Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25

With a side of handsome:

Influential bisexual: Napoleon Bonaparte

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was the first French monarch in a thousand years to bear the title of emperor. So much has been written about his influence on history that I will not attempt a summary. However, I will bring up Napoleon’s being compared to Adolf Hitler by historians Pieter Geyl and Claude Ribbe and the response by David G. Chandler, a historian of Napoleonic warfare: "Nothing could be more degrading to the former [Napoleon] and more flattering to the latter [Hitler].”

An 1805 portrait of Napoleon by Andrea Appiani:

In Frank Richardson’s Napoleon: Bisexual Emperor (1973), the author, a British medical doctor,
points out that Napoleon always surrounded himself with inordinately handsome young men, most of whom were given extraordinary military promotions.

Evangeline Bruce, whose biography is titled Napoleon and Josephine: An Improbable Marriage (1995), refers to a note written by the emperor during his exile on St. Helena, an island a thousand miles off the shore of Africa. Bruce relates that Napoleon confided that whenever he met a handsome man, his admiration was felt “first in the loins and then another place I will leave unnamed.” Bruce’s volume also explores the gradual reversal of roles in the marriage between Napoleon and Josephine. 

Keith Stern (Queers in History, 2009) mentions that Napoleon was particularly inclined toward same-sex love with his fellow soldiers, and that many of his aides were notoriously effeminate. General Duroc, who served as Grand Marshal of the palace, was widely rumored to be the emperor’s lover. As well, Gaspard Gourgard, one of Napoleon’s aides/lovers, jealously guarded access to his master.

The work of these researchers gives new meaning to the phrase, “Not tonight, Josephine.”

Note: For those of us who live in the U.S., we should recall Napoleon’s fire sale known as the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, in which President Thomas Jefferson accepted Napoleon’s offer to sell over 800,000 acres of land for 60 million Francs (11.2 million dollars). This equated to  less than three cents an acre – quite a sweet deal for the United States.

1 comment:

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