For All Nails #243H: Napoleon’s Nail (Part 8)

By Raymond A. Speer

Naples, Kingdom of Sicily
Wednesday, 15 September 1802

I am King of all I survey -- but it is only Naples and I was destined for better things. I see my wife, Queen Marie Thérèse, stroll through the courtyards surrounded by her servants and ladies in waiting. She defers to me only in public: in private, she is not slow to remind me that she is the sister to the King of France, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and that I was only a soldier who served her mother "like a footman" in Iberia and Italy. She regards marriage to me as a punishment for having lost the Habsburg War. "Poor Momma is locked up in the Schönbrunn," she weeps on getting a letter from my mother-in-law, "and I'm condemned to your bed."

I count it against Burr that he persuaded me to dispose of Emma Hamilton in favor of Marie Antoinette's daughter. Emma was -- is -- smart, lusty and beautiful. Marie Thérèse is spoiled and spiteful.

The Queen has delivered me a son, Napoleon Louis, so she has given me a successor and her swollen belly confirms that she will soon guarantee my dynasty with another heir. Still, I gaze on the handsome and sturdy face of the son I had with Emma, Hamilton Bonaparte. He is growing up in New Orleans, on the other side of the world, and I know the boy only by a lock of his hair and his cameo portrait. If it wasn't for the fact that the Queen would do all she could to hurt my natural born son, I think I would bring him to Naples, to be close to me.

Last night, I had a long conversation with my brother Lucien and my chief minister, Aaron Burr. Lucien thinks that I'm the luckiest Bonaparte but he definitely feels that he is the smartest of us. Odd, that such a mighty man spent the whole of the Habsburg War as a spy and a provocateur against England and her allies. While he did his covert activities, all my feeble intellect achieved was the conquest of Iberia and Italy!

"England does not propose to permit you to enjoy an army capable of conquering Greece and the Ottoman Empire," Lucien said. "The English Navy will never permit you to start such a campaign, even if you limited your ambition to Greece only."

"This is a very poor country," I enunciated slowly, trying to quell my temper. "And my treasury is made worse by the fact that everyone from a peasant to a prince refuses to pay their taxes. I cannot maintain a military establishment on what Naples gives me."

"England wants you to dissolve your army, sire," said Burr, telling me what I knew. "London is uncomfortable with the Conqueror of Gibralter at the head of any body of soldiers."

"England put the Hohenzollerns in Madrid to assure that I lacked friends there," I replied to Burr. "I have felt their animosity ever since I expelled their armies from Spain. But you both tell me that Jenkinson is a practical, ruthless man. Surely, he understands what I can do for both England and Naples if I only have the means to invade Greece."

"At present, the Ottomans are so scared of Russia they are already faithful friends of Britain," stated Lucien. "More faithful than you would be to them, brother."

"However," began Burr.

"Yes, there is a however, brother."

"Tell me," I ordered Lucien. He told me of St. Domingue, an island in the Caribbean that was seized by England in 1795. The English had administered the place ever since, annexing it formally by the Treaty of Aix la Chappelle in 1799. The British Marines had been assisted by a slave insurrection that was raging in the countryside of the western, then French-owned, third of the island. A Negro slave named Francois-Dominique Toussaint has become the puppet by which the English rule St. Domingue.

"I aim to conquer the Ottoman Empire," I said. "So why am I interested in this St. Domingue?"

"Foreign Minister Pitt and Prime Minister Jenkinson are concerned about Mexico, the former province of New Spain."

Burr carried on for Lucien. "Ferdinand of Prussia has no followers in Mexico. Now that Carlos is gone from the Spanish throne, its hold on its huge colonies is vanishing quickly."

"And why does that concern me?"

"Ferdinand has requested help from London to hold on to Mexico," said Lucien. "Jenkinson has denied it, but George III insists that Ferdinand be helped. The problem is that no one wants to commit troops from their own people to such a war."

I understood what he was saying. “You want me to be a mercenary for the people against whom I constantly fought in Iberia and Italy.”

"Whatever you desire, sire, is fine with me."

"And what of St. Domingue?"

"The English will let you raise an army there, and you can suppliment your forces with levies from Naples," my brother informed me. "If you conquer Mexico and return it to Ferdinand's Spain, Britain will promote the Neapolitan invasion of Greece. Greece only, and the final border cannot approach within twenty miles of Constantinople.”

"Hmmm," I said.

Postscript to the Diaries of Napoleon of Naples by Hamilton Bonaparte (published by the Poe Press of New Orleans and Norfolk, 1863).

My mother, showing more passion than good sense, went to Port-au-Prince, Santo Domingo, to see my father. Because it was yellow fever season, mother had placed me in the care of my wet-nurse on our high ground plantation miles from the banks of the Mississippi.

She was directed to the flagship of the military governor of Santo Domingo, Lord William Bligh, aboard the huge ship of the line, BOUNTY. Lady Bligh served my mother tea and crumpets as she waited for the boat that would take her ashore. "William's first independent command was called the BOUNTY," said Bligh's wife. "He had such good luck aboard that vessel that he insisted her name be continued when the Lords of the Admiralty commissioned this marvelous ship at the start of the war."

"Oh, yes," said my mother, fretting at the news she had recently received. My father, the King of Naples, had developed the jaundice and vomiting of the yellow fever within a fortnight of his arrival at Santo Domingo.

A tall, blond, blue-eyed man in a well cut Captain's uniform knocked on the door and politely entered. "Oh, hello, Fletcher," said Lady Bligh. "Lady Hamilton, this is my husband's executive officer, Captain Fletcher Christian. Captain, this is Lady Emma Hamilton."

"Charmed," said Fletcher Christian, kissing my mother's hand.

"Lady Hamilton is a close friend of the King of Naples," said Lady Bligh.

Captain Christian was startled. "Oh, I'm afraid I bear you bad news."

Tears rolled down my mother's face. "He's dead," she sobbed.

"Yes," said Christian. "Napoleon of Naples died of yellow fever early this morning."

Forward to FAN #244: Look for the Union Label.

Forward to 15 July 1814: The Burning City.

Return to For All Nails.