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April 2, 2024 44 mins

When a coalition of European nations invaded Paris in 1815, they offered Napoleon what they believed to be very generous terms of surrender: he would keep his head, but be exiled to a life as Emperor of the insignificant island of Elba off the coast of Italy. Though Napoleon claimed to be content with the thought of retirement, less than 11 months later, he had returned to France and reclaimed his throne.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Noble Blood, a production of iHeartRadio and Grimm
and Mild from Aaron Manky listener discretion advised. With the
end of the Napoleonic Wars, the gunpowder and smoke clearing
from the battlefields of Central Europe, there came the rebirth

(00:24):
of a tradition, the Grand Tour. It was something of
an institution, the idea that wealthy and aristocratic young men
would spend a year or so traveling the cultural centers
of the continent to learn about art and music, and
in the summer of eighteen fourteen, a young English colonel

(00:45):
named Montgomery Maxwell was eager to see the world. The
destinations for a young British boy were fairly well established Vienna, Venice, Florence,
but like many boys on their Grand tours in a
eighteen fourteen, Maxwell had added a slightly unusual stop to
his itinerary, a small rocky island a day's sail from

(01:10):
the western coast of Italy in the Mediterranean, called Elba.
Maxwell wasn't coming to Elba for the pleasant Mediterranean climate
or to investigate the moderately successful tin mining industry on
the island. No, he was there for a single tourist
attraction Napoleon Bonaparte. A few months prior, after Coalition forces

(01:35):
invaded Paris, Napoleon had been forced to surrender and abdicate
as Emperor of France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, and the United
Kingdom had all gotten together to come up with the
solution of what to do with this strange Corsican upstart
who had brought Europe to its knees. The answer they
came up with was Elba, exiled to an island that

(01:58):
Napoleon would be allowed to rule still as an emperor,
albeit an emperor of a much much smaller land mass.
Montgomery Maxwell sailed to Elba in the hopes of getting
to encounter, as he put it, quote, the man who
had been the idol of my imagination for years. As

(02:18):
it turns out, it wasn't too difficult for any Englishman
who arrived to Porto Ferrao, the largest city and capital
of Elba. It seemed like all you needed to do
was hang out long enough, and eventually the man who
had crowned himself at Notre Dame a decade prior would
just amble by and lo and behold he did. Although

(02:41):
as soon as Maxwell saw Napoleon out on a stroll
with some of his men. He couldn't help but be disappointed.
The idol of his imagination, he wrote, quote stood before
me with a round, ungraceful figure, and with a most
unpoetically perturbaned stomach. The countenance in which I expected to

(03:02):
behold a unison of the demon and the soldier, appeared
soft and mild. In the extreme. There was nothing striking
in it. End quote, Could it be the man who
had terrified Europe? The big bad of the British imagination was,
in the end just a man. Maxwell was disappointed. He

(03:26):
approached Napoleon here on Elba. Napoleon wasn't some distant gilded
figure hidden behind imperial trappings, And he introduced himself. And
in that moment, as the two men began to speak,
Maxwell understood the Emperor's power. He wrote, quote, I now
became enraptured with his lively, bewitching air, with his astonishing memory,

(03:51):
his information, and the fertility with which he kept up
an easy and agreeable conversation. No wonder French soldiers adore,
for he instantly proved to us all how well he
knew how to tickle the human heart. Napoleon was shockingly
personable and funny. When one of Maxwell's friends mentioned that

(04:13):
he was from Kent, right on the southeast coast of England,
a thin strip of water away from France, Napoleon replied,
we're neighbors. Napoleon had become an expert in playing the
role that people wanted him to play on Elba, something
of a genial mascot. Though he happily talked about his
former military victories, he renounced war. He was retired, he said,

(04:38):
and it seemed as though he were perfectly content about
all of it. He would pour you a glass of wine,
ask you about your family, and then happily chuckle about
the fact that the old Napoleon was dead and what
a run he had had. If there was one uncanny
skill that Napoleon had, it was the ability to subsume

(04:59):
himself into whatever narrative was the most effective at any
given moment, like a good monarch or pop star or celebrity.
He knew that his greatest power was in his symbolism,
in what others could project upon him. And here on Elba,
Napoleon had become the amiable retiree. Except that wasn't how

(05:22):
Napoleon wanted the story of Napoleon to end, though he
told taurists and visiting emissaries that he was more than
content to spend his days puttering around his little island.
Less than ten months after arriving on Elba, Napoleon decided
that his retirement was over. With a tiny fleet and

(05:43):
a ragtag group of loyal soldiers, Napoleon sailed from Elba
to the French coast, where he marched to Paris, and,
without firing a single bullet, reclaimed the throne he had
less than a year earlier been forced to abandon. The
Elban exile is a strange interlude in Napoleon's story, dwarfed

(06:05):
by the drama of what would come next, his final
defeat at Waterloo and then his permanent, much more restrictive
exile on Saint Helena. But those strange ten months on
Elba fascinate me. The period during which Napoleon was forced
to stop and take stock of both himself and his narrative.

(06:28):
And of course, Napoleon realized that the story of Napoleon
required a coda, a dramatic comeback, a heroic gambit. As
Montgomery Maxwell had seen, Napoleon the man was merely human,
but Napoleon wasn't interested in being a man. He self

(06:49):
mythologized in real time, and he wanted to become a legend,
no matter the cost. I'm Dana Schwartz, and this is
noble blood. I'm no scholar of military history, but you
don't really need to be in order to understand that
Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia was, in short a disaster.

(07:14):
As he retreated, his numbers dwindled. In just three weeks,
sixty thousand of Napoleon's men died from cold, disease, hunger,
and thirst, and so the stage was set for a
new coalition of European powers Prussia, Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain,
and Portugal to come together to rid the continent of

(07:37):
the Bonaparte problem. Facing an army twice his size, Napoleon
lost at the Battle of Leipzig in October of eighteen thirteen.
A few months later, the coalition forces invaded France. Napoleon,
still racing towards Paris, attempted to gather enough support to fight,
but citizens were already waving white handkerchiefs of surrender out

(08:02):
of their windows. They were simply done with fighting. Too
many boys had died, and Paris had no interest in
sustained warfare in its streets. Napoleon made it as far
as Fontainebleau, a chateau about seventy kilometers south of Paris,
where he got word that the city had fallen. The

(08:23):
provisional government, backed by the Foreign Coalition, deposed Napoleon as emperor,
and in his place they decided on the next leader
of France. The revolution had toppled the monarchy and beheaded
King Louis the sixteenth, but France somehow needed to figure
out a way to wipe out the Napoleonic era to

(08:44):
go back to the country they had been before the
Corsican general had painted the nation with his imperial symbols.
The coalition would ultimately determine that France would revert back
to its seventeen ninety two borders, and so why not
return as well to its eighteenth century systems of belief.

(09:06):
The provisional government decided to reinstate a king to invite
back to France the brother of the beheaded king, who
had been living in exile since the French Revolution, so
that he could rule, albeit as a constitutional, not absolute monarch.
He would take the title Louis the eighteenth. A few

(09:28):
decades prior, the French Revolution had toppled the monarchy and
beheaded King Louis the sixteenth, and the republic that had
replaced the monarchy had hardly been stable. Now France somehow
needed to figure out a way to wipe out the
Napoleonic era to go back to the country they had
been before the Corsican general had painted over the nation

(09:50):
with his imperial symbols. The coalition determined eventually that France
would revert back to its seventeen ninety two borders, and
so why not return as well to its eighteenth century monarchy.
The provisional government decided that, for a sense of national
unity and cohesion, that they would reinstate a king, and

(10:14):
so they invited back to France the brother of the
beheaded Louis the sixteenth, who had been living in exile
since the French Revolution, so that he could rule, albeit
as a constitutional not absolute monarch, under the title Louis
the eighteenth. In the early morning hours of April thirteenth,

(10:34):
eighteen fourteen, still at Fontainebleau, Napoleon pulled a poison lozenge
from the silk sachet he had kept around his neck
since the Moscow campaign. He swallowed it. A valet had
heard a commotion in the other room and called a doctor,
who hastened to Napoleon's side. Fortunately, the poison, a combination

(10:55):
of opium belladonna and white helbor, had degraded in the
two years since Napoleon had had it, and after being
induced to vomit by eating ashes from the fireplace, Napoleon
was left with nothing more serious than a sharp pain
in his stomach to contend with. He had survived his
suicide attempt, which meant that now he would have to

(11:17):
face the ignimity of his defeat. The question remained, what
was the world going to do with Napoleon. In the
spring of eighteen fourteen, the coalition of European powers gathered
together to try to figure it out. The terms would
be generous. After all, Napoleon famously inspired loyalty among his

(11:39):
soldiers and his followers. There was no need to make
him a martyr or induce a civil war in France. Besides,
he was a former emperor. As Mark Brode writes in
his book The Invisible Emperor, quote Europe's sovereigns still thought
of themselves as a band of equals, cousins, as he
liked to call them, bound despite intern seen conflicts by blood,

(12:04):
history and protocol, they alone understood the heavy task of ruling,
and they alone understood that a defeated emperor must be
treated with the deferent due to his title, even if
in this case the ruler in question had invented that
title for himself end quote. It was Tsar Alexander of

(12:27):
Russia who decided on Elba, a tiny island with no
real economic value, even though it was only a quick
sail over from Italy. The fact that it was an
island surrounded on all sides with water provided a comforting
mental barrier to Napoleon's confinement. Plus, he would be close
enough for them to keep an eye on. And even

(12:49):
though the rest of the European powers might have had
their own thoughts and opinions on how to deal with
the Napoleon problem, they also understood that time was of
the essence. The longer that Napoleon stayed in France, the
longer his followers might have to rally support around him.
They needed him gone, and so the treaty of Fontainebleau

(13:10):
set the terms. He would be Emperor of Elba, its
own principality and receive a pension from the French government
of two million francs, and permitted four hundred veterans from
his old guard, one corvette worship and a tiny fleet
in order to protect himself and the island from assassins
or barbary pirates. Napoleon would be going from a household

(13:33):
staff of three thousand people to forty. Reluctantly, Napoleon signed
the terms of his exile, and after a final salute
to the men at Fontainebleau, he allowed himself to be
escorted by coalition representatives toward his forced retirement. The representative

(13:54):
from the United Kingdom joining the escort was an English
colonel named Neil Campbell. Campbell had, to put it mildly,
a rough go getting there. He had been fighting as
part of the Coalition forces invading France. An Englishman fighting
alongside Russian soldiers, Campbell knew French, and so he shouted

(14:15):
out to a group of enemies surrender, speaking in French,
but the Russians that he was fighting alongside got confused
and assumed he was on the opposing side, and a
Russian soldier lanced him through the back. Fortunately for Campbell,
he also knew a little bit of Russian, just enough
to say anglisky polkovnik English colonel. Otherwise the Russians probably

(14:40):
would have killed him. He received medical treatment in time,
but then, truly adding insult to injury, while he was
recovering from his wounds, his luggage was stolen. Still. When
Campbell coalesced and made it to Paris, the British Foreign
Minister Castlereagh assigned him a unique task quote to attend

(15:02):
the late chief of the French government end quote on
his way to Elba. I like Castlereagh's phrasing there revealing
that no one was quite sure yet exactly what Napoleon's
new official title was. Campbell was also told to remain
on Elba until further notice. Quote if Napoleon should consider

(15:24):
the presence of a British officer can be of use
in protecting the island and his person against insult or attack.
But Campbell's presence wasn't just altruistic. He was also delicately
instructed to quote use discretion as the mode of communicating
with His Majesty's government meaning that there was some spying

(15:47):
going on as well. But the vagueness of the diplomatic
language meant that no one seemed quite to understand what
exactly Campbell was supposed to be doing on Elba, including
cam Was he there to protect Napoleon, to flatter him
with a sense of importance by granting his little island

(16:07):
the diplomatic recognition of the United Kingdom. Was Campbell just
there to spy or was he meant to be Napoleon's jailer.
All of that uncertainty would come later. In the early
spring of eighteen fourteen, Campbell knew exactly what his job
was gets Napoleon to Elba. The problem was Napoleon was

(16:30):
perfectly content to take his sweet time. He was probably
biding his time, hoping that the volatile political landscape might
swerve in his favor if he waited long enough. But
eventually enough was enough, and Campbell and representatives from Austria,
Russia and Prussia all joined Napoleon down from Fontainebleau to

(16:52):
the French coast. The south of France was more Catholic
and old fashioned than Paris and more royalist. Napoleon's tariffs
had hit Port cities, especially hard, which meant that as
they all rode through the small towns, Napoleon saw himself
hanged in effigy and swinging from a tree. Angry French

(17:16):
citizens climbed onto his carriage to try to physically attack him.
After Avignon, Napoleon chose to borrow a tattered jacket from
one of the Austrian soldiers and a greatcoat from one
of the Russians. He also wore a hat with a
bourgon white rosette to complete the ruse. He rode ahead

(17:37):
of the entourage pretending to be a courier. The disguise
was so convincing, apparently, that when Napoleon stopped at an inn,
the innkeeper asked if he had come across the scoundrel
Bonaparte on the ride down. Napoleon shook his head, and
the innkeeper continued, I hope he drowns on the way

(17:57):
to Elba. Napoleon left the inn without eating. Finally, the
group made it down to the coast unharmed. There in
the harbor was the small French ship, the Inconstant, that
Napoleon was supposed to take to Elba. The Inconstant would
also remain with him there as his defensive navy. The

(18:19):
ship was admittedly run down and worse for wear, and
Napoleon declared that it would be beneath his dignity to
sail on it. Instead, he said he wanted to sail
on the British ship the Undaunted, that was going to
escort the Inconstant to Elba. Campbell said that was fine,
and then likely still stalling for time, Napoleon made another

(18:43):
demand as an emperor, he would only board the ship
if he got a twenty one gun salute. Campbell called
his bluff and gave him the twenty one gun salute,
and so Napoleon had no other choice but to step
off French soil for what was posed to be the
last time ever a master of messaging. Before Napoleon arrived

(19:06):
on Elba, he had the island's biggest city plastered with
his official greeting, claiming that he had decided to come
to Elba for his sojourn because of its kind people
and mild climate. Before he disembarked, Napoleon had a new
flag designed for his island, white with a red stripe
and three golden bees. Bees had been his emblem when

(19:28):
he had been Emperor of France and ever the overachiever.
Even before Napoleon had officially disembarked, he snuck onto the
island on a small rowboat to scope it out. When
he did finally make his official landing, Napoleon was presented
with a key to the city. In the crowd, he

(19:49):
recognized a face a soldier who had once fought for him,
and Napoleon called him out. That famous Bonaparte charm and
memory at work. The new Emperor of Elba was given
temporary rooms on the top floor of the city's town hall,
which was a former bakery that was still known as

(20:09):
the Biscoturia. Napoleon wasted no time in trying to whip
the island into imperial shape, waking up early to scope
out sites for not only his permanent residence but also
a country house. As Campbell wrote, quote, I have never
seen a man in any situation of life with so

(20:30):
much personal activity and restless perseverance. He appears to take
so much pleasure in perpetual movement and in seeing those
who accompany him sink under fatigue, as has been the
case on several occasions. I do not think it is
possible for him to sit down to study on any
pursuits of retirement, as proclaimed by him to be his intention,

(20:53):
so long as his state of health permits corporeal exercise.
Napoleon was not going to be the type of retiree
to take up painting or tai chi. His days were
long and grueling, and he had no shortage of ideas
for improvements that he wanted to make on Elba, from
widening streets to planting trees, to resuming taxes and reorganizing

(21:18):
the tin mines, and his addiction to conquest continued. Napoleon
had Elba conquer an island even smaller than Elba, which
was basically just an uninhabited rock called Pianosa, seemingly just because,
as Talleyrand once famously equipped, what a pity, the man

(21:39):
wasn't lazy, and work began quickly on the palace Napoleon wanted,
overlooking Porto Ferrao with rooms for Napoleon and optimistically also
rooms for his wife, Mary Louise, whom Napoleon still hoped
would join him in exile. One evening, Elbin were shocked

(22:00):
and delighted to see Mary Louise and the son she
shared with Napoleon coming onto the beach secretly by rowboat
their empress. People could not stop talking about her mysterious arrival.
Who had been the man rowing her, was at her
step son, Prince Eugene, and who had been the other
lady on the boat? What had she been wearing? Was

(22:22):
she wearing dazzling jewels? A local mayor attempted to pay respects,
and when people heard that Napoleon and his wife were
spending time in the little hermitage he used as his
country retreat, the people hiked up to try to get
a glimpse of their empress, Except there was one problem.
It was a woman and the son she shared with

(22:45):
Napoleon who had arrived on the island, But it wasn't
his wife. It was Napoleon's Polish mistress, Marie Walashka, and
their son Alexander. Once Napoleon got word that people thought
that she was the Empress, Napoleon sent Marie away after
only two evenings. Back when he was Emperor of France,

(23:07):
Napoleon had divorced his much more famous first wife, Josephine,
though he still loved her, because she hadn't provided him
a male heir, and so to that end he had
married the eighteen year old Marie Louise, daughter of the
Austrian Emperor Francis. Francis had reluctantly married his daughter to

(23:28):
a non blood royal because he had been the Emperor
of France. Now four years later, his daughter was locked
in a political alliance that was completely useless. When Napoleon
surrendered back at Fontainebleau, Marie Louise had gone with their
infant son back to Vienna to be with her family

(23:49):
for safekeeping, and though she wrote loving letters to her
exiled husband during those first few weeks, Marie Louise almost
certainly never received the sweet lets Napoleon was sending back.
Though Marie Louise's feelings for Napoleon, a man only two
years younger than her father, were fairly negative when the

(24:10):
marriage was first arranged, whether out of wifely duty or
genuine affection, it seemed that something like love had grown
over the years, and though her Austrian family had made
it very clear that they had no intention of sending
her to Elba to be with her groom, there was
a part of Marie Louise that thought she really should.

(24:33):
When Marie Louise made plans to travel to a spa
town in the south of France for a vacation, where
ostensibly it might be easy to take a boat ride
to Elba. The Austrian Foreign Minister sent along as her
escort a general named Adam von Kniperg, who was given
a simple task to quote turn the Duchess away from

(24:56):
all ideas of a journey to Elba, a journey which
would greatly upset the paternal feelings of his Majesty, who
cherishes the most tender wishes for the well being of
his well loved daughter. He must not fail, therefore, to try,
by any means whatsoever, to dissuade her from such a project.

(25:16):
It was no accident that von Kniberg was incredibly handsome,
and though he can't be certain what his methods of
persuasion were, in the end, Marie Louise did not travel
to Elba, and later, after Napoleon's death, he would become
her lover, and so the rooms on Elba that had
initially been designed for the empress gradually began to be

(25:41):
talked about as the rooms for Napoleon's sister, who did come. Josephine,
Napoleon believed was the wife who would have joined him
on Elba, and he was devastated that spring when he
got word that Josephine died back in France before her
fifty first birthday. She had been ill, but the more

(26:02):
tabloid version of her demise was that she had taken
a scandalous walk with Czar Alexander the First and had
worn just a thin muslin wrap that didn't protect her
from the cold. Napoleon's final letter to Josephine, which he
had sent a few months earlier, had ended with the
lines quote goodbye, my friend. Let me know you're well.

(26:26):
They say you're fattening up like a good Norman farm wife. Napoleon.
The Treaty of Paris, actually signed the day after Josephine's death,
officially ended the war and restored Paris to its seventeen
ninety two borders. Napoleon was settled on Elba, with a

(26:48):
garrison of guards and the feeble but passable ship the
Inconstant for his protection. Technically, Campbell's job should have been done.
Napoleon had early treated him like a friend or diplomat.
Now that Napoleon was settled into his Mannor home with
his sister and mother and guards, he didn't really see

(27:09):
a need to hang out with Campbell, and so Campbell
was stuck on Elbaw like a vestigial limb unsure exactly
what it was that he was supposed to be doing.
With no other British diplomats posted nearby, no friends, no
one to talk to, and the Foreign Office seemed to
be ghosting him. He sent letters requesting a formal extension

(27:33):
to his stay with no reply. Eventually, the Foreign Minister
sent a note telling Campbell to basically keep on keeping
on and also stop bothering him. He informed Campbell that
he the Foreign Minister, was going to the Peace conference
in Vienna, but don't bother to update your address book,
keep sending your dispatches to London unless something really important

(27:56):
comes up. To Campbell, it didn't really seem like anything
important to at all was happening, though. Napoleon was busy
with seemingly endless half finished ideas for improvements on Elba
and new properties he wanted to develop for himself. He
was living in what Campbell called quote perfect bourgeois simplicity,

(28:16):
spending his evenings playing dominoes or cards with his family
and playing piano before bed. In a scene that strikes
me as almost adorably domestic. Napoleon was playing cards with
his mother when she called him out. Napoleon, you're cheating,
she said, mother, You're rich, he retorted. But peaceful as

(28:38):
that scene is, the political situation back in France was
a little less stable than the European powers probably wanted.
The new King Louis the eighteenth wasn't making a dazzling
first impression. He traveled through London on his way back
to Paris, and here's the Lord Byron cameo. Lord Byron

(29:00):
commented on the scene, writing quote at this present, writing,
Louis the Goudi is wheeling in triumph into Piccadilly. In
all the pomp and rabblement of royalty and the new king.
Louis made perhaps one very early pr error when he
signed the document agreeing to the Constitution and by cameral legislature,

(29:24):
he dated it the nineteenth year of his reign. The
implication was, of course, that he had been king that
entire time, albeit in exile. Complicated as Napoleon was as
a figure, there was a significant amount of civic pride
that he had inspired among the French people. His military victories,

(29:46):
his conquests. The pomp and symbolism Napoleon wielded so well
had had an effect, and effectively erasing all of that
had the effect of embarrassment and a bit of shame,
especially considering that the restored Bourbon dynasty had obviously been
installed by foreign troops. There was a growing sense of dissatisfaction,

(30:11):
especially among veterans who had fought for Napoleon. As broad
points out, there was an irony that soldiers, the men
who would have sacrificed the most for Napoleon and his
endless wars, remained the most loyal to him. Napoleon got
the sense that a comeback might be possible. He was
also hearing rumors that the European powers were planning on

(30:35):
sending him further afield to a more distant exile on
Saint Helena off the coast of Africa, which would make
any escape impossible. And with the end of the War
of eighteen twelve, Europeans would no longer need to have
ships around America, which meant that more ships would be
patrolling the Mediterranean. All of that meant Napoleon understood that

(30:57):
if he wanted to pull off an escape, he would
need to do it quickly. The English officer Campbell, feeling
as though he were the one in exile, began to
spend more and more time off the island proper and
on the Tuscan coast. He justified his sojourns with the
nineteenth century equivalent of someone saying they're taking a mental

(31:20):
health day, writing that it would quote believe my mind,
and prove a very acceptable release from the sultry confinement
of Elba. Of course, it didn't hurt that Campbell had
also met an Italian noble woman named Contessa Miniacci, whose
origins and background were mysterious enough that she's invited speculation

(31:41):
that she was secretly a spy, either on Napoleon's behalf
or someone else's. If she was, she was incredibly subtle
about it, but she and Campbell did become lovers. Campbell
wrote to his superiors about the possibility of Napoleon absconding,
but he hedged his bets quote, I think he is capable

(32:04):
of crossing over to Piombino with his troops, or of
any other eccentricity. But if his residence in Elba and
his income are secured to him, I think you will
pass the rest of his life there in relative tranquility. Unfortunately,
Napoleon's income was not secure. Napoleon wasn't receiving the stipend
that he was promised in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which

(32:26):
was supposed to be paid by the French Bourbons. Apparently
they decided funding the man they saw as their enemy
was an expense they could put on the back burner,
And though later in his writings Napoleon would assure the
reader that taxes and the elbin mining industry would have
paid for his expenses, the reality was funds were insecure

(32:48):
and rapidly diminishing. When his ship, the Inconstant, needed repairs,
Napoleon took the opportunity to use that as cover to
outfit it for his invasion of France. After nine months
and twenty one days, Napoleon was done with retirement and
he was going to reconquer the nation he loved. On

(33:14):
February twenty sixth, eighteen fifteen, a small fleet comprised of
the Inconstant, four transports and two Feluccas set sail for
the south of France. There were a few reasons Napoleon
chose to land directly in France first, and perhaps most importantly,
it would cause confusion and delay because the European powers

(33:36):
assumed that any escape attempt Napoleon might make would be
through Italy. His brother in law was King of Naples,
and it seemed logical that Napoleon would take the short
boat ride rendezvous with him to bolster his troops, and
then march on land through Italy back to France, adding
troops along the way. But France was also a symbolic

(33:58):
landing point for Napoleon. Napoleon wouldn't be invading with his army.
This was to be a glorious homecoming. Later, Campbell would
be blamed for allowing Napoleon to escape, especially considering before
and during the actual departure he was off in Tuscany,

(34:19):
but he justified himself later in his writing with every
possible rationale. Quote, no part of Napoleon's plan for quitting
Elba could have increased my general suspicions, even if I
had been there from the sixteenth to the twenty sixth,
nor could have authorized me to report to the British
government any fact which could be considered as certain proof.

(34:42):
He adds, quote, there's no criminality in the act previous
to his embarkation of the troops and actual departure. Campbell
finishes with the conclusion that it's actually a good thing
that he and his ship weren't in the harbor at
the time, because then Napoleon could have captured his ship
and and added it to his invading fleet. From Napoleon's

(35:04):
landing on the southern coast of France, it was an
almost comically easy and heroic march up to Paris. Later,
Napoleon would say that the march was the happiest time
in his life. To me, it reads as a perfect
moment of Napoleon's self mythologizing manifesting in real time. Napoleon

(35:27):
was a master of his own story, and what could
make a man like that happier than living through its
dramatic climax, a come from behind victory in which he
escapes exile from under the noses of the European powers
in order to reclaim his nation. The most dramatic and
famous incident on Napoleon's march came outside Laffry, where a

(35:52):
troop of eight hundred French infantrymen, who had sworn an
oath to protect the Bourbon government, stood brandishing their weapons
and blocking Napoleon's way. Napoleon didn't attack. Instead, he ordered
his musicians to play the patriotic song Marcias, and he
walked in front of the enemy soldiers alone. He thrust

(36:15):
open his jacket an open target and shouted, soldiers, I'm
your emperor. Do you not recognize me? With his chest exposed,
he called, if any of you will shoot his emperor, here,
I am Among the eight hundred infantrymen, someone shouted fire,
but no one did, and then someone shouted something else,

(36:39):
long live the Emperor. The shout became joyful cheers as
the men embraced their exiled leader. Rather than stopping Napoleon's invasion,
the royal infantrymen joined him. Word reached Paris of Napoleon's
incoming invasion, but the mood was strangely unbothered and relaxed.

(37:03):
No one actually considered that Napoleon might succeed in reclaiming
the government, and it was partly how strange and how
shocking the whole thing was that gave Napoleon the advantage.
The audacity of Napoleon's escape stupefied his opponents into numb surrender.
Before Napoleon even made it to Paris, King Louis the

(37:26):
eighteenth had fled, and when Napoleon reclaimed his palace, the
carpets that the Bourbon king had installed were pealed back
to reveal that Napoleon's symbols, the Imperial Bees, were still
there beneath. Napoleon's escape from Elba had happened so quickly
after his exile began that the Congress of Vienna, where

(37:49):
world leaders were meeting to try to figure out what
to do in the power vacuum of post Napoleonic Europe,
was still meeting when Napoleon landed back in France. Early
Napoleon recognized that all of those leaders in one geographical
location would allow them to plan their countermove against him
far more efficiently than they otherwise could have via exchanging letters.

(38:13):
But the advantages to Napoleon acting quickly had outweighed that.
A week before Napoleon reached Paris, the Congress of Vienna
officially declared that he was an outlaw, breaking the terms
of his surrender in exile, and Austria, Prussia, Russia, and
the UK all committed men to bring him down again,

(38:33):
this time for good. Despite her loving letters at the
start of Napoleon's exile, when his wife Marie Louise got
word of his reclamation, she said that you would rather
join a convent than join her husband. They would never
see each other again. Napoleon's second act, cinematic as it was,

(38:54):
was also brief. One hundred days audacity would allow him
to grab power, but it wasn't enough to hold it,
and when the European forces finally defeated Napoleon at Waterloo,
this time they wouldn't be making the same mistake twice.
Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena, far too remote and

(39:15):
under far too much guard to even entertain the notion
of anything but full retirement. Napoleon died there, likely of
stomach cancer, not too long after. If you're wondering what
happened to poor Campbell, the lone English officer who, in
the minds of the British public, had one job. After

(39:37):
Napoleon's flotilla sailed off, he scrambled trying to figure out
where Napoleon was off to, which he incorrectly assumed would
be Italy. All of Campbell's efforts came too late. He
did not stop Napoleon, and once again adding insult to injury.
As Campbell was traveling along the Lagreen coast, he was

(39:58):
accosted by high wayman and had all of his possessions robbed.
It was a fitting and terrible bookend to his miserable
Alba assignment. That's the story of Napoleon's exile to Elba.

(40:21):
But keep listening after a brief sponsor break to hear
a little bit about two different outlaws who became entangled
with Napoleon's history. An American professor of history named John

(40:46):
William Rooney was working in the French National Archive when
he decided to take home a very unique souvenir. Rooney
walked out of the archives with a woven paper treaty
more than one one hundred and fifty years old, sealed
with a red wax and tied with a green cord.
Rooney had stolen the last remaining French copy of the

(41:09):
Treaty of Fontainebleau, the document with which Napoleon accepted the
surrender of his role as Emperor of France and his
new life as Emperor of Elba. It wasn't until nineteen
ninety six that a National Archive employee was looking through
a Sotheby's catalog when he noticed something peculiar, a long

(41:30):
missing treaty up for auction. With the investigation under way,
it was discovered that dozens of other important French documents
were missing, including thirty letters, conveniently with the National Archives
stamp sliced off. Most of the letters were concerning Louis
the eighteenth and the Restoration Government, which were found by

(41:52):
the FBI in a search of Rooney's home in two
thousand and one. The documents and the Treaty of Fontainebleaue
were return to France, but with no extradition agreement, the
punishment was light. Rooney, seventy one years old, was charged
with customs violations and find one thousand dollars. His friend

(42:12):
Marshall Pierce, a novelist, had been the one to actually
put the documents up for sale on Sotheby's, and he
was fined ten thousand dollars. Though France attempted to prosecute
Rooney in two thousand and five, the statute of limitations
on the robbery had expired and America was not going
to extradite a citizen. As far as I can tell,

(42:33):
Rooney if he is still alive, never returned to France
to stand trial. Rooney maintained that he bought the items
and did not know they were stolen, though in an
interview he said, if you were to stand in front
of the Pyramids of Egypt, you might pick up a
chip too. I have to say there is something about

(42:54):
the bald audacity with which Rooney and Pierce attempted to
pull off their robbery that frankly Napoleonic. During Napoleon's conquests
of Egypt and Italy, he stole countless works of art,
sculptures by Michelangelo, the Venus de Medici, sculpture paintings by Vasari, Varone,

(43:14):
Sei Giojo and Moore. Some were returned to Italy after
Napoleon fell from power, but some are still in the Louver.
An audacious act of international thievery of items related to
Napoleon might even be considered an homage. Noble Blood is

(43:45):
a production of iHeart Radio and Grimm and Mild from
Aaron Manky. Noble Blood is hosted by me Danish Forts,
with additional writing and researching by Hannah Johnston, Hannah Zwick, Court,
Zany Sender, Julia Milani, and Armand Cassam The show is
edited and produced by Noemi Griffin and rima Il Kaali,

(44:09):
with supervising producer Josh Thain and executive producers Aaron Mankey,
Alex Williams, and Matt Frederick. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows.
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