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Napoleon and Wellington: The Long Duel [Paperback]

Andrew Roberts
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Jun 2002
On the morning of the battle of Waterloo, the Emperor Napoleon declared that the Duke of Wellington was a bad general, the British were bad soldiers and that France could not fail to win an easy victory. Forever afterwards historians have accused him of gross overconfidence, and massively underestimating the calibre of the British commander opposed to him. Andrew Roberts presents an original, highly revisionist view of the relationship between the two greatest captains of their age. Napoleon, who was born in the same year as Wellington - 1769 - fought Wellington by proxy years earlier in the Peninsula War, praising his ruthlessness in private while publicly deriding him as a mere 'sepoy general'. In contrast, Wellington publicly lauded Napoleon, saying that his presence on a battlefield was worth forty thousand men, but privately wrote long memoranda lambasting Napoleon's campaigning techniques. Although Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, Napoleon left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate Wellington. Wellington in turn amassed a series of Napoleonic trophies of his great victory, even sleeping with two of the Emperor's mistresses.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (6 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842124803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842124802
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 13.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,110,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Roberts's Masters and Commanders was one of the most acclaimed, bestselling history books of 2008. His previous books include Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), which won the Wolfson History Prize and the James Stern Silver Pen Award for Non-Fiction, Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership (2003), which coincided with four-part BBC2 history series. He is one of Britain's most prominent journalists and broadcasters.

Product Description

Amazon Review

After his provocative Eminent Churchillians and his magisterial, award-winning Salisbury, Andrew Roberts' Napoleon and Wellington moves further back into the past to examine those titans of early 19th-century Europe. One was revolutionary, one deeply conservative. One aimed to change everything, the other aimed to achieve nothing except to stop the other changing anything. Roberts pre-empts the obvious moan regarding this well-tilled field, by pointing out that this is the first book to examine exactly what the two men thought of each other, and revealing the fascinating contradiction between what they said in public and in private. Roberts' cautious, subtle reading of character, and the narrow focus on just two men--not a mention of Rifleman Harris here--gives the book a novelistic brio. Wellington could be every bit as vainglorious as Napoleon, but Napoleon was unforgiving. Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, but Napoleon left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate the Duke. And once Napoleon had gone, Wellington amassed endless trophies of his great enemy--including not one but two of the Emperor's mistresses. Roberts' wry comment: "To sleep with one of Napoleon's mistresses might be considered an accident, but to sleep with two might suggest a pattern of triumphalism..." English readers, who have long lived with the notoriously bitchy comment from another of Wellington's mistresses, that one of their greatest national heroes was, in bed at least, "a cold fish," will be delighted to hear a second opinion from one of these ex-Imperial bed-warmers, that compared to Napoleon, Wellington was "beaucoup le plus fort". So there. Roberts is witty as well as wise, with chapter titles such as "The War for Clio's Ear". And he ends on a provocative, characteristically Euro-sceptic note: Wellington may have won at Waterloo, but today's "politically united Europe led by a centralised (French-led) bureaucracy", represents a final triumph for the Napoleonic vision... touché. --Christopher Hart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Roberts has set himself a massively challenging task and emerged triumphant." Guardian "genuinely revealing" Sunday Times "Stripping his protagonists of mythic accretions, Roberts describes their trajectories with impressive verve." Independent "As well as being intelligent and opinionated, Roberts is a pleasure to read." Daily Telegraph "So many books have been written about Napoleon that it takes something special to justify a new one. Andrew Roberts triumphantly fulfils that obligation... This is an enthralling narrative, full of original insights and bold historical interpretations." Mail on Sunday "A remarkably readable book that serves as an excellent introduction to a key moment in European history, while still offering new insights to the specialist." The Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Viewpoint of Napoleon and Wellington 16 May 2002
By A Customer
The popular viewpoint of these famous foes is that Napoleon totally underestimated Wellington therefore his defeat at Waterloo was inevitable. Author Roberts examines their relationship in great detail and his conclusions regarding their opinion of one and other will startle most readers.

Although most of what's written here is of a highly conjectural nature, there is little doubt that there was much more of a psychological battle brewing between these rivals than most historians will care to admit. Was Napoleon's "bad-mouthing" of Wellington merely "sour grapes" after Waterloo? Roberts points out that Napoleon was certainly saved from execution after the battle by Wellington, but the Duke probably had alterior motives besides humanitarian reasons.

Roberts gets some good mileage out of the fact that the Europe of today is much more in line with the vision that Napoleon had two-hundred years ago.
Wellington's old-school aristocracy is merely a remnant of the past now. That shouldn't prejudice the reader, however, to favor the Emperor over the Duke. Wellington did have the distinct advantage of out-living Napoleon by nearly forty years although his own political career as Prime Minister of Great Britain was less than successful. Political and military accomplishments aside, Wellington made it a point during his long life to at least publicly admire Napoleon "the general" even if he regarded the ex-Emperor's reforms with distaste. To his credit, despite all the honors and glory heaped upon Wellington after Waterloo, he never bragged about the victory or used it, either publicly or privately, to insult the vanguished prisoner on St. Helena. His real true opinion of Napoleon, like Napoleon's own viewpoint, will never be known. Roberts at least gives us an insider's view on what might have been. It makes one inevitably sorry that these two titans of the 19th Century never had the opportunity to sit down for a nice long chat.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Roberts sets out his ideas in a lucid and impartial fashion, allowing events to speak for themselves. Beginning with a brief outline of the two men's similarities - we then discover the fateful steps which demand that their fates must intersect. Waterloo is the venue of that junction - with Wellington's star still in its ascendancy, and Napoleon's upon the wane. On the day, Roberts shows us Wellington as a man who's militaristic skills have been honed directly by confrontation with the best marshals and generals Napoleon had previously mustered against him in Spain. Napoleon himself described the Peninsular War as a 'school for British soldiers'.
Wellington is obsessed with tiny details, and so respectful of Napoleon's tactics, that he anticipates wide flanking manoeuvres and plans pre-emptive measures against them. Napoleon, by contrast, is a man in ill health. Perhaps unaware of the number of Wellington's true force, delegating responsibility to a level that he has never before adopted. A man of previously great strategies, wearily repeating himself - the best of his army lost in Russia, three years earlier. On the day, Roberts shows us Wellington as the man prepared. The aftermath of Waterloo sees a profound change in both men. Napoleon, wrongly believing Wellington responsible for his exile, becomes bitter and mean-spirited towards the man he once respected. So petty that he even bequests 10,000 francs to Wellington's failed assassin. Wellington, the man actually responsible for Napoleon's continued existence, becomes a somewhat ghoulish collector of Napoleonic ephemera - and spends the rest of his life referencing his greatest battle, either as a 'party piece' or correcting the mistakes of an antagonistic press.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN HISTORIC MISUNDERSTANDING 22 Nov 2011
Andrew Roberts is a prolific writer and lecturer on English and British history. He is particularly well known for `Eminent Churchillians' (1994), a collection of essays about prominent figures of the twentieth century; and `Salisbury: Victorian Titan' (1999), the authorised biography of the Victorian Prime Minister. Both of these are excellent; and I found `Salisbury' particularly illuminating, because figures of the Right seldom enjoy sympathetic treatment.

This book is highly original and very well written. I bought it at Apsley House, the London home of the Duke of Wellington, once known simply as `No. 1 London'; and it greatly enriched the experience.

Roberts is always interesting, even when he is not being controversial; but it has to be said that the subject matter of this book is more limited than the title might suggest. It is not so much a book about Napoleon and Wellington, as a book about what the two men thought about each other. Still interesting, but if the reader wants a straightforward account of their careers, he should start elsewhere.

Stephen Cooper
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good partly because it goes beyond Waterloo 9 April 2008
Napoleon and Wellington: the Long Duel is a very interesting work by Andrew Roberts. I have read a number of his works and this is certainly up there with the best of them. It explains in detail how these two men came to meet on a fateful day in 1815 with the destiny of Europe respectively in their hands but it also goes further which marks it out from many books on these two historical giants. It shows in detail how having defeated Napoleon, Wellington proceeded to pour salt in the wound by his actions while Napoleon never seems to have got over the fact that he was defeated by a man he once dismissed as a sepoy general. Overall this is a very interesting work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Napoleon and Wellington
Having already read biographies of both Napoleon and Wellington I wasn't too sure what to expect from this book. I was pleasantly surprised. Mr. Read more
Published 9 months ago by frankie5angels
2.0 out of 5 stars Napoleon and Wellington
To begin with, the vendor charged me far too much for packing & postage.I have read other more detailed books on the subject. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Karim
5.0 out of 5 stars history
a well written book, subjects brought to life by excellent author. highly recommend to someone coming to these people for first time
Published on 12 May 2011 by phantom
5.0 out of 5 stars Wellington shmellington
What an excellent book.
After reading a series of four books esposing the lives of Napoleon and Wellington I bought this on the recommendation of the author of those books. Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2011 by Gary
5.0 out of 5 stars wellington and napoleon
Very good which details both men's rise through the ranks to their first and only direct engagement at waterloo
Published on 3 Nov 2010 by lbh
4.0 out of 5 stars The Battle for Posterity
Andrew Roberts has the two qualities essential to the historian: academic substance and a good literary style. Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2009 by Oliver Twist
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor attempt to add a new flavour to this well troden subjec
Andrew Roberts has attempted to link the lives of Wellington and Napoleon by examining their personalities and tastes. Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2002 by Roderick B. Jones
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