13 October 2011


"While Waterloo was no doubt Napoleon’s most crushing defeat, it was not his most embarrassing.

In 1807, Napoleon was in high spirits having signed the Peace of Tilsit, a landmark treaty between France, Russia, and Prussia. To celebrate, he suggested that the Imperial Court should enjoy an afternoon’s rabbit shooting.

It was organised by his trusted chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier, who was so keen to impress Napoleon that he bought thousands of rabbits to ensure that the Imperial Court had plenty of game to keep them occupied.

The party arrived, the shoot commenced, and the game-keepers released the quarry. But disaster struck. Berthier had bought tame, not wild, rabbits, who mistakenly thought they were about to be fed rather than killed.

Rather than fleeing for their life, they spotted a tiny little man in a big hat and mistook him for their keeper bringing them food. The hungry rabbits stormed towards Napoleon at their top speed of 35 mph.

The shooting party – now in shambolic disarray – could do nothing to stop them. Napoleon was left with no other option but to run, beating the starving animals off with his bare hands. But the rabbits did not relent and drove the Emperor back to his carriage while his underlings thrashed vainly at them with horsewhips.

According to contemporary accounts of the fiasco, the Emperor of France sped off in his coach, comprehensively beaten and covered in shame."

(Source: The Book of General Ignorance, by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson)

No comments:

Post a Comment