Cultural depictions of Napoleon
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Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, has become a worldwide cultural icon generally associated with tactical brilliance, ambition and political power. His distinctive features and costume have made him a very recognizable figure in popular culture.
He has been portrayed in many works of fiction, his depiction varying greatly with the author's perception of the historical character. In the 1927 film Napoleon, young general Bonaparte is portrayed as a heroic visionary. On the other hand, he has been occasionally reduced to a stock character, depicted as short and bossy, sometimes comically so. Confusion about his height also results from the difference between the French pouce and British inch—2.71 and 2.54 cm respectively; he was about 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) tall, which is above average for the period (for example, the average height of an English male was 170 cm (5 ft 7 in))[note 1]
- In Thomas B. Costain's historical novel The Last Love (1963), a dying Napoleon, banished to St Helena, tells his story to his lone companion, a girl who acts as his English translator.
- Napoleon is an important character in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, where considerable space is devoted to Tolstoy's interpretation of his historical role. He consequently also appears in the adaptations and films of this novel, listed in the following section.
- Napoleon appears briefly in the first section of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, and is extensively referenced in later sections.
- Bernard Cornwell's novel Sharpe's Devil features a meeting between Napoleon, and the fictional Richard Sharpe.
- He is featured in the manga Eikou no Napoleon – Eroica, written by the manga artist Riyoko Ikeda.
- Napoleon features prominently in the BBC Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventure World Game, where the Second Doctor must avert a plot to change history so that Napoleon is victorious. In an alternate timeline created by the assassination of the Duke of Wellington prior to Waterloo, Napoleon is persuaded to march on to Russia after the victory of Waterloo, but he dies shortly afterwards, his empire having become so overextended that the various countries collapse back into the separate nations they were before, thus degenerating into a state of perpetual warfare. (This situation is made worse due to the intervention of the Doctor's old enemies the Players).
- Napoleon plays an indirect yet important part in Alexandre Dumas's novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The novel starts in 1815 with Napoleon exiled on the island of Elba. Here we learn that he hands a letter to the protagonist Edmond Dantes to give to one of his chief (fictional) supporters in Paris - Nortier De Villefort, the president of a Bonapartist club. Dantes is unaware that Villefort is an agent of the exiled Emperor and that the letter Napoleon handed him contained instructions and plans about Napoleon's planned return to Paris. Dante's rivals include Gérard De Villefort, the opportunistic son of Nortier (who is a royalist), who uses the letter to frame Dantes and have him imprisoned in the Chateau d'If until he escapes after 14 years and seeks vengeance upon those who wronged him.
- C. S. Forester's Hornblower series of novels are mostly set during the Napoleonic Wars, in particular book 9 of the series, Commodore Hornblower focusing on the French invasion of Russia and the subsequent defence of Riga from the period of 1812 onwards, and book 10 Lord Hornblower dealing with events in France up to the defeat of Napoleon by Wellington at Waterloo.
- Napoleon is one of the two main characters in Simon Scarrow's The Revolution Quartet, which details Napoleon's life from his birth to his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo alongside that of Arthur Wellesley's.
- In an Archie comic story featuring Jughead Jones, he is inadvertently transported by ambulance to a mental hospital. At first he protests, but relents upon hearing how well the patients are fed. When a nurse asks for his name, he replies "Napoleon Bonaparte." A later update changed this to him saying "You know who I am, Sonic! I am the genius, Dr. Robotnik!"
- H. Beam Piper's short story He Walked Around the Horses features a parallel universe in which both the American Revolution and the French Revolution were suppressed. Consequently, Napoleon does not rise to power and the Napoleonic Wars never take place. In 1809, he is described by a British general named Sir Arthur Wellesley as being a Colonel of Artillery in the French Army and a brilliant tactician whose loyalty to the French monarchy has never been questioned.
- The collection If, or History Rewritten assembles numerous alternate history essays written in the first four decades of the 20th century. Napoleon has varying roles in many of them.
- Harry Turtledove's Alternate Generals anthology series have at least two stories based on the idea of Napoleon emigrating during the Terror. In volume 1's "The Last Crusader" by Bill Fawcett, he joined the Church and became a Cardinal in Rome; by the early 1810s he is a spiritual leader of the Allies who seek to overthrow the French Republic. In volume 2's "Empire" by William Sanders, he formed an independent Empire based in Louisiana; with his lieutenants Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett he fights a valiant but doomed war against the British, vaguely analogous to the War of 1812.
- Napoleon is a character in Treason's Tide by Robert Wilton, published in February 2013 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books; it is set during the summer of 1805. This novel was originally issued in June 2011 as The Emperor's Gold.
- In the alternate history novel Napoleon in America (2014) by Shannon Selin, Napoleon escapes from St. Helena and winds up in the United States in 1821.
- The fantasy novel "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke takes place partially during the Napoleonic Wars, and features Jonathan Strange fighting in Spain, and also plaguing Napoleon with nightmares. Lord Wellington also plays a large part in this novel.
Film and television
- Austerlitz (1960), played by Pierre Mondy
- The Battle of Waterloo (1913), played by Ernest Batley
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), played by Terry Camilleri
- Blackadder: Back & Forth (1999), played by Simon Russell Beale
- Born Yesterday (1950): Billie and Verrall discuss Robert G. Ingersoll's biography of Napoléon
- Casino Royale (1967): Tremble dresses as Napoléon for Vesper
- Conquest (1938), played by Charles Boyer
- The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), played by Paul Irving
- Désirée (1954), played by Marlon Brando
- The Emperor's New Clothes (2001) played by Ian Holm
- Hearts Divided (1936) played by Claude Rains
- Kolberg (1945), played by Charles Schauten
- Love and Death (1975): a couple hatches a plan to assassinate Napoléon
- Minions (2015): one of the Minions' former masters was Napoléon
- Monsieur N. (2003), played by Philippe Torreton
- Napoléon (1918), directed by Louis Feuillade
- Napoléon (1920), directed by Bud Fisher
- Napoléon (1927), played by Albert Dieudonné
- Napoleone (1951), played by Renato Rascel
- Napoleon (1955), played by Daniel Gélin and Raymond Pellegrin
- Napoléon (1995): a golden retriever puppy named Napoléon runs away from home to join a pack of wild dogs
- Napóleon (2007), played by Tom Burke
- Napoleon and Me (2006), played by Daniel Auteuil
- Napoleon Bunny-Part (1956): Napoléon matches wits with Bugs Bunny
- Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), played by Alain Chabat
- A Royal Divorce (1938), played by Pierre Blanchar
- Time Bandits (1981), played by Ian Holm
- War and Peace (1956), played by Herbert Lom
- War and Peace (1968), played by Vladislav Strzhelchik
- Waterloo (1929), played by Charles Vanel
- Waterloo (1970), played by Rod Steiger
- Amoureuse Joséphine (France, 1974), played by Pierre Arditi
- Clone High: Napoléon is a recurring character; Abe Lincoln claims he has a Napoleon complex.
- Dad's Army: "A Soldier's Farewell", a soldier (Arthur Lowe) dreams he is Napoléon at the Battle of Waterloo
- Fairly OddBaby: Jorgen Von Extrangle proposes the name "Napoléon" for Poof The Baby
- Histeria!: Napoléon is a recurring character who speakes like Hervé Villechaize
- Hogan's Heroes: "The Late Inspector General", Hogan tries to cheer up Klink with a quote from Napoléon
- Jack of All Trades: Napoléon is a recurring character, played by Verne Troyer
- Joséphine ou la comédie des ambitions (France, 1979), played by Daniel Mesguich
- Napoléon (2000): 4-part documentary series narrated by David McCullough
- Napoléon et l'Europe (France, 1991), played by Jean-François Stévenin
- Napoléon: la Campagne de Russie (France, 2015), played by Marc Duret
- Napoléon (2002), played by Christian Clavier
- Napoléon & Joséphine: A Love Story (1987), played by Armand Assante
- Napoleon and Love (UK, 1974), played by Ian Holm
- Robot Chicken: "Napoléon Bonamite", character is a cross between Bonaparte and Napoleon Dynamite
- Time Squad: "Napoléon the Conquered", Napoléon is forced to take care of the house after Joséphine takes up fine arts
- War and Peace (UK, 1972), played by David Swift
- War and Peace (France/Italy, 2007), played by Scali Delpeyrat
- Horrible Histories (UK, 2009 - 2015), played by Jim Howick
- War and Peace (UK, 2016), played by Mathieu Kassovitz
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Jéan-Louis Bonaparte is based on the cliché of Napoléon
SEE ALSO: Napoléon Bonaparte (Character) on IMDb
Music and songs
- Ludwig van Beethoven had originally conceived of dedicating his Third Symphony to Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven admired the ideals of the French Revolution, and Napoleon as their embodiment. According to Beethoven's pupil, F. Ries, when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted and went to the table where the completed score lay. He took hold of the title-page and tore it up in rage.
- The Tori Amos song "Josephine" from her 1999 album To Venus and Back is sung from the viewpoint of Napoleon during his unsuccessful invasion of Russia.
- The Mark Knopfler song "Done with Bonaparte" from his 1996 album Golden Heart is sung from the viewpoint of a soldier in Napoleon's army. The song recalls the soldier's many battles serving in Napoleon's Grande Armée.
- The Ani DiFranco song "Napoleon" satirizes the desire to continuously "conquer"; more specifically musicians who sign with big labels, thus employing "an army of suits" in order to "make a killing" rather than just "make a living".
- The Al Stewart song "The Palace of Versailles", from his 1978 album Time Passages, is filled with references and allusions to the French Revolution. One line specifically references Napoleon: "Bonaparte is coming/With his army from the south".
- Swedish Pop group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 with the song "Waterloo", which uses the battle as a metaphor for a person surrendering to love similar to how Napoleon surrendered at Waterloo.
- The song "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay is loosely based on Napoleon's reign.
- During the Napoleonic Wars, a nursery rhyme warned children that Bonaparte ravenously ate naughty people.
- Bright Eyes recorded a song called "Napoleon's Hat" for Lagniappe, an album released by Saddle Creek Records to raise funds for the Red Cross' Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
- The Charlie Sexton song "Impressed" references Napoleon and Josephine (from Pictures for Pleasure)
- Napoleon was the topic of many Sea Shanties following his death, most notably the song Boney was a Warrior
- Iced Earth released the song "Waterloo" on their album The Glorious Burden, which details Napoleon's defeat at the Battle Of Waterloo.
- An episode of Epic Rap Battles of History is a rap battle between Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon Dynamite.
Computer and video games
- The campaigns of Napoleon have been depicted in the sixth installment of the Total War series, Napoleon: Total War. Player have a chance to follow Napoleon's Italian, Egyptian or Russian campaigns.
- Napoleon is featured on Assassin's Creed Unity as a supporting character. He also appears as the main antagonist in its downloadable content mission, Dead Kings.
- Napoleon is a frequently used leader representing the French civilization in the Civilization series.
- The first expansion pack to Europa Universalis III, Napoleon's Ambition, bears his name and expands the game to cover whole reign.
Other references in popular culture
British propaganda of the time depicted Napoleon as of smaller than average height and the image of him as a small man persists in modern Britain. His actual height was about 1.7 m (5 feet 7 inches), average height for the time or slightly taller. Confusion has sometimes arisen because of different values for the French inch (pouce) of the time (2.7 cm) and for the Imperial inch (2.54 cm).
Napoleon's nickname of le petit caporal has added to the confusion, as some non-Francophones have mistakenly interpreted petit by its literal meaning of "small". In fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers.
Napoleon also surrounded himself with the soldiers of his elite guard, required to be 1.83 m (6 ft) or taller, making him look smaller in comparison.
Despite his normal height, Napoleon's name has been lent to the Napoleon complex, a colloquial term describing an alleged type of inferiority complex which is said to affect some people who are physically short. The term is used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.
Napoleonic delusions of grandeur
Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most famous individuals in the Western world. As delusional patients sometimes believe themselves to be an important or grandiose figure (see delusion), he was a notable object of such delusions.
This idea has often been used in popular culture:
- In the 1922 film Mixed Nuts, Stan Laurel plays a book salesman whose only volume for sale is a biography of Napoleon. When the character receives a blow to the head, he comes to believe that he is Napoleon and is subsequently admitted to a mental institution.
This cliché has itself been parodied:
- The award-winning video game Psychonauts features a mental patient, Fred Bonaparte, locked in an obsessive mind-game with his distant ancestor Napoleon, who is fighting for his mind.
- In the Bugs Bunny film Napoleon Bunny-Part, the actual Napoleon is dragged away by psychiatric attendants, who believe he is delusional.
- In The Emperor's New Clothes, Ian Holm plays Napoleon who stumbles into the grounds of an asylum and finds himself surrounded by other "Napoleons" - he cannot reveal his identity for fear of being grouped with the deluded. Holm also played a less-than-serious Napoleon in the 1981 film Time Bandits.
- The Discworld novel Making Money features a character who believes himself to be Lord Vetinari, imitating Vetinari's mannerisms and entertaining delusions of grandeur. It is later revealed that the local hospital has an entire ward for people with the same delusion, where they engage in competitions to determine who is the "real" Vetinari.
- In an episode of cult 1960s British TV sci-fi show The Prisoner called "The Girl Who Was Death", which unusually for the series was a light-hearted comedy tale parodying the spy thriller genre, the villain Dr. Schnipps (Kenneth Griffith) believed that he was Napoleon and acted accordingly, at one point asking the protagonist Number Six (Patrick McGoohan), "You're not the Duke of Wellington, are you?"
- In the first episode of season 2 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles titled "Return of the Shredder" (1988), Scientist and Inventor, Baxter Stockman is seen in a jail cell with a man in Napoleonic garb spouting off dialogue in a French accent.
- In an episode of Night Court, Judge Harry Stone (Harry Anderson) is placed in a jail cell along with a number of 'mentally disturbed' inmates all dressed as Napoleon. His court defense attorney (played by Markie Post) sees him and exclaims "Oh sir. They put you in with the little generals".
- In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Bender pretends to be a banjo playing Napoleon in order to stay in a robot asylum.
- Napoleon's height was 5 ft 2 French inches according to Antommarchi at Napoleon's autopsy and British sources put his height at 5 foot and 4 British inches: both equivalent to 1.4 m. Napoleon surrounded himself with tall bodyguards and had a nickname of le petit caporal which was an affectionate term that reflected his reported camaraderie with his soldiers rather than his height.
- Dunan 1963
- "Sarkozy height row grips France". BBC. 8 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
- Gladir, George (w), Ruiz, Fernando (p), Lapick, Rudy (i), Grossman, Barry (col), Yoshida, Bill (let), Goldwater, Richard (ed). "Hungry Hurried and Harried" Jughead 338 (Feb 1985), Archie Comics Group
- Gladir, George (w), Ruiz, Fernando (p), Lapick, Rudy (i), Grossman, Barry (col), Yoshida, Bill (let), Goldwater, Richard (ed). "Hungry Hurried and Harried" Jughead's Double Digest Magazine 90: 37-42/6 (Jan 2003), Archie Comic Publications
- "Bogeyman", "Period glossary", Napoleon.org. Retrieved 07-03-2007.
- Napoleon's height was put at just over 5 pieds 2 pouces by three French sources (his valet Constant, General Gourgaud, and Francesco Antommarchi at Napoleon's autopsy) which, using the French measurements of the time, equals around 1.69m. ("La taille de Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoleon Bonaparte's height)". www.1789-1815.com. 2002-11-25. Retrieved 2008-05-28.) Two English sources (Andrew Darling and John Foster) put his height at around 5 ft 7 ins, equivalent, on the Imperial scale, to 1.70m. This would have made him around average height for a Frenchman of the time. ("La taille de Napoléon (Napoleon's height)". La Fondation Napoléon. Retrieved 2008-05-30. "How tall was Napoleon?". La Fondation Napoléon. Retrieved 2005-12-18.) Nonetheless, some historians have claimed Napoleon would have been measured with a British measure at his autopsy, since he was under British control at St Helena, implying the 5 ft 2 ins is an Imperial measure, equal to about 1.58 meters. On the other hand, Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon's personal physician, despised the English, considered their touch "polluting", and may never have used their yardstick to measure his emperor. (Antommarchi, F. G (1826). The Last Days of Napoleon: Memoirs of the Last Two Years of Napoleon's Exile. London: H.Colburn. pp. p157. Retrieved 2007-11-01.)
- "Weights and Measures". historydata.com. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Garza, Janiss, Allmovie. "Mixed Nuts (1925)", Review Summary, The New York Times. Retrieved 09-25-2006.
- "Napoleon Bunny-part", Scripts, Delenea's Bugs Bunny Page. Retrieved 07-18-2007.
- French, Philip (The Observer). "The Emperor's New Clothes", The Guardian, 02-04-2004. Retrieved 07-19-2006.