Archibald Arnott

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Archibald Arnott
Archibald Arnott.jpg
Born (1772-04-18)18 April 1772
Ecclefechan, Dumfries, Scotland
Died 1855 (aged 82–83)
Ecclefechan, Dumfries, Scotland
Occupation British Army surgeon
Known for Napoleon's doctor on St. Helena

Archibald Arnott (18 April 1772 – 1855) was a British Army surgeon best remembered as Napoleon's doctor on St. Helena, and who was present at the Emperor's autopsy.[1] He moved back to Ecclefechan in his retirement and is buried in Ecclefechan churchyard.

British Army surgeon[edit]

He entered the British Army on 14 April 1795 and was posted to the 11th Hussars as Assistant Surgeon. Arnott was promoted to Surgeon on 23 August 1799. He followed his unit to Holland and was present at the storming of the entrechments at Krabbendam. He was later transferred to the 20th Regiment of Foot at Minorca and was present at the storming of Alexandria. He continued to served with the 20th Regiment at Malta, Sicily and Calabria and was present at the battle of Maida.

He continued to serve with the 20th Regiment at Vimiera and in the retreat from the Battle of Corunna. He followed his unit in the Walcheren expedition where his military unit was decimated by fever. In 1812, Arnott, served with the Duke of Wellington in his campaigns until the end of the war, including the battle of Vittoria, in the Pyrenees and in India.

Arnott's belt buckle worn whilst attending Napoleon on his death bed. Buckle is the Regiment Badge of the 20th Foot. Collection of the Yuko Nii Foundation.

As the fourth and last of Napoleon's physicians on St. Helena, Arnott arrived, following his regiment in 1819, and on 21 April 1821 visited Napoleon in his professional capacity. He quickly established excellent relations with the Emperor, becoming his most trusted doctor, and attended to him until his death. The Emperor was bedridden for some days as a result of persistent vomiting and Arnott prescribed potions, with no initial results, eventually prescribing a sedative generally thought to be opium, which relieved the Emperor's symptoms. On 3 May, Arnott prescribed calomel for the Emperor's constipation with good results. Prior to his death, Napoleon ordered a snuff box brought to him and carved an "N" with a pen knife and presented it to Dr. Arnott, along with a locket of his hair, a pair of duelling pistols and a handkerchief. The snuffbox was last in the possession of Alan Cunningham, a British Army officer. The pistols are in the collection of the Small Firearms Museum, Warminster, Wiltshire.

During the night following the Emperor's death, Arnott took a death mask made from surgical wax (as no gypsum was available on the island) and inscribed it with his signature and the date 6 Mai 1821. This is now in the collection of the Musée Masséna in Nice, France.

On 3 May 1821 Napoleon gave instructions that should he become insensible, no English physician but Arnott was to touch him. Napoleon died on 5 May 1821, and Arnott attended his post-mortem examination.[1] The Emperor bequeathed Arnott six hundred Napoleons and the British government gave him an additional payment of five hundred pounds.

Writings[edit]

After his retirement to Ecclefechan, Arnott acquired a collection of anecdotes of the period and wrote an "Account of the last illness, Decease, and Post-mortem appearances of Napoleon" in 1822. After the war, Arnott returned to his native parish and his estate of Kirconnel Hall. He was respected by his neighbors and was buried in Ecclefechan.

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