We do not think that Napoleon I was epileptic in the ordinarily accepted sense. If he had been the victim of real attacks, they would have been frequently renewed, and his entourage would certainly have made it known.
It is true that Talleyrand and Mlle George affirm that he was epileptic. On the other hand, his chamber valet and his secretary, Bourrienne (who does not hesitate, later on, to say some bad things about his former master) both agree that, in their presence, Napoleon never had an attack of epilepsy.
It has also been frequently remarked that, during his seven years of captivity on the island of Saint Helena, Napoleon (if he had suffered from this illness) crushed by his fall, victim of all sorts of vexations, dogged by the persecutions of his guardian Hudson Lowe, who kept him under very close surveillance, would have had new attacks of it.
However, if we consider that the epileptic sufferer shows psychic perturbations which are particular to him, alterations of the sense of morality, mood changes, a certain degree of cerebral excitation, alternating with phases of depression; if we connect to epilepsy, onslaughts of excessive arrogance, acts of irrational violence, and eclipses in either physical or intellectual powers, there is no doubt that Napoleon should be classed in the epileptic category.
Napoleon’s enemies spread the rumour at one time that he was mad. This madness was that of a man who dreamed of the impossible, and who saw it happen above and beyond his own hopes.
His madness was to see himself as superior to all other conquerors, both past and present. He, the upstart of low extraction.
This madness has been defined by Professor Lacassagne. It is “caesaritis”, provoked by outside influences, and for the eclosion of which, heredity plays no part. The situation is everything.
When Napoleon said: “I have slept in the bed of kings; I have contracted there a terrible disease”, he was displaying, unwittingly, a highly-developed clinical sense.