In 1811, twelve young men were chosen among the families in the Emperor’s personal service to serve as ushers in his apartments. My mother, attached to the household of the King of Rome as first nurse to the prince, requested this favour for me from the grand chamberlain, the Count de Montesquiou, and it was granted.’ Louis-Joseph Marchand’s intimate memoir of his time as Napoleon’s valet is the last of the significant Napoleonic manuscripts to be translated into English and a unique and precious insight into the last days of Napoleon’s Imperial project. Serving alongside the Emperor from the apex of his reign and through his eventual demise, Marchand depicts, in remarkable detail, the Russian campaign, the campaigns of Germany and France, Napoleon’s exile to Elba and subsequent escape, his defeat at Waterloo. Friend and confidante to the leader, Marchand was beside him at the Tuileries during the Hundred Days, and he was present to hear Napoleon’s last words, ‘France my son the army ‘ on the island of St Helena. This sincere and authentic testimony from a man with ‘nothing to hide, nothing to apologise for’ is both a meticulous historical record and a fresh personal perspective on Napoleon. ‘In this work’, Tulard remarks in his preface, ‘the Emperor speaks freely. Listen…..Marchand presents the somewhat familiar history of the Emperor’s decline as completely new territory through conversations, fond stories and personal encounters’. ‘Marchand’s memoirs, republished in English for the first time in two decades, represent a truly irreplaceable contribution to Napoleonic scholarship. Beyond the Emperor as commander and conqueror, Marchand, from his privileged vantage point, illuminates Napoleon the man in rich and absorbing detail.’ – John H Gill
IN NAPOLEON’S SHADOW The Memoirs of Louis-Joseph Marchand, Valet and Friend of the Emperor 1811-1821
Along with General Bertrand’s memoirs, Louis-Joseph Marchand’s memoirs are the best account of the Emperor Napoleon’s exile in St. Helena. Serving as valet to Napoleon, Marchand traces the path of the Emperor from his high point to his first exile in Elba and later exile on St. Helena. Marchand’s intimate acquaintance with the Emperor dates from his service on Elba. The tragic details of the Hundred Days and the flight from France after Waterloo are recounted by a literate and knowledgeable man who fully realised he was writing about an era and a leader of great import.
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