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Napoleone I°

The Impossible Interviews

This first meeting in our feature “The Impossible Interviews” we dedicate to Napoleon.
We linger with him to reflect on his times, his adventurous life and on how he sees the future of Europe. That Europe which two centuries ago was upset by his exploits.

Your Majesty, around 182 years have passed since your death. Are you still interested in the human events from up there?
Of course! I am always amused watching you, it’s my favourite pastime, and in any case now I haven’t much else to do.

Tell me, exactly where are you, in heaven where your admirers would have you or in hell were your enemies of one time imagine you to be?
Unfortunately I am not allowed to speak of these things, but let us say that here I have found a reasonable authority able to calmly judge my actions on earth. However I assure you that it was not easy for me to subject myself to an authority that was not my own.

I believe you. In fact in your time there were those who would not hesitate to describe you as a tyrant.
Me, a tyrant? Were Austria, Prussia and Russia democratic? Then with regard to England with her colonies what about her? In India and Egypt I don’t believe they were champions of respect of what you today call human rights.

Then why was everyone against you?
Firstly because I modified European balance. That delicate balance exhaustingly constructed with the Peace of Westfalia in 1648, at the end of the Thirty Year War.
Secondly, because I brought progress, emancipation, the light of reason to the religious and political darkness.
Thanks to me you Italians have also got divorce laws, today considered obvious and normal in a modern State, you have seen a serious and energetic defence of private property in the Civil Code, and even seen the efficiency of the public administration, even if in this case I think you are going backwards again to the Bourbonist model.

But won’t you admit that your progress was obtained with the point of a bayonet?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any choice, the European powers would never have accepted the removal from power of a King. Remember the proclamation of General Brunsvik? After the break out of the revolution, he threatened whoever dared to touch a hair on the head of Louis XVI. For ten years they waited, they had even undergone the beheading of the sovereign in 1793, in the hope of re-establishing the dynasty from outside, then, after the three Consuls had taken power, that is myself, my brother Lucien and Sieyès, they understood that France was heading towards normalisation and they organised themselves to attack it.

There you are, lets speak for a moment of the way in which you gained power; it was a coup d’état you can’t deny that.
No, I don’t deny it, it was a coup d’état. But you should also remember that France was in the grip of chaos, the Directoire was immobilised because of a constitution which made it almost impossible to make any decisions. Without my intervention the sacred principles of ’89 would have been oppressed by European strength, who would have imposed their protectorate on France, or, worse still, they would have split it. I saved the future and the honour of the Nation.

Pinochet also says that, but lets talk about something else. What memories do you have of your exile on Elba?
All in all good ones, the population wasn’t hostile, except for a few Jacobin Freemasons, the climate was extremely pleasant and I was always able to keep myself occupied there.
The only torment was that of not having collected the grant that the treaty of Fontainebleau assigned me. I had to impose certain taxes and get into debt.

Wouldn’t it have been better to have finished your days on Elba?
In hindsight, yes. Unfortunately I overrated several conflicts which had been created among the powerful winners during the Vienna Congress, I thought that the situation was mainly in my favour, and I wasn’t too wrong, in fact on my return to France, if you remember, Marshall Ney, sent by Louis XVIII against me, united with my men and swore loyalty to me. Poor Ney, he paid with his life for that noble and courageous gesture.
However, in that period, or so my informants told me, England was anyway thinking of transferring me again. Elba was too near France for their liking.

Was there anyone from Elba, that at the end of almost two centuries, you remember with affection?
More than one, if you excuse my indelicate digression there was a girl I remember with particular affection.
It was during a revolt by the Capoliveri Council, following the imposition of a tax for the resurfacing of the road which went to Portoferraio.
As a man of arms how could I tolerate an insubordination? So I sent my men there with the order to shell the village; it was at that time that a very beautiful young girl from Capoliveri nicknamed “la Vantina” caught up with me at Portoferraio burst into my residence and ……. with arguments which I don’t want to specify, she persuaded me not to punish the population. It was a noble gesture on her part, even if in the end I don’t believe it cost her that much.

Today’s Europe is very different from in your time. How do you see Europe now?
Well, a convinced Nationalist like I am, can only disapprove of the process of European integration.
It is something not heard of in history, there is no sense in it. How could it hope to function?
And now you are all taken up with this globalisation; you must be joking. A Nations’ borders are sacred, and should be defended by force. Then internally its right to stimulate free exchange, but always keeping in mind National interest.
France does not deserve to be enclosed in this cage, her destiny is to dominate Europe, to allow her grandeur to shine forth. Vive le France!

 

Text by Text by Roberto Adriani
Pictures by Sandro Santioli

 
 
 
   
 
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