On a cold December day in 1840 Parisians turned out in force to watch as the body of Napoleon was solemnly carried on a riverboat from Courbevoie on its final journey to the Invalides. The return of their long-dead emperor’s corpse from the island of St. Helena was a moment that Paris had eagerly awaited, though many feared that the memories stirred would serve to further destabilize a country that had struggled for order and direction since he had been sent into exile.
In this book Alan Forrest tells the remarkable story of how the son of a Corsican attorney became the most powerful man in Europe, a man whose charisma and legacy endured after his lonely death many thousands of miles from the country whose fate had become so entwined with his own.
Along the way, Forrest also cuts away the many layers of myth and counter myth that have grown up around Napoleon, a man who mixed history and legend promiscuously. Drawing on original research and his own distinguished background in French history, Forrest demonstrates that Napoleon was as much a product of his times as their creator.
“With his emphasis on the construction of the Napoleonic myth, Forrest offers an introduction to a fascinating figure that should whet readers’ appetites for more.”
“[Forrest] seeks not only to show us Napoleon the man, but also Napoleon the player in a vast drama. . . . An open-minded, cleareyed view of a man who manifested the best and the worst of his species.” —Kirkus Reviews
"A comprehensive, yet always thoroughly accessible account . . . Forrest sets out to write for a broad audience and succeeds admirably . . . this book helps us understand why, 200 years on, Napoleon still matters." —BBC History Magazine