WHO LIES HERE? by Thomas G. Wheeler


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Napoleon a diamond merchant in Verona? Or, how the great Bonaparte broke out of ""the tightest prison the world had been able to devise for him,"" leaving his double -- the lowly ""Robeaud"" -- to die at St. Helena. Wheeler, a passionate believer in the genius of the Emperor, just can't accept the historians' accounts of his last years languishing on that remote island. How unlike the audacious Bonaparte! How unheroic! No, once again Napoleon outwitted all the powers of Europe. The escape, plotted from the day of arrival, is ""without doubt Napoleon's chef d'oeuvre."" Equipped with a fevered imagination and a rickety chain of inferences and suppositions, Wheeler suggests that the comings and goings at Longwood where Bonaparte insisted on preserving the structure and rituals of the Imperial Court, were but a ruse to throw sand in the eyes of his British guards. The dissensions among his entourage reported by all the memoirists were also part of the smokescreen. By 1821 when Europe sighed in relief at his reported ""death,"" Napoleon was long gone. Someone else lies buried in Les Invalides. Wheeler is naive to say the least but part of a venerable tradition. In popular mythology none of the great heroes died their recorded deaths -- not Arthur, not Barbarossa, not Jesse James, not John Dillinger.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1974
Publisher: Putnam