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Napoleon II | REIGN (1799-1805)

“The revolution is over… I AM the revolution!” proclaimed Mark dramatically as we recently sat down to record this second sortie into our trilogy on the man behind the myth – Napoleon!

No, but seriously, these were the confidently spoken words of a 30-year-old 1st Consul Bonaparte in 1800 as he presented himself as saviour to the war-weary French at the dawn of a new century. But cessez-le-feu and let’s not be getting ahead of ourselves; we first take a rapid-fire look at the key events that allowed this plucky provincial general to seize power and install himself and Josephine rent-free in Louis XVI’s former apartments in the Tuileries Palace.

Now, watching Ridley Scott’s film could easily lead you to believe that Napoleon’s real motivation for conquering Europe was to win the heart and approval of his wife and one-time obsession, Josephine. Allow us, therefore, to supply the vital context glaringly missing from the film for the momentous events which shaped the fortunes of Napoleon, his family, and the age. Along the way, we will dish out the gossip on the affairs, love letters and tremendous lovers’ tiffs which made Josephine and Napoleon’s relationship a worthy rival to Anthony and Cleopatra’s! We’ll then embark on a journey across the Mediterranean to find out why both Napoleon and revolutionary France were so keen to invade Egypt in 1798. Learn the truth behind this often rose-tinted misadventure which would later lead Napoleon to ruefully claim ‘If I had stayed in the east, I would have founded an empire like Alexander’.

Digging deeper, we examine how Napoleon used his skills as a master propagandist to emulate his hero Caesar to win over the hearts of his soldiers and the public on his ruthless ascent to the imperial throne. This cunningly crafted image of the young hero would supposedly cement the gains of the revolution while putting a full stop to the chaos it unleashed – a compelling tale that would enable him to carry out his coup d’état of 18 Brumaire. Building on this, we will examine the pivotal battles and military tactics employed by Napoleon to effectively crush all in his wake as he astounded France’s increasingly desperate enemies with victory after victory. Finally, we will learn about Napoleon’s meritocratic (if autocratic) imperial regime and its enduring civil reforms which continue to shape the modern world long after the last shot rang out at Waterloo.

As Napoleon’s foreign minister Talleyrand once said of the new consul ‘If he lasts a year, he’ll go far!’. Well, he certainly lasted longer than that, so make sure to join us next time when we put a bow on this trilogy and learn what happened when the stakes (and number of coalitions) got higher and higher, and fortune finally turned on the Emperor.