Is Napoleon regarded as an admirable figure or a villain? Or controversial yet?

I’m afraid I’m starting a debate on a topic about which I don’t know as much as I’d like (and hope to learn more here). But one thing I’ve always been a little confused about is whether Napoleon is (or should be) regarded as an admirable figure. On the one hand, he seems to have been the proto-Hitler and a generally unpleasant person, yet on the other I’ve read that his legal reforms laid the foundation for systems still in use today on the Continent, and he has a tomb that isn’t lacking in style. Do people still argue about him, as I understand they do regarding Oliver Cromwell? Do the French look on him wistfully as the leader of their Lost Cause? So what’s the straight dope?

What yet? In Denmark he has always been seen as one of the most admirable figures.

I’d say most Spaniards would consider him neither hero nor villain nor particularly controversial. Those who know more about him than “he was somehow involved in the War of Independence”, that is. When we think of “villains” for that war and we’re not looking at his Arc de Triomph (Bailén as one of his victories, our collective bum), we start further down in the chain of command (at his brother José I, the generals and officers), and our royals, nobility and in general “illustrated classes” don’t come out looking particularly pretty in the picture - many of them initially welcomed the French with open arms (and cellars, beds…), some because of genuine convinction and some working under the principle of “oh yeah, they will take away what my neighbor has, if I’m friendly enough I can convince them to give it to me”.

There are some things he did which are considered admirable by the most rabid Francophobes (merit-based promotions…) and others which even his biggest fans can’t claim were right (…except when the person being considered for promotion was a relative of his). His troops were very destructive, it sometimes feels a bit absurd when you’re traveling around Europe and run into yet-another-old-convent destroyed by… the French, during the Napoleonic wars; at the same time, how much of that can be tracked to him, to his officers in general, to specific officers, to anticlericalism, to the same taste for vandalism which gives us broken McD windows after a Barça win or broken statues during a street party?

My understanding is that he was polarizing figure because, although his methods were often draconian, and he derailed the French Revolution, he was a rallying point for anti-monarchists. He may have literally crowned himself and put his own relatives on thrones, but he displaced the already-established royal houses in those parts of Europe.

I don’t know the answer to the OP, but I get the impression that the British still regard him as a villain, and the French still look up to him. Understandable in both cases.

He went out & killed many people, for no better reason than to gain power for his own sweet lil self.

He was a sh^t.

[POST=13086541]Do the French see Napoleon as a villain?[/POST]


Eh, Id’ say the surrounding powers were at least as responsible for the Napoleonic Wars as Napoleon. Certainly he wasn’t above conquest for conquest sake, but especially early on, he was largely responding to invasions of France, or territory France had gained in earlier wars.

Eh. Speaking as a British person, i’d say by and large it’s too long ago for there to be actual emotive responses. And while Nelson, Wellington et al are generally still held up as heroic figures, I wouldn’t say that Napoleon was necessarily considered a villainous one. More recent history tends to supply our villains.

Edit; I would tend to say it is the French in general who are considered often “the villains” in our history. We have enough history between our two countries that generally those with an axe to grind will point to France and the French in general rather than a particular figure, even such a notable one.

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Alexander the Great is viewed as a heroic figure for doing most of the same things Napoleon did, in a far more brutal way.

That he was as into invasion, subjugation, and exploitation as other dictators and royalty may offer some mitigation, but even by those standards he was pretty brutal, often ignoring or conveniently suspending truces and agreements, He bankrupted France for the purpose of war with Britain and later Russia, and introduced mass conscription and modern weapons and techniques that became the art of “total war” later refined in the World Wars, including “scorched earth” as an official strategy of war. He most certainly betrayed both the ideals and stated intentions of the révolution française to set himself and particular family members up as the nouveau royale with about the same level of legitimacy as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or the House of Saud.

While the French seem to regard him as quite the heroic figure, the truth is he was not just a bit of a bastard, somewhat a personal coward, and infatuated with a woman who mocked him and only later entered into marriage with him as her years as a courtesan and concubine were waning, and who cuckolded him only a few months after marriage.



Most every military leader ultimately does it for the thrills.
They might try and cloak it with talks about their duty, or national interest, or holy mission or what have you. But when all is said and done, leading armies to victory is its own end. It’s exhilirating. It’s the ultimate gambler high. At least Napoleon copped to it. As did Patton, but I don’t see him reviled on American-centric forums. Nor do I often hear about William the Bastard being a shit.

Weird, huh ?

You don’t read them much, then, do you? At any rate, I’ve never heard of Patton’s bosses, Bradley and Eisenhower, being described as “thrill-seekers.” Moreover, granted, if a military leader has a guts and glory style and seeks out battle for the thrill of it, and he can avoid being fragged by his own troops, if it helps him win the war then all to the good I suppose. But if a national leader drags his whole country along in his trek to thrillsville, innocent people–none more so than his own people-- ultimately suffer. I’m very surprised you don’t see the difference.

A good pastry covers a multitude of sins.

Yes, Prime Minister - Series 2 Episode 3: A Diplomatic Incident
Hacker: Don’t we ever get our own way with the French?
Sir Humphrey: Well, sometimes.
**Hacker: **When was the last time?
Sir Humphrey: Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Yes, I meant to add a paragraph underlining the fact that in modern armies, generals are subordinates to politicians who keep them in check ; war being too important to be left to the generals. And that the Napoleons of the world are what happens when military and national leaders are one and the same.

Then I forgot. Good catch.

That being said, this applies to countless monarchs across the ages and nations, it’s not like Napoleon was stupendously abhorrent or special in that regard.

Appreciate that – I guess it then might be a case of Napoleon being judged by current values, fairly or unfairly, as we see him inhabiting the age when kings weren’t calling the shots any more (in the Anglosphere, at least). Also, he had the outward appearance of a more modern leader in terms of organization and technology. Alexander personally throwing himself out to the front of his troops with a sword, well and good, but Napoleon sipping sherry in the back directing the movements of a early version of the Wehrmacht, not so good.

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Uh . . . ice cream has no bones?