"An award-winning historian offers an eye-opening view of the relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington, whose lives moved inexorably to their meeting at Waterloo, one of the most famous battles of all time." At breakfast on the morning of the battle of Waterloo, the Emperor Napoleon declared that the Duke of Wellington was a bad general, the British were bad soldiers and that France could not fail to win an easy victory. Forever afterwards, historians have accused him of gross overconfidence and massively underestimating the caliber of the British commander opposite him. Now Andrew Roberts presents an original, highly revisionist view of the relationship between the two greatest captains of their age and of the great battle that determined European history in the nineteenth century. Napoleon, who was born in the same year as Wellington -- 1769 -- fought Wellington by proxy years earlier in the Peninsular War, praising his ruthlessness in private while publicly deriding him as a mere "general of sepoys." In contrast, Wellington publicly lauded Napoleon, saying that his presence on a battlefield was worth forty thousand men, but privately he wrote long memoranda lambasting Napoleon's campaigning techniques. Although Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, the emperor left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate the duke. Wellington in turn amassed a series of Napoleonic trophies of his great victory, even sleeping with two of the emperor's mistresses. The fascinating, constantly changing relationship between these two historical giants forms the basis of Andrew Roberts's compelling study in pride, rivalry, propaganda, nostalgia and posthumous revenge. It is at once a brilliant work of military history and a triumphant biography. Featuring a cast of fascinating supporting characters -- including the empress Josephine, the Prince Regent and Talleyrand -- "Napoleon and Wellington" provides the definitive account of the most decisive battle of the nineteenth century.
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After his provocative Eminent Churchillians and his magisterial, award-winning Salisbury, Andrew Roberts' Napoleon and Wellington moves further back into the past to examine those titans of early 19th-century Europe. One was revolutionary, one deeply conservative. One aimed to change everything, the other aimed to achieve nothing except to stop the other changing anything. Roberts pre-empts the obvious moan regarding this well-tilled field, by pointing out that this is the first book to examine exactly what the two men thought of each other, and revealing the fascinating contradiction between what they said in public and in private. Roberts' cautious, subtle reading of character, and the narrow focus on just two men--not a mention of Rifleman Harris here--gives the book a novelistic brio. Wellington could be every bit as vainglorious as Napoleon, but Napoleon was unforgiving. Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, but Napoleon left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate the Duke. And once Napoleon had gone, Wellington amassed endless trophies of his great enemy--including not one but two of the Emperor's mistresses. Roberts' wry comment: "To sleep with one of Napoleon's mistresses might be considered an accident, but to sleep with two might suggest a pattern of triumphalism..." English readers, who have long lived with the notoriously bitchy comment from another of Wellington's mistresses, that one of their greatest national heroes was, in bed at least, "a cold fish," will be delighted to hear a second opinion from one of these ex-Imperial bed-warmers, that compared to Napoleon, Wellington was "beaucoup le plus fort". So there. Roberts is witty as well as wise, with chapter titles such as "The War for Clio's Ear". And he ends on a provocative, characteristically Euro-sceptic note: Wellington may have won at Waterloo, but today's "politically united Europe led by a centralised (French-led) bureaucracy", represents a final triumph for the Napoleonic vision... touché. --Christopher HartReview:
Lady Antonia Fraser Andrew Roberts is an accomplished historian, but in "Napoleon and Wellington," he employs in addition the methods of a detective to get at the truth about the relationship between the two greatest men of their time -- perhaps of all time. The result is brilliantly exciting, both as a narrative and as a twin-biography.
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