crazy again, so it is Gneisenau who is in charge again, something that we cannot tolerate,” he argued.

Blücher portrait
Blücher portrait

Many high-ranking Prussian government officials doubted whether Blücher was the proper military man to lead his Army at Waterloo. Firstly, because of his advanced age, and, secondly, because of that eccentric behavior bordering on madness. Finally they agreed for the support shown by the General ScharnhorstBut the criticism did not stop: they saw him as a wild and erratic military man. He Earl Louis Langeron, one of Napoleon’s leading generals, described him this way: «His energy was prodigious. His eye for the terrain was excellent, his heroic courage inspired the troops, but his talent as a general was limited by these qualities. He had little knowledge of the strategy, was unable to locate where he was on the map, and was unable to elaborate a campaign plan or the disposition of his troops.

Born in Rostock, a city on the Baltic coast, he had joined a Hussar regiment recruited by the Swedish Army in 1758 as a young man. Two years later he was captured in a skirmish with Prussian hussars, and his commander convinced him to join them. That was the beginning of a stormy career that, after extremely harsh experiences, clearly affected his mental health, despite being one of the most gifted soldiers in Europe.

“He was abrupt, uneducated, honest and honest”, as the historian describes him Peter Hofschröer in “Waterloo” (Ariel, 2015). His feelings were so intense that they sometimes upset his emotional balance. He felt great anguish when his country was humiliated and looted by the neighbors. Then Napoleon’s afflicted defeat of Prussia was taken in 1806 as a personal matter, and when the latter escaped his exile on the island of Elba years later, the marshal was eager to again wield the sword against him. He defended tooth and nail the idea that, since his homeland had been robbed and impoverished by Bonaparte, the war had to be brought to France and everything that was within its reach was razed. His hatred bordered on the psychotic, to the point that many historians believe that Wellington would not have obtained the support of the Prussians if it were not for that sentiment, since General Gneisenau, who accompanied him in 1815, detested the English as much as he did the French emperor and he would not have collaborated with them if he were alone.

The moment of truth

Despite criticism, it was the “old fool” who decided on Waterloo’s historic victory on June 18, 1815. He ended Bonaparte’s imperial dream, having spent his years at home in Europe for many years. Since then, everything that surrounded that day has awakened an enormous fascination that transcends fans of military history: 217,000 soldiers of the alliance formed by the English, Prussians, Dutch, Belgians and Germans, against the 124,000 French. A kind of small world war fought in a single day, which ended the myth of Napoleon and established another, that of Wellington, unfairly leaving Blücher as a kind of secondary actor.

The Prussian Army, with Blücher in front, in a painting by Carl Röchling

What would have happened without him? Throughout the morning, the battle tilted on Bonaparte’s side, to the point that his impetuous Marshal Michel Ney he was convinced that the English were going to withdraw. Then he threw himself on horseback, directing another charge against Wellington, whose men had to shield themselves in box formation and shoot the Gallic horsemen as best they could. Napoleon then called the old guard, the most senior and veteran of his Imperial Guard, to deliver the coup de grace.

Everything was hanging by a thread, when, at 2:00 pm, the French heard on their right flank, amidst the smoke, the sound of gunshots and drums. Such was the turmoil and turmoil that Bonaparte was thought to be Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy’s own troops returning to his aid. But no, it was the 30,000 soldiers with Blücher in front. There is the old marshal, with his gray hair and his thick mustache, dressed in black, appearing at the exact moment. He knew that if he did not arrive in time to help Wellington, Napoleon would subjugate Europe once again. So he sped up the march from Wavre, traversing all sorts of muddy, battered roads after the storms the night before.

France, 30,000 dead

Confusion and fear spread among the French when they saw Blücher’s men appear attacking from the flanks. Bonaparte was quick to back off, something they had never done in their history. For the first time in the day the British took the initiative and advanced with the help of the fresher Prussians. The sign of the battle changed, the Gauls began their flight and our protagonists chased them until nightfall. All this, with land strewn with thousands of corpses.

Bonaparte abdicated four days later. He had lost 30,000 men. Wellington, 15,000, and Blücher, 6,700. Despite this, he was never worthy of as many tributes as his comrades-in-arms, as if he had little to do with the collapse of the French empire and the change of leadership in the world order in favor of Great Britain. As of today, in fact, we do not find any biography of the marshal in Spanish, unlike the large number of novels and movies that have been published and released by the other two. He is an excellent soldier, a good saber. It is like a bull that closes its eyes and rushes forward without seeing any danger. He is stubborn, tireless and fear nothing, “wrote Napoelón from his exile Santa Elena, before dying.

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Napoleon’s strange request “to open his corpse” when he died: what if he was killed?

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According to the copies kept in the newspaper library of the National Library of Spain, the exclusive death of Napoleon in our country gave it on July 17, 1821, two and a half months after it occurred, “The universal”, a constitutionalist newspaper that was published between 1820 and 1823, and « Miscellany», One of the most influential headlines of the Liberal Triennium. The brief and aseptic review of the latter he said: «The foreign papers we receive today announce that on May 5 at 6 in the afternoon Napoleon Bonaparte died in Santa Elena, after forty days in bed. The cause, a stomach cancer, as has been discovered by the dissection of his corpse requested by himself.

The Republican general was then 51 years old and had been imprisoned and banished by the British on that Atlantic island six years earlier. There he stayed all that time with a small group of followers and there he dictated his memoirs and criticized his captors. But soon he began to suffer a severe pain in the stomach, afflicted with continued heaviness, and more pain in the right side. Doctors believed it was a liver condition, but the French emperor suspected that he was suffering from the same ailment as his father: a cirrus in the pylorus or stomach cancer. However, he did not want to tell anyone until he was sure himself.

For two centuries, the death of one of the most powerful men in French history has been surrounded by all kinds of speculation. The official cause given that May 5, 1821 was, indeed, a cancer, but other subsequent investigations also defended that he had been poisoned. What exactly did the other Spanish newspapers of the time tell about the causes of death and what have been the different theories to this day? Well, the most varied.

The exile

For just over a decade, Napoleon was the lord and master of Europe. It conquered and controlled almost the entire western and central part of the continent with arms or through alliances. Only after his defeat at the Battle of the Nations, near Leipzig, in October 1813, he was forced to abdicate months later. At that time he returned to France and regained power during the period called the “Hundred Days.” Until he was last defeated in Battle of Waterloo, on June 18, 1815, in Belgium. It was at that very moment when he was banished awaiting his death, knowing that he was surrounded at that moment by more enemies than followers.

The review of « The universal“Of that July 17, 1821 echoed what was published about the emperor by the English media:” Before expiring, he asked that his corpse be opened to see if his illness came from the same cause that ended the life of his father. That is, cancer. This was done by the doctors and found that the patient had not been deceived. And he kept all his knowledge until he breathed his last, apparently dying without pain.

In the same news story, it was reported that Bonaparte did not start treating this tumor until 15 days before he died and that, when he did, “he announced to the doctors that he would not get out of it.” “It is easy to guess,” he surmised next, “what causes that illness had produced, considering the reverses of fortune he experienced. [Napoleón]. Mainly, the painful separation of his beloved and tender wife and his adored son. And, on the other hand, the unjust exile he was suffering, condemned to live in a way entirely contrary to the active life to which he was accustomed »

Napoleon’s shadow

During the two and a half months it took for the news to arrive, Spanish newspapers continued to publish news of Napoleon as if he were alive. The shadow of the man who had dominated Europe and changed the course of history was too great. And despite his banishment, he was not forgotten. “The Spectator” dispatched himself at ease considering that “Bonaparte wanted to broaden the limits of his power in a way that nature itself did not allow and fell to the ground.” While, “The Censor” he wondered, “When did he put a brake on himself? Never, because with the triumphs the claims grow ».

Most surprisingly, he was still considered a threat, despite having been out of power for six years. In another article from «El Universal», published almost a month earlier, Greece was said to be considering the possibility of sending various emissaries to Saint Helena to persuade Napoleon to command his armies against the Turks. They did not know that the former emperor was already dead: “We cannot deny that the rumor that the prisoner of his island was intended to be released has spread throughout Europe in recent days […]. His appearance would be the best dam that could oppose the immense ambition of Russia and the insufferable insolence of the French ultras. It would be the best safeguard for constitutional freedom in Europe. ”

When the news of the death came, most newspapers did not skimp on details of what happened. The «New Journal of Madrid» the rumor pointed out that the body was also on the ship that brought the news to Europe, although later he denied it. And another that Napoleon had shown no sign of pain until his last breath escaped him, “although he must have suffered greatly during his illness.”

Doubts about the causes

His death, however, is still full of unknowns. So many researchers have wanted to question the cancer hypothesis that the only thing that seems to be certain is that he spends his last days in Santa Elena. There, two weeks before, with nausea, intense pain and fatigue, he went on to say: “My greatest pleasure would be knowing that the time has come to shoot me: I would consider it a favor.”

Today, different versions continue to analyze each part of his body to find a credible argument. The most accepted version by historians is, indeed, stomach cancer. That was the opinion reached by his personal doctor, Francesco Antommarchi, in the presence of the aforementioned British doctors.

In 1840, when his body returned to France to be buried again, the theory of murder began to circulate. The substance chosen to finish off the powerful military and politician would have been arsenic. Everything pointed directly to Count Charles de Montholon, who would have been the executor of a conspiracy led by the French royalists, fearful that Bonaparte would one day think of returning from the island of Saint Helena to France.

“It remains only to exhume his remains”

This theory was endorsed 121 years later, in 1961, by a prestigious Swedish stomatologist, who assured that the emperor had been poisoned with this chemical element. In 2001, three forensic experts re-analyzed Napoleon’s hair and came to the same conclusion. Pascal Kintz of the Strasbourg Institute of Forensic Medicine specified that an analysis of hair taken from Napoleon’s head revealed “concentrations of arsenic … between 7 and 38 times higher than normal, which is undoubtedly characteristic of poisoning”.

Kintz, along with Professor Bertrand Ludes, also from the Strasbourg Institute, and Paul Fornes, from the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, were commissioned to analyze hair samples from the Canadian Ben Weider, President of the International Society of Napoleon. He has written numerous articles and books ascribing to the theory of murder, based on a 1995 analysis by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which came to the same conclusion. “If people still have doubts about the poisoning theory, despite what French experts discovered, it remains only to exhume the remains of Napoleon,” Weider said.

In 2004, however, a new line of investigation was opened blaming Napoleon’s excess doctors’ zeal. According to the magazine NewScientist, the aggressive treatment of these led the emperor to death. He was first given a combination of enemas and potassium antinomy tartrate to make him vomit. That would have caused a cardiac arrhythmia called “Torsades de pointes.”

Up pants

With this pathology, the pulse is accelerated to the point of severely affecting the blood flow that must reach the brain. And then the final trigger was a dose of 600 milligrams of mercuric chloride, in a purge that gave him two days and that would have reduced blood potassium levels even more, according to this investigation carried out by forensic pathologist Steven Karch, from the San Francisco Department of Medical Examiners (USA). A hypothesis that also gave an explanation to justify the presence of arsenic in Napoleon’s corpse: he attributed it to coal smoke and other environmental sources typical of the time, rather than poison.

To make matters worse, a team of Swiss scientists decided to examine the emperor’s pants. The doctors analyzed twelve pairs that the Corsican put on in the Santa Elena years. They measured his waist and verified that the largest was 110 centimeters and, shortly before his death, it did not reach 100 centimeters. According to this study, he lost around 15 kilos in recent months to stay at 79. That led them to the conclusion that his death was due to the official version: abdominal cancer. Back to the beginning.

And they also explained the presence of arsenic, which was because Napoleon used to drink at least one glass of wine a day. It turns out that 19th-century winemakers used to dry barrels with this component, although it could also be due to the wallpapering of the walls of their home in exile or to the fact that doctors had supplied it to vomit.

“His name has been heard throughout Europe”

Natural death, silent conspiracy or medical error, the truth is that Napoleon died on May 5, 1821, as he told “The viewer” almost three months later: «At about 3 in the morning on the 5th he lost consciousness. The last words he was heard to utter were: “My God and the French nation!” ‘ And a few lines below he reported that his body had been publicly exposed two days, before the massive burial “under some willows”, with 3,000 soldiers and four marching bands accompanying the coffin: “He had on his uniform, a plaque on one side and a silver cross on the chest. He rested on the field bed that had served him in almost all his campaigns. Beneath her body was the silver-embroidered blue cloth cape she had worn on the day of the battle of Marengo [el 14 de junio de 1800, contra las tropas austríacas] and that it has served as a mortuary cloth in his funerals ».

“El Universal” offered, on July 26, 1821, a similar point of view: “Few conquerors have had such a prodigious celebrity as he. His name has been heard throughout Europe and has still resonated even in the extremities of Asia. Bonaparte was placed, by the irresistible force of events, at the head of a great nation tired of long anarchy. And he became heir, so to speak, of a revolution [la Revolución Francesa de 1789] that exalted all the good and bad passions », he explained.

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