The French emperor and general Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821 on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was Napoleon’s last major battle. Since the English emerged victorious, they sent Napoleon into exile on the island of St. Helena. Here he spent the last six years of his life. Napoleon’s body was buried in the Invalides Cathedral in Paris.
How, where, when, from what did Napoleon die? Explanation, history
That Napoleon died as a result of stomach carcinoma was diagnosed by his last personal physician Francesco Antommarchi. He performed an autopsy on the French emperor and found a series of cancerous tumors on the stomach wall.
Eight doctors were present at the autopsy, but from the beginning there were inconsistencies. Antommarchi saw the carcinomas and a fatty heart, but ruled that the cause of death was the climate on St. Helena. Thereupon a violent quarrel arose among the doctors present. (Source: the standard work „Saint Helena. The Death of the Emperor“ by Octave Aubry).
The historian has studied in detail eyewitness accounts of the autopsy. To establish a connection between the climate on St. Helena and the death of Napoleon was forbidden by the island governor under penalty. He feared that the English would be held responsible.
Although Antommarchi had not signed the English autopsy report, most researchers at that time were already against the cause of death cancer from. It was also very probable because of the familial frequency. Two sisters of Napoleon and his father had also died of stomach cancer. Nevertheless, there have been doubts about Napoleon’s death from cancer in the past.
Opponents argue that stomach carcinomas are usually accompanied by severe emaciation. However, there was little evidence of this in Napoleon’s case. In the last years of his life, he had gained a lot of weight, so that he can be described as obese. Contemporary witnesses spoke of a simultaneous feminization. This suggests an endocrine disorder (hormonal and metabolic disorders). It was not until 2021 (see below) that the stomach cancer diagnosis was substantiated and it was proven that Napoleon lost more than 10 kg of weight within a few months.
People love dramatic stories, so the poison murder theory persisted. If the poison (presumably arsenic) was administered to him insidiously, then this theory fits his obesity.
In addition, Napoleon is said to have complained of photosensitivity and hearing loss in the last years of his life. Poisoning is often accompanied by a weakening of the sensory organs. Only a few years ago, Napoleon’s hair was examined again and the result supports the arsenic theory. Traces of the poison were found not only on the hair surface, but also inside the hair.
If this is true, Napoleon can only have been poisoned by his guards. Against the theory speaks the fact that diseases 200 years ago were often treated with toxic substances. People were not aware of the toxic effects of these substances. An example of this is calomel, which contains highly toxic mercury.
Napoleon is known to have taken this remedy regularly for a wide variety of ailments. An overdose could have fatal consequences. The Swiss physician Théodor Turquet de Mayerne included calomel in the general pharmacopoeia in the 17th century. From then on, calomel belonged in every doctor’s kit.
Napoleon: Did he die because of his wallpaper?
The wallpaper theory follows a similar approach. Here, too, the assumed cause of death was gradual poisoning. 200 years ago, poisons were ubiquitous in everyday life. Even the green wallpaper (Schweinfurt green) in Napoleon’s exile contained arsenic.
Due to the high humidity, there were most likely many mold spores in the room air, which reacted chemically with the arsenic. Accordingly, Napoleon must have constantly inhaled poisons. The theory is contradicted by the fact that there should have been significantly more deaths due to the popularity of Schweinfurt green. It is known, however, that at that time many people complained of nausea, dizziness and headaches, but no connection to environmental poisons could be established because their toxic effects were not known.
Napoleon specialist Lugli substantiates cancer as cause of death
It was not until 2021 that pathologist Alessandro Lugli, who owns more than 1,000 books on Napoleon and has studied the subject intensively, was able to confirm stomach cancer as the cause of death. Since then, his expertise has been in demand internationally.
Although Napoleon’s personal physician Antommarchi had submitted an official autopsy report, the poisoning theory persisted until 2008. Although most scientists assumed cancer as the cause of death from the beginning, the right evidence was lacking.
Lugli doubted the poisoning theory mainly because Napoleon was extremely cautious and careful to avoid poisoning scenarios. If he had been poisoned, it would have been acute, not gradual. Secondly, it was common at that time to preserve hair in arsenic to keep as a souvenir (for example, in an amulet). It was therefore more than likely that arsenic could also be detected in Napoleon’s hair.
Using BMI measurements (Body Mass Index) and comparisons with Napoleon’s pants, Lugli was able to prove that Napoleon must have lost 10-14 kg of weight in the last six months of his life. He was no longer overweight. This in turn confirms the autopsy findings of the personal physician: Napoleon must have died of stomach cancer.