on earth is soon forgotten," Napoleon said, "except
the opinion we leave imprinted on history."
1823, two years after his death, the publication of Napoleons
memoirs sent shockwaves through French society. He reinterpreted
his decisions and re-fought his battles for all the world
to admire. Longing for the glories he presented and moved
by his heroic martyrdom, Napoleon was able to stir public
opinion against the restored King Louis XVIII from beyond
He reconstructs his actions to justify his choices, to
say that he was the savior of the revolution, to say that
he wanted peace, to say that he wanted a new world and that
the kings of Europe were opposed to a modern man, a man
of action who was working for the good of the people.
He had little else to do but fight the battle of his
image of his image, of his reputation
And it was an
extremely successful campaign
What is conveyed in
this is an individual who can accomplish so much, so very
much through determination and energy and intelligence.
This is his sense of himself.
St. Helena, Napoleon had dictated specific instructions to
his young son Napoleon II. Although he had named his son as
his successor when he abdicated, there was no real hope of
Napoleon II gaining the throne legitimately. Pictures of Napoleon
II, who had been raised in the Austrian royal court, adorned
the wall of many peasant households. But hopes for the return
of Napoleon II to France were dashed when he died of tuberculosis
at age twenty-one in 1832.
1848, the ideals embodied in the French Revolution
and codified in Napoleons Civil Code spread through
Europe once again. Revolutions broke out in Prussia, Austria,
Germany and Italy, as well as in France, as citizens demanded
greater rights. Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, son of Napoleons
brother Louis and Josephines daughter Hortense de Beauharnais,
capitalized on his family name to take control of the French
government and proclaim himself emperor Napoleon III. He reigned
until 1870, when a costly defeat by the Prussians forced him
from the throne.
many of the current legal structures of nations that defied
Napoleon are based on the concepts of his Civil Code. Considered
to be his greatest legacy, Napoleons Civil Code assured
the spread of the ideals of the French Revolution long after
the end of his rule. But, it was through the image he presented
of himself that the people of Europe found a symbol of revolutionary
is no immortality," Napoleon said, "but the memory
that is left in the minds of men."