maandag 11 januari 2010

Exact time of death of Napoleon

On our sundaymorning breakfast raise last week (10 jan. 2010) a question:
At what time exactly did Napoleon die on the 5th of may 1821?
Everybody looked at me: Roel, the expert, should know the answer!

The best way to investigate such a problem is to search for people who were present at the moment of the death of Napoleon. There were many, but some were more important than others.

Because I was not complete sure, I looked that morning in my library and found different answers.
In my books I found following:

Marchand writes: 'À 5 h 50 du soir, le canon de retraite se fait entendre, le soleil disparaît dans des flots de lumière. C'est aussi le moment où le grand homme qui domina le monde de son génie va s' envelopper dans sa gloire immortelle.'
(Mémoires de Marchand, Tome II Sainte-Hélène, Paris 1985, pag. 327)

Bertrand writes: 'À cinq heures quarante-neuf minutes, l'Empereur a rendu son dernier soupir. Les trois dernières minutes, il a rendu trois soupirs....'
(Cahiers de Sainte-Hélène, Janvier 1821 - Mai 1821, Bertrand, Paris 1949, pag. 195)

Montholon a dit: 'L'empereur a rendu le dernier soupir hier à six heures moins dix minites.....'
(Lettter to his wife, dated at Longwood 6th may 1821)

Then there is Antommarchi, who wrote: 'Il est six heures moins onze minutes, Napoléon touche à sa fin; ses lèvres se couvrent d'une légère écume; il n'est plus: ainsi passa la gloire.'
(Derniers moments de Napoléon, Tome second, Antommarchi, Bruxelles 1825, pag. 153)

Ali says: 'Enfin, à six heures et dix minutes du soir, le 5 mai, une minute et demie après le coup de canon de retraite, 'l Empereur expira.'
(Souvenirs sur L'Empereur Napoléon, Mameluck Ali, pag. 268., Présentés et annotés par Chr.Bourachot, Paris, 2000)
Ali's notation seems to be wrong, did he write 'et' in stead of 'moins'?

So the good answer must be: Between ten and nine mintes before six o'clock in the evening!'

10 opmerkingen:

  1. I think I would put my money on Bertrand - but what clock did he/they use? First time I have given that a thought!



  2. Napoleon died at 5:49, just before the sun went down.

    I dont know where you got all those different answers. My entire "library" says 5:49.
    I suggest contacting Mr.David Markham if you're still not sure.

  3. I am studying in my original books, written by persons who were present at that moment. Why should they lie?

  4. Well I contacted him about it, and he agrees with the 5:49, so..

  5. Seriously though - we are told that in the UK there was no standard time until the railways - so how reliable was timekeeping on St Helena?

  6. Oh for goodness sake, fine.. we dont know when he died, it's a complete mystery to the world.

    Long live the railways...

  7. Did I make a problem by publishing this subject?