Napoleon’s personal health service

by Xavier Riaud*, FINS, Medal of Honour of the companions of the INS, INS Legion of Merit Medal


Napoleon was extremely worried about his health. Las Cases gave a detailed account of the Emperor’s impeccable oral hygiene. Dubois-Foucou’s sole duty was to regularly remove tartar from Napoleon’s mouth (Las Cases, 1822; Lamendin, 2000). The latter also suffered from recurring hemorrhoid problems that were highly prominent among cavaliers who were used to long rides. On the morning of Waterloo (June 8, 1815), he had been treated for this inconvenience (Mason, 2010).

Convinced of the famous adage: “slow and steady wins the race”, he had implemented his own personal health service which was developed in the same way as that of the ancient kings of France. This was a service which was directly attached to him and which followed him everywhere both in military campaigns and his various residences. Hence, this was the case for Cadet de Gassicourt for example (Riaud, 2010). The Emperor’s house was endowed with different services which were under the supervision of different authorities such as the Grand Almoner, the Grand Chamberlain, the Grand marshal of the palace, the Grand Squire, the Grand Huntsman, the Grand Master of Ceremonies, the General Intendant of the Royal House, the Royal Accountant of France. As for the Emperor’s personal health service, it was placed under the supervision of the General Intendant of the Royal House who was none other than Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu (1738-1810) in 1805. Then, he was replaced by Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno Daru (1767-1829) in 1808 who partnered up with Louis Costaz (1767-1842) in 1810, according to the imperial Almanacs which were written from 1805 to 1813. The dates which coincide with these three characters correspond to the first mention of their names in these famous records and not to their appointment to this key post.


Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu was a French explorer, hydrographer and politician. He was Minister of the Navy under Louis XVI (1790) and a member of the “Institut de France”. He was made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1805 and Imperial Count in 1808 (, 2010).

Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno Daru was made Imperial Count in 1809. In 1813, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur. He joined the peerage of France in 1819, then he became a Member of the Académie française in 1806 and was elected a free-member of the Académie des Sciences in 1828 (, 2010).

Louis Costaz was awarded the title of baron of the Empire in 1809. Member of the Légion d’honneur, he went to the École polytechnique and he participated in the French invasion of Egypt. Prefect of “the Manche” and then of the “Nord”, he led the “École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées” (1813-1814) (, 2009).


Health service of the Emperor’s House (imperial Almanacs, 1805-1813; Pouliquen, 2007):

First doctor                                         Jean-Nicolas Corvisart (1805)
Regular doctor                                    Hallé (1805)

Infirmary doctor                                 Lanefranque (1806)
Doctor of the Imperial House             Leclerc (1806) >> His name disappeared from the Almanacs from 1809.
Guilloneau (1806)
Lerminié (1809)
Bayle (1809)
Medical consultants                            Paul Joseph Barthez (1806) >> His name disappeared from the Almanacs from 1807.
Lepreux (1806)
Malouët (1806)
Pinel (1806)
Andry (1809)

First surgeon                                       Alexis Royer (1805)
Regular surgeon                                  Alexandre Urbain Yvan (1805)

Infirmary surgeon                               Horeau (1806)
Surgeon of the Imperial House           Varelliaud (1806)
Ribes (1808)
Jouan (1808) >> His name disappeared from the Almanacs from 1809.
Lacournère (1809)

Surgical consultants                            Lassus (1806) >> His name disappeared from the Almanacs from 1809.
Pelletan (1806)
Pierre François Percy (1806)
Sabatier (1806)

Assistant surgeon                                Jouan (1809)

Surgeon in Saint-Cloud                      Lassoujade (1809)
and other neighbouring locations

First pharmacist                                   Nicolas Deyeux (1806)

Regular pharmacist                             Charles Louis Cadet de Gassicourt (1806)
Clarion (1806)
Bouillon-Lagrange (1808) >> His name disappeared from the Almanacs from 1809.
Rouyer (1809)

Oculist                                                 De Wenzel (1806)

Dental surgeon                                    Jean-Joseph Dubois-Foucou

Orthopaedic Technologist                   Ronsil (1809) >> (imperial Almanacs, 1805-1813 ; Pouliquen, 2007).

Alexandre-Urbain Yvan (1765-1839), the Emperor’s regular surgeon in 1805, surgeon-major of the grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, head surgeon of the “Hôtel des Invalides” and baron of the Empire from July 31st 1810, had not been summoned by the Emperor for a hundred days. Indeed, when Napoleon tried to commit suicide in Fontainebleau, the regular surgeon chose to flee. Napoleon never forgave him (Goldcher, 2010). And yet, Yvan remained the only surgeon who carried out adequate medical treatment on the Emperor on April 23rd 1809, during the Battle of Ratisbon, when he was wounded on the heel by a bullet, for the first and only time during all of his military campaigns (Gautherot, 1810).

Example of the 1810 Imperial Almanac:
intendant-general of the military household
M. le Comte DARU (C. ), State Councillor, Intendant-general
M. le Baron COSTAZ , Intendant of the Royal buildings.

M. le Baron de Corvisart (O.) First doctor.
M. le Chevalier Hallé , Regular doctor.

Section doctors
M. Lanefranque.
M. Guillonneau.
M. Lerminier.
M. Bayle.

Medical consultants.
M. Malouët.
M. Lépreux
M. Pinel .
M. Andry.

M. le Baron Boyer Surgeon.
M. le Baron Yvan (O.) Regular surgeon.

Section surgeons.
M. Horeau.            M. Lacournère.
M. Vareillaud        M Ribes *.
M.. Jouan ,  Assistant surgeon
M. Lassoujade, Surgeon in Saint-Cloud and other neighbouring locations
M. De Wenzel, Oculist

Surgical consultants.
M.Pelletan .                M. Sabatier .
M. Percy (C.).             M. Dubois.
Dental surgeon.       M. Dubois.
Orthopaedic Technologist,  M. Ronsil.

M. Deyeux, first pharmacist
Regular pharmacist.
M  Clarion,
M. Cadet,
M. Rouyer,

The name of the public officers, members of the Légion d’honneur, are, in the Almanac followed by this sign:

The Grand Officers awarded with the “Grand Aigle” or Grand cross, (G. A.). The Grand Officers, (G. ). The Commanders, (G. ). The Officers, (O. ). And the Knights, ().


Almanachs impériaux [The Imperial Almanacs], Testu & Cie imprimeurs, Paris, from 1805 to 1813.
De Las Cases Emmanuel, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène [The Memorial in Saint Helena], Le Grand Livre du Mois [The Great Book of the Month] (ed.), Volume IV, Paris, 1999, pp. 64-119 (publication of the first version of 1822).
Gautherot Pierre (1769-1825), Napoléon Ier, blessé au pied devant Ratisbonne, est soigné par le chirurgien Yvan, 23 avril 1809 [Napoleon 1st, wounded on the foot during the Battle of Rastibon and treated by surgeon Yvan, on April 23rd 1809], painting exhibited at the château de Versailles and that of the Trianon, 1810.
Goldcher Alain, Autopsie commentée de Napoléon Bonaparte [Commented autopsy of Napoleon Bonaparte], personal communication, Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, 2010, 218 p., Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, 2010, pp. 1-6., Louis Costaz, 2009, p. 1., Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno Daru, 2010, pp. 1-6.
Lamendin Henri, Napoléon, des dentistes et l’Histoire... [Napoleon, dentists and History] in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France, 6-13/01/2000 ; 966/967 : 66-71.
Mason Phil, Les hémorroïdes de Napoléon [Napoleon’s hemorrhoids], De l’Opportun (ed.), Paris, 2010.
Pouliquen Thierry, “Maison de l’Empereur Napoléon” [Napoleon’s House], in, 2007, pp. 1-6.
Riaud Xavier, “Charles-Louis Cadet de Gassicourt (1769-1821), le pharmacien de l’Empereur” [Charles-Louis Cadet de Gassicourt (1769-1821), Napoleon’s pharmacist], in, 2010, pp.1-3.


(*) DDS, PhD in Epistemology, History of Sciences and Techniques, Laureate and associate member of the National Academy of Dental Surgery, Free member of the National Academy of Surgery.