From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Napoleon has become a worldwide cultural icon who symbolises military genius and political power. Since his death, many towns, streets, ships, and even cartoon characters have been named after him. He has been portrayed in hundreds of films and discussed in hundreds of thousands of books and articles.
During the Napoleonic Wars he was taken seriously by the British press as a dangerous tyrant, poised to invade. A nursery rhyme warned children that Bonaparte ravenously ate naughty people; the 'bogeyman'. The British Tory press sometimes depicted Napoleon as much smaller than average height and this image persists. Confusion about his height also results from the difference between the French pouce and British inch—2.71 and 2.54 cm respectively; he was about Template:Convert tall, average height for the period.
In 1908 psychologist Alfred Adler cited Napoleon to describe an inferiority complex in which short people adopt an overaggressive behavior to compensate for lack of height; this inspired the term Napoleon complex. The stock character of Napoleon is a comically short "petty tyrant" and this has become a cliché in popular culture. He is often portrayed wearing a comically large bicorne and a hand-in-waistcoat gesture—a reference to the 1812 painting by Jacques-Louis David.
Marriages and children
Napoleon married Joséphine de Beauharnais in 1796, when he was twenty-six; she was a thirty-two-year-old widow whose first husband had been executed during the Revolution. Until she met Bonaparte, she had been known as 'Rose', a name which he disliked. He called her 'Joséphine' instead, and she went by this name henceforth. Bonaparte often sent her love letters while on his campaigns. He formally adopted her son Eugène and cousin Stéphanie, and arranged dynastic marriages for them. Joséphine had her daughter Hortense marry Napoleon's brother, Louis.
Joséphine had lovers, including a Hussar lieutenant, Hippolyte Charles, during Napoleon's Italian campaign. Napoleon learnt the full extent of her affair with Charles while in Egypt, and a letter he wrote to his brother Joseph regarding the subject was intercepted by the British. The letter appeared in the London and Paris presses, much to Napoleon's embarrassment. Napoleon had his own affairs too: during the Egyptian campaign he took Pauline Bellisle Foures, the wife of a junior officer, as his mistress. She became known as Cleopatra after the Ancient Egyptian ruler.
- One night, during an illicit liaison with the actress Marguerite George, Napoleon had a major fit. This and other more minor attacks have led historians to debate whether he had epilepsy and, if so, to what extent.
While Napoleon's mistresses had children by him, Joséphine did not produce an heir, possibly because of either the stresses of her imprisonment during the Terror or an abortion she may have had in her twenties. Napoleon ultimately chose divorce so he could remarry in search of an heir. In March 1810, he married by proxy Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, and a great niece of Marie Antoinette; thus he had married into a German royal and imperial family. They remained married until his death, though she did not join him in exile on Elba and thereafter never saw her husband again. The couple had one child, Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (1811–1832), known from birth as the King of Rome. He became Napoleon II in 1814 and reigned for only two weeks. He was awarded the title of the Duke of Reichstadt in 1818 and died of tuberculosis aged 21, with no children.
Napoleon acknowledged two illegitimate children:
- Charles Léon, (1806–81) by Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne
- Count Alexandre Joseph Colonna-Walewski, (1810–68) by Countess Marie Walewska
He may have had further unacknowledged illegitimate offspring as well:
- Karl Eugin von Mühlfeld, by Victoria Kraus
- Hélène Napoleone Bonaparte (1816–1910) by Albine de Montholon
- Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire, whose mother also remains unknown.
Mémoires autour de Napoléon I
L’exil à Sainte-Hélène de [[Napoléon Ier|Napoléon ITemplate:Er]] donne lieu à des confidences de l’empereur déchu, recueilles par ceux qui l’accompagnent : Henri Gatien Bertrand, Gaspard Gourgaud, Charles-Tristan de Montholon, Pons de l'Hérault et surtout Emmanuel de Las Cases. Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène est le fruit d’entretiens quasi-quotidiens de Las Cases avec l’Empereur. L’ouvrage, qui jouit d’une notoriété immense, est plus fidèle à Napoléon qu’à la vérité historique
Les guerres napoléoniennes et la vie militaire sont documentées par le colonel Marcellin de Marbot, le général Hugo (Mémoires sur la guerre d’Espagne), Lavalette. La vie intime du Corse est racontée dans les mémoires de Bourrienne, intime de Napoléon et dans ceux de Louis Constant Wairy son valet de chambre. L’impératrice Joséphine est le sujet des Mémoires de Georgette Ducrest et des Mémoires de Mademoiselle Avrillion, sa première femme de chambre. La reine Hortense, belle-fille de Napoléon, a pris la plume pour ses propres Mémoires.