Saturday, February 20, 2010

Enemies Foreign and Domestic


I didn't mean to turn February into Adam Zamoyski month here at Stranger Things Have Happened, but I wanted to share one last anecdote from his very entertaining (and thought-provoking) book on the Congress of Vienna, Rites of Peace (NY, 2007):

When Napoleon Bonaparte died on St. Helena, in May of 1821, the nation which had fought hardest to defeat and exile him, Great Britain, was preoccupied with the coronation of King George IV and his struggle to exclude his estranged wife Caroline from the ceremony. Supposedly, when a messenger brought George the news that "Your greatest enemy [i.e., Napoleon] is dead," he replied "No! By God! Is she?" (p. 561)

I guess that's funnier if you've watched A Royal Scandal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Hard World for Little Republics

It's not easy being a small nation in a world of aggressive Great Powers. Consider the experience of diplomats from the short-lived Italian republic of Lucca, who in the spring of 1814 petitioned Emperor Francis of Austria for "the restoration of their independence." Francis replied - in Italian, graciously enough - "Tutti hanno fame, anch'io voglio mangiare, emmeglio che io vi mangi che se fosse un altro," which translates as "Everyone is hungry, and I need to eat too, and it is better I should eat you than another." (Adam Zamoyski, The Rites of Peace [New York, 2007], 234.)

I'll have to remember that line the next time I play Diplomacy.

Friday, February 05, 2010

If I Were the Emperor Napoleon

"In his place, I would take ship, and I would go to seek fortune in America and I would live there very peacefully in the forests and the deserts. The fruit of the coconut tree would nourish me, and water clearer than crystal would refresh my burning blood and my burnt-out brain. I would hunt monkeys in the woods, I would reflect on my past greatness and would try to console myself for my present misfortune as best I could. That is what I would do if I were the Emperor Napoleon." Marie Metternich, in a letter to her father, 27 January 1814, quoted in Adam Zamoyski, The Rites of Peace (HarperCollins, 2007), p. 151.