2019 is the 250th anniversary of the birth, in Corsica, of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and, in Dublin, of the Duke of Wellington. Why, then, have we chosen to put only Napoleon on our front page, when the Duke of Wellington was tutored as a young man in Brighton and worshipped at our local St Nicholas Church, where there is a memorial to him?
Hated and feared in his day by most of Europe and all good Englishmen, I contend that Napoleon’s legacy is greater than that of Wellington’s.
Following the chaotic 1789 revolution, Napoleon put France back together again with his Napoleonic code civil, which rationalised ancient feudal laws and applied to everyone equally, and pertains to this day in France and other countries. He sorted out local and national government administration and ordered that promotion be based on merit alone. The emperor established secular secondary education in the form of lycées, founded the légion-d’honneur and insisted on religious and political freedoms for Protestants and Jews.
In the era of #MeToo, I must acknowledge his less admirable traits, which include a predilection for press censorship, and rampant sexism in his characterisation of women as “baby-making machines”, giving husbands legal control over wives and freeing from prosecution any man who murdered a wife caught in flagrante.
Loved and revered by all good Englishmen, apart from the Wellington boot, the Catholic Relief Act of 1829, numerous military tactics which are deemed worthy of study in military academies, and giving his name to a couple of pubs in Brighton, I can think of little else for which the Duke should be celebrated.
[We welcome our readers’ opinions on this subject – Ed]