Napoleon Bonaparte: England's Prisoner: The Emperor in Exile 1816-21

Overview

Napoleon Bonaparte never set foot on English soil, although he was held aboard a warship off the coast of Devon after his surrender to the Royal Navy in 1815. Nor did he ever admit to being a prisoner. With its focus on the last six years of Napoleon's life—from his arrival at Devon, where he became the object of massive English public interest, through his exile on St. Helena, where he died in 1821—this close study of Napoleon in captivity attempts to reconstruct an authentic portrait of the fallen emperor by ...

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1st Edition, Fine-/Fine Top page ends have a 1-1/2" long slight crease or dent on them, o.w. clean, tight & bright. NO ink names, bookplates, DJ tears, etc. Price unclipped. ... ISBN 0786709065 Read more Show Less

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Overview

Napoleon Bonaparte never set foot on English soil, although he was held aboard a warship off the coast of Devon after his surrender to the Royal Navy in 1815. Nor did he ever admit to being a prisoner. With its focus on the last six years of Napoleon's life—from his arrival at Devon, where he became the object of massive English public interest, through his exile on St. Helena, where he died in 1821—this close study of Napoleon in captivity attempts to reconstruct an authentic portrait of the fallen emperor by examining contemporary documents and public records of opinion. As this judicious volume by journalist and historian Frank Giles shows, Napoleon worked hard at St. Helena to obfuscate the history of his tyranny in France with a legend that would elevate him as the architect of a federation of free European peoples—had it not been for the fears of reactionary monarchs and the envy of England. Many English citizens, most of them discontent Whigs, stood among Napoleon's collaborators in this legend, just as many of them joined in the condemnation of the British governor at St. Helena, Sir Hudson Lowe, as a petty, tyrannical bureaucrat and booby. Turning a scrupulous eye to the Hudson Lowe papers, Giles attempts to redeem Napoleon's jailer and guardian, reviled as he has been by critics on both sides of the Channel, from the judgment of history. What emerges is a more balanced view of both Lowe and Napoleon, condemned to each other on an island in the Atlantic for six years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Napoleon, Europe's 19th-century b te noir, spent his final years as Britain's prisoner, in the custody of Sir Hudson Lowe on the isolated south Atlantic island of St. Helena. This esoteric addition to the vast assortment of Napoleonic literature concerns the adversarial relationship between the former emperor and his keeper and the controversy Napoleon's exile spawned in Britain. Giles, former literary editor of London's Sunday Times and author of The Locust Years: The Story of the Fourth French Republic, proposes that the historical view of Lowe as a "pettifogging, tactless, suspicious, tyrannical officer" was the result of a "ceaseless campaign of vilification mounted against him by Bonaparte." Readers will find Giles's descriptions of Napoleon in exile no longer battling Wellington over countries, but battling Lowe over the protocols of dinner invitations and his right to be called emperor are poignant and pathetic. Much of the book is devoted to the discord within English society generated by his captivity. Giles explores the opinions of Lord and Lady Holland, prominent Whigs who steadfastly argued Bonaparte's case against Lowe, as well as those of Byron and Wordsworth, and artists and historians. The controversy did not end with Napoleon's death. He was interred on St. Helena despite his wish to be returned to France upon his death; 19 years later, the French government, hoping to appease a restless French citizenry nostalgic for past "Imperial glory," requested that the English allow Bonaparte's remains to be removed there. Ironically, the English complied with the request in order to help cement ties between the two nations. Giles is a straightforward writer and a diligentresearcher, but this narrow slice of history will draw only the most devoted students of Napoleon and his era. Illus. not seen by PW. (Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Giles's (The Locust Years: The Story of the Fourth French Republic) limited goal is not to add to the "countless biographies" and other works on the "much-studied personality" of Napoleon but rather to "re-examine the question of whether the British government of the day treated its prisoner...in an unjustifiably harsh and inhumane way." Giles's answer to that question is, in a word, "no." But what makes this study worth reading and what emerges most clearly from Giles's investigation is the fascinating variety of contradictory opinions about Napoleon. Certainly, the behavior of Sir Hudson Lowe, Napoleon's jailer and guardian on St. Helena during the six-year imprisonment, can be criticized (as it usually is) as well as condoned (as Giles does here). But as Giles satisfactorily demonstrates, perceptions about Napoleon's treatment on St. Helena were as often shaped by party politics as by a desire for justice. Giles favors the more realistic view that, given Napoleon's escape from Elba to resume his career as warlord, "What government in London...could do otherwise than to take the most stringent precautions to ensure that this time the cat was well and truly belled?" Recommended especially for academic libraries and public libraries with an interest in Napoleonic studies. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A jaundiced look at the traditional account of Napoleon's final years on St. Helena. The usual history of this period begins with the Emperor's abdication (his second) after Waterloo. A month later, he presented himself to the captain of a British frigate blockading Rochfort, hoping for a comfortable retirement in England. Instead, the government transported him and his retinue to an isolated island in the South Atlantic. Placed in charge was Major-General Sir Hudson Lowe, a mean-spirited officer who subjected his prisoner to six years of petty harassment and deprivation. Not only historians but historical figures from the Duke of Wellington to Charles de Gaulle have agreed Lowe was unfit for his job. English journalist Giles (The Locust Years: The Story of the Fourth French Republic, 1994, etc.) is not so sure. He points out that Napoleon was an impossibly difficult person: arrogant, demanding, constantly complaining. But he had plenty to complain about, as Lowe's superiors had given orders that guaranteed friction. For example, he was forbidden to address the prisoner as "Emperor." Letters, gifts, and even book dedications containing this title were confiscated. A more sophisticated governor would have interpreted his duties more liberally, but Lowe was excessively conscientious. Napoleon took an instant dislike to him, refusing to see him during the final four years. A torrent of complaints from Napoleon and his suite poured into Britain (France, under the restored Bourbons, was uninterested), producing much debate in newspapers and parliament. Lowe's superiors, however, remained supportive. Always admired by a minority of the English, Napoleon grew even more popular afterhis death. Biographies quickly appeared, all portraying the governor as Napoleon's tormenter. Lowe's career stagnated, and he died a bitter man. The Emperor's exile contained fewer fireworks than the years when he shook up the world, but no period in his life was dull. This is a lively, readable account, and its revisionist view rings true.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786709069
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 6.39 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.05 (d)

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