February 20, 2007 cameron

#17 – The Battle of Friedland and the Treaty of Tilsit

On this marvelous 17th episode, recorded almost 200 years after the actual events occurred, we examine the final months of the “Fourth Coalition” leading up to the “Treaty of Tilsit”.

Russian forces, lead by Count von Bennigsen, were crushed by Napoleon’s army at Friedland on June 14, 1807.


Three days later Russia asked for a truce. By the Treaties of Tilsit in July 1807, France made peace with Russia and forced Prussia to give up half of its territory to France, Jerome Bonaparte‘s Kingdom of Westphalia, and the new Duchy of Warsaw.

Tilsit snuffbox

Napoleon was virtually in control of western and central Europe. Some historians consider Tilsit to represent the pinnacle of Napoleon’s career. He had conquered all of mainland Europe and secured peace for France. Unfortunately, it was to prove short-lived.

We also talk briefly about Talleyrand‘s resignation from his position of Minster of Foreign Affairs after Tilsit and hint at his role as a traitor to France (or was it just to Napoleon?) in the years to come.

Next episode – The Battle of Trafalgar!

The theme music is La Marseillaise.


Comments (29)

  1. Colin

    I haven’t listened to the latest offering yet, but it is ! hour and 18 minutes long! I am sure it will be well worth the listen but if they get any longer they won’t fit on the memory card of my PDA so I won’t be able to listen to them in the car. Keep up the good work, Guys.

  2. andrew

    Just come across this podcast and downloaded the lot. Excellent stuff, fascinating. Thanks for doing it


  3. Thanks, Colin and Andrew, for your nice comments. As to the length, well, Cameron and I keep saying we will keep them under an hour, but it hasn’t happened yet and, to be honest, I will not be holding my breath! But we will try to keep them from getting any longer.

    Keep listening!


  4. Michael Grillo

    Just wanted to say thank you for another great Napoleon podcast. I’ve been listening to them while I work on my Napoleonic miniatures army. I started spreading the word to other like-minded friends so they might check it out as well. Again great work Cameron and David. Also, Mr. Markham, I have been building a sizeable Napoleonic library, but oddly enough had none of your books – right now I’m on Chapter 7 of Napoleon for Dummies. I can’t put it down. My wife is always making me sit through American Idol episodes, and now I have the perfect book to get lost in and tune out the tv with! I can’t thank you enough!


  5. aneurin

    hi, i like liserning to the podcarsts. i’ve got a pc game calld imperial glory where you Control the french, british and Russian armys in napolionic times. i was figting the battle of waterloo and the computer set the british on the hill and thay got blown apart by the french artillery. witch brings me to the point that why did napolean lose the battle of waterloo, he was a better genrel than wellington.

    i cant what antill the 1812 campaign i paning to make a film on that one day so you opinion on the events.

  6. Colin

    Just finished listening – very enjoyable and I can’t wait for the episode on Trafalgar. I can’t share David Markham’s opinion about the outcome though. Coming from the South Coast of England I would not like to think back to the damage that a French army would have done if they had been able to land. Also I don’t think Napoleon would have had victories like Austerlitz and Jena in England – it would have been a walkover if the Grand Armee had managed to get ashore.

  7. Cameron

    Colin – are you suggesting it would have been a walkover FOR the Grand Armee or AGAINST it?

  8. Cameron

    hi Aneurin! Waterloo, well that’s a complex subject and we’ll talk about it detail in … oh… about six months. 🙂

    We have to get through 1812 first! It would be make a terrific film. I share your ambition. Perhaps we can join forces to make it?

  9. Colin

    Cameron, I don’t think that there is any doubt that if Napoleon had got to England with a large and very effective army under his own control that the British would have been able to put up more than a token resistance. The former soldier William Cobbett reviewed the coast’s defences and was scathing about their effectiveness. There is a lerge derensive ditch near to where I grew up called The Royal Military Canal which was dug to delay the French advance inland. Cobbett pointed out that the French had managed to get across the Rhine without much difficulty So it was very fortunate indeed that the Royal Navy was able to prevent Napoleon from getting across.

    Aneurin’s film sounds like an interesting project. I think the scene Dave and Cameron paint of Napoleon on the barge with the Czar would make a good starting point. That really has to be the high point of Napoleon’s remarkable career. I think one of the reasons Bonaparte is so interesting is that unlike Ceasar and Alexander, he lived long enough to undo a large part of what he achieved. It makes him more human in some ways.

  10. Colin

    I have just reread my post and I left out the crucial word in the first sentence. I meant to say that the British would NOT have been able to put up any effective resistance. Apologies. I am a big fan of Napoleon but that doesn’t mean I would have wanted to see him in my own backyard.

  11. andrew

    Regards length, by the way, I say the longer the better! I could listen to you guys talk for hours – and given I am going through all 17 shows in one go, as I have only just found it, I am!

    I don’t know if anyone else has asked, but is there another historical subject you share a fascination for? I’m just wondering if you could do another podcast show once Napoleon has expired his last on St Helena! How about the life of Nelson?



  12. andrew

    Just after writing my post I came across a website that lists David’s other interests as “Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and other topics of Ancient Rome” – well that would keep you happily podcasting for a few more years, wouldn’t it?!

    Hope so – especially as you often seem to find parallels between Napoleon, Caesar and Alexander

    thanks for the shows


  13. Joshua

    Great podcast as always Cameron and David.

    I’ve been reading up a little on Fouche and Talleyrand on wikipedia; both seem to be very complicated characters whose motives are none to easy to understand at times. Wikipedia didn’t mention Talleyrand’s betrayal of Napoleon during the Egyptian campaign. Why didn’t Talleyrand inform the Turkish leader that Napoleon meant no threat to him. Was he bribed by the British to omit this information or send it late?

    Sometimes I think Talleyrand acted with benevolent intentions even if he only used such intentions to rationalise his own selfish behavior to himself. But the results of his betrayals were unforgivable as often hurt France and its citizens as much as Napoleon.

    A new book was recently released about Talleyrand called ‘Napoleon’s Master’, its reviewed well in the Sydney Morning Herald and retails for about $65 at Angus and Robertson. I haven’t read it myself.

  14. Cameron

    thanks for the tip on the new book Joshua, I’ll try to find a copy. I’ve only read one book on Talleyrand, Duff Cooper’s bio. I’ve also always wanted to get a copy of Fouche’s memoirs but never been able to find a copy. Both are fascinating characters and integral to Napoleon’s story.

    Regarding Talleyrand’s omission to inform the Turks, I suspect someone wanted to get rid of Napoleon. Most likely it was someone from the Directory. When they sent Napoleon to Egypt I think a lot of them were hoping he wouldn’t return. He was a little to popular for their liking.

  15. Ub

    Dear Cameron and David,
    Just finished listening to this episode, it was a little longer than the usual (but the longer the better 🙂 ). As always had a great pleasure and can’t wait for the next one to come out!
    It is a wonderful idea to do an episode on Talleyrand and Fouche, but also it will be interesting to do an episode on Napoleonic marshals and his family and maybe as a final touch to dedicate one episode about Napoleon as a person and not from his military career point of view (although I know that every episode you do, you show us Napoleon from the both sides). I just read some very interesting memoirs about him, and the thing that are written about Napoleon (as his daily life and his behavior) are quite funny and lets us see the whole different Napoleon.
    So I’ll be delightful if you dedicate episode to the subject written below- but all of these comes from the will of knowing more, and you-Cameron and David are doing a great job of expending our knowledge.
    Thanks again!

  16. Joshua

    Being the colossal figure that Napoleon was all sorts of odd things have been written about his life. I’ve read everything from him being an arsenic addict, bisexual and even that a Doctor had artificially inseminated Marie-Louise to give birth to Napoleon II.

    Oh and Cameron and David you mentioned that Napoleon should probably have shot Talleyrand and Fouche from the beginning but of course these 2 characters were critical to Napoleon’s rise to power. By all accounts they were the best at their duties as ministers as well. The once sacked Fouche was of course returned to his position after he was proven correct that the “Infernal Machine” was organised by Royalists rather than Jacobins as Napoleon suspected.

    Some say that Fouche’s personal spy network was more effective than that of the government even after he’d been stood down. Unfortunately for Napoleon much of the character traits of Talleyrand, Fouche and even Murat that proved useful to him during his rise to power became liabilities later on.

  17. Colin

    There’s also the saying that first rate people surround themselves with first rate people, while second rate people surround themselves with third rate people. One of Napoleon’s skills was probably picking the best people for the job. He was probably well aware of their faults but thought that he could handle them. If he had surrounded himself with unambitious dullards would he have had so many of his great achievements?

  18. Cameron

    Joshua / Colin – I have no doubts that if Napoleon could have found someone he thought better that Talleyrand or Fouche he would have wasted no time in replacing them (as he did with Fouche in 1802 and 1810). The fact that he didn’t suggests to me that, for whatever reasons, he considered them the best man for the job, despite their obvious flaws. I think when Mr Markham and I wished out loud that Napoleon had dispensed with them, it was only on the grounds that we, with the hindsight of history, know how they betrayed him! It’s just wishful thinking on our behalf.

    No matter – when that quantum wormhole time machine is finally invented, I’ll go back to 1807 and warn him.

  19. Duane Blocker

    Thank you Cameron and David. By the way David I live just north of Seattle which isn’t terribly far from you. I’ve listened thru episode 11 so far. This has also prompted me to read biographies of Ney and Davout and my interest in the period continues. I came into the period thru miniatures gaming back in the 70’s. I’ve found the show quite interesting, please continue, take all the time you need. Also to echo what someone else mentioned feel free to move on to Alexander the Great when you finish Napoleon. I’d be willing to send David a “bottle” to keep his throat in good repair…

  20. Duane,

    I am so pleased to hear from you. If you like, lets get together sometime. You have my email, drop me a line. I’ll give you a tour. And I’ll certainly take you up on the bottle of my medicine.

    I have surgery in a couple of weeks, so hopefully that will help the throat issue.

    Seriously, though, I’d love to meet you!


  21. Michael,

    Thanks so much for getting the book and I’m really glad you like it.

    Aneurian, I’ve been to Borodino twice and would love to be involved in the making of your movie. Its quite a story.

    As to Napoleon invading England, I tend to think that he would have been very successful, and also believe that he would have been content to force the government to sign peace and trade treaties. I don’t think the British would have ended up speaking French. But the Eurostar would not have ended up at Waterloo Station!

    Andrew, the chances of me doing the life of Nelson are fairly remote. But Cameron and I will almost certainly be doing other very interesting topics. Napoleon is what we know best, so the other topics might not take so long. but then again, that is what we said about Napoleon!

    Josh, be careful of Wikipedia; I’ve seen some major issues there. I think Talleyrand acted on his own, no doubt convincing himself that it was in the best interests of France. Cameron, I have an 1825 beautiful leatherbound copy of Fouché’s memoirs, but one must be careful when using them. They can be a bit self-serving, to say the least.

    Ub, which memoirs have you just read?

    Cameron, you are too nice. If we get a time machine, I will personally go back and shoot the two swine! But you’re right, as is Colin, at some points in Napoleon’s career they were very useful.

    Today’s issue of USA Today (16 March 2007) has a story on history podcasting which talks a bit about our podcast. They get the title wrong and send people to my website instead of Cameron’s, but otherwise its a nice story. Check it out, or email me and I’ll send you a pdf file of the story.

    Best to one and all,


  22. Great stuff, listen to it while I’m at work. I love history and been interested in Napoleon
    for many years. Don’t worry about going long on your podcast, we don’t mind. Mr Markham i don’t live to far from you. I live in Portland, Or. Someday I hope to vist France and hopefully see many of the places you talk about. Thanks for such great podcasts

  23. Hi, Rick,

    Thanks for the kind comments. Drop me an email if you like. I get to Portland and I think you are the third from there to contact me, so perhaps we can all get together, sip some 21 year old medicine, and talk about our favorite subject!


  24. jnathans

    Dear Cameron and David

    i just recently subscribed to the podcast, and I got to say it is wonderful and refreshing. I learned of Napoleon when I was school and percevied him as a dicatator who waged war aggresively against europe but as I listened to the podcasts I began to see Napoleon as a complex individual who at the time was in fact quite the opposite. Napoleon was brilliant man who stood for revolutionary and progressive ideas. The podcast is a bit long but I dont mind at all, and it is quite entertaining.your podcast has changed the way I see Napoleon cmpletely, and I thank you.

  25. Cameron

    Sorry folks – I just realized the site is broken. Will get it fixed today! Apologies!

  26. Jayne

    David, I would love a Charlemagne podcast. I find the man so fascinating. My first essay at University was to do with the controversy surrounding his coronation. Thanks so much for the time both of you put into these podcast. Although this is kinda random I would like to add David, you are so kind to your wife its nice to hear someone speak so highly of their spouse. I know so many people who refer to their significant others as the old ball and chain so it is refreshing to listen to you say lovely things about her.

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