Seven Things Napoleon Disliked (or Hated)

Although Napoleon liked many things, such as giving people nicknames, there were several people and things Napoleon disliked (or hated). He hated anyone who was weak, and he hated it when other European countries fought against him for power. There were also seven other things that he disliked or hated. They were Great Britain, Madame de Staël, bad books, cats, dogs, Kashmir shawls, and Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Napoleon Bonaparte. Author’s collection.

Napoleon hated Great Britain as much as the British feared him. Because of their fear, the British meddled in French affairs and that caused Napoleon to consider the British a constant thorn in his side. During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), he battled a fluctuating array of European powers that formed into various coalitions, and were financed and usually led by Great Britain. Napoleon wanted to destroy the British and hoped to replace their empire with French influence. Even after he was forced to abdicate, he still felt superior to the British, so that when he escaped Elba and before the Battle of Waterloo, he declared: 

“I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad soldiers; we will settle this matter by lunch time.”[1]

Of course, we all know his words came back to haunt him. Wellington defeated Napoleon and he was then imprisoned on St. Helena, where he died on 5 May 1821 of stomach cancer, just like his father.

Napoleon also disliked the formidable Anne Louise Germaine Necker, better known as Madame de Staël because she was unwilling to succumb to his influence. Germaine’s father was Jacques Necker, Louis XVI’s Finance Minister, and thereby a powerful and wealthy man. Napoleon was somewhat uncomfortable with her family connections, and he also wanted people to like him. Madame de Staël was not necessarily a warm and fuzzy person. Rather she was outspoken and bluntly told Napoleon how she felt about him as she boldly pointed out his mistakes. When rumors circulated in 1796 that she supported the restoration of the monarchy, Napoleon decided he had a reason to exile her, just like he would later exile her dear friend Madame Récamier. Madame de Staël later returned to France, but he exiled her again. During her time of exile, she continued to create enmity by criticizing Napoleon and his government through books, letters, and essays. Criticism by her caused Napoleon to dislike her even more. Therefore, when she wrote about Germany in her 1810 book title De l’Allemagne, he declared it anti-French and ordered all copies of the book destroyed. No reconcile ever occurred between the two before Madame de Staël died in 1817.

Things Napoleon disliked - Madame de Staël

Madame de Staël. Author’s collection.

Besides disliking Madame de Staël, another the things Napoleon disliked was bad books. During his time as a lonely cadet at military school, he became an avid reader. He enjoyed the classics and read the works of Roman and Greek authors such as Tacitus, Plutarch, and Homer. Moreover, according to twentieth-century writer Louis Etienne St. Denis because of Napoleon’s love for a good book, he was willing to show his great displeasure at a bad one.

“In each room of the private apartments at the Tuileries there were valets and grooms of the chamber. Among the latter were young men who had received an education. These latter amused themselves by reading in order to pass the time, and to divert themselves from the tedium of staying in a room. It sometimes happened that at the moment when they least expected it the Emperor would appear. The book would immediately be laid aside, but sometimes it was forgotten on a chair, a camp stool, or some other piece of furniture. If the book fell under the Emperor’s eyes he would take it and look through it. If it was a good book he would put it back where he found it, but if it was bad he would show a lively displeasure at the fact that the reading of such books in his palace was permitted. I am not sure that he did not throw them into the fire.”[2]

Although Napoleon may have disliked books, he disliked cats even more. In fact, it is claimed he had a deathly fear of cats. One story about him and cats occurred after France’s second occupation of Vienna. One night an attendant heard a commotion in Napoleon’s room and opened the door to find a sweating, half-dressed Napoleon furiously swinging his sword at the tapestry-covered walls. Apparently, a cat had entered his room, and he was trying to protect himself. 

Napoleon was not necessarily a dog person either because another of the things Napoleon disliked, or at the very least resented, was Josephine’s little pug “Fortune.” Supposedly, Napoleon claimed Fortune was his rival and was in possession of his wife’s bed when he married her, which also caused him to say of the pug:

“I wished to remove him; it was quite useless to think of it … that annoyed me considerably, but I had to make up my mind. I gave way. The favorite was less accommodating; I bear proof on my leg of what I say.”[3]

Things Napoleon disliked - Josephine's pug Fortune.

Josephine’s Pug, “Fortune.” Public domain.

It wasn’t just the dog bite that bothered Napoleon. He claimed that once when he and Josephine were passionately “in flagrante delicto” the pug become so upset he attacked and bit him. Despite the dog bite, Napoleon may have eventually come to respect the little pug because he did once write in a letter to Josephine, “Millions of kisses, even to Fortune, in spite of his naughtiness.”[4] When Fortune died, the pug that replaced him was not embraced by Napoleon either. He detested the dog and despite orders to the contrary supposedly “encourage[d] his cook to keep a huge bull-dog, in the hope that the big dog would devour the little one.”[5]

Among the other things Napoleon disliked was Kashmir shawls. He had given his wife a Kashmir shawl after a trip to Egypt and other women so loved the soft and luxurious shawls that it started a fad causing every woman in Paris to desire one. Before long, Napoleon declared war on Kashmir and its shawls because it affected the prosperity of French clothing manufacturers. He was so upset about the shawls he threatened the Empress that he would throw her Kashmir shawls into the fire if she kept wearing them. However, “the Empress used to answer him that as soon as they could give her stuffs as light and as warm as the cashmere woollens she would be glad to wear them.”[6] Because of the Empress’ reluctance for any shawls but those from Kashmir, it caused Napoleon to encourage the French to manufacture shawls. Supposedly, he even “commissioned … the designs of a magnificent woollen stuff like cashmere, on a white ground … Marie Louise wore them with some reluctance … [and] complain[ed] with reason that her dress ‘griped’ whenever she went near the fire.”[7]

Portrait of Madame Récamier by François Gérard with a Kashmir shawl. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Toussaint L’Ouverture, the remarkable leader of the Haitian slave revolts who propelled a rag-tag army of slaves to victory, is often called the “Black Napoleon.” However, despite the similarities in name and abilities, Toussaint was another of the things Napoleon disliked. That was because when Napoleon came to power, sugar plantation owners wanted to return to slavery, which cause Toussaint to object and he plunged Haiti back into war. In 1803, Napoleon, tired of the Haiti situation, reached an agreement with Toussaint promising that he would recognize Haitian independence if Toussaint retired. However, Napoleon betrayed him when Toussaint arrived in France in 1802. He was arrested and sent to prison at Fort-de-Joux in the Doubs in August. Then, because of Napoleon’s dislike (or hatred) for him, Toussaint was starved and neglected. He died on 7 April 1803. Years later, when Napoleon was asked about his deplorable treatment of Toussaint, he callously replied:

“What could the death of one wretched Negro mean to me?”[8]

Things Napoleon disliked - Toussaint L'Ouverture

General Toussaint L’Ouverture. Courtesy of Wikipedia.


  • [1] Napoleon, The Corsican, 1910, p. 459.
  • [2] St. Denis. Louis Etienne, Napoleon from the Tuileries to St. Helena, 1922, p. 12.
  • [3] Lévy, Arthur, The Private Life of Napoleon, Volume 1, 1894, p. 190.
  • [4] Napoleon, Napoleon’s Letters to Josephine, 1796-1812, 1901, p. 20.
  • [5] Lévy, Arthur, p. 190.
  • [6] Francois, Meneval Claude, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Napoleon I from 1802 to 1815, Vol. 2, 1894, p. 378
  • [7] Ibid.
  • [8] Chery, Dady, Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Genius Who Embodied the Enlightenment, accessed 3 July 2017.

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