An ostentatious taste for splendour and masters of the elements ruling by land, sea and air these two (almost) characters of Greek mythology had a taste for a good tipple and an exquisite Mille-Feuille. This week we’re heading to Mount Olympus, sorry I mean Mount Napoléo-hill.
Just like with French grammar, there were the exceptions which defined the rule. On one column we have standing the sleek-haired Corsican statue of the ever-returning and rebellious emperor who puts his name on everything: the Napoleonic Code, the Napoleonic Wars, even his own measure of weights: Le Livre du Roi! On the other column, make way for the king of royal titles (holding a grand total of eight), winner of a Nobel Prize and even his own exclusive fan club, “The Churchill Group”…so exclusive it has three members, well, three is a crowd…
This week, let's have a little background music.
Zero to Hero
Napoleone di Buonaparte (1769-1821), born in the secluded Corsica, yet rising to fame with the minor title of “Emperor” of the French, quicker than you can say “coup d’état”. Definitely god-like in his appearance - French historian Georges Lefebvre writes that he had “nose and lips, as if they were carved from the purest marble of the antique world and eyes veiled in impenetrable contemplation”…and who says romance is dead?
Napoléon not only dominated Europe in the zenith of his rule, he also made himself King of Italy, a title which had not been used since Holy Emperor King Charles V in 1530! A man with timeless power, quite literally, working up to 18 hours a day - and the next time you complain about work meetings, get this: he would hold council meetings for 8-10 hours…and not even a cigarette break in sight. As if he were sent from the gods, he supposedly had reflexes as quick as lightening and the ability to fall asleep at will. And for all you out there who criticise his height, he himself said on January the 29 1789 “This little Europe is too small a field” when he started the fashion of moving imperial ambitions further east. (Yes, I’m turning a blind eye to Waterloo) .
*Who put the glad in gladiator? *
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), crowned one of the greatest wartime leaders of all time, refused defeat, surrender or compromise. Churchill was given the gift which most men weep into their hands to achieve: that is the art of multi-tasking. He simultaneously travelled the globe, grabbed a couple of degrees from Rochester, Massachusetts, the Netherlands and Florida (to name but a few), was the solo voice against the Nazi’s, became Prime Minister…twice…and got his priorities straight: “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” (1918)…and whatever Mr. Churchill says, we naturally must do.
No one braver
Once again we have the case of “twins separated at birth”. These two characters could not be more similar as they simultaneously dug their heels like a spoilt child refusing to conform. Monetary-wise: Napoléon kept the coin and refused the nouveau riche paper-style whilst in 1925 Churchill returned the pound sterling to the gold standard. Literally re-designing warfare: Napoléon used vast numbers of men and artillery (the rest of Europe followed much later in 1803) whilst Churchill fought for the good of man on a solo mission against the Nazis. They both made more come-backs than Take That and spent their out-of-office hours in the wilderness; only Napoléon was the more exotic one choosing St. Helena to top up that tan. In short, we all recognise the one word name, les bottes bien cirées and the finest cut cigar at the blink of an eye. They had their cake and ate it but were never satisfied (you said it Jagger!)
And one for Napoleon
Next week it’s over to the ladies for a fashion showdown: Madame de Pompadour vs. Kate Middleton