This week, the national archive has made the wills of over 100 historical figures available online. What follows is an extract of the will of Napoleon Bonaparte, written a month before his death in exile on St Helena.
This 15th April, 1821, at Longwood, Island of St Helena. This is my Testament, or act of my last will.
1. I die in the Apostolical Roman religion, in the bosom of which I was born more than 50 years since.
2. It is my wish that my ashes may repose on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people, whom I have loved so well.
3. I have always had reason to be pleased with my dearest wife, Maria Louisa. I retain for her, to my last moment, the most tender sentiments – I beseech her to watch, in order to preserve, my son from the snares which yet environ his infancy.
4. I recommend to my son never to forget that he was born a French prince, and never to allow himself to become an instrument in the hands of the triumvirs who oppress the nations of Europe: he ought never to fight against France, or to injure her in any manner; he ought to adopt my motto: “Everything for the French people.”
5. I die prematurely, assassinated by the English oligarchy and its tool. The English nation will not be slow in avenging me.
6. The two unfortunate results of the invasions of France, when she had still so many resources, are to be attributed to the treason of Marmont, Augereau, Talleyrand, and La Fayette. I forgive them – May the posterity of France forgive them as I do.
7. I thank my good and most excellent mother, the Cardinal, my brothers, Joseph, Lucien, Jerome, Pauline, Caroline, Julie, Hortense, Catarine, Eugene, for the interest they have continued to feel for me. I pardon Louis for the libel he published in 1820: it is replete with false assertions and falsified documents.
8. I disavow the “Manuscript of St Helena,” and other works, under the title of Maxims, Sayings, &c, which persons have been pleased to publish for the last six years. Such are not the rules which have guided my life. I caused the Duc d’Enghien to be arrested and tried, because that step was essential to the safety, interest, and honour of the French people, when the Count d’Artois was maintaining, by his own confession, 60 assassins at Paris. Under similar circumstances, I should act in the same way.