Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Napoleon and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy

Napoleon's Generals Conspire

After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers against more than three times as many Allied troops. Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.
When Napoleon proposed that the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Marshall Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favor of his son. However, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.
Act of Abdication - Palace of Fontainebleau - 11 April 1814
The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.

In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon was exiled to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. He was exiled with his wife and son. In the first few months on Elba, he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods before returning to France, thus beginning his march to Paris that would lead to his second abdication.

Why does this matter? Because part of a young man’s (that is, a rich young man’s) education in Regency Era was the Grand Tour of Europe. With Napoleon's armies laying waste or overrunning most of Europe, Mr. Darcy was denied his Grand Tour. Once Napoleon was permanently exiled to St. Helena, an island in the Atlantic, Europe was once again open for business, and Mr. Darcy and his new bride, Elizabeth Bennet, could spend their honeymoon there.

And now you know. :)


  1. And I'm sure they would have a lovely honeymoon there! ;) Anywhere with Mr. Darcy would be a dream! LOL! Thanks, Mary! In a way I'm glad Darcy would have been denied his Grand Tour, I think he would enjoy it much more with Elizabeth.

  2. That is a good point! I have seen several Regency era fictions have their rich young men tour Scotland or Ireland because of the war.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Candy and Sophia Rose. Thanks for stopping by. I agree that D will enjoy it more with E by his side.

  4. I am sort of glad that Mr. Darcy was denied his Great Tour of Britain because then it is not certain that he would have met Elizabeth and then he would not enjoy a journey there as much as if it was the first time with "his" Elizabeth as his bride!

    Thank you Mary for a great blog!

  5. Do you think England would even care about France if it was, say, Norway? Napoleon stood in the way of good wine, food, flora and style and culture. Nevermind that France is full of those...Catholics!

    Great post!

  6. Angie, I think England thought they were superior to every country. I'm sure they looked at France as a place to grow thinks, like wine, and raise things, like cattle and goats for their cheeses.

    This thought popped into my head. After Oscar Wilde was found guilty of sodomy and sent to prison, many homosexuals fled to France giving the French an impression that most Englishmen were gay! I find that funny.

  7. Ha! Of course, if you started drinking absinthe once you got to Paris, it probably didn't matter which gender you hooked up with!

  8. I've just finished reading Jack Caldwell's brilliant The Three Colonels where Austen fighting men have to face Bonaparte after his escape from Elba. This post completed the picture :-)
    However, Napoleonic wars apart, the English and the French had been rivals, if not enemies, for centuries before that. Thanks for this little interesting post, Mary.

  9. Thanks, Maria. I'm sure D&E would have visited Italy on their honeymoon. I know I would have if I had the Darcy money. :)