France…one of the most powerful nations in Europe, had fallen on hard times. The Bourbons, as lazy as they were extravagant, hath left the once mighty nation in bitter decay, but in such times, extraordinary men are born. This is the story of one such man…
Book I. Little Boy from Corsica
“Et Liberte du Mortem…Give me Liberty, or give me Death.”…Maximilian Robespierre
Some men are born into greatness; others to witness them. My name is Allian Juppe. At different times, a vagabound, a soldier, adventurer…Once I was marshal, but perhaps, Napoleon gave that title too lightly, but then again, to be in the service of one such as him was a great honor.
Maximilian Robespierre, French Revolutionary leader during the Reign of Terror
I did not think much of him at first. Respect did not come naturally to one such as myself. Like all things in his life, Napoleon would come to earn it. He was but a boy in those days, and a small one at that. Shorter than his peers.
We had come to know each other in this elite school for the nobility. For Napoleon’s father, Carlo Bonaparte, was one such noble. He hath been born in Corsica. In those days, it was but a weak Italian island-nation, and that the powerful armies of France hath conquered. Napoleon the boy was given to easy fits of tantrums that amused me and other classmates alike.
At times, he vowed to be a great man….one of destiny. But what could a minor noble like him ever hope to accomplish in the orpulent courts of Bourbon France? Tut…tut…was my response. The teacher would often punish the young Napoleon for his arrogance. “You are just a little boy!” Monsieur Gauchet would say. High regard was not one of the things either Gauchet or for that matter anyone held for Napoleon in those days.
When he was a young man, Napoleon left Paris to go back to his homeland where he got himself into some mighty problems at Ajaccio. In those days, the lush fields of Corsica was swarmed with Frenchmen who migrated into it. Young Napoleon got mixed up with the Corsican nationalist leader Paolo, who was trying to secede from France. There were many violent events. At one time, Napoleon had to flee from a burning storeroom, but his father’s house at Ajaccio was no more. Luckily, only Paulo was executed.
There was no way for Napoleon to return to Corsica anymore. Like it or not, he had to become a Frenchmen like us. As it turns out, it would not be such a bad thing for him or us. Napoleon entered the Royal Military Academy and rose in rank, eventually becoming a lieutenant.
But France tw’as not such a peaceful country in those days. The Bourbon dynasty hath been a mighty nation under Louis XIV, but the only thing Louis XVI had in common to his grandfather was his name. His beautiful wife, Queen Marie Antoniette, was an Austrian, and a conceited one at that. She spent all her time partying in expensive garden balls, while the treasury wasted away and the people of France went hungry. Without the ready hands of Finance Minister Colbert to guide us, the price of bread skyrocketed, but the nobility continued to ignore the peasants.
There were many riots in those days. The Bourbons made few concessions to the peasants and did so only grudgingly. The brave hero, Marquis de Lafayette, who hath helped our allies, the Americans, against the British (our enemies) was made General of the Royal Guard. Despite his obvious fondness of revolutionary ideals, he was a high-born Marquis, and for that reason, King Louis trusted him with his life.
One day, a hungry young man who could not afford bread, that aromatic material on which all French men lived on, looked at the Palace of Versailles’ gilded glass windows and saw high-born nobles gorging themselves upon food whilst he starved. He lifted a stone and threw it at the glass and shouted, “Et Liberte du Mortem!” (“Give me Liberty of Give me Death!”)
The palace guards came out to get him, but the people hath armed themselves into a fearsome mob. Many of the guards sympathized with the citizens and refused to harm them. Soon, a Revolution was brewing in the Streets of Versailles and Paris, and the prisoners of the Bastille (a political prison) was breaking away. The situation hath come out of control.
King Louis, who was then dancing in his wife’s ball, looked out and asked Lafayette, “Is it a riot (Fronde), my dear Marquis?”
But Lafayette replied, “No, your Majesty, it is a Revolution!”
For all his impeccable pedigree, Lafayette was a common man’s man and a Revolutionary at heart. He sympathized with them, much as he had sympathized with the Americans fighting the British monarch, and it tw’as he that opened the gates of the Versailles Palace to the Revolutionaries.
The Bourbon dynasty was overthrown in a few weeks’ time, and soon, King Louis’s face was no longer in the punch bowl but under the guillotine of the Revolutionaries. They had remembered the repression and unjust treatment, and the ragged young man who hath first thrown the stone stood by King Louis’s side at his sentencing. Maximillian Robespierre, leader of the Jacobin faction, pronounced Louis guilty of cruelty and gross negligence of his duties. The other Revolutionary leaders such as the Girodist leader Marat also came to fore, but amongst these men, only Maximillian could win the respect of the Army, men like myself and Napoleon Bonaparte.
And so it was in this manner that the Revolution happened and that Louis lost his head. Napoleon became a protégé of Maximilian, who persecuted many a troublesome counter-revolutionary and monarchist. There was not a day in France, then known of Maximilian’s Reign of Terror, that Napoleon and myself did not executed someone who opposed the Revolution.
The rival faction leader, Marat, also grew in prominence. Many non-military groups sided with the Girondists against the Jacobins, and Marat was a man lost in the politics of power. He was more likely to raise his tongue in rhetoric and harangue than to raise his sword or musket against Robespierre, and it was known that like all good speakers he was less likely to listen than to talk.
One day, he was found dead in his bath tub, blood running deep through the pool of water. It was clear that the Girondist were defeated, but they would also avenge themselves for the death of Marat. After the death of Marat, the Jacobins came to dominate French politics even more, and killings and persecution of our political enemies became even more severe. A peasant was executed for decorating his home with King Louis’s discarded regalia.
Finally, the other politicians rose up against Jacobin rule, and Robespierre was overthrown. The day Maximilian’s head fell under the guillotine of the Moderates, the Moderate chose to discard the guillotine and use imprisonment instead. It was also the day Napoleon, myself, and many other officers fell from favor of the state. It was a low point in our career instead.
But times were different. The other nations of Europe still had kings. They watched France, a country that hath slain its own king, with suspicious eyes for danger, and they were all for destroying us. Soon, our enemies led by Britain would align. It was a time for trouble, and under such circumstances, heroes …would rise.