January 18, 2007 cameron

Mystery of Napoleon’s Death Said Solved

A friend sent me this link to Yahoo News this morning. It seems that every year there is a new story from a research group somewhere saying they have the definitive answer on what Napoleon died from. As most of you will already know, David’s good friend Ben Weider co-authored a book, The Murder Of Napoleon, with Sten Forshufvud several years ago which put forward evidence to support the theory that Napoleon was murdered with arsenic by someone in his household on St Helena. Now a new study published in Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology and Hepatology has concluded that stomach cancer was the cause of death.

Personally I doubt the veracity of the autopsy done at the time of his death and don’t think we’ll have a definitive answer until the French Government allow his corpse to be exhumed from Les Invalides for a modern autopsy.

Comments (9)

  1. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron, David and all the listeners,

    This is once again a useless thing, really, I am 100% certain that Napoleon was murdered…you will all be convinced when reading the books of Ben Weider and Sten Forshuvud. The FBI, Scotland Yard and the most important French Toxicologist (Pascal Kintz) confirmed this more than once (recently in juin 2005)…Napoleon was murdered in 2 phases, phase 1 consisted of weakening him with arsenic, phase 2 was the lethal phase, with a deadly combination of chemical substances…Really all the things they put forward in the article concerning the stomach cancer can be rejected by information from the books and articles which confirm the murder…and people like Pascal Kintz are often involved in investigations for the authorities (to examine the death cause of somebody), which again proves his reliability! The autopsy report of 1821 does not mention cancer as cause of the death…from the different docters presens, none of them could tell the precise death cause…they did nothing more then writing ‘a condition leading to cancer’, but people don’t die of a condition leading to cancer! But indeed it would bring absolute confirmation when they open the tomb of the Emperor…

    I send my best regards to you all,

    Tim Van Dyck

  2. Nicholas Stark

    I personally am swayed by Ben Weider’s view. However, I don’ think that Napoleon’s corpse will be open for such an examination for a very long time. But then again, the mystery in itself is fascinating, so who’d really want to know for sure what the cause of his death was?

  3. Cameron, enjoying the series, but I seem to remember in the first episode you or David saying that Napoleon was cremated (something that is backed up by some websites and contradcited by others). Was he cremated? and if so, even a modern autopsy would have difficulty determining a cause of death.

    Keep up the good work though,


  4. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron, David and all the listeners,

    I discovered that this ‘new’ investigation goes back to one in which they measured the trousers of Napoleon in his last months (in which he was extremely weakened and often had to vomit) and concluded that he died of stomach cancer…what a scientific method, measuring trousers!

    And he was not cremated, when they went to Saint-Helena in 1840 to bring him back to France, and they opened the tomb on the island, they found Napoleon (after opening the coffins) almost perfectly preserved (he was not embalmed), after 19 years! This is another proof for the arsenic poisoning, arsenic kills, but does also preserve tissues…

    I send you all my best regards,

    Tim Van Dyck
    Belgium, Vorselaar, near Antwerp

  5. Cameron

    Tim, that’s a good point which none of these stories about cancer ever seem to take into account. Why was his body preserved when they went back to re-claim it? Then again, I wonder how reliable *that* story is. I’ll have to dig into the source reference for it. Again, it would be easy to resolve this mystery if the French would allow another autopsy.

    Nicholas – I want to know! The final years of his life take on an entirely new perspective when you think that he was actually being poisoned by someone in his household working for either the Bourbons or the British.

  6. Joshua Parker

    I’ve heard someone make the claim that Napoleon was using arsenic for purposes of fashion or addiction. This particular scholar argued that the only way arsenic could preserve the body tissue is if it was applied as a creme to the skin as many women did during the time to look paler and in the contemporary belief of the time more beautiful. The scholar argued that indigestion and thus poisoning by arsenic couldn’t produce that affect on the skin.

    However I’m inclined to believe this idea is rubbish because I’ve never heard of another person arguing this point and Ben Wieder’s research seems to be pretty comprehensive so I doubt it would make such a fatally flawed argument.

  7. Larry Bertoia

    I read this the other day as well, and I too doubt that the claim. It is no doubt that something was found in Napoleon’s stomach during the autopsy but there is no conculsive evidence that it was cancer. I am a proponent of the Weider theory as he deals with the effects of arsenic poisining, and specifically addresses the autopsy findings in his book.

  8. Hello, friends,

    It seems we all share agreement that the latest “proof” that Napoleon died of cancer is anything but proof. As to cremation, the confusion arises from the general description in French of the return of the “cendres,” which means ashes, in 1840. But the term really meant, in the context of this situation, “remains,” not ashes. Napoleon’s body was exhumed and found to be in amazingly good condition. This points to the possibility of arsenic, though in and of itself proves nothing. But the modern scientific research, spurred on by my friend and colleague Ben Weider, leaves little doubt on the subject. Its too bad the media gave this recent story coverage that made it seem like the final word. It is hardly that!


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