THE FALL OF NAPOLEON by David Hamilton-Williams


The Final Betrayal
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 A well-researched and original, if somewhat overwrought, history of Napoleon's fall from power, from his return from Moscow to his death in 1821 on the island of St. Helena. Hamilton-Williams (Waterloo: New Perspectives, not reviewed) has delved deeply into the military and diplomatic history of the last three years of Napoleon's reign and into the machinations of Talleyrand, his longtime foreign minister, and FouchÇ, his chief of police, both of whom played critical roles in his fall. The author's thesis is that the fall was brought about not by military failure, even at Waterloo, but by a series of carefully orchestrated betrayals. He argues that but for these Napoleon would have been able to defeat the divided allies in 1814, before his exile to Elba; and indeed the former emperor's popularity in France was such that, landing 11 months later with 1,100 men, it took only 20 days for him to retake France without casualties. Hamilton- Williams undercuts his argument that the allies should have accepted Napoleon's protestations of peace by noting that ``if he, Napoleon, could beat Wellington and Blucher...all that had been lost since 1812 might be regained.'' He also neglects the possibility that the Allies, after more than a decade of war, might have viewed Napoleon's overtures with some skepticism. The author's villains are the Bourbons, in particular the heir to the French throne, the comte d'Artois, whose intelligence organization committed a number of assassinations, including poisoning Napoleon himself (for which the evidence is indeed persuasive); and the British government, a ``contemptible clique,'' and its foreign minister, Castlereagh. Hamilton-Williams tells a stirring story, revealing much new material, but his partisanship is such that even Julius Caesar receives a whiff of grapeshot for setting his ``defiling foot'' on French soil. The illustrations, however, are outstanding.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-471-11862-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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