“Napoleon Is the Boy for Kicking Up a Row”


Hard times now but "money was plenty as paving stones In the days of General Bonaparte." He far exceeded past great warriors. He returned from Elba but was murdered on St Helena. "But his nephew's on the throne of France"; maybe he will make England pay.


Napoleon's "nephew's on the throne of France": Napoleon III[1808-1873; president 1848-1852; emperor 1852-1870] was the son of Napoleon's stepdaughter and, nominally, his brother Louis Bonaparte. (source: "Napoleon III of France" at the Wikipedia site).

This ballad claims Napoleon "was sent off to a barren isle, Where he was murdered and ill-treated." Apparently the thought that Napoleon was poisoned is older than the speculation of the past fifty years that he was poisoned intentionally (possibly). (see, for example "Arsenic poisoning and Napoleon's death" by Hendrik Ball at the Victorian Web site).

Moylan p. 151: "Times were good during the Napoleonic era as the war effort generated massive demand for goods and services in Ireland. An economic slump ensued after Napoleon's defeat as the war machine was wound down and armies were demobilized." This is like the lines from "The Grand Conversation on Napoleon": "Napoleon he was a friend to heroes, both young and old, He caus'd the money for to fly wherever he did go." Here also is the main theme of "The Grand Conversation Under the Rose": "Come stir up the wars, and our trade will be flourishing." - BS

It's worth remembering that Napoleon poisoned *himself* -- he tried to commit suicide on April 13, 1814, as the allies closed in on Paris (see Alan Schom, _One Hundred Days_, pp. 2-3). Obviously, he failed -- but he was physically never the same. And he died of what may have been stomach cancer -- the sort of thing that, at the time, could easily have been blamed on poison.

Napoleon did have elevated levels of arsenic in his body when he died (though this was not established until recently, based on neutron activation analysis of his hair). This need not have been the result of poison, however, it turns out his wallpaper contained heavy doses of arsenic in the pigment (see John Emsley, _Nature's Building Blocks_, p. 46).

Saint Helena certainly qualifies as barren; according to the 2001 _Statesman's Yearbook_, it didn't even become a British colony until 1834, more than a decade after Napoleon's death. Even now,the population is less than 10,000, and the lone town, Jamestown, has only about 3000.

The alleged good times during the war with Napoleon are more weak memory than anything else; the British government nearly spent itself into the ground, the economy was weak (see "Ye Tyrants of England," e.g., where the people are promised an improved economy once Napoleon is gone), and if times were so good in Ireland, why was there a rebellion in 1798? The one thing Napoleon did was siphon off Irish youths of military age.

Napoleon III certainly wanted to enhance French power at British expense, but he didn't have much nerve. In the Crimean War, he allied with England against Russia. In the American Civil War, he is said to have wanted to support the Confederacy, but was unwilling to do so without British support -- and the British were too cautious (and their millworkers too anti-slavery). Ultimately, Napoleon III ended up dying in England, having done much to strenghen the British Empire despite himself. - RBW


  • Bodleian, Firth c.16(85), "Napoleon is the Boy for Kicking up a Row" ("Arrah, murther, but times is hard"), The Poet's Box (Glasgow), 1865


  1. Moylan 199, "Napoleon Is the Boy for Kicking Up a Row" (1 text)
  2. BI, Moyl199


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1865 (broadside Bodleian, Firth c.16(85))