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Vintage painting of The Emperor Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries. Original by Jacques-Louis David, 1812.
Disturbing Details Found in Napoleon's Autopsy Report
By Carlo Massimo
History - Science
Napoleon Bonaparte, first emperor of France and monumental personality of European history, died in disgrace. On October 15, 1815, less than six months after his defeat at Waterloo, he was ferried to St. Helena — a bleak, rocky island in the cold South Atlantic — to spend the rest of his days under the watch of his English captors.
Napoleon spent his eight-year exile playing cards, dictating his memoirs, and gaining weight. His already suffering health began to swiftly deteriorate in the early months of 1821 — a situation made worse by the inexperience of his new doctor, Francesco Antommarchi — and he eventually died on May 5 at the age of 51.
The exact cause of Napoleon’s death was complicated by two contradictory autopsy reports. One, completed by Antommarchi, held that the emperor’s lungs and liver were severely diseased and that the membrane surrounding his heart was covered in small tumors; for unknown reasons, Antommarchi did not name the underlying cause.
Another report, done by two British doctors on St. Helena, instead stated that Napoleon’s lungs were in excellent shape. It was inconclusive about the state of his liver, but did indicate that an ulcer in the emperor’s stomach had not only pierced the organ’s wall but had also turned cancerous.
This bizarre and conflicting list of symptoms has led to much speculation about what really killed Napoleon, with some suspecting that he was poisoned. However, it seems most likely that he died of stomach cancer, the same disease that had killed his father, while also suffering from stress and the incompetence of his doctor.