- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

PARIS — Military genius, conqueror of Europe and Egypt, lawmaker, looter of art without equal and lover: None of Napoleon’s extraordinary talents has saved him from the indignity of failing to make a Top 10 of greatest Frenchmen or women.

Admirers and impartial academics alike were aghast at the news that the little corporal who became an emperor had only made it to No. 16 in the top 100 names in a poll for the state-owned TV channel France 2.

The short list, from which the final choice for overall winner will be made, stops at No. 10, condemning the Corsican defeated at Waterloo to obscurity as an also-ran in the competition.

“This is the man who, beyond the military adventures, gave us the baccalaureate, the State Council, the Bank of France, the lycees and our system of law,” said Eric Ledru, editor-in-chief of the Napoleonic Institute’s respected six-monthly review.

“To exclude him from the 10 most important people in French history simply doesn’t correspond with reality. … It shows an extraordinary lack of vision.”

The British version of the show crowned Winston Churchill as history’s greatest Briton after the wartime leader bested other heavyweights in the top 10: singers Boy George, John Lennon and Paul McCartney as well as Princess Diana, who finished ahead of Shakespeare.

The Germans voted for their former chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, and the Dutch for the slain right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn.

French viewers will be asked to choose the eventual winner by telephone, Internet or text message after a follow-up show tomorrow.

The final lineup, listed alphabetically, includes Gen. Charles de Gaulle, scientists Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, singer Edith Piaf, explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, giants of French literature Moliere and Victor Hugo, comedians Coluche and Bourvil, and the only living contender, the 92-year-old philanthropic priest Abbe Pierre. He helped Jews to escape from the Nazis and later campaigned tirelessly for the poor.

The daily newspaper Le Parisien observed snootily that it would be droll indeed if “one of a couple of comics was ultimately chosen by the public as greatest Frenchman of all time.”

Disapproval extended far beyond France. “I am incensed at the ignorance this displays,” said Ben Weider, Canadian president of the International Napoleonic Society.

Napoleon was not the only man or woman whose ranking raised eyebrows.

Louis XIV, the Sun King, had to settle for 50th place, 16 behind the pop singer Johnny Hallyday, while President Jacques Chirac came in 42nd and his socialist predecessor, Francois Mitterrand, 22nd. Joan of Arc came 31st.

One French television viewer said: “Younger people simply do not identify with Napoleon. He was short, arrogant and I wouldn’t have voted for him.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide