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64837.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 8:07 am Reply with quote

What was Napoleon's most humiliating defeat?

F: Waterloo

A: Being attacked by rabbits

July, 1807. Napoleon was in high spirits having signed The Peace of Tilsit, a landmark treaty between France, Russia and Prussia. To celebrate, Napoleon suggested that the Imperial Court should enjoy a lavish rabbit hunt, organized by his trusted chief-of-staff, Alexandre Berthier.

Berthier, who had joined the army at the age of thirteen, arranged the event in an emerald field with military precision.

A mouthwatering luncheon - fit for kings, minor royalty, and top military brass - was lovingly prepared in a billowing marquee. Fine wines were decanted into cut crystal decanters.

Platoons of beaters, game keepers and gun carriers chattered excitedly while waiting for the Imperial party. Nothing has been left to chance. Not even the game.

Berthier was so keen to impress that he had bought hundreds of rabbits to ensure that the Imperial Court had plenty to shoot at. Satisfied that nothing could possibly go wrong, Berthier waited calmly for the guests to take their position.

The shoot commenced, and the rabbits were released by the game keepers. But disaster struck. Berthier had bought tame rabbits who thought they were about to be fed. Rather than fleeing for their life, they saw Napoleon and thought he was their keeper bringing food.

The rabbits stormed towards Napoleon at 35 miles per hour. The shooting party could do nothing to stop them. The humiliated Emperor was left with no other option but to run, beating the rabbits off with his bare hands. But the rabbits did not relent; and drove the Emperor back to his carriage.

Napoleon sped off, utterly humiliated by one of the most harmless mammals on earth.


While we’re on Napoleon, here’s a little teaser:

What was Napoleon Bonaparte’s name?

F:Napoleon Bonaparte.

A:Nabulion da Buonaparte

Napoleon’s father was Carlo Mario da Buonaparte.

Napoleon, Carlo’s second child, was registered as Nabulion.

Analysis of the thousands of surviving Napoleon autographs shows that he always signed himself as Buonaparte, later as Bonaparte. Everyone, including his first wife Josephine, called him by this name, “both officially and familiarly.” When he became emperor, he was required to have a royal name and he reluctantly adopted Napoleon; his second wife knew him by that name. He rarely signed “Napoleon,” preferring “Nap,” “Np,” and “sometimes he forgot his new rank and signed ‘Bonaparte.’”

Source: ‘Napoleon’ by Paul Johnson (Weidenfeld, 2002).

Credit: Expanded from Justin Pollard and MC's DVD question:[/b]

64838.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 8:12 am Reply with quote

The source for the rabbit story is something called the Combat Information Center, which also advertises T-shirts with the slogan "Hippies smell" but does not cite the original source for the anecdote. Do we know it?

64852.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 9:04 am Reply with quote

But, in the words of historian David Chandler, “with a finer understanding of Napoleonic strategy than most of his generals, the rabbit horde divided into two wings and poured around the flanks of the party.”

From the source quoted above...

64853.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 9:04 am Reply with quote

Disgracefully, the Johnson book has no index; a quick flick through has wevealed no wabbits.

64854.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 9:20 am Reply with quote

Book World
Men of Destiny
Reviewed by Richard Pearson
870 words
15 December 2002
The Washington Post
Copyright 2002, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved

The Battle of Waterloo -- and the Great Commanders Who Fought It

By Andrew Roberts

Simon & Schuster. 350 pp. $27

How can one 350-page volume possibly tell the story of Waterloo and much of anything new about the lives of the battle's two great antagonists, the French Emperor Napoleon and Britain's first Duke of Wellington? Excellent multivolume biographies of these two great captains of history have been published, as have whole libraries of works on the battle.

In this book's introduction, British journalist, biographer and historian Andrew Roberts tells us that he did not attempt to write a biography, or simply another history of the Waterloo campaign, but something quite different. What he has delivered is a thoughtful, witty and authoritative study that focuses on the relationship between the two great soldiers and how they regarded each other, as soldiers and as men.

Although he assumes some knowledge about the main actors and the historical era, Andrews writes for the general reader and, although a prize-winning biographer, makes no claims to be a master of military history. Napoleon & Wellington includes a large and engaging summary of Waterloo, the historic 1815 battle that Napoleon lost in his last venture in the field and that Wellington (and the Prussians) famously won. It readily deserves the attention Roberts gives it, in part because it was the only time Napoleon and Wellington faced each other in battle.

Andrews uses the battle as the crux of the duo's relationship, retelling the famous story about Napoleon at breakfast before Waterloo, sneering to his marshals that "because you have been beaten by Wellington, you consider him a great general. And now I tell you that Wellington is a bad general, that the English are bad troops, and ce sera l'affaire d'un dejeuner [this can be settled over lunch]." Although the duke had not met Napoleon in battle before Waterloo, he had defeated six of Napoleon's marshals -- Jourdan, Soult, Marmont, Masse{acute}na, Ney and Victor -- and countless French generals. In Spain, Wellington was the prime architect of the "Spanish Ulcer" that bled France of an estimated 240,000 troops. (Wellington lost 36,000 men.) In fact, as Andrews shows through reports of the emperor's conversations in his journals and dispatches, Napoleon had more than a little respect for Wellington; most of his bitter remarks were made as his hatred grew during his St. Helena exile.

We learn Wellington's views on Napoleon through an unpublished treatise he left on the 1812 Russian campaign, his letters and the reports of remarks he made to diplomats, historians and friends. The duke, who described Napoleon as "no gentleman," still thought that the emperor commanding an army was worth 40,000 men, even while allowing that Napoleon's Russian campaign was a disaster of his own making.

Roberts examines the merits and faults of the two protagonists and revisits their battles, chiefly as a way of telling us about the age in which these huge figures lived as well as something about their personal lives. The two men were born in the same year at the edge of the empires they came to symbolize -- Napoleon on Corsica and Wellington in Ireland. They had the same number of brothers and sisters, attended French military academies and thought Hannibal the greatest of generals; they carried the same book by Julius Caesar with them on campaign.

The parallels go on and on, but the most interesting, dare one confess it, is the mistresses the two men shared; two of them are identified and marvelously profiled, and others are more than hinted at. The profiles of the two women break open much of the cultural and intellectual history of the era that is often omitted even from fuller biographies.

If their bedrooms are entertaining, the two men's libraries and writings are even more so. Through the use of margin notes by Napoleon and Wellington, Andrews describes not only what books each man's library contained but also how closely the books were read. You might enjoy telling anecdotes about the two men and their circle, including one about a rabbit hunt organized for Napoleon's enjoyment. A thousand rabbits were released to ensure a bountiful bag for the emperor, but gamekeepers used tame rather than wild rabbits, rabbits that mistook the emperor for their keeper with food. Instead of bounding away as challenging targets, they mobbed the conqueror of Europe as he fled to his carriage.
Or you might appreciate the great line that Wellington delivered to his delusional sovereign, King George IV, at a dinner party. The king, who was prince regent during the Napoleonic Wars and had never served in battle, had come to believe that he had personally led a victorious cavalry charge at Salamanca, a battle won in Spain by Wellington. Saying he had been disguised as a cavalry general and led the charge, he asked Wellington, "Was that not so?" A supremely tactful Wellington replied, "I have often heard your majesty say so." *


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