Help support TMP

"Barbaric Brits" Topic

58 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

1,924 hits since 12 Jan 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 

Gazzola12 Jan 2018 4:58 p.m. PST

Very interesting article, although I imagine some may not enjoy reading it. It suggests that while the good old Brits were committing atrocities against their allies and those they were supposed to be helping 'liberate', in Spain in 1813 (eg: San Sebastian), they were executing quite few of their own back home. In fact, more than twice as many as in nasty Napoleon's France. Very telling considering that France had a much larger population. And the number of executions in 1816 is even more telling and one wonders was the high numbers due to the Brits no longer having any Frenchmen (or allies)to kill? LOL

It certainly doesn't seem to fit with the Anti-Napper's blinkered viewpoint of Napoleon's France, does it?

All well, such is life.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

And under which of these elaborate procedures was L'Overture incarcerated? The royal family of Spain? The Pope? There was a well-stocked prison of people who had crossed His Imperial Majesty in some way, and those were the ones lucky enough to be jailed. Please show me the British censors, and tell me how many political enemies the Prince Regent kept in the Tower?

And your reasoning seems to be that that country is best which punishes fewest criminals. Convince me that those British executions were unjust, and you'll have made a case. But of course the author doesn't even try.

And show me anyone in the period who would not prefer being occupied by a British army to being liberated by the French.

If you want to build a case for that Corsican monster, my advise is to stick to his road-paving campaign and give him credit for judicial reforms under way before he seized power. I am far from taking a "blinkered" view of British power and its abuses. I'm totaling up our Revolutionary War dead as a regular activity, and 7,000 of my countrymen were flogged or imprisoned in British ships. But there could be no peace with Napoleon.

Oh. And I'm cutting him some slack on Madame de Stael. I'd have thrown her out of town too. But either you have law or you don't, and Napoleon never recognized a law which restrained his power.

HairiYetie12 Jan 2018 7:49 p.m. PST

Apologies Bob, but you seem to be glossing over the minutiae of history. I seem to remember reading that it was the Royal houses of Europe who invaded France in fear of losing their priviledged God given right to rule their subjects if the popular revolution in France were to spread to their cosy corners. The Revolutionary wars in turn developed into the Napoleonic wars as Bonaparte assumed the leadership of France. I am pretty confident in stating that most of Napoleon's wars up to 1812 were a direct consequence of the British blockade of French ports and his efforts to counter that … starting with the middle east expedition and ending in the Moscow debacle. Even the creation of the confederation of the Rhine was a defensive step which showed that he did not aspire to subjugate all of Europe. From 1813 on it was a war of self defence.

The "no peace with Napoleon" was a condition imposed by England, not Napoleon. I believe that England saw France under Napoleon as a direct threat to the European status quo in which they ruled the roost with their Navy, their wealth and a sprawling Empire.

How does it go … Rule Brittania, Brittania rule the world …

It is interesting that the countries taken over by Britain were called colonies and the people were called subjects whereas when Napoleon annexed Belgium and Holland, he made them part of France and made the people French citizens with all the privileges and responsibilities as citizens born in France. Unfortunately for Napoleon he was beset by wars which dragged on and on and which forced him to impose demands and controls on his own people, who ultimately turned against him.

British censors? Who needs censors when everything of consequence is controlled by royalty, nobility and clergy and any sign of dissention wins a one way cruise ticket to Australia.

GreenLeader12 Jan 2018 8:34 p.m. PST

"How does it go … Rule Brittania, Brittania rule the world …"

No. That's not how it goes.

Whirlwind12 Jan 2018 9:45 p.m. PST

I seem to remember reading that it was the Royal houses of Europe who invaded France in fear of losing their priviledged God given right to rule their subjects if the popular revolution in France were to spread to their cosy corners.

I think your memory is deceiving you. France declared war on Austria to begin the wars.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2018 10:21 p.m. PST

Oh good. DH bait.
I'll start the soup kitchen going.

HairiYetie13 Jan 2018 2:14 a.m. PST

@ Greenleader … ruling the waves = ruling the world as in fact occurred for a couple of centuries.

@ Whirlwind … you are correct, France declared war but only after Prussia and Austria openly planned an invasion of France. Was that a bluff that went wrong like what happened to Nasser in 1967?

42flanker13 Jan 2018 3:03 a.m. PST

'The minutiae of history.'


GreenLeader13 Jan 2018 3:37 a.m. PST

No excuse not to quote the song correctly, and rather a stretch to claim that Britain ever 'ruled the world'. The song as written was an exhortation to rule the waves, not a statement that this was the case.

Also: 'Britannia', not 'Brittania'.

Gwydion13 Jan 2018 3:44 a.m. PST

There are all sorts of reasons that could explain this if it were true -

France had seen a lot of blood letting in the 'Terror' which may have removed many criminals, most of the criminal class had been swept up in conscription for Bonaparte's adventurism etc (the English were containing their revolutionaries at this time – thus saving thousands of lives).

However, how accurate is this claim?

The article claims a total of 2,714 death sentences between 1813-16 and implies these equalled executions.

Capital Punishment UK lists 2,340 executions between 1800 and 1827.


Many death sentences were commuted to transportation at this time, and appeals revoked some sentences and reduced others.

However it looks like cherry picking sources to prove a point to me.

Besides Bonaparte was well ahead by several million in the mass murder stakes.grin

Whirlwind13 Jan 2018 4:13 a.m. PST

France declared war but only after Prussia and Austria openly planned an invasion of France. Was that a bluff that went wrong like what happened to Nasser in 1967?

No, they didn't openly plan it, but they did openly consider it – just as some elements of the French Revolution (the Girondists link considered spreading the revolution – and to tie the loop to your other comments, the one major figure who was sentenced to death by Britain for sedition was Thomas Paine – who supported the Girondists.

Drunken skunk13 Jan 2018 4:30 a.m. PST

Rule Britannia is (in both versions) a patriotic (many would say an out and out jingoistic tubthumper, but most patriotic songs were at the time) celebration of Britain's Royal Navy. It's not about ruling the world. It's about naval power and being one in the eye for the Dutch, Spanish and French.

As for 'subjects/citizens' the denizens of the British Isles were subjects not citizens; this only changed in about 1948 when it was changed to reflect the legal difference between British nationals (who became citizens) and Commonwealth dependants (who remained subjects).

Inhabitants of the colonies were given equal title as mainland British inhabitants.

Yes it gets complicated with Napoleon bestowing the title Emperor upon himself, but France was still effectively a Republic even though it was an Empire (and hence technically a monarchy).

Semantics I know…

And of course, with our C21 goggles on everybody was barbaric, still doesn't make it right, but everything needs to be taken in original context. As L P Hartley starts the Go-Between "the past is a different country, they do things differently there" (I possibly paraphrase)

42flanker13 Jan 2018 5:27 a.m. PST

("The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.")

These catchy lyrics written in 1740 (the author was a Whig Scotsman, by the way) in fact related to King Alfred's resistance against the Danes, which involved the creation of an early version of the Royal Navy. They seem very prophetic for a small country that between 1745 and 1805 faced foreign invasion five or six times, not least in 1805:

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame:
All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.

"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
"Britons never will be slaves."

Nothing much about about conquest there.

Le Breton13 Jan 2018 7:58 a.m. PST

"Napoleon bestowing the title Emperor upon himself, but France was still effectively a Republic even though it was an Empire"

Constitution de l'an XII, Titre VII, Article 53.

Le serment de l'empereur : " Je jure de maintenir l'intégrité du territoire de la République, de respecter et de faire respecter les lois du concordat et la liberté des cultes ; de respecter et faire respecter l'égalité des droits, la liberté politique et civile, l'irrévocabilité des ventes des biens nationaux ; de ne lever aucun impôt, de n'établir aucune taxe qu'en vertu de la loi ; de maintenir l'institution de la Légion d'honneur ; de gouverner dans la seule vue de l'intérêt, du bonheur et de la gloire du peuple français. "

" I swear to mantain the territorial integrity of the Republic, to respect and to make respected the laws of the concordat [with the Church] and the freedom of religion ; to respect and make respected equality before the law, political and civil liberty, and the irrevocability of the sale of nationalized properties [of ex-nobles] ; to never raise any impost nor establish any tax except in virtue of the law ; to maintain the institution of the Legion of Honor ; to govern only in view of the interests, the welfare and glory of the French people. "

rmaker13 Jan 2018 10:24 a.m. PST

Republics do not have Emperors.

42flanker13 Jan 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

They do if the emperor says so..

Supercilius Maximus13 Jan 2018 11:17 a.m. PST

If the British were so barbaric, why did Napoleon choose to surrender to them, rather than to the plethora of much more civilised countries that Gazzola implies were around at the time?

Le Breton13 Jan 2018 12:05 p.m. PST

For comparison, Russian coronation Oath ….

"O Lord, my God, King of kings and Lord of lords, having saved me unharmed from all tribulations and misfortunes, now, I am justified in reigning over this glorious people, confessing Your mercy to me, and thanks to Your Majesty that I worship. But you, Master and Lord, instruct me in the matter, for what else did You send me, and teach and guide me in this great service, give me humility, and the wisdom that is before Your throne. Wake my heart in Thy hand, that I may arrange all things for the benefit of the people that have been given to me, and for Your glory, for even unto the day of Your judgment, I will spread the Holy Word. By the mercy and bounty of His only-begotten Son, with Him I am blessed with the Most Holy and Blessed Bounty – that of Your Spirit – for ever and ever.

All quite Divine Right-ish, isn't it?

42flanker13 Jan 2018 2:05 p.m. PST

If the British were so barbaric, why did Napoleon choose to surrender to them..?

1. The cuisine
2. The weather
3. Numerous country houses populated by sparky young women

(4. A highly permeable coastline…)

Le Breton14 Jan 2018 3:13 a.m. PST

"If the British were so barbaric, why did Napoleon choose to surrender to them..?"

What were the alternatives? What would the other powers have done with him?

The Prussians, we are pretty sure, would have hanged him, right?

The Russians? Give him to the Prussians? Build him a countryside mansion in some remote place in the Urals? Ask him to "convert" to Orthodoxy and take command of their armies against the Turks and Persians? Ask him to "convert" to Orthodoxy and appoint him the governor of Russian-occupied Poland?

The Austrians? Give him to the Prussians? Give him to the Russians? Build him a countryside mansion in some remote place in the Tyrol?

basileus6614 Jan 2018 6:39 a.m. PST

The article is a bit misleading. It quotes 713 death sentences for 1813 in England and Wales, 558 in 1814, 553 in 1815 and 890 for the year 1816. However, in 1813 122 death sentences were actually carried out; 74 in 1814; 58 in 1815; and 83 in 1816. In other words, of 2,714 death sentences being passed by the courts of law between 1813 and 1813, 337 were actually carried out, i.e. 12.41% of the condemned were executed.


On the other hand, while French courts of law in Napoleon's time passed less death sentences, they carried them out more frequently: 33-35% of the sentences, depending on the Court, which for 1160 sentences passed (according the article) between 1813-1816 it means 380 people were executed. By the way, it was Napoleon who reinstated the death penalty in the French Penal Code (february 1810)

Neither penal code was particularly brutal, compared with other countries and, at least, accused in England, Wales and France were better protected by the laws and courts than in many other countries.

Supercilius Maximus15 Jan 2018 7:49 a.m. PST

@Le Breton – Sorry, that was meant to be a rhetorical question. As you rightly say, he would either have been hanged, or handed over to the Prussians – then hanged.

Here is the text of the letter to George IV, dictated and signed by the Emperor himself. The words suggest that either Gazzola is full of it, or – shock horror – his beloved Boney was a liar:-

'Your Royal Highness, A victim to the factions which distract my country, and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to throw myself on the hospitality of the British people.

'I put myself under the protection of their laws; which I claim from your Royal Highness, as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies. Rochefort 13 July 1815, Napoleon'.

@ Basileus – People are often surprised that the British Army of WW1 was better at commuting death sentences (>90%) than corresponding civilian authorities of the same era (<85%).

Gazzola15 Jan 2018 12:10 p.m. PST

Supercilius Maximus

You do realise that you have left yourself open for being accused of diverting the topic. I never mentioned anything in my post about what would or should happen to defeated leaders. But thank you for bleating on about the Prussians hanging a defeated leader of a country if they captured him. I guess, to you, that is not barbaric. It does however, suggest that Napoleon should have been as barbaric as the Prussians and hanged all the leaders of the nations after he defeated them. Thank you for bringing that up. Much appreciated, although I doubt other anti-Nappers will appreciate your contribution.

And Napoleon surrendering to the British does not mean the British were not barbaric, but could imply they were less barbaric than the Prussians.

Why did you feel compelled to include a WW1 piece? That's a bit like someone posting what the Germans did in WW2. I think that's taking diverting the topic to the extreme. Naughty boy! But don't worry, it happens all the time. LOL

Gazzola15 Jan 2018 12:30 p.m. PST

Hairi Yetie

Great posts. But the truth hurts some people attending this site far too much. They don't like it.

Gazzola15 Jan 2018 12:35 p.m. PST


'mass murder stakes' Interesting statement. Hmm, that suggests the British are even more barbaric since Napoleon could not commit his 'mass murders' without British financial aid paying for nations to make war against Napoleon. Thanks for bringing that up.

So far, posts implying the British are barbaric but the Prussians are even more barbaric. Thank you for the support. And here's me expecting the exact opposite. LOL

Gazzola15 Jan 2018 12:44 p.m. PST

Drunken Skunk

'everyone was barbaric'

Good point but sadly ignored. And since you have dared to replace Napoleon or the French with 'everyone', some people won't accept it and will probably accuse you of being a Bonapartist. It happens all the time. LOL

foxweasel Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2018 12:53 p.m. PST

It suggests that while the good old Brits were committing atrocities against their allies
Can't see anywhere in the article where it suggests this.

basileus6615 Jan 2018 1:13 p.m. PST

I am not sure what is your point, Gazzola. Are you claiming that the British were particularly barbaric? Or that they were more "barbaric" than the French? And by "barbaric" what do you actually mean? It is such a vague term that I can't grasp what meanings you want to attach to the word. Furthermore, as you don't include in your post -neither the article you have linked- the executions ordered by military courts, nor the extra-judicial killings, it becomes impossible to compare the violence inherent to both political systems. Neither have you considered the violence against civilians in occupied territories, perpetrated by French and British.

When, and only when, you provide the relevant information we will be able to engage in a meaningful discussion about legal and extra-legal violence in Napoleonic France and in Britain. In the meanwhile, it will be the all-too-familiar tempest in a teapot that from time to time agitates the TMP waters.

42flanker15 Jan 2018 1:16 p.m. PST

For what it's worth, George was still only Prince Regent at the time, – HRH-, rather than King George (IV). He had to wait another four years or so until his poor father shuffled off.

Did Themistocles really make to prydain in the Tin Age?

Supercilius Maximus15 Jan 2018 2:37 p.m. PST

But thank you for bleating on about the Prussians hanging a defeated leader of a country if they captured him. I guess, to you, that is not barbaric.

1) I wasn't the person who initially brought this up.
2) Actually, in these circumstances, I would say it was (so you guessed wrong – and not for the first time).

Sorry your attempt at trolling failed. Coming so soon on the heels of your master getting his backside handed to him on the thread about Britain "aiding assassination attempts and hosting terrorist training camps", it's not been a good month for you and the nutty Colonel has it?

And the point about WW1 was directed at Basileus, as it noted that the commutation rate for the British Army in WW1 was of the same order as the commutation rate he found. Sorry you weren't smart enough to spot that (which is why it wasn't directed to you). Incidentally, I notice you had nothing to say about B's point that when you take into account executions that actually took place, France was probably slightly worse. Funny that, isn't it?

And whilst your in such a garrulous mood, how about explaining the different treatment dished out to the Duc D'Enghien by Napoleon, and Napper Tandy by the British authorities.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2018 5:52 p.m. PST

You know, the original meaning of "barbarian" is "foreigner".
As far as I'm concerned, all those European Johnnies are just a bunch of damn foreigners. One can't be more foreign, or barbarian than the other.

foxweasel Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2018 11:43 p.m. PST

Go the Yanks😁

Le Breton16 Jan 2018 2:33 a.m. PST

We burned Toronto (York).
The British burned Washington.

1-1 and it went into extra time, right?

Greystreak16 Jan 2018 3:58 a.m. PST

Yep. And that dust-up in New Orleans, after the final whistle, was a bit unseemly.

42flanker16 Jan 2018 8:01 a.m. PST

No buildings were hurt in the making of that fracas.

Murvihill16 Jan 2018 9:31 a.m. PST

I would actually be OK with the Prussians hanging Napoleon in 1815. They played nice with him the first time and he chose to take advantage of their gentleness. The punishment should have been harsher the second time and hanging would have been an ironclad guarantee against recidivism. I've read that the British didn't hang him themselves or turn him over to someone else so he could act as a tacit threat to the king of France, maybe one of the experts can answer that.

Tango0116 Jan 2018 9:37 a.m. PST

What if Napoleón hang Blücher when he fall as prisioner?…

Hang prisioners of War is not a good thing.


42flanker16 Jan 2018 12:36 p.m. PST

Presumably there would have been a trial.

basileus6616 Jan 2018 1:56 p.m. PST

Why would have anyone wanted to hang him? Seriously. It would have made bad example to kill a monarch. Even if his legitimacy wasn't accepted, the truth is that all the crowned heads had signed agreements with him, which was as a good argument in favour of his legitimacy as anyone. No. Kings doesn't execute Kings, less Emperors. Kings were executed by Republics, or assassinated, or killed in battle, or even murdered, but not executed by other Monarch. I don't believe that the Prussians would have hanged Napoleon. Surrendering to the British made sense, though. It save everyone involved a lot of embarrassment and potential political nightmares.

42flanker16 Jan 2018 2:29 p.m. PST

Would Napoleon have been concerned with saving embarrassment?

Lilian16 Jan 2018 2:59 p.m. PST

Napoleon whished to live as any exiled bourgeois in the United States, unfortunately for him but good for his legend the British didn't want him in England too scared by the unexpected popularity he has in the british people of the working and middle classes, even with 15 to 23 years of propaganda, war and caricatures against Revolution, the French and Boney…

basileus6616 Jan 2018 9:46 p.m. PST

Would Napoleon have been concerned with saving embarrassment?

Yes, why not? Glory can survive defeat, but it is killed by ridicule.

42flanker16 Jan 2018 11:54 p.m. PST

But would he have been concerned about embarrassment or political nightmares for anyone else, as long as he got the best result for himself?

basileus6617 Jan 2018 4:02 a.m. PST

He wouldn't have got a good result for himself. Being put on trial? Him? The Emperor? He would have considered it an indignity.

Le Breton17 Jan 2018 6:51 a.m. PST

I agree with Basileus – death before dishonor : he took poison along to Russia, just in case.

Actually, it says alot about how Napoléon viewed the British that he surrendered to them – he would have done so if he was assured of not only "non-barbaric" treatment, but really of polite and respectful treatment. Which is what he received. Even today, being rather polite and respectful is a "thing" in Britain, right?

The Russians might have done as well or even better by him ---- but they also might have brought him back home in an iron cage and crucified him as the anti-christ. Russians are really lots of fun … until they are not.

42flanker17 Jan 2018 7:30 a.m. PST

Aren't we all?

Tango0117 Jan 2018 9:42 a.m. PST

Biend dicho Antonio!…


britishbulldog18 Jan 2018 12:06 p.m. PST

This thread has made interesting reading and some very good points regarding our forefathers actions have been raised. However, I doubt there is any country on this planet which from antiquity to the present day is innocent of commiting atrocities, either legal or illegal against its enemies or, indeed, its own inhabitants.
Let the person, from any country that is innocent – cast the first stone.

Nine pound round18 Jan 2018 1:11 p.m. PST

I seem to remember that one reason HMG hastened Boney off to St Helena was fear that the Opposition in Parliament would demand that they provide a writ of habeas corpus if he were imprisoned (even under house arrest) in the UK.

Setting aside the question of whether that is true or not, it seems to me that barbaric governments are not as a general rule distinguished by their tolerance for either institutions such as habeas corpus or an opposition that is independent and unruly.

GreenLeader18 Jan 2018 9:08 p.m. PST


You are, of course, spot on. There is a certain type of Briton who takes great pleasure in denigrating their own nation in a way almost unthinkable anywhere else.

Perhaps George Orwell put it best:

'In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman, and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true, that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God Save the King' than stealing from a poor box.'

Pages: 1 2