International Napoleonic Society
GOES THROUGH THREE STAGES:
First, it is
is violently attacked;
is accepted as self-evident.
It is easy to succumb
to the temptation of quoting recognized authorities and obtain
information from secondary sources rather than do primary research.
A quote from a written document made by one historian and uncritically
repeated by another soon acquires the authority of "Common
Knowledge." This research did not rely on accepted HISTORIAN
EVALUATION, but on primary research.
OF FACTUAL DETAIL IS THE RELIGION OF PERFECTION
Over 10 years ago I
wrote a book which explains the years of research that Sten Forshufvud,
my col-league and friend from Sweden, and I did in order to prove
without any doubt whatsoever that Napoleon was poisoned during
his exile on St. Helena. The book, entitled The Murder of Napoleon,
was pub-lished in 26 languages and has sold over a million copies.
That's not bad for a history book. It proves that interest in
Napoleon is still very strong.
More books have been written about N apoleon than about any other
person in history. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that over
200,000 books have been written about him; the French his-torians
claim that the number is closer to 400,000. It 's amazing, isn
People oftell ask me how I can be so sure that Napoleon was poisoned.
After all, he has been dead for 179 years.
The answer is relatively easy. Eight eyewitnesses told me so
(through their books, of course), and the information they supplied
was confirmed throngh nuclear science. You don't have to be a
genius to understand what you read; you only need to be per-ceptive,
intelligent and know your facts. However, these facts, as teported
by the eight eyewitnesses, were ignored, or their meaning has
not been under-stood by historians.
The key that led ns to the poisoning was Louis Marchand, Napoleon's
first valet. He was attentive, discreet, literate, shrewd, observant
and loyal beyond the call of duty. All historians agree with
this evaluation of him. He was also a very good artist.
Napoleon treated Marchand like a son, and left him 400,000 francs
in his famous will. Napoleon's desire was to honor Marchand with
the title of "Count," and his wish was finally carried
out when Napoleon III came to power.
Unlike the other companions in exile who wrote books in order
to make a profit, Marchand kept a diary while in exile because
he wanted his family to know what happened on St. Helena. He
instructed his family never to publish these memoirs. However,
when his estate finally came up for sale in the early 1950s,
it was purchased by Commander Henri Lachouque of the French army,
and he arranged to have Marchand's diary published for the first
time in l955.
His book will go down in history as a "time bomb" which
helped unravel the mystery or, N apoleon's death. Marchand's
painstaking accuracy in recording the daily events at Longwood
House, just as they occurred, made the equivalent of a doctor's
case file of careful notes detailing the progressive decline
of a terminally ill patient. His information was vital in "blowing
the cover" on what would otherwise have been "the perfect
Marchand took home to France some of the actual hair that was
shaved from Napoleon's head on May 6, 1821, and very carefully
put the hairs into an envelope on which he wrote: "Les cheveux
de l'Empereur." This lock of hair, in its original envelope,
remained faithfully preserved through the years by Marchand's
descendants. Neither he, nor any other companions of the exile
could have known that one day, long after they were all gone,
the contents of this envelope would tell more about the years
at Longwood House than the total of all other correspondence,
and the numerous books and manuscripts that have been published
dealing with the Emperor's exile on St. Helena.
When critics weigh all the evidence presented in this paper and
in my new book entitled The Assassination at St. Helena Revisited,
they too will understand the plot to assassinate Napoleon, therefore
preventing him from returning from St. Helena and regaining his
throne as he had done when he returned from his first exile on
the Elba. I submit that unless someone can produce authentic
documents that refute the facts as reported by the eyewitnesses,
they must accept their truth.
Napoleon was poisoned during his exile on the island of St. Helena;
there is absolutely no doubt about it. He was poisoned in the
classical manner of the 19th century. Until this day, no pathologist
or toxicologist has seriously opposed the thesis. I call it a
the sis for want of a better word, because the poisoning is a
Of the 34 known symptoms of arsenical intoxication, over 30 have
been recorded by these eight witnesses. Furthermore, the presence
of arsenic in Napoleon 's hair has been confirmed by modern forensic
medicine and nuclear science.
Over the last 100 years, numerous medical doctors and historians
have attributed Napoleon 's illness and death to over 30 different
causes ranging from gonorrhea to syphilis, from scurvy to hepatitis
to cancer. History records that Napoleon died of cancer, and
yet he died fat. How is that possible, when we know that cancer
is a wasting disease?
Furthermore, Napoleon did not manifest any symptoms of cancer.
Ask yourself this question: How can somebody die without manifesting
the symptoms of his illness ?
Over 30 years ago my colleague Sten Forshufvud of Sweden had
tests made on Napoleon's authenticated hair that was shaved on
6 May 1821, the day after his death. Hair grows about one inch
every two months. Since the hair was cut at the scalp and was
three inches long, this represented six months of Napoleon's
By testing the hairs by section, we were able to know almost
to the day when he was given high doses of arsenic. The results
of the tests on the hair showed extreme highs and lows of the
levels of arsenic. The lowest point was 2.8 parts per million
and the highest was 51.2 parts per million, and in each section
of hair tested, the levels varied in peaks and valleys. This
proves that Napoleon ingested more arsenic at specific times
and less at others.
Keep in mind that the normal arsenic level in the hair at the
time was about 0.08 ppm. Examples of the highs and lows on the
Napoleon hairs that were tested are: 51.2; 45.2; 24.5; 18.8;
2.8; 7.1; 20.4; 24.1; etc. These results, which are way above
normal, prove without a doubt that Napoleon was being fed arsenic
at different times. There is no doubt about this. (See table)
Analysis of Napoleon's Hair
showing Arsenic (parts/million) against Time
The table shows the
results of one such test, in which the hair was tested in eight
sections. Note the very high levels of arsenic compared to the
normal content of the time, that was established at approximately
0.08 ppm. You will note that the highest content was 51.2 ppm,
which is an extraordinarily large amount and shows without a
doubt that Napoleon was being fed arsenic at this particular
The levels of arsenic in Napoleon's hair, which was tested at
the Harwell Nuclear Research Laboratory of London, confirm the
facts described by the eight eyewitnesses.
Over the years, people have attributed the arsenic in Napoleon
's hair as coming from the wallpaper at Longwood House, the water
he drank, medication he took, or from hair cream he used. If
these suppositions were indeed factual, then the arsenic levels
in the hair would have been constant, as he would have taken
in the same amount of arsenic on a daily basis. The extreme highs
and lows show without a doubt that these theories are not based
on fact in any manner whatsoever, and should be dismissed.
In 1974, when I met
Sten Forshufvud, we decided to work together to prove once and
for all that Napoleon was indeed poisoned. For this purpose we
constructed two time charts. On the first chart we listed the
symptoms as reported by the eyewitnesses on specific dates leading
up to his death. The eight eyewitnesses reported independently
from each other, in books and diaries, Napoleon's various symptoms.
We used these symptoms as the basis of this chart, which covered
a period of several months prior to his death.
These eyewitnesses were alI companions of Napoleon, and they
are the Marquis Las Cases, who was working with Napoleon on a
history of his campaigns; Baron Gourgaud, one of Napoleon's long-serving
officers, who followed him into exil; Dr. Barry O'Meara, an English
doctor of Irish descent appointed by the English to act as the
Emperor's physician; Dr. Francesco Antommarchi, an Italian physician
sent by Napoleon's family in Rome to replace O'Meara when he
was sent home to England; Grand Marshall Bertrand, who had been
with Napoleon for more than 15 years; Louis Marchand, the Emperor's
loyal valet of ten years; and two English doctors, Walter Henry
and John Stokoe, who attended Napoleon for short periods.
These eight people had regular access to Napoleon and observed
him on a daily basis, and they all kept independent diaries of
their lives on St. Helena.
On the second time chart, we recorded the arsenic levels obtained
from the testing on the sectional analysis of Napoleon's hair
at Harwell Nuclear Research Laboratory. We used a sample of Napoleon's
hair that was shaved at the scalp on 6 May 1821, the day after
The two charts matched. On the days when Napoleon was reported
to be suffering from symptoms identical to those of arsenical
intoxication, the Harwell reports showed high levels of arsenic
in the hair. There is no mistake about this, because Harwell
is one of the most sophisticated nuclear laboratories in the
world, and was responsible for doing research on the atomic bomb
for the British government.
These tests confirm, through modern scientific methods, that
the symptoms recorded by the eyewitnesses over 178 years ago
were indeed symptoms of arsenical intoxication. No suppositions
here, just facts.
Since it has been established that hair grows at approximately
one inch every two months, if it is shaved at the scalp and the
date is known, then tests for arsenic in the hair can determine
almost to the day when arsenic was ingestedo It is important
to realize that in 1821, as in the 1990s, it is rare that du
ring an autopsy the doctor would suspect arsenic poisoning unless
he was told in advance.
I met Professor Henri Griffon, Chief of Toxicology of the Paris
police, who has had a lot of experience with cases of arsenic
poisoning, and I asked him if he could explain why so many doctors,
then and even Dow, could overlook arsenical intoxication as a
possible cause of Napoleon's death.
Professor Griffon replied that he never found, in any case of
murder by arsenic, a doctor who had correctly diagnosed arsenical
intoxication as the cause of death. Therefore, it must be conceded
that none of Napoleon's doctors can fairly be blamed for not
having understood his illness, They were simply not trained to
undertand the symptoms of arsenical poisoning. Arsenic trioxide
is tasteless and odorless --a first-rate-poison.
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