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Which modern-day politician is most like Napoleon?

Which modern-day politician is most like Napoleon?

by host

“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemy’s” — Napoleon Bonaparte, French military commander and political leader. 

My, my, at Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender” — Abba, Swedish military historians.

All our political leaders want power (whether they admit it or not), but few will manage to secure even a fraction of that achieved — for good or ill — by Napoleon Bonaparte, the subject of a new blockbuster movie out this week.

But which of our current crop of leaders — and some from the not-so-distant past — can match up to Napoleon? To find out, we have come up with an entirely non-scientific ranking system, in which we take several of Napoleon’s more famous characteristics to see who best lives up to him.

Emmanuel Macron

Seriously? If anyone can be described as the modern incarnation of Napoleon, it’s France’s current emperor, with his penchant for the projection of French glory and love of gilded palatial interiors. Macron, like Bonaparte, grew up outside Paris and came out of nowhere to storm the political world and seize power in record time.  

Commemorating the bicentennial of Napoleon’s death in 2021, Macron fully embraced the emperor’s vast legacy in building most of the modern French state’s institutions, from the penal and civil codes to the appellate court and high schools. He described him as both “ogre and eagle, Alexander and Nero … the soul of the world and the demon of Europe.”

Macron is also, like Napoleon, not the first person you’d go to if you needed help reaching an item on a high shelf.

Petr Pavel

The Czech president has actually been a soldier and seen active service, rising to the rank of army general. Pavel also looks badass while riding his motorbike, which Napoleon would definitely have done if they had been invented. Disappointingly tall.

Ursula von der Leyen

Napoleon slept on a camp bed on campaign, just like the European Commission president in the Berlaymont. However, von der Leyen is a fine horsewoman while Napoleon was a poor rider, best suited to the artillery. Indeed, Napoleon’s willingness to sacrifice countless horses in war eventually undermined his military ambitions. His most famous horse, Marengo, outlived him while von der Leyen’s pet pony, Dolly, fared less well, being killed by a wolf.

Olaf Scholz

Meets the height requirement but falls desperately, er, short in other areas. While Scholz is big on military spending, as was Napoleon, the German chancellor chose to do his national service in a home for the elderly rather than in a barracks.

Scholz was also a floppy-haired leftie as a young man, and Napoleon would have fired grapeshot at him to clear him and his kind off the streets.

Boris Johnson

In the Egyptian campaign, Napoleon abandoned his troops and ran back home, putting his own interests above those of his soldiers. Remind you of anyone?

Napoleon was also a womanizer — his nemesis, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, is said to have seduced two of Napoleon’s many former mistresses, opera singer Giuseppina Grassini and actress Marguerite-Joséphine Weimer. The French emperor is believed to have fathered eight children (one fewer than Johnson, as far as we know).

Donald Trump

Has a very high opinion of himself, which is very Napoleon-like. But lots of points removed for being genuinely terrified of any kind of fighting (that doesn’t involve social media posts in ALL CAPS).

According to his former lawyer, Trump said he made up a fake injury to avoid military service, because “I wasn’t going to Vietnam.” While Trump got a doctor’s letter that he had bone spurs in his heels, Napoleon shrugged off a bullet in the ankle at the battle of Regensburg. The French commander was even undeterred from a military career by a bayonet wound in the thigh.

While the Brumaire coup of 1799 brought Napoleon to power as First Consul of France, the coup of January 6, 2021 did not bring Trump back to the White House.

Vladimir Putin

Like Napoleon, Putin loves a palace and, like Napoleon, Putin loves a war.

Napoleon is believed to have died after being poisoned — “I die before my time, murdered by the English oligarchy and its assassin” — with one story going that arsenic vapors from the perfidious British wallpaper on Saint Helena finished him off. Putin, meanwhile, loves a good poisoning, as long as his goons are the ones administering it. And while Napoleon is long dead, Putin is definitely alive (as the Kremlin is at pains to point out every week).

Keir Starmer

One of Napoleon’s most famous quotes is: “When your enemy is making a wrong move, you should be careful not to interrupt them.” This mantra has been very much taken to heart by the U.K. Labour leader, who does almost nothing while his political opponents shoot themselves repeatedly in the foot and face.

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