I was just reading that the chair in which Napoleon sat before the battle of Waterloo in June 1815 is being auctioned off in London this weekend–and is expected to fetch something in the neighbourhood of £15,000.
He was housed in Courcelles, Belgium before the battle, with the Cambier family. And the daughter, Pauline, kept the chair safe–aware of the iconic status of the man who had sat in it hours before his armies were defeated, once and for all, by the combined forces of European allies led by the Duke of Wellington.
But it causes me to wonder a great many things.
For instance, I wonder if it is scarred with the violent slashings Napoleon left in many of the chairs in which he regularly slouched. Because he did.
He had, memoirs tell us, an insatiable inner violence. And as he sat at meetings, he would take his pen knife from his pocket and stab and gash the wooden arms of the beautiful chairs in which he sat. He even treated the arms of his thrones like this.
The auctioneer has pointed out that in France, Napoleon is still “worshipped almost like a god.”
And again, I wonder…this is the man who led his troops to commit such atrocities as would today have him hauled up before the courts in The Hague. Goya’s etchings are a testament to that. Yet as terrible as those are, they depict just the tip of the iceberg. Because there’s little mention of similar heinous methods being used in Egypt, Italy and Prussia…
It’s now believed somewhere in the region of six million people died in the wars of his making. Yet he’s still revered almost as a god…why is that?