Thursday, 17 June 2010

Napoleon Plotted Invading England After Waterloo - I don't think so!

The Daily Mirror has latched on to the collection of Napoleonic Memorabilia soon to be auctioned in New Zealand, and has put its own unique interpretation on a passage in Denzil Ibbetson's diary. The short article is most inappropriately labelled "History".

As he whiled away the time on the Northumberland headed for exile on St Helena, the "deluded" Emperor was apparently planning invasion of Britain - and was even stupid enough to discuss his plans with his captors. Typical of the French the Mirror might have said. Quite where he was going to get the ships, infantry and cavalry is not clear, but that just proves how deluded Napoleon was!

Anyway if one ever had any doubts that the Daily Mirror is not fit to be called a newspaper this now removes them.

As for the passage in the diary itself - obviously Napoleon was discussing the past. It is not clear whether Denzil Ibbetson heard this statement first hand, or whether it was reported to him. Napoleon had given up the idea of invading Britain long before Waterloo. It is not clear how serious he had ever been - but it had suited him to make the British think that that was his intention.

Regarding the question of what support he would have got - every patriotic John Bull would tell you that Britain would have risen against him to a man. Tom Paine, the author of Rights of Man did not share that view. He encouraged an invasion to set Britain free from the oligarchy that ruled it, but had advised Napoleon that it was important that he went as a liberator rather than a conqueror.

No doubt though that the reception he received at Plymouth convinced Napoleon that the British people would in his downfall have treated him far more kindly than their rulers. This was of course a view shared by the rulers themselves - which is one of the reasons that they would not entertain the idea that he be allowed to stay in England.


Unknown said...

Hi John,
Looks like the Telegraph had the same story.

John Tyrrell said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I think this is an incorrect interpretation. If at any point Napoleon was so deluded as to think he could invade England from St Helena then I think there would be some corroborating evidence from other sources. It looks to me simply that he was discussing the past, as he was wont to do - and his British captors were I think always interested in hearing his views.

hailcaesar said...


I agree completely, Napoleon was clearly just talking about past ideas. He did this throughout his exile on St Helena. I was interviewed by the Telegraph and another media outlet in the UK and made that very clear, but they ignored me and preferred to talk about the deluded Emperor. Just goes to show that some Brits are still fighting against the Ogre of Corsica.

Thanks for your blog that reflects actual reality!

David Markham, President
International Napoleonic Society

John Tyrrell said...

Thanks for the comment David. Much appreciated.
A shocking reflection on the Telegraph and on the British Press.
Clearly I was wrong to single out the Daily Mirror. The problem is far worse than I appreciated.
Fog in the Straits of Dover, the continent isolated - twas ever thus.