Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most famous men in history, and for good reason. He became emperor of France soon after the French Revolution and conquered much of Europe. During the Napoleonic war he fought 60 battles and only lost 7 of them. He’s remembered as one of the greatest commanders in history, and a genius of military strategy. Napoleon was a brilliant, but eccentric man. Here are some facts about him almost nobody knows.


The Turk Who Beat Napoleon

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Napoleon enjoyed chess, and once agreed to play against a machine that had been built to play chess against humans. It would have appeared to be the first chess computer. Napoleon lost pretty badly against what he thought was an automated machine. In 1834 it was actually discovered that it was an empty machine, with a small man inside who used mirrors to be able to play chess. Naturally they didn’t have the technology to build such a machine back then, but Napoleon never knew any better. Wolfgang Von Kempelen invented the machine to impress the Empress Maria, Theresa of Austria. It was used to trick people from 1770, until 1854, when a fire destroyed it. The “machine” also defeated Benjamin Franklin.


Napoleon Bonaparte’s Great Disguise

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Napoleon Bonaparte would often go undercover, and dress himself in a costume to avoid being recognised. He would try to gather information from people while they didn’t know who was. The disguises worked quite well, and people didn’t manage to work out it was actually him. While disguised Napoleon would ask the guest what they though about Napoleon, and his policies. This way he could get honest answers from people, without them being too afraid to criticise him. Napoleon would also have someone dress up as him, so people wouldn’t get suspicious. The people impersonating him were said to be very good.

Napoleon Bonaparte Or Napoleon Du Buonoparte?

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Napoleon was born on the Island of Corsica, in Italy. But only a year after he was born the island was captured by the French. Napoleon was sent to a French school was bullied because of his strong Italian accent. This is when Napoleon du Buonoparte became Napoleon Bonaparte. He wanted to change his name to one that sounded a lot more French in an attempt to end the bullying, and have more in common with his French peers.

He Believed In Demons, And Omens

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Napoleon believed in countless superstitions. This is probably because he grew up on Corsica, an island where almost everyone believed in witchcraft, and a demon called “evil eye”. One of Napoleon’s beliefs was that he was guided by a lucky star. He believed that the star was guiding him, and claimed he always saw it in great moments. Napoleon believed in omens as well. When he was on campaign, a picture of his wife Josephine was damaged, and he became convinced that his wife was either unfaithful, or dead.

Waterloo Was Not The Last Battle

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Napoleon Bonaparte suffered an embarrassing defeat at Waterloo, and in the end had to abdicate, but the war wasn’t over yet. As Prussian, and British forces marched towards the French capital, French General Vandamme, bravely put on a last stand against them just outside of Paris. It was a battle he had no hope of winning, and likely something he fought out of pride. He still had 65,000 troops left, and he wasn’t going down easily.

The French attacked the fortified Prussian position endlessly but never managed to break them. They would fire with artillery, and then charge, but the charge always failed. Vandamme was taking his time, but he didn’t have forever. Wellington was on his way to back up the Prussians. Vandamme had to break their position before that happened, but in the end he failed. Wellington got their before he could win, and that meant the battle was lost.

Beethoven Dedicated his Third Symphony To Napoleon

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Beethoven was one of Napoleon’s biggest admirers and wanted to dedicate an entire symphony to him. He saw him as a brilliant general with deeply held democratic beliefs. Of course he was infuriated when Napoleon turned his back these beliefs and became an emperor. The enraged Beethoven lamented ‘Is he too, then, nothing more than an ordinary human being? Now he, too, will trample on the rights of man, and indulge only his ambition!’. Beethoven is said to have even torn the symphony in half. However the symphony was later released, and it was named, Sinfonia Eroica, which means, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.

Napoleon Used To Cheat At Cards

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Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourienne was Napoleon’s private secretary, and wrote about Napoleon’s cheating. “In general he was not fond of cards; but if he did play, Vingt-et-un was his favourite game, because it is more rapid than many others, and because, in short, it afforded him an opportunity of cheating. For example, he would ask for a card; if it proved a bad one he would say nothing, but lay it down on the table and wait till the dealer had drawn his. If the dealer produced a good card, then Bonaparte would throw aside his hand, without showing it, and give up his stake. If, on the contrary, the dealer’s card made him exceed twenty-one, Bonaparte also threw his cards aside without showing them, and asked for the payment of his stake. He was much diverted by these little tricks, especially when they were played off undetected; and I confess that even then we were courteous enough to humour him, and wink at his cheating.” His mother was less forgiving and would often call him out when he was caught cheating. Napoleon would reply that she was rich, and could afford to lose, and that he was poor and needed to win.

Napoleon’s Pig Law

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Napoleon for some reason was worried that people who owned pigs might end up naming them after him. So he put a law in place which prohibited anyone from naming a pig Napoleon. The law still stands today, so no one in France is allowed to their pig Napoleon.

Napoleon Didn’t Have A Heart Beat

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Napoleon could never feel his heart bear, and neither could anyone else. If Napoleon were to put his hand on body, and try to feel his heartbeat he would get nothing. He often mentioned how he couldn’t feel it beat, and even got his friends to test it. He once asked some of his friends to place their hand on him, and see if they could feel his heart beat, and they never could.

Napoleon’s Last Words


No one truly knows what the last words of Napoleon Bonaparte were. He was incredibly ill at the time, and could barely speak. Because of this, different people give different accounts of what his last words were, and we have to try and piece together what he actually said from that. Napoleon’s Grand Marshal said that Napoleon said several words which couldn’t be distinguished, and then ended by saying, “who retreats”, or “at the head of the army”. Just before Napoleon died, his doctor managed to catch the words, “head”, and “army”. His valet managed to hear the words “France”, “my son”, and “the army”. And General Charles de Montholon heard him say the word, “Josephine”.


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