was not only a warrior; he was also a shrewd propagandist.
During his first campaign in Italy, he carefully crafted reports
from the battlefield, designed to increase his glory while
masking the ruthlessness with which he plundered the country.
He created his own newspapers France and the
Army of Italy, and The Newspaper of the Army of Italy,
which exalt his victories. Bonaparte himself actually writes
some articles. He himself wrote: "Bonaparte flies like lightning
and strikes like a thunderbolt."
He saw that his intelligence, his abilities were more than
just military. Not only had he become a great general, but
also possibly a future statesman. And everybody realizes
it, not only in Italy, but in France too.
strategy included commissioning paintings of himself. He brilliantly
created a mythical image of himself an infallible hero,
destined by God to rule over France.
He orders a painting after a victory. He dictates the
theme, the layout of the characters. He even orders the
dimensions of the frame.
From the very beginning Napoleon gave himself an image.
He created his own history. From his first triumphs, Bonaparte
understood that its not enough to win victories. He
uses images to make sure that his victories in Italy are
widely publicized in France.
the Egyptian campaign was a military disaster, Napoleon was
able to exploit the French people's fascination with the mysterious
country to his advantage. He used the press to keep the campaign,
and himself, in peoples minds. Street vendors in Paris
sold pictures with palm trees, with pyramids, or with a general
covered by plumes who harangues his troops and massacres the
infidels. Paris theaters produced spectacles about the "Victory
of the Pyramids." Paintings of the time show him returning
to France, grandly victorious, with a star of destiny shining
over his ship. By the time Napoleon returned to France from
Egypt in August 1799, he was famous.
brillant career ended on June 22, 1815 four days after
the Battle of Waterloo, when he abdicated his throne for the
second time. With no hope of escape, he put himself at the mercy
of Great Britain. He wished, he said, "to reside in a country
house near London." The British turned him down. Instead,
they sent him back into exile and took no chances that he
would ever return.
him a small group of loyal followers, they chose a far-flung
outpost of their Empire, a slab of volcanic rock in the South
Atlantic Ocean, and one of the most remote places on earth
No one escapes from St. Helena. This far-away island,
this isolated piece of rock, beaten by the winds, sinister.
When Napoleon sees this fortress for the first time, he
understands everything. He knows at this moment this is
going to be his grave.
the ruler of nearly all of Europe, Napoleon found himself
confined to an island ten miles long and six miles wide. On Elba,
he had at least been an Emperor. On St. Helena he was a prisoner,
guarded by 2000 soldiers and two ships that circled the island
24 hours a day. His final palace would be a wooden bungalow
that had once been a row of cattle stalls.
was forty-six years-old, with nothing to do for the rest of
his life but eat, sleep, and search for a way to occupy his
mind. "To die is nothing," he said, "but to live defeated
and without glory is to die every day."
of every vestige of power, on this stifling, windswept island
lost in the Atlantic, Napoleon fought the endless boredom
of his days. He gardened, read any book or newspaper he could
get his hands on, tried re-writing a tragedy of Voltaire's,
imposed an exacting imperial etiquette on his retinue, and
sparred with the islands English governor, who insisted
on calling Napoleon General Bonaparte.
one weapon was left him words. With words, he would
launch his last campaign. Day after day, he dictated his memoirs,
forging the story of his life into the stuff of legend.
is a set of lies that people have agreed upon," Napoleon said.
"Even when I am gone, I shall remain in people's minds the
star of their rights, my name will be the war cry of their
efforts, the motto of their hopes."