1 9 7 4 (UK)
9 x 60 minute episodes
Featuring an illustrious cast headed by Ian Holm, this nine-part dramatised account of the life and loves of Napoleon Bonaparte is a classic series from Thames Television.
At 25, Napoleon is already a general in the French army, although on the unemployed list. In Marseilles, he woos Desiree Clary (Karen Dotrice), the daughter of a rich merchant but her family refuse a marriage until he has position and money.
Napoleon leaves for Paris, where he is put in charge of the Tuileries and is soon made Commander of the Army of the Interior. There – in 1795 – he meets and falls passionately in love with Joséphine Beauharnais (Billie Whitelaw).
Joséphine, a philanderer, cannot give Napoleon a child (although she has a son and a daughter from her first marriage) and Napoleon begins to take mistresses – including Madame Duchatel (Stephanie Beacham) and Georgina (Nicola Pagett).
Eleonore Dunuelle (Diana Quick), a sensual 18-year-old, bears him a son, but he doubts its paternity. In 1807 he meets already wed Countess Marie Walewska (Catherine Schell), who eventually gives him a son.
Delighted to have finally proved his potency, he divorces Joséphine and marries the 18-year old Archduchess Marie-Louise (Susan Wooldridge) of Austria. Their son later became Napoleon II.
Exhausted by his young wife’s sexual demands, Napoleon goes happily off to war in Russia. He returns to find his empire crumbling and his friends plotting against him. He is forced to abdicate and is exiled to Elba. Napoleon never sees his wife or their son again.
He returns in triumph from Elba but is defeated at Waterloo. The English take him away, alone, to St Helena.
The series featured many other high calibre actors, including Ronald Hines, Peter Bowles, Gary Waldhorn and Stephanie Beacham.
Edward de Souza
Madame de Remusat
Prince of Mecklenburg