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From what ailment was Napoleon suffering during the battle?


Does anyone here know for certain what Napoleon was suffering from that obliged him to withdraw from the battle and put Ney in charge? Someone earlier suggested that he was suffering from haemorrhoids which sounds a little unlikely to me, although such medication as was available at the period such as opium might have had a deleterious effect upon him. With the passage of almost 200 years I should have thought some close study has been given to the matter.

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This is embarrassing, I seem to have found the answer to my own question as I have been hunting around on the internet. I was aware that there was a long-held theory that he may have been poisoned with arsenic by his guards while at St Helena, but this has been shown not to be the cause of death, notwithstanding the very high levels present found in hair samples. Studies undertaken elsewhere show that intestinal cancer was present at the end and may have been induced in earlier years by a diet when on campaign of salted meat and a low intake of vegetables and fruit. This is what I found:-

"American, Swiss and Canadian researchers applied modern pathological and tumor-staging methods to historical accounts and found that Napoleon died of a very advanced case of gastric cancer that stemmed from an ulcer-causing bacterial infection in his stomach, rather than a heretofore belief of a hereditary disposition to the cancer. The analysis, which also refutes rumors of arsenic poisoning, points to gastrointestinal bleeding as the likely immediate cause of death.

The report, available online and in the January edition of Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology, indicates that the despot's demise was imminent.

"This analysis suggests that, even if the emperor had been released or escaped from the island, his terminal condition would have prevented him from playing a further major role in the theater of European history," said Dr. Robert Genta, professor of pathology and internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study. "Even today, with the availability of sophisticated surgical techniques and chemotherapies, patients with gastric cancer as advanced as Napoleon's have a poor prognosis."

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Napoleon was suffering from an intestinal complaint at the time of the battle, (Interestingly,Robert E.Lee was in poor health at Gettysburg,so both commanders may have had their judgement impaired at crucial moments in their careers).

If one dismisses,as I belive one should,conspiracy theories about Napopleon's death ,the cause, as you rightly said,was Stomach Cancer.The Emperor presumably had a genetic pre-disposition to contracting this disease as his Father,a Brother and a Sister all died from the same illness.

I am by no means convinced that he would been prevented from playing "a further role in the theatre of European history ", as his death did not occur until six years after Waterloo.

Gordon P. Clarkson

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I was aware that there was a long-held theory that he may have been poisoned with arsenic by his guards while at St Helena, but this has been shown not to be the cause of death, notwithstanding the very high levels present found in hair samples.

Not to mention the fact that he wasn't exiled to St. Helena until after the Battle of Waterloo, making poisoning before the battle even more far-fetched. Piles has been suggested over the years, though there is also some belief that those folks are making excuses for Napoleon, instead of giving credit to Wellington and Blucher.

"Fortunately, Ah keep mah feathers numbered for just such an emergency!"

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Piles has been suggested over the years,

I just love the idea that Napoleon lost Waterloo because, at a crucial moment, he was bathing his arse in a bucket of cold water.

The church may shout but Darwin roars

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Quite a few commanders in history were not in the best of health at crucial points and this might have affected their generalship. At Borodino, the Russian commander Kutuzov remained remote from the battle and was described during it as being almost in a "trance". Kutuzov had been shot in the head years earlier but other than losing sight in an eye, it supposedly left him unaffected. I am not convinced it did leave him unaffected, and he must have suffered some brain damage. He certainly died the following year and may have been already dying at Borodino.
Napoleon himself put on weight from about 1807 onwards and some link this to a certain decline in his battlefield skills. Certainly from then on he seems to have been more inclined to win battles with brute force than the tactical skill he earlier showed.

"Chicken soup - with a *beep* straw."

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I'm sure I read somewhere that he was also suffering from cystitis at the time of the battle. No wonder his judgement was impaired if he had a constant need to go pass water and was pissing razor blades when he did so!

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Could be. He definitely suffered from some sort of ailment or ailments. He would have had the best medical care available at the time, including his own personal doctor, but treatments of the time would not have helped much for cystitis or indeed more serious illnesses, and even for an emperor just being on campaign would have taken its toll. He was dead six years later, despite not being all that old, and I don't think he was poisoned.
According to Wikipedia, Kutuzov was actually shot twice in the head, at different times but in nearly the same place. His survival was considered miraculous but it must have affected him (he was prone to blinding headaches) and during Borodino he had little impact on events, perhaps for health reasons.

"Chicken soup - with a *beep* straw."

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