Napoleon was the kind of guy who didn’t know when the party was over. Following his disastrous defeat in Russia in 1812 (chronicled in Episodes 10-12 of this podcast) and yet another war in Europe, Napoleon’s enemies invaded France and forced him off the throne in the spring of 1814. Bonaparte was given the paltry consolation prize of the island of Elba, which proved stifling, and he had little hope that his enemies, particularly Britain, Austria and the restored monarchy of France, would abide by their word not to bother him. Within nine months of exile Napoleon had returned to France for another bid at power—an adventure that would ultimately lead to the Battle of Waterloo. Was Napoleon just desperate, stroking his ego, or was there really a chance that his return could have worked?
In this episode, the first in season three, Dr. Sean Munger delves into the back-story of Napoleon’s audacious comeback, including the circumstances of how and why he ended up on Elba and why he thought he had to leave. We’ll explore the shifting and contradictory motives of the allies, why Napoleon suddenly found himself broke, how and why Louis XVIII, the new King of France, totally deluded himself, and the currents and turmoils within France that ultimately made the success of Napoleon’s comeback a definite long-shot. This is the first in a projected three-part series that will chronicle Napoleon’s final turn on the world stage, ultimately ending with the climactic Battle of Waterloo—one of the most dramatic moments of the Second Decade.