BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Andrew Roberts, author of "Napoleon and Wellington: The Battle of Waterloo and the Great Commanders Who Fought It," I'll take a cue from your introduction. Why another book on Napoleon and Wellington?
ANDREW ROBERTS, AUTHOR, "NAPOLEON AND WELLINGTON": Well, there are an awful lot of books on Napoleon and an awful lot on Wellington, but this actually is the first one that is about both men, the way they interacted and the way they thought about one another and the way they fought one another. So there is a little area, I think, uncovered.
LAMB: Who were they?
ROBERTS: Well, Napoleon was the emperor of France. He made himself emperor at the end of the French Revolution, and he was the conqueror of Europe up until 1815, when the great battle of Waterloo was fought against the Duke of Wellington, who was another self-made soldier who later went on to become prime minister of Britain.
LAMB: When was Napoleon born?
ROBERTS: Napoleon was born on the 15th of August, 1769, three months after Wellington. We don't know the exact date of Wellington's birth because we don't even know where he was born. His father, the Earl of Mornington, didn't bother to register him. So in that rather aristocratic way that they had in the 18th century, he never got 'round to it. So -- but we do know that it was within three months of one another. It was the first of many coincidences, really, about these two great men.
LAMB: OK, the date again was 1769?
ROBERTS: It was 1769, yes.
LAMB: How long did each man live?
ROBERTS: Well, Wellington lived to a ripe old age, 82, but unfortunately, Napoleon -- and there are lots of different theories about why he might have died, but he died in his early 50s, at the age of 51, in 1821.
LAMB: So the battle of Waterloo -- what was the importance of it?
ROBERTS: Well, it really decided the fate, the destiny of Europe for 100 years. There was not another great Europe conflagration until the First World War. And so it was a vital moment, really, in the history of the development of Europe politically, but also militarily, it was a -- it was one of those great watershed moments. The equivalent, I suppose, in America would be the battle of Gettysburg.
LAMB: Where did you get the idea for the book?
ROBERTS: Well, I've been fascinated by these people ever since I was 7 years old. I was at school, where we -- some of my friends would pretend to be Napoleonic and others would be Wellingtonian. They'd fight against one another. It was just an excuse for a scrap, frankly, in front of school children (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But I love that period, and it's been sitting in the back of my mind. I'd just finished a very big book, a thousand-page book on Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister, and I wanted to do something that was going to be a bit more fun than that.
LAMB: Where'd you go to school?
ROBERTS: I went to Cambridge University, but obviously, when I was a schoolboy, it was just a prep school in Surrey called Cranley (ph). It was a great, fun place.
LAMB: Now, we're in London for this. Where is Surrey, compared to where we are?
ROBERTS: It's -- it's the county south of where we are.
LAMB: Now, there's a picture in the book, and your book's got some color photos in it.
ROBERTS: Yes. Nice ones.
LAMB: Where is this?
ROBERTS: That's at Apsley House, the home of the Duke of Wellington here in London. It's a vast statue by Canova, Antonio Canova, the great sculptor, of Napoleon when he was first consul of France.
LAMB: Apsley House, for Americans, is located where in London?
ROBERTS: It's about in the middle. It's -- the old address used to be Number 1 London, which is a rather grand address. It's on Hyde Park corner, really very close to all of the shopping and the big hotels. It's a lovely, beautiful house built, again, in the 18th century. And it contains many of the treasures of the Wellington family.
LAMB: Now, this statue, you say in your book, the Brits paid something like 66,000 pounds...
LAMB: ... in 1816.
ROBERTS: An enormous amount of money. It was bought -- it was bought for the -- for the Duke of Wellington, to thank him for the victory at the battle of Waterloo. And it was lugged over -- with you can imagine how many people -- to place in the stairwell of the house, Apsley House. And it was a gift from a grateful nation.
LAMB: So I mean, again, this is the Duke of Wellington's house. And at Waterloo, what happened?
ROBERTS: Well, the -- the French were expected to win. They had many more men than the British. But Wellington lured Napoleon into a trap because he knew, in a way that Napoleon didn't, that the Prussian army -- later the German army -- was coming to his rescue. So just as the French were about to break through the British lines, they managed to be held off in one of the toughest and most aggressive engagements really to be seen in human history. And then the Germans came and stove in the French right flank and won the day.
LAMB: How tall is that statue, do you know?
ROBERTS: It's huge. It's I think about 18 feet. It's obviously much, much larger than life. But it's also really -- Napoleon didn't like it. Even though it makes him look like a Greek god and gives him the most fantastic physique and everything, he didn't like it because he thought it had actually gone too far. Although Canova is the -- probably the greatest sculptor of the -- of the period, he actually had the whole thing boxed up and left in the Louvre palace in Paris in order not -- for people not to see it because he thought that it was -- it was just totally over the top.
LAMB: So you talk about -- when you talk about these men, whether or not they're modest or whether they, you know, had a big ego. And in case of the Duke of Wellington -- modest?
ROBERTS: Well, he -- actually, I don't believe he was modest. Everybody up until now has assumed that he was the personification of the British Victorian gentleman, and modesty's a very important part of that. But he rather enjoyed collecting -- collecting the -- well, medals, certainly, but also titles. He wound up -- at the end, when he died, a huge funeral service for him in St. Paul's cathedral, the garter king of arms read out all his titles, and it took about 20 minutes just to read out the various princedoms and dukedoms and things he'd managed to collect over the course of his career, not really the mark of a modest man, I don't think.
LAMB: OK, why would he want that huge statue in his house?
ROBERTS: Because he had a -- a very real pride of having defeated Napoleon, who had threatened Britain for 23 years. He nearly invaded us in 1805, and he was the greatest threat, really, between the Spanish armada and the time of the Kaiser, or even Adolf Hitler. So really, it was a wonderful thing to have defeated him, and he was tremendously proud of that. And to look at the man that you beat every day as you walk up and down the stairs must have given him an incredible kick.
LAMB: Any idea what would have happened if Napoleon had won at Waterloo?
ROBERTS: Well, the -- the fact was that the French and the Austrians, as well, who were also on our side, were bearing down on him. But if he had defeated the British and the Prussians, the British army would have been forced to re-embark, rather like it did at Dunkirk in the Second World War. It would have had to re-embark back to the coast, anyone that wasn't captured. And he would have reestablished himself. He had beaten the Russians and the Austrians 15 times before in the course of his -- of his long warfaring career, and I think he'd have probably done it again. He'd have reestablished himself as emperor, and perhaps you would have France an empire today, rather than a -- than a republic.
LAMB: You have a map in here of Waterloo. Where is it?
ROBERTS: It's in Belgium. It's just 6 miles -- sorry, 12 miles south of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, in Europe.
LAMB: And why were they fighting in that location at that time?
ROBERTS: They were fighting there because the emperor had been in exile on the island of Elba, a little island in the Mediterranean off Italy, the coast of Italy, and he'd escaped from exile. And in 20 days, completely astonishingly short period of time in those days before rail travel or any -- or the motor car, he had got to Paris and had rebuilt his empire. The men had flocked to his standard. His armies and legions were -- were fully stocked. And he wanted to take on the force to the north that was commanded by the Duke of Wellington, knowing that if he was able to defeat Wellington, he'd be in with a chance of reestablishing himself on the throne of France forever.
LAMB: Back in 1815, how many people were there in France and how many people in Great Britain?
ROBERTS: We had -- there was an enormous disparity. I think the -- the whole of the population of Great Britain, which of course, in those days, also included Ireland, was only about 25 million, whereas in France, it was close to 40 million. And that, of course, is very important for the -- the understanding of why the Russian campaign, the war of 1812 that Leo Tolstoy wrote about in "War and Peace," was so important because the Russians didn't have that many more people living there than -- in Russia than the French. And once the French had completely dominated Europe and were able to take levies of troops from all the other Europe countries, they were able to launch this incredible invasion of Russia, which, when it went wrong -- and of course, the snows came -- was the reason that Napoleon's power was blunted.
LAMB: Go back to those figures again. So 40 million people in France. Today they're right round 60 million.
ROBERTS: Well, 70 million.
LAMB: And then in Great Britain, you have 25 million. Then today, Great Britain is?
ROBERTS: It depends how you count it, but about 60 million.
LAMB: So they really haven't grown that much.
ROBERTS: Not that much, now.
LAMB: In 200 years.
ROBERTS: No. And if you think about what would have happened to the American population in exactly those 200 years, I mean, it's exponential. You're, what, about 220 million or so?
LAMB: You mentioned -- actually, 288 million.
ROBERTS: Is it? Well, I mean, that's astonishing, isn't it, because if you think about what it would have been in 1815, it just doesn't bear any kind of comparison.
LAMB: You mentioned the 23 years. What were those 23 years? What did Napoleon do during those years?
ROBERTS: Well, when he started, he had the most incredibly meteoric rise. He shot up like a star. He was astonishing. He started at the age of -- as a -- in his late teens as a captain of artillery. And in -- by the age of 26, he was commander of all French armies in Italy, the commander-in-chief of the army of Italy. He fought a series of utterly brilliant campaigns in -- against the Austrians in Italy, who were trying to run Italy at the time. And by literally three years later, he was in a position to declare himself dictator of France. And five years after that, he became emperor of France, all entirely done through his own merits and through the work and the risks that he took.
LAMB: You've got a figure in there of something between five and six million people were killed during that time period?
ROBERTS: Across the whole of Europe, this was. It was a -- it was a massive, long European war. It involved every single state. There were no neutrals in the Napoleonic wars. They -- everybody was touched, right from the north down to -- down to Africa. It went into -- he marched into Cairo at one stage. He marched into Moscow. I mean, literally every capital in Europe fell to him, except, of course, London.
LAMB: You say that Napoleon and Wellington never met.
ROBERTS: They never met. They came within 200 yards of one another at the battle of Waterloo. I think I've established that Wellington saw Napoleon through his telescope on several occasions in earlier periods, but they never actually met. They came close to meeting after the battle of Waterloo, as well, when Napoleon decided to surrender to the British. But Wellington didn't accept his -- his surrender because he was in the wrong place at the time, and they wanted to get Napoleon off by boat, away from France, and not bring him back to Paris because he had this incredibly electric effect on the Parisian mob.
LAMB: When they talk about books, they -- at least, in our country, they mention three people that the most books have been written about -- Jesus, Napoleon and Lincoln. Why so many books about Napoleon?
ROBERTS: I think that he was an elemental force. He has this ability to touch many people's lives in ways that they quite often don't expect. He was a man who was entirely self-made. He was a highly intelligent, self-educated man. His witticisms and his aphorisms and his jokes are superb, and there are whole books written just to his -- about his sense of humor, rather like Winston Churchill or Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward. And I think that good lines accreted to him in the way that they do to well-sold stories, the barnacles attached. But nonetheless, he did say -- we know he did say an awful lot of the -- of the brilliant things that he said. He was also a builder. He built some of the finest architecture in Paris, that's still there today, some of the most wonderful bridges. And the Arc de Triomphe, for example, was his brain child. And he also set down the laws by which France was governed really up until the present day. And the basis of the laws, his Code Napoleon, as he called it, forming the basis of the European Union's laws, as well. So he had a far-reaching intellect which -- which touches us today. But the trouble was, in the end, he was a megalomaniac. He thought that he was going to be able to rule the whole of Europe. And that was the thing that led to his downfall, when it was coinciding with the military genius of the Duke of Wellington.
LAMB: At his height -- well, first of all, how tall was he?
ROBERTS: Oh, well, there's a huge debate. There's been a 70-year debate over how tall he was. The "Times" literary supplement here in London has had this very long-running debate because -- I think that the French inch was slightly smaller than the English inch in the 18th century. And so that has caused complications with this. But we can tell from a spy hole that he drilled through the -- through the wall in his house in St. Helena, to be able to keep an eye on people, and we know it was drilled by him. And of course, we can therefore tell how high his eye was, although we don't whether or not he was wearing boots at the time. That might have added an extra inch. But I would say that the historians seems to coalesce around the height of five-foot, five.
LAMB: And how big was he? How much did he weigh? Do you have any idea?
ROBERTS: Well, this fluctuated enormously. When he was on campaign, he would be -- especially when he was -- when he was riding, he would be fit. He was -- he started off as a thin young man. Everybody mentions how thin he was. By the time he was taken to campaign -- to campaign in his coach and he had been emperor for 11 years, he was quite an overeater. And he did get to a really very large amount, 17 stone or so.
LAMB: How many times was he married?
ROBERTS: He was married twice, the first time for love to Josephine, the Empress Josephine, who was a great beauty -- again, a wit, but was unfaithful to him and who he quickly fell out of love with. It was an incredibly passionate affair when it -- when it began, but when he discovered that she was sleeping with some of his brother officers, this -- he then was unfaithful to her and had a series of mistresses, two of whom, astonishingly enough, also slept with the Duke of Wellington, as I mention in my book.
LAMB: How do you know that?
ROBERTS: Well, because they -- in their very old age, they admitted it to close friends, who noted it in diaries and papers, and it comes down -- we also know from the amounts of money that the Duke of Wellington would give these -- these girlfriends of his to have their dresses remade and to have their hair done. We've found all the accounts of their hairdressers. And it's very unlikely that a man would pay quite large amounts of money to do that just for a friend.
LAMB: Who is Napoleon's second one?
ROBERTS: His second wife was called Marie Louise, the Archduchess Marie Louise, who was the daughter of the emperor of Austria. And although, of course, it was a political decision to marry her -- her family had ruled Austria for 600 years -- that also became quite a love match. And it wasn't really until the emperor of Austria himself had to go to war against Napoleon and Marie Louise had to choose between her husband and her father where her loyalties lay, that that marriage also hit the rocks.
LAMB: How many children did he have?
ROBERTS: Well, there are illegitimate children and legitimate ones. There was only one legitimate child, who was called the King of Rome, a -- also Napoleon, who some Napoleonists call Napoleon II. He died only 10 years after his father. He was brought up in the court of his grandfather, the emperor of Austria. And because the name Napoleon was felt to be so threatening to French society, he was never allowed to live in France.
LAMB: Where did the name Napoleon Bonaparte come from? And I know it was spelled two different ways.
ROBERTS: Yes, it was. It came from Italy. There's an ancient saint, Saint Napoleon. Bonaparte actually was Bona Parte (ph), which was two words, and that is ought to -- there's also a debate over this, even -- thought to have derived from Florence. And the British always used to put the "U" in the name, Bonaparte, in order to emphasize the un-Frenchness of Napoleon, who, of course, was born on the island of Corsica, off the coast of France and Italy. And so they -- they did this as a way to irritate Napoleon, emphasize his foreignness.
LAMB: What would it mean, being born in Corsica at that time?
ROBERTS: Well, Corsica was a -- was a land of banditry. It was being constantly fought over who was going to be -- who was going to control it. The Italian city state of Genoa owned it, sold it to France. It was then captured by Britain. The Corsicans themselves rose in revolt every five years or so under brigand leaders who were often actually quite -- quite impressive and decent, far-sighted statesmen, as James Boswell, Dr. Jonson's friend, found out.
But it really toughened you up. And he was born -- Napoleon was born whilst his mother was actually on campaign with her husband in the -- in the mountains. So it was a -- it was a tough early upbringing.
LAMB: The 23 years that he was in power were what years, again?
ROBERTS: Well, really, that he was -- that he was fighting. And France declared war against Britain in 1793, and that carried on for 23 years, until Wellington's victory at Waterloo.
LAMB: How many brothers did he have?
ROBERTS: He had four brothers. He made each of them kings at different times. None of them were really up to -- up to the mark. They had none of his genius. But they were helpful to him in running parts of the empire. He had made one the king of Holland, another the king of Spain, and so on. They...
LAMB: What were their names?
ROBERTS: Their names were Lucien, then you had -- Lucien I think was the -- was the second oldest. He was a fascinating one in that he happened to help Napoleon at the time of his -- at the time of his coup d'etat. Jerome was also quite important. He was the king of Westphalia. Joseph was the king of Spain, and he was unfortunate, in that Wellington overthrew him. And Jerome, in fact -- very interesting. Jerome's wife, first wife, was Wellington's brother's ex-wife. So Napoleon and Wellington were, in fact, related via -- via their two brothers and one divorce.
LAMB: How do you keep track of all this?
ROBERTS: Well, it's part of the job of historian. Actually, it's great fun, frankly. I love -- I love doing the archive work.
LAMB: I started to ask you, at his height, how many soldiers he had under his command -- meaning Napoleon.
ROBERTS: Yes. Well, he crossed the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) into Russia with 600,000, the largest army that had ever been seen in Europe since the days of the Roman empire. And the combination of -- he captured Moscow, but then Moscow burnt -- burnt to the ground, at least two thirds of it did. And he was forced to retreat back to France. And the retreat from Moscow cost him three quarters of his army -- 450,000 men perished and only 150,000 came back.
LAMB: How was that going down in France?
ROBERTS: Well, it caused a mini-revolution, but not one that Napoleon wasn't able to quell simply by going back and presenting himself. He also, of course, was a terrible manipulator of the truth. His propaganda machine was very important to him. And so the government newspapers put out that the actual defeat hadn't been as bad as it -- as it had first been rumored. And it wasn't until much later on, when the men didn't return, that France fully understood the -- the level of the horror.
LAMB: There's one tiny, little fact in your book that's American, and that is that you found a Napoleon-Wellington High School somewhere in the state of Missouri.
LAMB: How did you find that? And have you happened to have been there?
ROBERTS: I haven't been there, no, but I was giving a speech in Fulton, Missouri, the -- I've got an honorary doctorate from Westminster College there. And I was giving a speech about Winston Churchill, and I drove past it. So it was something that lodged in my memory. I made a note of it.
LAMB: And the importance of Fulton?
ROBERTS: Well, the importance of Fulton is that it was there in March, 1946, that Winston Churchill attempted -- unsuccessfully at the time, interestingly enough -- to open the world's eyes to the threat of communism and basically told the British and the Americans that Russia was not the friendly power that it had been during the -- during the Second World War but actually that they ought to wake up and realize that there was a cold war going on. So it was one of the most important speeches, in retrospect, of the century. However, at the time, it was considered to be war-mongering rhetoric.
LAMB: And we know it as the "Iron Curtain" speech.
ROBERTS: We do. It was the speech in which he said that from Stetin to -- down to the Danube, there was going to be an iron curtain that effectively had -- hand landed, and there were three or four very important countries that had hitherto been seen as part of the West that, of course, we didn't consider to be again part of the West until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
LAMB: And what led to you getting an honorary degree from Westminster College?
ROBERTS: Well, I'd written a few books on Winston Churchill, and he -- got another one coming out next month, in fact. And he has got a library there dedicated to him, and the continuation of what they do to keep Churchill's memory alive at Fulton is absolutely fantastic. And I was very honored to be invited to give a lecture there.
LAMB: Today where do you live full-time?
ROBERTS: I live in Knightsbridge in London, just a few doors down from Harrods department store. I think that's probably the way that...
LAMB: And are you attached to a school, or is this a full-time job of writing?
ROBERTS: No, it's a -- I wouldn't have the time, I don't think, to -- to teach or mark exam papers or anything like that. I'm kept pretty busy doing this.
LAMB: Now, this "Napoleon and Wellington" that we have here was originally published here in this country when?
ROBERTS: It was published in April, 2001.
LAMB: And in the United States, it's published by Simon & Schuster. And I wonder, in the -- in this book, the lead blurb on the back is from somebody by the name of Henry Kissinger. Was that the same blurb you had on the book here in Great Britain?
ROBERTS: It wasn't. No. I sent a copy to Dr. Kissinger after it was published, and he, obviously, very kindly gave me something to put on the back of that. It was something, actually, that my publishers organized, rather than myself. I'm very pleased they did. It'll help. Because what we have to remember is that he has an amazing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not just obviously as the historian of diplomacy but also -- his latest book -- but also he wrote a book about Metternich and Castlereagh and Talleyrand, three of the great European statesmen of the time of Napoleon and Wellington. And so he really does know his stuff when it comes to that period.
LAMB: He says, "Andrew Roberts has reexamined the relationship between 19th century Europe's two greatest generals, their inevitable battle at Waterloo and its impact on history. `Napoleon and Wellington' is an absorbing book, well researched and rich in new and interesting detail, valuable both as a biography and military history."
But you also have another connection with Henry Kissinger, and that...
ROBERTS: Well, yes. I'm going to write his biography. I've been asked by Alfred Knopf to do the -- a sort of life of him. It's not going to be an authorized life, in that Dr. Kissinger's not going to have the right to blue-pencil anything I write. He probably won't read anything I write before it's published. But he is giving me cooperation for allowing me into his papers at the Library of Congress, 30 tons of them, I've been told. So that's going to be quite a few -- quite a few years. I don't have to hand in the book until 2006, so...
LAMB: Have you met him?
ROBERTS: I have met him, yes. I met him on a couple of occasions and we got on very well. He's obviously a tremendously impressive figure.
LAMB: Why do you want to go from Winston Churchill to Napoleon and Wellington to Henry Kissinger, what's the connection?
ROBERTS: Well, Henry Kissinger will be the first living person that I've written about. All my other people have been safely dead, and I find it quite a challenge.
I don't shy from controversy. It's very clear that Kissinger is a pretty controversial figure in America, probably the most controversial American living today I would have thought with the various attacks that have been made on him.
So, I think it will be very, very interesting for me as a non-American, somebody who can't remember the Vietnam War. I vaguely remember being - I mean I was 12 when Saigon fell for example.
But I'm therefore, I think, going to be able to come to it with a degree of objectivity that many Americans wouldn't be able to because, of course, both Vietnam and Cambodia are really such emotional issues for Americans in a way they simply are not for me. I think I'm going to be able to get a historian's objectivity.
LAMB: You have a connection between the Duke of Wellington and the Carrolls.
ROBERTS: Yes, right.
LAMB: The Carrolls of Maryland.
LAMB: Was what they named Carrollton, Maryland after.
ROBERTS: They did, yes.
LAMB: All the people that live around Washington know about that.
LAMB: What's the connection?
ROBERTS: Well, the man who made the first great fortune, he had three daughters and a daughter-in-law. One of his daughters married Wellington's brother Richard, the Marquis Wellesley who was foreign secretary. He had been governor general of India. He was an incredibly powerful and successful man, quite rich as well.
And, the daughter-in-law married, very unsuccessfully and unhappily as it turned out, Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, and he was ordered by Napoleon to divorce her because - well then Napoleon was interested in the Western Hemisphere at the time of the marriage. He wasn't after the Louisiana Purchase.
And so, he just ordered his brother to marry a European aristocrat instead but it is amazing to think this American family from Baltimore were married into the families of these two great commanders.
LAMB: Actually, I'm looking at the names Mary Ann, Louisa, and Elizabeth, the three granddaughters of Charles Carroll who was the longest surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.
ROBERTS: That's right, yes exactly, and was an astonishing figure. I think there must be something about the Baltimore air that makes European credence or nearly credence in these cases because, of course, it's also the birthplace of Wallace Simpson.
LAMB: Now, here's just a little parenthetical expression I want to read and get your reaction to it. Napoleon once said that the hereditary prince of Virtonburg (ph) was so fat because God had specifically designed him as an experiment to see how far human skin could stretch without breaking.
ROBERTS: A perfect example of Napoleon's wit.
LAMB: Is there a lot of that?
ROBERTS: Yes, there's a lot. I've tried to keep as many of his cracks and jokes and gags in there. I think it helps the history book along and also it reminds you that these people are not just huge figures made in marble like that Canova statue that they were living, breathing people who loved and joked and thought.
LAMB: Another parenthetical expression on the same page is he had long disapproved of Wellesley's whoring and in 1810 had suggested his brother's career would prosper better were he castrated, although with his own many mistresses and mistreatment of his at times suicidal wife, there was more than a whiff of hypocrisy to this. Who are you talking about?
ROBERTS: I'm talking about Wellington. Wellington was what was called in the 18th Century a sexual swordsman par excellence. When he went to Paris as ambassador he was, of course, the conqueror of the city.
But at the same time, he was the conqueror of the hearts of many of the both French and English women who went there and also, was thought to possibly have slept with the granddaughter of Carrollton who later married his brother.
There was quite a lot of this going on and obviously I've chronicled a bit of it in the book but where it overlaps was the general story. He had this form a sort of Napoleonic sexual tourism in that he went out of his way to collect things that had belonged to Napoleon.
He had Napoleon's watchmaker make him a watch, his sworn maker make him a sword. He took over Napoleon's sister's house as the British Embassy, which is still is today. He hired Napoleon's cook. He went around visiting his libraries and his homes and he slept with two of Napoleon's mistresses.
I think really to sleep with one mistress might be considered accidental but two implies there was a kind of trophy hunting going on, I think, in Paris in 1814.
LAMB: By the way, what was Napoleon's original name?
ROBERTS: Original name, well he was - it was Napoleon Bonaparte.
LAMB: Just like we now know it?
ROBERTS: Yes, well there were a few different -- I mean he altered it himself, which of course Wellington also did. Wellington was born after (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it was then changed to Wellesley and this was very much done on class grounds because it seemed to be a grander name.
LAMB: Arthur Wellesley, is that the same name that they named the college in the United States after, Wellesley College?
ROBERTS: No, I think that's named after the founder of Methodism but I'm no expert.
LAMB: Let's start with the Duke of Wellington. He was born where?
ROBERTS: He was born in Ireland, in Dublin, we think because of course his father never saw fit to register it. But we think he was born in a grand house in Dublin, very beautiful house in fact. When next you come over this side you might want to go there because it's a lovely place, and he had a very unhappy childhood.
LAMB: You say he was Protestant though. He was not Catholic.
ROBERTS: He was Protestant in a country that, of course, was overwhelmingly Catholic and he was part of the small what was called the Protestant (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a small group of Protestants who effectively owned and ran Ireland in those days.
And so, he - this is an interesting, another connection with Napoleon because Napoleon came from the part of Corsica that helped rule Corsica for France, another island in hock basically to the mainland power. That's exactly the same as Wellington.
And Wellington had a very unhappy childhood. He didn't do terribly well at school. His father died when he was only 15 and, of course, Napoleon's father died when he was - when Napoleon was only 13, so they had that in common as well.
He was good at mathematics, as was Napoleon. He had exactly the same number of brothers and sisters as Napoleon, and they both enjoyed mathematics and also chose Hannibal as their heroes. They had a lot of things in common these two, even though one thinks of them as being completely different.
LAMB: How tall was the Duke of Boston?
ROBERTS: He was 5'9". He was a lot taller than Napoleon.
LAMB: How much did he weigh?
ROBERTS: We don't know the exact figure because people didn't weigh themselves and note it down in quite the same way, but he was slim and fit. He never took any carriages to campaign. He was on his horse Copenhagen pretty much throughout.
He never took a day's holiday when he was campaigning in Spain and Portugal over six years. And, he was something of a workaholic and a very tough-minded man but he also had quite a good sense of humor.
LAMB: You named the horse, his horse as Copenhagen. Do you remember the names of the horses of Napoleon?
ROBERTS: Well, there was one...
LAMB: I've got them here in case you can't remember.
ROBERTS: Well, there's one called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which was the one that he rode at the back of Waterloo, which actually funny enough could be seen at the National Army Museum here in London in Chelsea, the skeleton of the horse is there apart from two hoofs that have been used as snuff boxes.
LAMB: And the snuff boxes are at the St. James Palace?
ROBERTS: Yes, if you dine at St. James with the brigade of guards, which I've done a couple of times. It's very nice. It was at the end of the meal they passed around Meringue's hoof with a silver top and little explanation in silver, and you take snuff after dinner.
LAMB: Also, I see Desiree and Marie.
ROBERTS: Yes. Desiree was named after his first girlfriend who happens to be Josephine's sister.
ROBERTS: Yes. Napoleon's - he was very much in love with Desiree but when it turned out that he didn't have enough money to make her happy she went off with a richer man who in the end didn't turn out to be anything like as rich as Napoleon was and he passed on to her sister.
LAMB: Go back again to Wellington. When did he start being called the Duke of Wellington?
ROBERTS: He was created duke in 1814, the year before the Battle of Waterloo.
LAMB: Born in 1769?
ROBERTS: 1769, yes. He was a - his was an astonishing advancement through the British period. There's never been anybody before in the history of the British period who became baron, viscount, marquis, and then duke, all in one go at the House of Lords because he'd been on campaign when he'd been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all of these titles.
He hadn't had a chance to actually take them up officially. So, when he went to the House of Lords, he had to spend the whole day being elevated to each of the orders of peerage from the very bottom to the very top.
LAMB: He was in the House of Lords before he became prime minister which I assume, he was in the House of Commons at that point?
ROBERTS: No. In those days, peers could be prime minister. Nowadays we haven't had a peer since Lord Salisbury, the man that I wrote about a few years ago and that was in 1902 so we've now had a century of peers in the House of Commons. But back in Wellington's day it was perfectly acceptable.
LAMB: When was he prime minister of Great Britain?
ROBERTS: He was prime minister from 1830 to 1832. It wasn't very long. It wasn't a very successful premiership. The fact was that they were bringing in a reform bill which he was totally opposed to and so he was pretty keen to leave politics as soon as he could.
LAMB: The Duke of Wellington was married how many times?
ROBERTS: He was only married once. He was married to a woman who he fell in love with when he was very young, an Irish girl, very aristocratic family, the Pakenham family, and he then went on and campaigned to India, went I think for 11 years to India to campaign.
By the time he came back, he felt honor bound to - she turned him down because he didn't have enough money or, at least, she wanted to marry him but her parents, the Earl and Countess of Longford didn't.
And so, but he didn't write to her or keep in touch, but when he came back he felt honor bound to ask her again and this time he'd done very well in India and had been promoted. He was a major general and she was allowed to accept him but it was a disaster.
LAMB: What's that quote about her being so ugly?
ROBERTS: Well, he hadn't seen her for all this time and he said to his friend, she's grown ugly by God, which is hardly the best way to kick off a marriage.
LAMB: And he wanted to marry her?
ROBERTS: Anyway. Well, I mean nobody had married her in the meantime. She was not the right woman for a great man. She was unable to keep up with the way in which he was - his career was going. It was going sky high and she frankly wasn't really capable of helping it along and it was...
LAMB: How many children?
ROBERTS: They had I think five children, the oldest, the boy became the next Duke of Wellington. He said how depressing it was when his father died, not just for the obvious reasons, but also because then people called out the Duke of Wellington as he entered a room. Everyone turned around to see the greatest man in Europe, instead of course it was only him.
LAMB: Now, when you toured the Apsley House here, you hear the voice of a Duke of Wellington.
ROBERTS: That's the present duke, the eighth Duke of Wellington who's the descendant of the first duke.
LAMB: Now, you talked to him?
ROBERTS: Oh, yes absolutely yes. He was very helpful for this book. There are an awful lot of great stories that remain in families and this family is one of the grandest aristocratic families in England and they also have land at Waterloo and in Spain where the great ancestor fought.
And, of course, they have the treasures that you have seen at Apsley House in which I recommend anybody to go and see because they really are, they really are splendid. They've got the swords and the gold plates and the paintings, especially the paintings which are second to none in private collection in the United Kingdom.
LAMB: Now, if you're today currently the Duke of Wellington, what does it mean?
ROBERTS: Well, unfortunately he no longer because of the government, the Labour government's alterations to the hereditary peerage he no longer has a seat in the House of Lords. But, nonetheless he's still the absolute apex of British society, just directly below the royal family.
LAMB: Does he get money at all from the government?
ROBERTS: No. No, absolutely not and it hasn't been the case that they have. The last time they got money from the government was when they had their stately home bought for them back in the 1820s.
LAMB: So there have been eight Dukes of Wellington?
LAMB: And the original one we're talking about here had how many brothers?
ROBERTS: He had, I think four brothers and three sisters and they were quite a bunch as well. The eldest one, Richard Wellesley, was a tremendously successful politician. The others were (UNINTELLIGIBLE). One I think became a bishop. They were very supportive of his career and they all helped one another. That's the way that things were done in the 18th Century, just like Napoleon's brothers but Wellington's brothers were a bit more impressive.
LAMB: You go back to Waterloo. Leading up to Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington was in control of how many troops?
ROBERTS: Well, he had about 130,000 or so and the trouble is you have to take into account who has the ultimate command of the Dutch and the Hanoverians. It was very small you see. It wasn't just the English versus the French by any means.
Wellington's army was only one-third British and the other two-thirds were made up of a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) force, some of whom were very good indeed like the king's German legion who held a farmhouse until virtually the last man in the Battle of Waterloo and were superb fighters.
Others like the Brunswick cavalry fled the battlefield the minute the first shot was fired and trampling everything in their wake and so there was a very different standard of troops.
LAMB: I want to ask you about truth telling because you suggest in here that a lot of things have been handed down that were not accurate, for instance the story about the Duke of Wellington the night before the Battle of Waterloo visiting the Prussian general.
ROBERTS: Yes, yes. It seems absolutely clear to me and to many other historians who've looked into this closely that there was no meeting.
LAMB: Who says there was?
ROBERTS: Well, Wellington.
LAMB: The duke?
ROBERTS: Wellington himself said there was, yes. This is the problem. Old generals tend to - old men forget but old generals forget selectively and they also make things up. There's hardly a war in history where there hasn't been a bit of bragging going on from a fellow downward. So, I think that we'll find really it's worthwhile checking all of the statements made on both sides.
LAMB: So, how in the end did the Duke of Wellington win the Battle of Waterloo?
ROBERTS: He did it by putting into superb and tremendously impressive practice all the things he'd learned from his campaigning in India and especially his campaigning in Spain and Portugal because - and one of the things was, which was tremendously useful to him at the Battle of Waterloo, was to hide your troops as much as possible.
He was very good at what's called reverse slope tactics. So, when the French were looking at a slope of which there were at the battlefields of Waterloo, he would make his men lie down below the slope. Up until then, the trick was to try and put your men in as overt and obvious way as possible in order to try to intimidate the enemy.
He did the opposite. He hid his men and so when the French marched up, they would suddenly appear. He was very lucky, of course, that there were also on the battlefield high amounts of corn, you'd call it maize, under which and in which he could hide regiments.
He also used some of the most advanced tactics in terms of the way in which battalions could fire and he used lines rather than columns. I don't want to be boring. They're all in the book. But he was a superb master tactician.
LAMB: Have you been there?
ROBERTS: Oh, yes several times. It's the most fascinating battlefield. It's very easy to see and understand the whole thing because it hasn't been changed at all since the day of the battle, and apart from it has one very high mound, about 150 feet high which when you're there you can see the entire battlefield. You can survey the whole thing from the top of this mound and it makes it very easy to understand it.
LAMB: How long was the battle?
ROBERTS: Well, it started off - again, there's a debate over when it started but I believe it started about half past ten, between 10:30 and 11:00 in the morning and it wasn't over until 7:00 that night when darkness fell.
LAMB: And how many people died there?
ROBERTS: A lot. It was probably about 48,000 to 50,000 people.
LAMB: In one day?
ROBERTS: It was a massive, massive confrontation. It was the biggest loss of life until the American Civil War. It was a crushing defeat for the French and it destroyed the Napoleonic Empire overnight.
LAMB: After that battle was over, what did Napoleon do?
ROBERTS: He waited for a month. He fled the battlefield, tried to return to Paris, realized that the game was up, and in an attempt not to fall into the hands of the Prussians who wanted to shoot him.
He surrendered to the British Navy who took him immediately away from France and took him, in fact, to Plymouth, a south coast town in Britain, kept him on the boat outside this town before sending him off into exile on St. Helena which is a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean, and that's where he died.
LAMB: You say there's been a dispute over the years whether the Duke of Wellington - or Napoleon thought the Duke of Wellington send him to St. Helena.
ROBERTS: Yes, yes. Napoleon for some reason blamed Wellington for the choice of St. Helena, this rather rugged outpost, this rock in what is called the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rock.
LAMB: Located where by the way?
ROBERTS: In the mid Atlantic.
LAMB: Right off the coast of Africa?
ROBERTS: Yes, yes, well quite some far away. It's the most - it's further away from anywhere else.
LAMB: How long was he there?
ROBERTS: He was there for six years before he finally succumbed to stomach cancer which was the thing that had killed his father. There are many theories that say that he was poisoned possibly by one of the people in his own mini court there who's wife he was sleeping with.
LAMB: And how long was it after he died that the French brought him back to Paris?
ROBERTS: Ninety years. He was brought back in December, 1840 to the most enormous state funeral. Literally a million people came out to see his coffin being brought to Les Invalides which is the most stunning church in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the military academy in Paris.
LAMB: Why would they be excited about bringing him back, he lost?
ROBERTS: He lost but before he lost he had won I think 50 of the 72 battles and had brought the French eagles, his standards all the way from Cairo to Moscow to Berlin to Vienna, and these were astonishing achievements for anybody.
LAMB: On Page 109, and this may be a stretch, but as I read it it had some relevance it seemed like to what's going on in the world today. For instance, you write here that there can be no doubt that Wellington studied Napoleon's strategy in a way that Napoleon omitted to do with Wellington.
This was done primarily on know-thine-enemy basis as there is precious little indication that after the Battle of Waterloo Wellington read anything at all about either Napoleon or the battle besides (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two volume "Napoleon In Exile."
You go on to talk about Wellington was determined - here's what I'm getting at. Wellington was determined to enter as a liberator of the French from Napoleonic tyranny himself that the country - rather than just another foreign conqueror. And when I thought about that, I thought about the Iraqi situation.
ROBERTS: Oh, the overlaps are obvious, I think. I wasn't trying to make that. That book was actually written before the Iraqi crisis that we're presently in but it seems to me that if the allied forces, if the British and American forces ever do actually march on Baghdad, it's crucial that they should do so as liberators, as people, an army that is liberating Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
I'm sure that that's what they'll hope and attempt to do and it's likely that they do do that because then you don't look like an occupying force in which the nation rises up against you.
LAMB: I should point out that because this is being taped in the early part of December and by the time it airs we don't know what will have happened in the Iraqi situation.
Go back to what did - after this was over or during that time what did the Duke of Wellington think he was doing? What were his motives?
ROBERTS: Well, his motives were to reestablish the French monarchy and to ensure that France no longer posed a threat to its neighbors.
LAMB: So he wasn't in favor of the French Revolution?
ROBERTS: No. No, no, no. He himself was an aristocrat, of course, and he'd been taught at his French school which he actually liked very much, unlike his British schools, that by people who were subsequently guillotined in the French Revolution.
And he had friends who lost their lives to the French Revolution and was therefore very keen that France should return to the pre-Revolutionary days when - apart from with a strong parliament which of course it didn't have under Louis XVI.
LAMB: So, what was Napoleon's motives and what did he think of the French Revolution?
ROBERTS: He supported it. He was part of it. Actually when the revolution was about to be snuffed out, he got canons into the center of Paris and what he called a whiff of great shot he mowed down the rioters in a vicious by wholly successful attempt to defend the revolution.
LAMB: You point out that there were games being played by the Duke of Wellington to the end of his life, public and private, of what he really thought of Napoleon.
LAMB: We go back to that statue at Apsley House.
LAMB: Eighteen feet of Napoleon in his own residence. Did he like him? Did he not like him?
ROBERTS: He (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he's the first to admit that Napoleon was worth 40,000 men in his own phrase on the battlefield. He was an astonishing military genius and he said that publicly.
Privately, however, he wrote long articles denouncing Napoleon and saying that in fact he didn't learn anything, that he was very good when he started but he never learned anything new, which is actually true. I think most historians would accept that.
Wellington, on the other hand, learned on the job all the way through and it marks his genius leadership that he did. But Napoleon was also the same, very interestingly. I went through I believe every reference that Napoleon ever made to Wellington.
In the course of writing that book, I had to gut some 600 books in order to try and get these references and I found 12, and in every single one of them Napoleon is privately extremely impressed by Wellington's generalship and he says all sort of things.
He says this is the best general. He's the most impressive allied general I'm up against. He defeated six of my marshals in the Iberian Peninsula and Spain and Portugal.
But in public, he dismisses him and he gets his newspapers to say that Wellington is a mere (UNINTELLIGIBLE) general, which means a general who's only good for commanding troops in India, not for commanding European troops which was a racist abuse that in those days would have been - would have hit home.
LAMB: You said 600 books. Did you read them?
ROBERTS: No, of course not, not all of them, no. What I did was to gut them for their references.
LAMB: How did you do that, just to the index?
ROBERTS: Well, index works for the ones that are indexed but the thing is, of course, you don't get indexes until about the 1860s, 1870s. That's when books started to be indexed on a regular basis and most of the books that I was working on, of course, were from earlier periods than that, from the contemporaries of Napoleon and Wellington.
So, it was just a very laborious process of working out which chapters were likely to be the ones where Napoleon would talk about Wellington or vice versa. It was an exhausting task but it...
LAMB: So, in the end what were your best sources for the Napoleon side and the best sources on the Wellington side?
ROBERTS: Well, all of Napoleon's letters were collected and transcribed in the 1870s by his nephew who became Emperor Napoleon III of France, who ruled France from 1852 to 1870. And so, those were completely invaluable.
And for Wellington really, the Duke of Wellington very kindly let me use his great ancestor's library and there were the penciled notes in the margins made by the great duke of books about Napoleon, which of course proved to be totally invaluable for my work.
LAMB: In the penciled remarks, how often did he comment?
ROBERTS: Very rarely. Sometimes comments were just exclamation marks or no and things like that, but it was very important really and helpful to know the bits that Wellington believed were inaccurate and quite a few of them were about him.
LAMB: How long did this book take you to research before you began writing it?
ROBERTS: It took four years but, you know, in a sense it's been in the back of my mind for much longer than that. It's been a special love of mine since I was seven I think.
LAMB: Where do you do your work?
ROBERTS: I work at home in Knightsbridge but I also sometimes use an office. It depends on other commitments and things.
LAMB: Do you have a family?
ROBERTS: Yes, yes. I've got two children, an ex-wife and a girlfriend, so all in all they take up quite a bit of time too. I work usually between 4:00 in the morning and lunch time, which is when I find that nobody phones and you can get a straight run of eight hours' work.
LAMB: And how are you doing the writing these days, computer or writing it out longhand or how is it?
ROBERTS: Well, I actually do write longhand, yes. It's completely absurd but I feel that it means that the thoughts go through your mind one more time than when you're just typing it out on the computer. And so, it's one extra - I find that you can get verbal diarrhea if you don't watch out. Lots of books I think are too long nowadays because people aren't really thinking them through before writing them down.
LAMB: We're out of time, Andrew Roberts. Thank you very much for joining us. The book looks like this, published by Simon & Schuster, called "Napoleon & Wellington," and again our guest is Andrew Roberts. Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thank you very much indeed.
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