MARCH 11TH, 2009, UK

John Tarttelin

I have just watched an appalling programme about Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo on the National Geographic Channel. It was replete with all the usual lies and misrepresentations that are made about him. I was so moved by its one-sidedness that I immediately sent the email below in protest. As Ben used to say, the same untruths are constantly repeated - but one expects better from the National Geographic!

Members of the INS might be surprised at just how high some of the same old nonsense comes from.


Dear Sir,

I have just watched your programme about Napoleon. It was a bigger disaster than Waterloo! This one-sided travesty of a programme is unworthy of the high standards that the National Geographic normally stands for. It was a truly awful production, full of mistakes and factual errors .And there were massive and glaring omissions.

The final comment: "A life written in blood" is absolutely pathetic and woefully biased against Napoleon. Your programme is an exercise in character assassination - whatever it is, it certainly isn't objective history as I understand the term. Your revolting portrayal of the French Emperor cries out for a reply. It is easy to slander the dead who cannot fight back.

Your partisan film is worthy of the worst of English High Tory arrogance and nationalism. I expect better from a nation that owed its very existence to the French navy at Yorktown. Without the money given to the Americans by French officers, and the support of De Grasse's navy, Washington, would never have taken Yorktown. (Source: Jay Luvaas P. 152 Clues to America's Past (1976) - National Geographic books).

Not once in your 'programme' did you mention the fact that Napoleon was nearly always attacked first by the Allies. It was the British that broke the Treaty of Amiens by refusing to evacuate Malta, and it was the British Cabinet and Pitt who paid for the terrorist attacks upon Napoleon perpetrated by the Comte d'Artois the evil younger brother of Louis XVIII, and his infamous group the Chevalier de la Foi.  Many innocent French civilians were murdered in these assassination attempts - but absolutely no mention in your dreadful programme.

You did not mention the fact that the British paid millions of pounds in subsidies to the Austrians and Russians to encourage them to ATTACK  Napoleon in 1805. Your coverage of the Battle of Austerlitz was very vague - no mention of the Pratzen Heights. It was because the Russians and Austrians took control of these that they were convinced that Napoleon was planning a retreat. That led to their overconfidence and their subsequent drubbing.

After Napoleon's victory, Emperor Francis of Austria said: "The English are traders in human flesh". By then he realized he had been duped into fighting by the British. You say nothing about this.

There was no mention of the fact that Prussia ATTACKED Napoleon in 1806 - no mention of Prussia at all until 1815.

You skate over the plebiscite that gave Napoleon the position of Consul for life by 3,000,0000 votes to 8,000. Why did you not mention that no other country in Europe had any elections whatsoever? The most glaring error in your film was that there was not one mention of divine right believed in by all the monarchs of the period. They believed their right to rule came from God himself! THAT is why they were fighting Napoleon and constantly attacking him. The last thing they wanted was for the French to have a Republic (like the one those French officers helped bequeathe to you Americans).

You did not mention that Austria ATTACKED Napoleon again in 1809, thinking that he was preoccupied in Spain. You do not say a single word about Spain - another glaring omission.

Talleyrand virtually handed Paris over to the Allies in 1814. Napoleon lost power in 1814 because he was betrayed. He was not defeated militarily, and he was not technically a 'prisoner'. He voluntarily gave up the throne after several of his Marshals betrayed him as well, notably Marmont, the Duke of Raguser. That very word in French today means 'traitor'.

When Napoleon landed in France, you rightly say it was a 'gamble' but you made little mention of the sheer elation felt by millions of French people at his return. Louis XVIII was loathed by the French - and unlike Napoleon, nobody had ever voted for him.

You say the Allies flocked to Belgium - palpable nonsense. Only the Anglo-Dutch-German and Prussian armies where anywhere near the crucial fighting zone. The reason Napoleon attacked was precisely because he hoped to defeat these two armies in turn before any other of the divine right monarchist armies could enter the fray.

Why did you not mention the fact that the first thing Napoleon did on his arrival in Paris in 1815 was to write to the Prince Regent in England and the other Allies requesting peace? Were you trying to blacken his name on purpose? He wanted peace, he needed peace. France was a basket-case unfer the Bourbons - they who learnt nothing and forgot nothing.

You then make a terrible conflation of two battles. You go on about Ney and the cavalry and then talk of Marshal Grouchy going after the Prussians. Hopeless! In fact, despite having a hangover on the day of Quartre Bras, and being slow to get his men to the vital crossroads, Ney held his own. Wellington was lucky that one of his commanders disobeyed a direct order and reinforced Quatre Bras with Allied troops. Wellington hadn't a clue what was going on until the fighting for the crossroads was well underway, and then he had the sense to reinforce those men established there in contravention to his earlier direct order.

You stated several times that Napoleon hoped to re-establish his Empire when he returned to France in 1815. The fact is he was fighting for his very survival having been proscribed by the Allies at the Congress of Vienna. He had no other option than to fight because they were going to ATTACK him. This international proscription was illegal even in 1815 and Wellington later had the grace to say it should not have been done.

You state that Napoleon was the 'cause' of six million dead in battle. That is demonstrably a lie. As I have detailed above. MOST of the time, he was the one attacked!

Your utterly biased, prejudiced and one-sided character assassination is unworthy of the National Geographic. It plays like a rather evil Walt Disney production, - bearing little reality to what actually happened during those momentous years. You ought to be ashamed of this 'programme' of defamation. It is an utterly appalling waste of the money given in magazine subscriptions by people such as I. Shame on you!

P.S. I have read nearly two hundred books about Napoleon and yet I have never come across any of your 'contributors' in the thirty-five years that I have been researching the period.

Yours sincerely,

John Tarttelin (M.A History) Sheffield, England. FINS.