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Posted on Jul 29, 2005 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Lecture: Assassination of Napoleon, by Dr. Ben Weider

Jim H. Moreno

It is interesting to note that during the Holocaust, in the Second World War, the Concentration Camp commanders were ordered to use hydrocyanic acid (prussic acid) to murder the countless millions of inmates. The Concentration Camp guards that were obligated to remove the dead bodies, reported that they "smelled a type of peach aroma in the air and sometimes the smell of almonds".

The ingredient in orgeat is "bitter almonds" and if they are unavailable, the stones from peaches would act in the same manner. Therefore, when the guards detected that they smelled almonds or peaches, as they removed the dead bodies, they were "right on the truth".

For references, see "Death Dealer’s", page 155, under the heading of "Gassings". This book was written by the "commandant" of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp., Mr. Rudolph Hoss. After the war, Hoss was convicted and hung for his crimes.

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In a new book entitled "Clinical Toxicology" it states on page 105: "Oil of Bitter Almonds. The oil is rapidly poisonous when ingested and death occurs promptly when an adult drinks 7.5cc." Although Napoleon was not given such a large dose, the amount he got is considered a chronic amount.

The Grand Marshall tells us in his book that a few days before Napoleon’s death, on the night of May 2-3, 1821, and all the following day, he was extremely thirsty and drank a lot of orgeat. Remember, thirst is a symptom of arsenical intoxication.

Antommarchi’s diary reports that he was concerned about Napoleon being heavily constipated. Constipation is also a symptom of chronic arsenical intoxication. The favourite medication of the day for this purpose was called calomel. In a book entitled "Clinical Toxicology of Commercial products," on page 91, it states that calomel contains mercury chloride.

Now, this is important.

Louis Marchand, who was Napoleon’s first valet, in his diary on pages 323 and 324 writes that at 5:30 p.m. on May 3, 1821, without his knowledge or approval, Napoleon was given 10 grains of calomel, a very heroic dose indeed. This was up to 40 times the normal amount, because the normal dose of calomel for constipation in those days was one quarter of one grain.

The Grand Marshall Bertrand also confirms this in his diary on page 192. This was the irrevocable moment of the final lethal phase which was directly responsible for Napoleon’s death.

Calomel contains mercury chloride, and orgeat with bitter almonds contains hydro-cyanic acid, or prussic acid. Together they combine in the stomach to form mercury cyanide which would then be expelled from a healthy stomach by vomiting. But Napoleon had been given several drinks containing a large quantity of tartar emetic and this would have inhibited the vomiting reflex. Consequently, the highly toxic mercury cyanide was retained.

In the Sir Hudson Lowe papers, volume 20, 214 on pages 204 and 206, are two letters written to Sir Hudson Lowe by Dr. Robert Gooch. In these letters he criticizes Dr. Antommarchi’s book from a medical point of view. Dr. Gooch was a very well-known medical officer of the time, and wanted to write a review of Antommarchi’s book, but this never happened. Dr. Gooch told Sir Hudson Lowe clearly that "the agency of calomel freely administered was much more responsible for the death of Napoleon than hepatitis, the climate or cancer."

Dr. Gooch, in suspecting that calomel had something to do with Napoleon’s death, came closer to the truth than any other medical officer from 1821 until this day.

Now what happens? The Grand Marshall Bertrand, on page 192, writes: "Shortly afterwards, he fell unconscious. He was completely immobilized by a total paralysis of the voluntary muscles. He could not even swallow."

It is well documented that mercury cyanide paralyzes the voluntary motor functions. Forty-eight hours after taking the calomel, and never again regaining consciousness, Napoleon died.

What does mercury cyanide do to the stomach? It corrodes the stomach walls, and creates an annular swelling of the pylorus muscle. The Larousse Medical Illustrated Dictionary explains, on pages 741-742, the very toxic effects of orgeat and calomel, and warns against combining them as a treatment. The autopsy performed by Antommarchi and observed by many others, including the English doctors, showed that the stomach lining had been heavily corroded and there was a significant annular swelling of the pylorus muscle. However, not suspecting poisoning, the doctors, except for Dr. Antommarchi, who was the only pathologist present, concluded that Napoleon had died of "a condition leading to cancer."

Nineteen years after Napoleon’s death and entombment at St. Helena, his casket was opened to identify Napoleon before returning the body to France as the Emperor desired. Former attendants present, aged by nearly two decades, were astonished to see that the emperor’s unembalmed body was almost perfectly preserved. Arsenic has checked the processes of decay in the triply enclosed and sealed coffin.

In fact, he died of cyanide poisoning, following chronic arsenic intoxication. You and I know that people do not die from a condition leading to cancer – one dies of cancer.

It is interesting to note that Doctor Henry, after the autopsy, wrote a report for Sir Hudson Lowe and he noted how effeminate Napoleon appeared, because he had no body hair. He should have realized that a loss of body hair is a symptom of chronic arsenical intoxication.

Dr. F. Antommarchi, who attended the Emperor during the last twenty months of his illness, persisted in maintaining, after his return from St. Helena, that he died of chronic hepatitis contracted in the unhealthy climate of the island. Larrey, the surgeon-in-chief of the Imperial guard — the "most upright man I have ever known" as Napoleon himself said — remarked, after reading the post mortem report, that it indicated clearly that the Emperor had died of an acute liver affection. Larrey recognized that the stomach lesions were secondary and certainly not cancerous.

The Marquis Henri de Montchenu was appointed by Louis XVIII to represent France at St. Helena during the exile. Montchenu reported the day after Napoleon’s death, saying – and I quote – "…of the five doctors present at the autopsy, not one knows the exact cause of his death."

In the book "Poisoning Drug Overdose," on page 744, it states that "Cyanide is one of the most rapidly acting of all poisons, and in the form of hydro-cyanic acid and its sodium and potassium salts, it is one of the most deadly." Oil of bitter almonds in the orgeat contains hydro-cyanic acid.

Was there a poisoner on the island? You bet there was. Here are some of the facts. No suppositions, just facts. On February 24, 1818, Cipriani, the major domo, who was really Napoleon’s secret agent, fell ill without warning, though he was always in perfect health. He was seized with violent pains in the stomach and with very cold chills.

They placed him in hot baths. Chills and stomach pains are signs of acute arsenical intoxication.

Two days later, at 4:00 p.m., he died. Cipriani was buried immediately, but somebody must have secretly exhumed his body, for it disappeared. Why? Somebody was concerned that an autopsy would show up the poisoning, because it is easy to detect acute arsenical intoxication. His death proves that there was a poisoner on the island living at Longwood House.

In fact, William Balcombe, who allowed Napoleon to stay at his tea room called "The Briars" while Longwood House was being repaired and enlarged, became a friend to Napoleon, and he always believed that Cipriani was poisoned, because he asked that the tomb be opened and an autopsy be performed, but the body disappeared before this could be done.

It is interesting to note that the Grand Marshall Bertrand, in a letter to Cardinal Fesch, stated that a few days after Cipriani’s death, a maid in Montholon’s employment and a young child died with the same symptoms. Did they eat or drink by accident something that Montholon had prepared for Cipriani?

We’ll never know, but it is a strange coincidence indeed.

Now, you must be asking the key question – since Napoleon was poisoned, then who did it?

We must consider these facts in order to come to a conclusion: whoever poisoned Napoleon had to be on the island and living in Longwood House, the prison home of Napoleon, during the entire exile of over five years, because Napoleon was suffering intermittently from the same symptoms during the entire period.

Napoleon and Betsy Balcombe. During his first month of his stay at St. Helena, Napoleon was lodged at the Briars, a small teahouse which was part of the Balcombe Estate. Very quickly, Napoleon became friends with the 14 year old Betsy.

The most important factor to consider is that whoever was administering the arsenic was doing so from the beginning of the exile, and continued until the second, or "lethal" phase in 1821.

This immediately eliminates all the people who left St. Helena before Napoleon died, and also eliminates those who arrived during the exile. Therefore it leaves just Louis Marchand, the valet, the Grand Marshall Bertrand, and the Comte de Montholon. The person responsible for the poisoning would have to be in regular contact with Napoleon, and therefore had to live in Longwood House.

This immediately eliminates the Grand Marshall Bertrand, who lived some distance away, since his English wife wanted more privacy and did not like to be in close proximity to the other companions of the exile. Bertrand attended the Emperor as and when required by him.

There were only two people who had this very close contact with Napoleon daily, and who were able to enter his room whenever it was necessary, and who had meals with him on a regular basis.

These were the Comte de Montholon and Louis Marchand. Louis Marchand is recognised by all historians, and the companions of the time, as a loyal, devoted valet who served Napoleon like a son. He had absolutely no possible motive to harm Napoleon.

The Comte de Montholon, on the other hand, had no reason to admire nor wish to serve the Emperor on St. Helena, yet he volunteered his services to do so. Consider that Napoleon was only 46 years of age at the time and in good health, and he could have lived at least another 20 years. This could have meant that Montholon would have had to spend a good part of his life serving him.

Unless he was an agent of the Bourbons, and knew in advance that he would need to spend only a few years on the island because of his assignment to poison Napoleon, there would be no logical reason for him to do this.

One of the reasons that Montholon was upset with Napoleon, is that he had ordered Montholon’s discharge from his post as the French envoy to Wurzburg, after he married the twice-divorced Albine Roger against Napoleon’s wishes.
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