It’s a wonder Napoleon Bonaparte had time to conquer much of Europe in between his many soaks.
While regular bathing was not particularly in vogue at this point in history, the French emperor – when not leading men into battle — eschewed tradition and opted for a good sitz.
Apparently the emperor thoroughly enjoyed becoming a prune, soaking “between an hour and an hour-and-a-half … each afternoon from 2:00 pm,” according to the Memorial of Waterloo 1815.
Now, the bathtub once used by Napoleon at Saint-Helena during his second exile is being featured, perhaps somewhat ironically, at the site where the famed military strategist met his ultimate downfall — Waterloo.
The recently opened exhibition, “Napoleon: from Waterloo to Saint-Helena, the birth of the legend,” is set to run until October. It will feature “letters, games, clothes, tableware and personal items attest to the daily routine Napoleon, once ruler of half of Europe, carried through for the last six years of his life, until his death at age 51,” writes Art Daily.
“This daily life in Saint-Helena was the missing chain between his defeat at Waterloo in 1815 that the whole world knows about and the time of his death,” French historian David Chanteranne, the curator of the exhibition, told reporters.
The copper tub is one link in that chain.
Napoleon’s personal physician, Barry O’Meara, recommended hot water therapy for the emperor’s chronic skin rashes, in addition to prescribing mercury ointment and potassium nitrate. Nothing like rubbing straight mercury onto one’s limbs to cure what ails you.
The deposed Napoleon was famous for holding court with his entourage while in the buff, soaking away his troubles and pontificating as only Napoleon could pontificate.
Dying at the age of 51 in 1821, the cause of his demise is still controversial. Subjected to five autopsies, doctors later deemed it likely that he died of stomach cancer.
Surely the mercury ointment didn’t help either.
Couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Knowing my fate is to be with you
Finally facing my Waterloo