9780735222601The Invisible Emperor: Napoleon on Elba From Exile to Escape

Penguin Press, 2018
UK: Profile Books, Netherlands: Balans Books, Czech Republic: Beta


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Publisher Page: Penguin Random House


In the spring of 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated. Having overseen an empire spanning half the European continent and governed the lives of some 80 million people, he found himself exiled to less than a hundred square miles of territory. Part forensic investigation, part dramatic jailbreak adventure, INVISIBLE EMPEROR traces a narrative history of Napoleon’s ten-month exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. This is a story that asks us to think carefully about how quickly ideas, no matter how preposterous, quixotic and grandiose, can leap from the imagination into reality.

Here’s what people are saying about INVISIBLE EMPEROR:


A history of Napoleon’s short first exile, rendered in short, punchy chapters. . . . [H]e was there only 10 months and left with a flotilla of armed vessels. It’s great fun reading about the Allies’ attempts to predict his destination, and those anecdotes reinforce our knowledge of the emperor’s great talents.—Kirkus Reviews 


Historian Mark Braude has re-created a detailed description of the emperor’s 10-month exile from France to the island of Elba…. [H]is view of a man still caught up in his own self-image—one which, it must be admitted, was shared by many others—is intriguing. —BookPage


Braude renders Napoleon Bonaparte’s 10-month exile on the tiny Mediterranean island of Elba and his brief return to power in 1815 in short, punchy chapters that read like an exciting novel, or an episode of Prison Break. [Braude] has a talent for looking at history from a slant. —The National Book Review, ‘Five Hot Books’


The story of Napoleon’s first exile, starting with his military defeat and failed suicide attempt, and ending with his return to France and to power, is one of the most dramatic in all of history. Mark Braude tells this story with the eye of a novelist and the sure hand of a seasoned historian. The Invisible Emperor is a brilliantly vivid account of the tiny realm of Elba that the exiled monarch ruled for ten months, his captors, his entourage, and, above all, of the extraordinary figure of Napoleon himself. —David A. Bell, Lapidus Professor, Princeton University, author of Napoleon: A Concise Biography


In their haste to reach Waterloo and Saint Helena, Napoleon’s historians habitually pass speedily over the 300 days that the ex-Emperor spent in 1814-15 as ruler of the principality of Elba. Mark Braude has had the ingenious idea of slowing down history and indeed historians and lingering thoughtfully over this neglected island episode. His careful and compelling microscopic reconstruction of this moment in Napoleon’s extraordinary odyssey is a historical tour de force. —Colin Jones, author of Paris: The Biography of a City


This is the story of how a man who had conquered a continent was transformed by an island. Defeated and suicidal, Napoleon departed France in disguise and was exiled to Elba with one ship, a small army, and his mother. He reformed Elban society, read voraciously, and cheated at cards—all while plotting his escape. The Invisible Emperor reveals the lesser-known Napoleon backstage from history and preparing his final act. Braude’s thorough research and eye for telling detail breathe life into an incredible story of determination.

—Kevin Birmingham, author of The Most Dangerous Book


Of the many chapters in the great ‘Napoleonic novel,’ few are more loaded with possibility and peril than Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile to, and escape from Elba in 1814. With vigorous prose and rich attention to detail, Mark Braude fashions a mesmerizing narrative about a former emperor caught between the fate Allied powers had assigned him and the destiny to which he surely was bound. The Invisible Emperor uncovers profound human drama in the story of a political creature who, defying reason and disregarding collateral damage, needed a historical stage to prove that he was still alive. —Stéphane Gerson, Professor of French and French Studies NYU, and author of Nostradamus: How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom


Mark Braude navigates complex motives and wavering loyalties to tell the intriguing story of the fall and rise—and fall again—of Napoleon. He offers an intimate portrait of the dethroned emperor, both his humiliation and his resilience, as the grand panorama of history suddenly comes to focus on a few rocky acres of island. A wonderfully readable evocation of a place and time—and of one of history’s most eternally compelling figures. —Ross King, bestselling author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling


One of the great mysteries of European history is how the fallen emperor Napoleon managed to escape his confinement on the Mediterranean island of Elba under the supposedly watchful eye of the Royal Navy. Mark Braude unravels this fascinating episode with all the skills of a historian and all the talent of a natural storyteller. Anyone interested in the amazing roller-coaster of Napoleon’s road to Waterloo will find much enlightenment here.—David Bellos, author of The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables

Excerpt:

INTRODUCTION

IT ALL FELL APART quite quickly. From the towers of Notre Dame and some of the higher rStackooftops, people watched through telescopes as invaders breached the outskirts of Paris on the night of March 29, 1814. Cossacks crouched round their watch-fires atop Montmartre, the sounds of their eerie music drifting down into the village below. They were toasting to the death of the miller of the Moulin de la Galette, whose ravaged body was tied to one of the mill’s sails, or so went the rumor.

Parisians had good cause to be terrified just then. Fearing the populace’s revolutionary potential as much as any foreign force, French officials decided against distributing arms en masse, even after troops failed to hold the enemy beyond the gates. This left the city’s defense to the twelve thousand members of the Paris National Guard, facing a force nearly ten times larger…