Was Napoleon Murdered by his Wallpaper?

By the time the former French emperor Napoleon died in exile at age 51 on the remote island of St. Helena, plenty of people had motive for wanting him dead. He had terrorized Europe for years, ever since becoming emperor in 1804. Napoleon himself, when he knew he was dying, even accused blamed the English for his impending death in his will.

At his autopsy, the doctors concluded that a perforated stomach ulcer killed him. Everyone who mattered seemed okay with this explanation, and there the matter rested for over 100 years.

history.com

In the 1960s, people started to question Napoleon’s cause of death after his valet’s memoirs were published, which reignited the controversy. Fortunately, there were plenty of locks of his hair scattered about, kept by devoted servants and family members and preserved throughout the years. When tested, the hair was shown to contain significant levels of arsenic, a poison. Now people began to believe that he might have been poisoned, though no one was sure who to blame.

A new and astonishing theory about the source of the poison was put forward in the 1990s, when a scrap of wallpaper from Napoleon’s St. Helena home was discovered in a scrapbook in England. The wallpaper was originally a brilliant green color, called Scheele’s green, so historians and scientists were not surprised when it also tested positive for arsenic.

Scheele’s Green was a popular dye for both textiles and papers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, one of the ingredients that gave it its brilliant hue was a compound called copper arsenite.  When this compound was subjected to hot and damp conditions, like those present on St. Helena, it gave off a poisonous arsenic vapor. The dye was later implicated in the illnesses and deaths of hundreds of people in Europe.

But if it killed Napoleon, wouldn’t it have affected the servants and staff who lived with him in the St. Helena house? As it turned out, many of the people who lived in the house also complained of symptoms that sound a lot like arsenic poisoning, such as stomach pains, swollen limbs, and diarrhea. Napoleon’s butler even died after experiencing these symptoms.

But other than Napoleon and his butler, no one else died. So, did the wallpaper kill him, or was it something more sinister, like intentional poisoning? A recent study has shown that the levels of arsenic in the wallpaper would not have been enough to kill Napoleon alone. However, if he had developed a stomach ulcer, as we have been told he did, the arsenic vapor could have made it worse. Additionally, many medicines during those years also contained arsenic, which would certainly have exacerbated the condition even further.

We will probably never know for sure if arsenic poisoning was the cause of Napoleon’s early demise, or if it was accidental or deliberate. If the arsenic theory is true, it would be the only known incident of wallpaper killing a world leader.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The Algae Expert Who Helped Win World War II

    One would have thought that the Ministry Of Defense would have known the difference between a cryptogamist and a cryptogramist. Back in World War II, they showed us that they definitely did not, which is why they accidentally recruited scientist Geoffrey Tandy to work at Bletchley Park for the Code Breakers. ...

    Read More
  • Saving A Whole Village With Rainbow Art

    Everyone loves a rainbow, the beautiful colors and different hues always make you smile. And that is what one Taiwanese pensioner thought when he made a desperate attempt to save his village. Armed with only a paintbrush, 93-year old Huang Yung-Fu turned his town into a vibrant rainbow and in the process saved it from...

    Read More
  • Evidence Of A Destroyed Planet Found

    Billions of years ago it seems our solar system actually had another planet spinning around in it. This long destroyed planet would have existed only during the very start of our solar systems creation. In 2008, an asteroid exploded into the Sudan desert on October 7th and with it came...

    Read More
  • Huge Poop Train Stuck Outside Small Alabama Town

    In a strange situation that is just asking to be explained, sources have revealed a huge train filled with human excrement is stranded outside a small town in Alabama. Apparently, the poop train is wafting smelly fumes for miles and locals are beginning to wonder whenever this nightmare may end. ...

    Read More
  • French Strongman Who Broke Out Of Prison With His Bare Hands

    There is one French strongman that goes down in the books as having undeniable strength and determination: his name is Charles Rigoulet. Not only was he breaking numerous weightlifting records all over the world, he won a gold medal in the 1942 Summer Olympics. And if that was not enough? He was also an actor,...

    Read More
  • Medieval Norwegians Liked To Cheat At Dice

    Recently a specially designed dice was found in Norway: it did not have a number one or a number two. Looks like a fixed dice to do some cheating in gambling, but the real stunner was that this wooden dice was 600 years old! A specially designed dice for cheating...

    Read More
  • Extraordinary Photo Of A Humpback Whale Sneezing A Rainbow

    At the end of every rainbow, you will find a pot of gold… or was it a humpback whale? The following photo hit the internet last week from the California wildlife photographer who had the instinct to take his shot at the exact moment. So we now know that there is at least one rainbow...

    Read More