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
  • Twenty-Two Years Of Poop Removed Surgically From One Man

    Remember that last time you could not go to the toilet? You just sat there in agony, with just nothing coming out? Or that constipated bloated sensation that never goes away, well now think that you have had that feeling for wait for it... 22 whole years. Impossible, right? Yes, one Chinese man has defied...

    Read More
  • Yes, There Was A Black Nazi

    Meet Hans Massaquoi, one of the very rare and few biracial Germans who were born and grew up during the Nazi regime. Though do not be mislead by the photo, he was not actually allowed to join the Nazi Party. This does not really make much sense when you remember...

    Read More
  • Marijuana Farms Are Killing Owls

    In California the great marijuana legalization growing revolution is having some dire consequences to the local ecosystem, notably, it seems to be killing Northern spotted owls! Unfortunately the profitable of the marijuana legalization vote in California has seen the rise of numerous unpermitted private grow sites. These grow sites are...

    Read More
  • Napoleon’s Biggest Loss Was Against A Horde Of Rabbits

    Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French emperor who dominated European and even global affairs for over a decade from 1804 to 1814. Renown for being one of the greatest military commanders ever to rule, his campaigns and victories are still studied around the world today. He won the vast majority of his battles, which means his...

    Read More
  • Surf’s up Or Sled's Up? The Magical Slurpee Waves

    If you happen to be out in Nantucket around Nobadeer beach, then we hope you dressed up warm. The air is currently so cold that the waves have been frozen! The well-documented cold that has come down on the U.S. East Coast has been freezing everyone, but in Massachusetts, it...

    Read More
  • The Luckiest Flying Ace Alive

    Captain John Herbert Hedley flew fighter planes for Britain during World War I. He once fell out of his plane and survived. I know what you are thinking, he simply opened his parachute? Well back in the days of World War I, the army thought pilots would not be aggressive enough if they had an...

    Read More
  • Is That Batman Or Is It Raining Bats?

    Is what you would say if you are currently living in New South Wales in Australia. Temperatures have reached soaring highs, causing the poor bats to just drop from the sky. The current heat wave is one of the most extreme this side of the planet has ever seen, rising over 111 degrees Fahrenheit. And...

    Read More