Monday, March 23, 2009

A Fictional Encounter With Napoleon

Desperate Measures by Dennis Wheatley places its hero, Roger Brook, on the European continent in the midst of Napoleon's machinations. Famous people mentioned in the book included Archduke John, King Louis XVIII, Duchess Angouleme, Fouche, Soult, Ney, Murat, and Marmont (Duke of Ragusa). [Quotes are all from Desperate Measures]

One measure Roger Brook was desperate to employ was to invent a reason to leave England and his jealous and vindictive wife. He consulted with Lord Castlereagh, the Foreign Minister, who suggest that Roger could join his staff, eventually going to the Congress in Vienna "In the hope that we may be able to settle some of the outstanding questions, and so bring permanent peace to Europe...".

After Napoleon's first defeat, "the Prussians, of course, wanted to hang him (Napoleon), but the Czar (Alexander) favoured treating him with chivalry, and it was the Emperor (Francis) of Austria who had the last word. Against Metternich's advice, he insisted on his son-in-law's being given a small kingdom. Sardinia and Corfu were talked of, but Elba finally decided upon."

Since France was Roger's first destination in Europe, he was advised to resume his identity as M. le Colonel le Compte de Breuc, who had acted as an A.D.C. to Napoleon, rather than the English Roger Brook, Lord Kildonan, and so that it would not be revealed that he (Roger) was a secret British agent.

In order to divert suspicion that Roger was in the pay of Talleyrand after he (Roger) was spotted coming from Talleyrand's Kaunitz Palace, the Duke of Wellington sent Roger on a mission to Elba to renew his acquaintance with Napoleon in order to "probe his mind." Roger arrived at Elba just prior to Napoleon's escape and was swept along with the Napoleon's attempt to reconquer France. "Desperate Measures" details who, when and why prominent individuals changed their allegiances as Napoleon marched toward Paris.

Roger, as Compte Breuc, was notified by one of Napoleon's generals that "he (Napoleon) has decided to wait no longer, but eliminate one of our enemies before the others can take the field. We'll be off to war next week, and are going into Belgium to drive the English into the sea."

The French commanders Gerard, Count d'Erlon, Vandamme, Reille, Grouchy were pitted against Blucher, the Prussian general and Wellington who commanded the English troops. After a pitched battle, Napoleon's primary concern was that the enemy might retreat before he could annihilate them. "That they should do so was his one fear, as he felt confident that, having seriously crippled the Prussians, he would defeat Wellington (the) next day and enter Brussels before nightfall."

The battle Napoleon was anticipating with such delight was one which "the main assault was to be delivered half a mile to the east, where the road from Genappe cut straight through the centre of the battlefield, across Mont St. Jean towards Waterloo. History tells us that the Battle of Waterloo did not turn out well for Napoleon.

Our PALM family had a history with Napoleon, as well. Napoleon had Johan Philip Palm executed for publishing libelous pamphlets about Napoleon. Details are embedded in my "Detour Through History" blog post here.

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