Though it may be best suited for initiates of Napoleona, The Invisible Emperor details the deceptively calm but ultimately catastrophic interlude in the 25-year military career of one of history’s most famous soldiers, Napoleon. Historian Mark Braude has re-created a detailed description of the emperor’s 10-month exile from France to the island of Elba ... Braude’s narrow focus on this 'invisible' interlude dangles bits of psychological suppositions not always entirely supported, but his view of a man still caught up in his own self-image—one which, it must be admitted, was shared by many others—is intriguing.
Mark Braude’s fine and simply written book describes how the emperor began to lord it over on the islanders upon arrival and create something of a Napoleonic France in miniature—ordering the building of houses and roads, developing commerce, maintaining a tiny army and navy ... It’s a fun read overall and, though not earth-shattering in revelation, Braude’s unique focus allows The Invisible Emperor a welcome into the plethora of Napoléon biographies.
The Treaty of Fontainebleau exiled the emperor to Elba and generously gave him sovereignty over the small island, which was rich in mineral deposits, featuring iron mines and good wine but poor soil. It certainly had no structure anywhere near sufficient to house the emperor. Accompanying him was Neil Campbell, a representative of England’s government who was directed to act as an impartial observer but not an enforcer. Campbell had no power or control over the emperor and spent a good deal of his time away with his mistress. Counting on his promised annual allowance, Napoleon was free to build houses and roads, develop commerce, maintain a navy and army, and even claim the nearby fertile land of Pianosa ... Though not earth-shattering in his insights, Braude’s unique focus will allow this book to sit comfortably alongside the countless other Napoleon biographies. A simply written, sturdy addition to the groaning Napoleon shelves.