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On a cold December day in 1840 Parisians turned out in force to watch as Napoleon's coffin was solemnly borne down the Champs-Elysées on its final journey to the Invalides. The return of the Emperor's body from the island of St Helena, nearly twenty years after his death, was a moment they had eagerly awaited, though there were many who feared that the memories stirred would only further destabilize a country that had struggled for order and direction since 'the little corporal' was sent into exile after Waterloo.
Alan Forrest tells the remarkable story of how the son of a Corsican attorney became the most powerful man in Europe, a man whose political legacy endured long after his lonely death many thousands of miles from France. Along the way, he cuts away the layers of myth and counter-myth that have grown up around Napoleon, a man who mixed history and legend promiscuously, and shows how he was as much a product of his times as he was their creator.
The convulsive effect of the Revolution on French society, and the new meritocracy it ushered in, afforded men of this generation opportunities that were unimaginable under the Ancien Régime. Napoleon seized every chance that was offered him, making full use of his undoubted abilities and charismatic presence. But the Empire he created, stretching across most of the European continent, was not the work of one man. It was a collective enterprise that depended on the work and vision of thousands of administrators, army officers, jurists and educators, and The Age of Napoleon is as much their story as his.
In a book that takes in everything from Napoleon's ill-fated expedition to Egypt to the festivals that punctuated the Imperial calendar, Alan Forrest draws on original research and recent scholarship to draw a fresh and compelling picture of one of the most dramatic periods in the history of Europe.