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Napoleon in a Pot January 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Anyone who love history has a little black list of people they would have gladly have seen choked at birth: Hitler, Ida Amin, Verdi…

Fairly close to the top of Beachcombing’s is that jumped-up world destroyer Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who ‘could by industrious valour climb/ To ruin the work of time/ And cast the Kingdoms old/ Into another mould’.

How nice it would have been if the zeitgeist on horseback had fallen down a hole in the Corsican badlands or trod on a rusty nail and got blood poisoning in his late teens…

Beachcombing has fantasized about these thing for years and imagines the survival of Moscow, the endurance of the Venetian Republic, not to mention an unmutilated Spain. But, in fact, you do not have to thrash desperately about for unlikely childhood accidents.  There was one moment early on in Old Boney’s life when everything could have changed and, indeed, almost did.

In 1784 and 1785 the great French explorer Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse prepared an expedition that would make him famous (and dead). The expedition began in August 1785 and took La Pérouse’s two boats across the Pacific zig zagging till they reached Samoa, where eleven of the crew were eaten by the locals in 1787. By January 1788 La Pérouse was in Australia, then in March he sailed off and neither he nor any of his crew were ever seen again.It was not until 1828 that the wreck of La Pérouse’s expedition was found at Vanikoro in the New Hebrides. The depredations of the sea and the islanders unquenchable appetite for European flesh (by all accounts a wonderful thing) had done for them all.

Now what has this to do with Napoleon?

Well, apparently Napoleon applied to go on this voyage, was shortlisted as assistant astronomer (!) and then, finally turned down.

Beachcombing imagines: Napoleon in a pot. Better than 6000 British dead at Waterloo and toothache on St Helena.

Which all leads to a question. Today is the last day of relative freedom and Beachcombing has before term begins and he not been able to spend all the time he would have liked on this. But is Napoleon’s application a sure-fire thing? Or is this a bit of French cobblers? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The few obvious sources that Beach looked at seem to neglect this marvelous story and that, in itself, is suspicious.