In retellings of history, Napoleon’s brief return to power in the spring of 1815 is often portrayed as an audacious surprise, the ultimate comeback from an indefatigable historical personality. Actually it wasn’t. Having returned to Paris and run off the rickety reboot of the Bourbon monarchy, Napoleon immediately found himself faced with a dizzying array of insoluble problems. Chief among them was the fact that all the other powers of Europe had suddenly banded together and declared war on him. He would obviously have to fight to remain in power, but with France’s treasury empty and her manpower already drained from previous years of Napoleon’s wars, this time Bonaparte really didn’t have a second act. That raises the question: did he really think he was going to get away with it this time?
In this, the second of a three-part series on Napoleon’s final play on the world stage, Dr. Sean Munger counts the dwindling francs left in the French treasury, chronicles the treachery of Napoleon’s disloyal ministers who were plotting against him, and takes you into the rather tepid celebrity lunches that Bonaparte threw at the Tuileries Palace to try to make it look like he was the center of attention. You’ll learn about Napoleon’s drooling problem, why it’s a bad idea to ask fed-up troops who’ve already deserted your army once before to pretty-please come back and die for you once more, and why imperial coronation robes should generally not be worn more than once. This is a picture not of an audacious and incisive leader with one more trick up his sleeve, but more of a deluded narcissist totally out of gas and without a clue what to do.