Mike reminds us that today, May 5, is the anniversary of Napoleon’s untimely death on St Helena in 1821 at the age of 52. Whether he died of natural causes or through the malfeasance of the Bourbons, we can be sure that he would have preferred to have met his end on the battlefield although that wouldn’t have allowed him to spend his last years writing his version of history.

If you happen to be in Paris, a solemn mass will be celebrated in his memory and the soldiers of the Grande Armée at Les Invalides at 11am. Details here. If you go, please write us a report. Amongst those present will be S.A.I. the Princess Napoléon, General H. Gobilliard, governor of Les Invalides and Brigadier General R. Bresse, director of the Musée de l’Armée.

In other Napoleon related news today:

There is a new book out on Wellington that sounds interesting. According to this review of “Dancing into Battle: A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo” (Nick Foulkes), “the handsome Wellington spent most of his day dallying with well-born young ladies and the young wives of titled Englishmen, pleasuring them in a carriage screened by the trees of Brussels’s still-lovely park. Almost every evening he gave an expensive ball. He made a point of attending the ball given by the Duchess of Richmond on the eve of the battle, but it was a mixed bag of an evening, as officers kept disappearing to join their regiments. In the days before Waterloo, Wellington forestalled a general tendency to panic by always appearing incredibly nonchalant, not to say cool. His insouciance, a word thoroughly overworked by author Foulkes, was evidently worth at least another 50,000 men.”

The British army wasn’t a meritocracy like the French:
“With the exception of the artillery, all the officers in Wellington’s army had purchased their expensive commissions. Their promotion and higher pay depended in great part on casualties among the more senior ranks.”

The book also describes how the battle changed Wellington, who dropped his cool exterior afterwards. “The victorious Wellington was a changed man. Though used to battle, the carnage at Waterloo appalled him. The mask of insouciance was dropped. With it too went the worship of glory, at least for a long moment.”

There is also a review from the Tribeca Film Festival on the new film “Napoleon and Me”.

“Virzi’s film, which is a mixture of soft comedy and emotional soapboxing about ideals like freedom and honor, focuses on a brief period at the end of the Napoleonic Wars when the vanquished French emperor was sent into exile on the tiny Italian island of Elba.

“If this were Variety, I would point out that pic’s best chance to do well with auds is the inclusion of Monica Bellucci in a prominent role as a baroness floozy who is anxious over turning 40 and aggressively courts 20-something men like Martino who will remind her of how beautiful she is.”

“As Napoleon, French acting legend Daniel Auteuil is more than credible, walking a foot shorter but somehow more imposing than the bodyguards and hangers-on who follow his every step around the island. Auteuil gives a careful, ambitious performance, but the screenplay to let that performance fly is not really in place.”

Finally, Empress Josephine at the Hermitage:

“The famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg will open on the 28th of June 2007 a fascinating exhibition, presenting the rich collection assembled by the Empress Josephine at her chateau Malmaison. Many of the works which she cherished – some of those have been chosen for the Hermitage exhibition – were actually gifts from Napoleon, who had acquired them during his military campaigns in Europe. After the Empress’ death, the bulk of the collection, mainly paintings and sculptures, was bought by Tsar Alexander I and later brought to St Petersburg, where it was installed in the Winter Palace.”