The Napoleonic Legend in Nineteenth Century Britain: A Comparative Analysis
This MA Thesis analyses hundreds of Victorian newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and other media to investigate how Victorian perceptions of Napoleon I affected perceptions of Napoleon III and vice versa. It is argued that Victorian Britons frequently viewed Napoleon III through the lens of Napoleon I with significant consequences for the legacies of both Emperors today. Through analysis of letters to the editor and newspapers which appealed to all classes of society, this thesis does not produce a history of ‘Great Men’ from the top-down but rather an analysis of how such men were perceived from the bottom up and how popular perceptions helped shape their legacies. Why is it that Napoleon I, once the most hated and feared enemy of Britain, has obtained an almost celebrity-like status in Britain today whilst Napoleon III, the friend of Queen Victoria and champion of the entente cordiale is largely forgotten by the general public? The answer, this thesis argues, can be found in Victorian perceptions of both Napoleons, and in the resulting perceptions of themselves.