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Napoléon and America's Debt to France

susie b

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I went to see the new Napoléon film on opening day, and I'm still absorbing and processing what I saw.

First, I have a long history with Napoléon and films depicting his life and times.  One of my early published pieces was a study of director Abel Gance's groundbreaking 1927 silent epic masterpiece, Napoléon, which featured Albert Dieudonné in the title role.

I must say that Armand Assante was probably the sexiest Napoléon in his tv miniseries of the 1980's.

The new film opens with the beheading of Marie Antoinette and sets the tone for the entire film with the contrast of Napoléon's reaction to the death of the French Queen with that of the crowd.  Joaquin Phoenix portrays a deep and solemn general.



The 2023 Napoleon was filmed in multiple historical European locations.  The costumes are dead on accurate as are the military armaments.  

The battle sequences were THE BEST he has ever seen on film of late 18th and early 19th century fighting styles, this according to my film companion who is a noted military author & historian as well as a US Army Retired officer who taught at both West Point & Sandhurst.

Napoléon's life is a difficult one to cover in the span of two and a half hours, which is why the Gance film is so long.  The new film moves quickly in its 157 minute format and keeps the audience engaged.

I think it is a must see for every American. 

Marie Antoinette's spending was not the only reason that the French Treasury was bare.  Louis XVl spent massive amounts of francs helping the American colonists win their freedom from Britain.

I find it sad that Louis & MA paid the ultimate price to help us win our freedom only to become the victims of a flawed  & botched revolution in their own land.  

The end of the film features an estimated body count from the Napoléonic Wars.  This number is actually on the low end of numbers debated by historians.  Military casualties usually are estimated to be about 3 to 3.5 million people.  Add civilians, and the estimates go as high as 7.5 million casualties.

What would have happened if Louis decided not to send money to the American Revolution?  The Napoléonic Wars may never have occurred.

We owe our freedom to Louis XVI and France.

Oh, the credits are long, but sit through them. 

Photo of Albert Dieudonné from the 1927 film.


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Great scoop Susie,..I will for sure get this flick. Sounds great...I´m excited to see it. I bought the silent film from 1927 based on your recommendation some time ago.

I´ve studied that time period and place (French Revolution and Napoleonic reign) pretty much. I do think that France´s help we received during
our Revolution made the difference in us winning. But Louis´ motivation was solely to get a dig at England, and to pay England back for England´s recent
crushing of France in the 7 years war, and in the New World and kicking France out completely. Louis XIV and XV contributed to the French all but bankruptcy, and XVI closed the deal. (to me Louis XIV is the most overrated big guy from history).

XVI helped us, for motivations of vengeance, and probably stupidly as his helping the Americans contributed to his downfall with respect to the money he spent (as Susie mentioned) and with respect to him helping a republican revolution that was the opposite of him and his monarchy, with the Americans´ victory also providing spirit and motivation to the French republicans in their bringing of XVI down

The French Revolution was, in the end, a violent bloodbath created by France´s version of Woke in the very early 1790s. They started off with noble ideas as our Wokesters mostly did, but went crazy irrational, became a cult, and then paranoid, filled with hatred. Very much like our current day Woke, but a different flavor for sure. It´s a lesson of history that applies to our times but historians today either are woke themselves, or are afraid of the Woke, so historians of today are negligent in their responsibility to teach us the lessons of history on this front.

Having said that the original ideas and beliefs of the French who started up their revolution were of liberty and quite noble. And because of the wars and France being the center of culture etc. at that time, many Europeans caught on to these noble ideas and thus these noble ideas spread throughout Europe and within a century would transform Europe into a basically classical liberal continent, where a healthy form of nationalism and sense of national self also took hold, for the better overall.

No century in history (with possible exception of the 20th) has moved humanity forward faster and more impressively than the 19th century and it´s not even close. The pollinating of new ideas of justice and liberty accomplished by the French Revolution was one of the principal reasons for this.





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