Napoleon Bonaparte, surrounded by Jupiter's lightning bolts

In 1550, the doctor and astrologist, Nostradamus, writes in his Centuries, verses consecrated

“to an emperor who will be born near Italy and will be found to be less prince than butcher”

This is a clear allusion to the three million men killed by Napoleon.  [In fact, it has been said that, taken as a percentage of the Earth’s population in his lifetime, Napoleon killed more people than Hitler.]

Nostradamus adds:

“From simple soldier will arrive at empire, from short tunic will arrive at long.”

Also:

“With shaven head, for fourteen years will hold the tyranny…”

This is the concise story of Napoleon’s ascension (his soldiers nicknamed him “little baldy”) and the fourteen years of his reign, from Consulate (1st November 1799) to Waterloo (June 1815)…  The prodigious destiny of Napoleon I was therefore “seen” in its main lines by two men, more than two hundred years before his birth…

It is only in 1804, after his Coronation, that he first saw Maitre Olivarius’ book.  He flicked through a few pages.

Six years later, in 1810, after his marriage to Marie-Louise, he read the prediction attentively.  He called a theologian from Saint-Sulpice and asked him if religion obliged people to believe in prophecies.  The abbot told him:

“God’s spirit has always spoken through prophets, Sire…”

***

Olivarius’ book was discovered in 1793.  Francois de Metz, General Secretary of the Commune de Paris, who was sorting through books from the pillage of royal and monasterial libraries, was drawn to a little in-twelve, entitled Livre de Propheties compose par Philippe-Noel Olivarius, docteur en medecine, chirurgien et astrologue.  The last page bore the date 1542 in XVIth Century figures.  Francois de Metz read it all, but didn’t understand its meaning.  However, this work so intrigued him that he made several copies, keeping the original for himself.  It fell into Napoleon’s hands in 1804.

***

Like many Corsicans, Napoleon had been brought up with stories of ghosts, vampires and wildfire.  His nurse, Ilari, made incantations over him against demons.  He interpreted his dreams.  He believed in omens and talismans.  He constantly wore a little black satin heart between his flannel waistcoat and his shirt.  He also carried, in the pocket of his waistcoat, a scarab that he had found in a Pharaoh’s tomb…

***

Before going into battle, Napoleon signed himself twice for luck.  He also changed the date of his coup d’Etat against the Five-Hundred, because the first date, 17 brumaire, was a Friday.

***

One day, Napoleon silenced a mocker by saying:

“Only fools defy the unknown!”

He avoided surrounding himself with unlucky people.  He always asked, when any applicant for a post was presented to him:

“Is he lucky?”

If the poor man did not seem to have succeeded in life, he was immediately refused.  Napoleon would say:

“I don’t want him.  His star is bad!”

On the other hand, one person who appeared lucky to him, was Josephine.  This was why he hesitated about repudiating her.

***

He firmly believed that

“Premonitions are the eyes of the soul.”

He also believed in dreams, predictions and the beneficial power of the amethyst.  He often said that, without the premonition of his future glory, he would never have had the audacity to attempt his coup d’Etat.  And this was fortified by the fact that an old woman had predicted to Josephine, as a child in Martinique, that she would be “more than queen”…

***

One day, during the Italian campaign, the glass protecting a miniature of Josephine broke.  Napoleon said to his aide de camp:

“Marmont, my wife is ill or unfaithful…”

She was in good health.

***

The day of his Coronation, when the carriage carrying himself and Josephine passed under the porch of the Tuileries, the eagle on its top broke off and fell to the ground.  When he heard about it, Napoleon closed his eyes and his complexion became “wax-like”.

The day he met Marie-Louise for the first time, he had to walk to the village in the rain, because a wheel had broken on his carriage.  He was white, and everyone understood that he saw this as a bad omen…

In 1812, during the Russian campaign, while on reconnaissance along the Niemen, his horse, startled by a hare, swerved and Napoleon, who was not a good rider, fell.  Without saying a word, he remounted.  He was frighteningly pale.   His entourage knew that he saw it as a bad omen.  A few minutes later, he said to them:

“You all thought like me, didn’t you?”

Napoleon believed in his lucky star, which he invoked whenever he was in danger, or at the beginning of a battle, and which he had added to all of his popular images…  He often alluded to it.  When he learned of the collusion of Moreau and Pichegru, he exclaimed:

“What stupidity!  Moreau knows that I have my star!…”

Which doesn’t stop him from signing himself twice in front of the astounded Police Prefect…

Another day, Cardinal Fesch tried to make a few remarks about the Spanish war.  Napoleon led him to a window, and asked him if he saw the star.  It was midday, and the cardinal said that he didn’t.  Napoleon told him:

“Well, as long as I am the only one to see it, all will be well, and I will not suffer any remarks from anyone…”

He was obsessed by this star, to the point of making it a motif of decoration for the imperial furniture.  He even wanted to use it for the emblem of the Legion d’Honneur, which explains its original name of “l’ordre de l’Etoile”.

***

He liked ghost stories, and told them at Malmaison.  He had all of the candles blown out, sat near the fire, and launched into stories peopled with ghosts, which made the Court ladies shiver.  But if anyone smiled, he became angry:

“You mustn’t laugh at these stories.  They contain more truth than a lot of scholarly books!”

***

He also talked about the Tuileries’ Little Red Man.  This is a legendary character who appeared since the time of Catherine de Medicis, every time that an important event – usually bad – was going to happen to one of the principal inhabitants of the Tuileries.  It was said that Henri IV saw him on the morning of the day that Ravaillac assassinated him, that Anne d’Autriche bumped into him a few days before the Fronde erupted, and that Marie-Antoinette saw him in the corridor the day before the 10 August 1792…  It was also said that this Little Red Man appeared for the first time to Napoleon, not at the Tuileries, but in Egypt, and had offered his protection to him via a mysterious pact.  Legend has it that the Emperor saw him again in 1814, before the abdication…

***

Napoleon’s premonitions were at fault only once.  After Waterloo, on the Isle of Aix, before Rochefort, he was hesitating between flight to America or surrendering to the English.  A bird entered through the window.  Gourgaud caught it and said that it was a sign of happiness.  Napoleon told him to set it free so that he could see the augures…

The bird flew towards the English fleet.  That same evening, Napoleon sent negotiators to the Bellerophon, the boat which was to transport him to Sainte-Helene…

His lucky star had disappeared…

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