January 7, 2007 cameron

Music of the Napoleonic Era

I discovered this album by accident this morning. It’s a shame more of these tracks aren’t available for download or I’d start putting them into the show. You can listen to short previews of each track though and download the one below for free. Click on the album art for more information.

Download “Divertimento In B Flat Major K 229 No. 2” (mp3)
from “Music of the Napoleonic Era”
by Capella Ensemble
Inside Sounds

Comments (15)

  1. Bob

    Nice find Cameron!

    I’d like to see more about the artist but the link to “Capella Ensemble” doesn’t redirect correctly.

  2. Cameron

    yeah doesn’t seem to work, huh. Tried googling them and didn’t do much better, but did find out that the album came out in 93.

  3. Rocco


    This is Rocco from Paris (law student, 22, history fan). I listen to your poscast that I enjoy. I like your approach on the matter, it is serious without being boring and you go into the nice little details sometimes (for example when you said “I have a pretty good voice but I couldn’t speak in front of 40 000 men” or the way you told the anecdote with the hat. More of that kind of info please!). In France teachers are too formal about what they teach. You anglo saxons are enthousiast about it and that’s a pleasure to listen to.

    Here is my criticism for your podcast (as you encourage us to make it): there is one thing that strucked me during all the listening that I’ve had of your podcast, it is that you never blame Napoleon as much as he deserve on some occasion. My general feeling is that you always find excuses for him, you’re too soft. He said himself, as you know, that there were no matter on which an historian couldn’t defend him, and that’s exactly what you do. Until the last episode I was fine by that, after all it is a podcast made by fans for fans and I would defend Nap against attacks in a discussion but there is one thing that really decided me to write to you: it is what you said about the execution of the duc d’Enghein. This was a commando mission executed on foreign soil, and a brutal murder carried out in the same night after a phoney trial. Whether or not you’re a Nap fan, you can’t stand for that (as you fellow country man Stevie wonder said; “I ain’t going to stand for it”):I know Napoleon did not plan it that way and that later he took the entire responsability for it (which is another element to add to his courage). But you talked about this thing to lightly and you lost me.

    In Paris there is no street named after Napoleon (only Bonaparte) this tell you about the complexe matter which represents his memory. I personaly feel that we should be enourmously proud of that time (I am) but I try to never lose sight of the complexity of such a subject. To me Chateaubriand nailed the ultimate opinion about Napoleon in his memoires d’outre tombe (a master piece of litterature as well as the ultimate criticism of the Napoleonic storm in european history; my bedside book); forgive my poor translation of this sentance: (…) in the midst of an honest and deep adiration (…) I cannot shower fullsome praise about his imperfections (…) one should praise glory without fear it but without being sorry either to show the dark side of it(…) Napoleon doesn’t need to be given talents, he was talented enough when he was born” there are so much too quote, everything is amazing in his “Vie de Napoleon”.

    and do you plan to discuss the battle of Fance in 1814? it would be great. And the expedition of Desaix in Egypte, with the discovery of the Roseta stone. I know you talked about it but I’d like to know more, I think it is a fantastic subject (isn’t Desaix Napoleon’s best without the dark side?)

    Thank you again for your show. Sorry for the size of the comment and the cold and unpleasant style of the writing (it’s harder to be smooth in a foreign langage)


  4. Cameron

    Rocco, thanks for listening and for the comment! I try my best in the show to point out the criticisms of Napoleon and I think David usually tries to balance out the criticisms by providing the other perspective.

    Regarding the d’Enghien affair, I’m fairly sure we talked at some length about the pros and cons of the matter. You say “This was a commando mission executed on foreign soil, and a brutal murder carried out in the same night after a phoney trial.” That’s certainly one perspective. But the other perspective is that France was at war with various European countries and I don’t think there is any doubt in the mind of historians that d’Enghien was involved in the assassination attempt on Napoleon in an effort of regime change. And, as he was a French citizen (even though in exile), he was a traitor to France and what we would call today a “terrorist”. You could draw analogies to bin Laden and al-Qaeda attacks on UAE soil.

    Anyway, it’s complex and I tried to bring that out in the show. Apologies if I didn’t try hard enough.

    As for the fact that Napoleon is pretty much ignored by the French today, I think that’s a real shame.

    Re 1814 – yeah I think we’ll talk about it a lot. It’s central to the story of Napoleon’s decline.

    Thanks again for the comment and would love to know more about what you and other listeners think! We would love to see lots of debate and discussion about Napoleon. You don’t have to believe what we tell you!

  5. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron and David, dear listeners,

    Concerning the Duc d’Enghien, he was found guilty of different crimes, but furthermore Napoleon was really willing to meet him and pardon him…as was proved by his personal statements and members of his family and immediate ‘staff’. In fact there another plot against Napoleon, consisting of people like savary, Talleyrand (always him), Fouché,…who wanted by killing a Bourbon prevent Napoleon from becomming a new general Mack, the english general who after Cromwell restored the monarchy…

    The Duc wrote a letter to Napoleon, and the military court wanted to send it to Napoleon, but this was (if I remember well) prohibited by Savary and when the court had sentenced the Duc to death, this didn’t meant that he was to be executed right away, but Savary, without any right to do this took charge of the affairs and this was the end for the prince…the grave had already been dig, which shows the intentions of Savary.

    Napoleon had also ordered Réal, member of the Council of State, to go meet the prince en report to him and to see that the whole process went as appropriate, according the rules of law with other words. But Réal had ordered not the awake him before a specific hour, because he was very tired…(or was he also involved in the plot against Napoleon?) and when he hurried to the prince…he discovered that the latter had just been executed…

    Napoleon was furious about the whole thing, but he wasn’t a man who drops it all on the shoulders of a subordinate and he took the full responsibilty for the whole case, although he had been willing to let the prince alive!

    On Saint-Helena, he said that he had tried the Duke, not executed!

    And finally, the Duc d’Enghien was residing in the Duchy of Baden, but is was agreed between him and this Duchy that he could only stay when he didn’t to anything that was against France…and all historians agree and the proof is there, that de Duke did a lot against France…

    I send you all my best regards and best wishes for the new year!

    Tim Van Dyck

  6. Cameron

    Tim, that’s some terrific detail. Here’s what WIkipedia currently says about the affair:

    Early in 1804, Napoleon, then First Consul of France, heard news which seemed to connect the young duke with the Cadoudal-Pichegru conspiracy then being tracked by the French police. The news ran that the duke was in company with Charles François Dumouriez and made secret journeys into France. This was false; the acquaintance was Thumry, a harmless old man, and the duke had no dealings with Cadoudal or Pichegru. Napoleon gave orders for the seizure of the duke. French mounted gendarmes crossed the Rhine secretly, surrounded his house and brought him to Strasbourg (March 15, 1804), and thence to the Château de Vincennes, near Paris. There a commission of French colonels was hastily gathered to try him.

    Meanwhile Napoleon had found out the true facts of the case, and the ground of the accusation was hastily changed. The duke was now charged chiefly with bearing arms against France in the late war, and with intending to take part in the new coalition then proposed against France —these latter charges were more accurate than the originals and given his history of raising arms against his own nation it would be difficult to argue that he was wholly innocent—rather the argument is whether or not his actions were sufficiently severe to merit execution. Claims that he presented a threat to the life of the First Consul are probably exaggerated. The colonels hastily and most informally drew up the act of condemnation, being incited thereto by orders from Anne Jean Marie René Savary, who had come charged with instructions. Savary intervened to prevent all chance of an interview between the condemned and the First Consul; and the duke was shot in the moat of the castle, near a grave which had already been prepared.

    He was the last descendent of the House of Condé; his grandfather and father died after him, but without producing further heirs. In 1816 the bones were exhumed and placed in the chapel of the castle. It is now known that Joséphine and Madame de Rémusat had begged Napoleon for mercy towards the duke; but nothing would bend his will. The blame which the apologists of the emperor have thrown on Talleyrand or Savary is undeserved. On his way to St. Helena and at Longwood he asserted that, in the same circumstances, he would do the same again; he inserted a similar declaration in his will.

    About this execution, the great diplomat Talleyrand made his most famous quip: “That was worse than a crime; it was a mistake”.


  7. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron and David, Listeners,

    I would like to point out some things in the wikipedia article (it still remains wikipedia…for example, the article concerning ‘the crown of napoleon’ (on wikipedia) is almost completely false)…Hortense, daughter of Joséphine, writes in her memoirs that Napoleon was really upset by the whole affair (execution) and she stresses that Napoleon was really willing to pardon the Duke! And the influence of Talleyrand for example in convincing Napoleon of arresting the Duke on foreing sole was really determinating…and can’t be neglected.

    On St.Helena, Longwood and in his will, Napoleon says that he had arrested and tried the duke, not have him executed, Napoleon’s brother Joseph stresses on this word-choice of Napoleon, which is very important.

    My best regards to you all,

    Tim Van Dyck

  8. Joshua Parker

    I’m not personally familiar with Hortense’s Memoirs, their veracity or even date of publication but the possibility of Hortense using her memoirs to soften the image of Napoleon to help pave the way for her son to become Napoleon III of the 2nd French Empire.

    Certainly it is pretty widely accepted that Eugene told many stories of the glory of the first empire to the future Napoleon III laying the seeds for his ambition.

  9. Nicholas Stark

    Speaking of music, does anyone know where one could find a downloadable copy of the version of La Marseillaise used in these podcasts?


  10. Michael Grillo

    I know this is a little off topic, but as far as using La Marseillaise at the beginning and end of the podcasts – didn’t Napoleon ban this song because of its revolutionary and anti-authority implications? Just wondering if you had considered using one of his Imperial Guard marches or something to that effect for buffer music? Keep of the great work!! Look foward to each and every episode,
    Somerset, MA, USA

  11. Cameron

    Michael – yes, several people have made that observation but I think it’s just a terrific piece of music which everyone can relate to as representing revolutionary France, even though it wasn’t the national anthem in Napoleon’s era. But I’m open to suggestions for alternatives. Keep in mind they need to be “podsafe”, which means readily available for podcasters to play in a show.

    Nicholas – apologies, I can’t remember where I got this version from. Somewhere online. I just tried to find the source of it again but it doesn’t seem to be that easy to find.

  12. Michael Grillo

    Good point Cameron. To me it is probably the most inspiring national anthem out there – and this coming from a self-described conservative republican nationalist Catholic American serving in the United States Army. That was another point I wanted to make – I heard David say in one of the podcasts that he is a liberal Democrat and I take it that you as well Cameron fall on the “left” side of the political spectrum? I still find it absolutely fascinating that 200 years later Napoleon still brings the left and right sides of political philosophy together. I think even today the world needs a figure like Napoleon to end divisions and bring about peace and stability. I find the modern left to be socialist and border line communist and out of control and the far right to be a bunch of bumbling fools with no leadership skills or courage – much as during the French Revolution. Does that sound crazy?

  13. Tyler Myers Whittaker

    Guys, Napoleon had balls. That’s why he executed that punk Bourbon. It was right for him to do it, enough said. CHECK OUT TOTAL WARS WEBSITE FOR EMPIRE TOTAL WAR AND NAPOLEON TOTAL WAR WHICH IS COMING OUT SOON!

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