Notes: Episode 14, Napoleon (Part 2)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


2:47 – The bicorne didn’t normally fold down – it’s just the practical root of the hat design. It was normally molded and then pinned to stay up. The most distinctive thing Napoleon did for the hat was to wear it so that the two points were side-to-side, though this style was popular throughout France as well as Spain. The British and German style was to wear the points front-to-back.


4:20 – Average male height varies around the world, with 5’9″ being typical in North America. If you’re from the Netherlands or Germany, however, the average is 6′. That’s kind of crazy.


5:50 – Alright, let’s do this: there are 5,280 feet to a mile. A chain is 66 feet, which obviously is 1/80th of a mile. 10 square chains makes up an acre, so I’m gaining a bit of respect for the chain as a bridge between other measurements in the imperial system, but it’s still a silly name. A furlong is 660 feet, or ten chains, or one side of an acre if the acre is square. I think Colin and I were working at odds to the point we were trying to make about the imperial system, to be honest; these work pretty well. A nautical mile, however, is still 6080 feet and about 1.15 miles, which is one minute of arc traveling on the surface of the Earth. The nautical mile itself makes some sense, but I still maintain that’s confusing as all get-out.


6:45 – Because I didn’t explicitly mention it here, a kilometre was deemed to be 1/10,000 of the distance from the pole to the equator.


8:31 – The Gregorian calendar was implemented in 1582, so only a little more than 400 years ago.


11:53 – Napoleon was indeed 5’2″ in French Inches. In the standard Imperial, he was between 5’6″ and 5’7″, which was quite typical. Further misunderstanding came from his requirement that his personal guards all be over 6′ tall making him seem shorter, as well as his nickname of “le petit caporal” (the little corporal), which is familiar rather than descriptive of size.


13:12 – the painting Colin and I are referring to can be seen at this link.


15:03 – “I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning. Look at Caesar; he fought the first like the last.” – Napoleon


21:09 – “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke, German military strategist


24:45 –  Désirée Clary was Napoleon’s first fiancée as well as the sister of his sister-in-law by his brother Joseph. Just think about it; it works out.


26:33 – Clary married Jean Bernadotte, who was made Marshal due to his relationship with her; Napoleon continued to think of her fondly. Bernadotte, however, was merely using this fondness for his own gain and did not get along well with Napoleon, culminating in his joining of the Sixth Coalition after being made King of Sweden in 1810.


27:10 – Colin’s question about Napoleon’s children bothered me a lot, as is probably obvious from the recording – it felt like a really obvious hole in my research. My assessment wasn’t far off, though; his children were rather boring. He had a son with Marie Louise in 1811, also named Napoleon, who was technically Napoleon II for two weeks after Napoleon’s abdication but before Louis XVII was restored to the throne. He died childless at 21 from tuberculosis. He also, as I mentioned, had one illegitimate son called Charles born in 1806 whom he acknowledged as his child, and while he lived a long life, really did very little of historical note. There are other suspected illegitimate children, but none who were confirmed by Napoleon himself.


28:45 – I looked into Josephine a little further, and it’s not a happy story. Their divorce ceremony included statements from each about how they were still fond of each other, and Josephine retained her title of Empress of France, as Napoleon wanted her not to think badly of him. They remained in contact, mostly by letter. Josephine died of pneumonia in 1814 while Napoleon was exiled on Elba, and when he learned of her death he locked himself away for two days to mourn. His last word before his own death was “Josephine”. There’s no happy ending here; mostly just the tragic fact that Napoleon chose empire over love, to his own regret and to hers.


33:25 – The last pope to resign was not in the 13th century, but rather Gregory XII in 1405. It was all part of the Western Schism, which is worth looking into briefly if only because there were Antipopes involved. Actually.


36:45 – A picture of Napoleon’s tomb.


40:42 – The Rosetta Stone was discovered by a French soldier (Pierre-Francois Bouchard) and stored in a village that was transferred to British possession; the messages were partially decoded by a French archaeologist (Jean-Francois Champollion) and partially by a British one (Thomas Young). It’s a touchy subject to this day, as the “rightful” owner is disputed, as is the relative importance of Champollion and Young. Of course, it probably most rightfully belongs to Egypt, but that’s rarely mentioned.





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