One of my closest friends—Jude Holland—and Napoleon Bonaparte share the same birthday: today, August 15. I’m not going to get all woo-woo about this, but the truth is that I am, in fact, surrounded by friends, family and historical obsessions of the lion persuasion. (I’m a Scorpio: I can handle it. ;-)
It’s curiously refreshing to have Napoleon back in my life. (I keep wanting to call him “Bonaparte,” as Josephine did.)
The Sun King and Napoleon — a study in opposites
Louis XIV, the Sun King, has been a sympathetic and admirable man to spend a decade with: he was an athlete, not mentally quick, but a hard-working man who strived to do the right thing. Born to rule, he was always careful, always on stage (and thus hard to read). His one obsession was sex (and perhaps that was because it was the only private realm of his existence where he could be free). Ah, and yes: he was also fairly attached to glory. He may not have been a literary man, but he was handsome, invariably polite, a fine dancer and horseman—and how romantic is that?
Now: Bonaparte. Not much of a looker, not a dancer (pas du tout!), and not much of a horseman (he went one speed—full gallop—and not infrequently fell off). He was blunt, socially rude—if not an embarrassment—and likely not much in the sack, either, given his general impatience with life. Like the Sun King, he was hard-working, a man who wanted to do the right thing, but as for self-control? Forget it. The world was his stage, and he was, who he was, who he was. And that was: volcanic.
What is Napoleon thinking?
You never really had to ask: what is Bonaparte thinking? His heart, as one says, was on his sleeve, as well as his mind, which was mercurial, lightening quick. He wasn’t literary, either, at least not in the classical sense, but he was moody and had a poetic imagination: ideas infused him.
So: who would you prefer to spend a decade with?
Here are some interesting articles I recently came upon:
A Napoleon theme-park to be built near Disneyland in France? (Is this a joke?)
On film historian Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of Abel Gance’s silent epic Napoleon. (The film versions of Napoleon is an interesting subject: another blog post perhaps.)