By Vincent Cronin

Words from the achiever

“I just finished Vincent Cronin’s book on Napoleon, a man who definitely needed better PR. Napoleon codified the laws for the first time in Europe. He was constantly limiting kings and other tyrants. He opened the ghettos and stopped religious discrimination. He was an extraordinary man who wrote a lot of laws himself. He was incredibly polite, generous almost to a fault, a remarkable person who was vilified. By whom? The kings that he deposed. The kings of England, and the old king of France, and the kings of Prussia, and the Czar of Russia were all threatened by this man who was bringing democracy. I think it’s interesting to read this book and look at Napoleon and see how history has treated him. Even the expression, “Napoleon complex,” Napoleon was average height for a French person. The idea is just preposterous, treating perhaps the most gifted man of the 19th century as some kind of despot. He was a liberator, a law-giver, and a man of incredible gifts. He never considered himself a soldier, he considered himself a politician, though he was probably the greatest soldier — the greatest general –perhaps in all history. I think it’s interesting to read about him for a couple reasons: to see what one man of modest birth can do with his life, and to see how history can distort the truth entirely.”

About the book

The finest of all modern biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, tracing his rise from obscurity on the island of Corsica, through his military exploits during the French Revolution, his conquests in Italy and Africa, his rise to coronations as Emperor of the French, and master of Continental Europe, through his invasion of Russia, defeat, capture, escape, return to power and final imprisonment on St. Helena.

Napoleon, having freed a town from the Austrians, would plant a tree in the town square, one of the so-called “trees of liberty,” whose green leaves symbolized man’s “natural” rights.”

Napoleon’s attitude to the Church was to stamp out injustice and superstition, while encouraging priests to keep out of politics and conduct themselves “according to Gospel principles.” In the Papal city of Ancona, for example, Napoleon found with dismay that Jews had to wear a yellow hat and the Star of David, and to live in a ghetto that was locked at night; Muslims from Albania and Greece were also treated as second-class citizens. Both these injustices Napoleon immediately ended.