Title of Original Work

Elégie sur la mort de Napoléon, suivie de ses adieux a Marie-Louise; par la veuve d'un soldat

Author(s) of Translation

Allison Crouch
Amanda Hassett

Document Type

Translation

Date of Translation Publication

11-16-2009

Original Work Publication Date

1821

Translator's Note

Napoleon Bonaparte was the Emperor of France from 1804 through 1814. He was exiled for the first time in 1814 by the allied forces and sent to the Island of Elba. He escaped from the island and returned to France for his 100 day reign. In June 1815, three days after his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon surrendered himself to the allied forces. Once again, he was exiled, this time to the Atlantic island of Saint Helena. Napoleon spent the remainder of his life on the island with only the company of Henri Gatien Bertrand, a loyal friend and general of the French army. Napoleon fell ill and died on May 5, 1821 away from his wife and son. His body was originally buried on Saint Helena. It was not until 1844, when King Louis-Phillipe received permission from the British, that his body was transported to Paris, where he remains to this day in Les Invalides.

The Elegy on the Death of Napoleon conveys the tragedy of Napoleon's death in the eyes of his supporters. The author highlights his military achievements and denounces those who have betrayed him. Although the exact identity of the author is unknown, she clearly is the widow of a soldier. Throughout the elegy, she relates the death of her own husband to that of Napoleon. The romantic and poetic style of the document shows the significance of Napoleon's death and the emotional impact it had on his supporters.

Napoleon's farewell to Marie-Louise was most likely written by Mme Bernard, a widow of an Aide-de-Camp in Napoleon's army. Written from the point of view of Napoleon, the document demonstrates what the author believes Napoleon might have written as his final words to his wife, Marie-Louise. The document describes Napoleon longing for his family, his appreciation for Bertrand, his fears for the future of France, and finally his realization that his life is ending.

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