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  • Snowball Atrocities #4: Napoleon at Brienne August 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Perhaps the single most famous snowball fight in history took place in the winter of 1783-1784 at Brienne in Aube in central France. Brienne at this date was a military school and among the students was a fourteen-year-old Corsican named Napoleon Bonaparte. (Permission given to sigh deeply) Frustrated by the cold and the tedium of snowmen, Napoleon showed the first signs of his dubious genius. He had the boys build a castle of snow and then split his classmates into two teams, the defenders, who manned the snow ramparts, and the attackers, led by Napoleon himself, who would storm the castle. The games seem to have made a huge impression on those involved and lasted some ten days. There were reinforcements, snow-ball stockpiles, prisoners, ransoms and strict rules about not putting gravel in the snowballs: a kind of humanity that unfortunately Boney didn’t take with him into his later life. By the end Napoleon had shown his ability to organize, to lead and to fight and a boy who had been despised for his poor Corsican background had become one of the great personalities of the school. And the atrocity? Well, just think where Napoleon’s talents would take him. Wouldn’t European history be a little bit happier today had a rogue snowball hit a teen Napoleon on his temple and ended his life there and then? Apologies to the Bonaparte family, but almost certainly ‘yes’. The snowball fight has become one of the fixed points of French mythology: in the same way that ‘that’ cherry tree towers above America. There is a magnificent image of the same by Horace Vernet, see head of post: Vernet specialized in battle scenes, he must have loved doing this. Then, the snowball battle is perhaps the very best scene from the 1927 Napoleon.  It is a dazzlingly shot; one of the great scenes of silent film. And those few moderns who are not fans of the ‘Emperor’ can make endless Russian winter jokes at his expense.

    Any other snowball fights: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com