August 19, 2015

What Would Have Happened If... Napoleon Had Won?

"Napoleon has humbugged me, by God." ~Duke of Wellington.

What if those words had held true the whole way through, even at Waterloo?

I found this interesting article while doing some research on a completely different topic (don't you find that happens to you a lot too? It's why I have this blog after all, to write down all these disparate and seemingly unconnected pieces of information I come across--you never know what might inspire another art piece!) which, after a lengthy talk on Napoleon's life and the reasons for the battle of Waterloo (a battle which shouldn't have taken place), gives the reader an alternative history theory on what could have happened if Napoleon had committed fewer mistakes during his last battle and managed to defeat Duke Wellington's armies and allies...

  • The reactionary Holy Alliance of Russia, Prussia and Austria would not have been able to crush liberal constitutionalist movements in Spain, Greece, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
  • Pressure to join France in abolishing slavery in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean would have grown.
  • The benefits of meritocracy over feudalism would have had time to become more widely appreciated.
  • Jews would not have been forced back into their ghettos in the Papal States and made to wear the yellow star again.
  • Encouragement in the arts and sciences would have been better understood and copied.
  • The plans to rebuild Paris would have been implemented, making it the most gorgeous city in the world.

A sketch of the Battle of Waterloo fought Sunday 18th June, 2015
Hulton Archive/Getty image
Of course, we'll never get to know (at least not in this dimension) what could truly have been if Napoleon had won the battle, but the vision historian Andrew Roberts paints is a decidedly bright one, especially considering WWI (and its aftermath, WWII) started off as just a nasty (royal) family quarrel.

In war, the game is always with him who commits the fewest faults. ~Napoleon

A few fun facts about Napoleon himself (these are real):

  • He was a writer: As a teen he wrote his own novel, Clisson and Eugénie, a melodramatic story
    "Is this right? Is this fair?" Napoleon asked as he led the
    discussions that modernized France's legal system.
    (Gianni Dagli Orti/The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY)
    about a valiant soldier's ill-fated love with a beautiful woman who refuses his hand (and that's not counting all the erotic love letters he sent Joséphine while away at war).
  • French was his third language.
  • After George Washington died (1799), Napoleon ordered France to mourn for 10 days.
  • The Bourbon royals tried to assassinate him 30 times.
  • Upon his return from the Isle of Elba, Napoleon announced he'd given up his dreams of world domination, and instead focused on creating a "new liberal constitution incorporating trial by jury, freedom of speech and a bicameral legislature that curtailed some of his own powers," and set about to rebuild France and Paris. But the "autocratic rulers of Russia, Prussia, and Austria wanted to crush" his revolutionary ideas before the rest of the world could see they worked, and worked well.
And for those of you who love history and Napoleonic times in particular, I highly recommend reading the full article on

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