Byline: ANDREW ROBERTS
The French Press is full of revisionist reports that Napoleon was a flawed military strategist, a monster, a genocidal racist - and a national embarrassment.
And a recent poll published by Le Figaro found nearly 40 per cent of Frenchmen thought Napoleon to be 'a dictator who had used all means to satisfy his thirst for power'.
As a result of this reassessment, no money was made available for his bicentenary to be commemorated, even though France spent lavishly in 1989 on the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, when the blood of thousands of innocent people was shed.
So what is the truth? Are the French flaying themselves needlessly over Napoleon's besmirched reputation.
Or was he really the incompetent butcher that so many are now portraying him to be?
Certainly, the way he marched across most of the countries of today's European Union was hardly in the spirit of the EU community that is so important to France today.
And the manner in which he brutally replaced the revolutionary republic with an empire would hardly be acceptable in a modern, politically correct world.
THE BICENTENARY of Admiral Nelson's death at the battle of Trafalgar this year was celebrated by Britons in magnificent style. There was an international naval review in June, when a quarter of a million people went to Portsmouth to watch the Queen review 167 ships on the Solent.
Twenty new books on Nelson and his Navy were published. The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich put on a magnificent exhibition that featured the bloodstained coat Nelson was wearing when he was shot, one of 15 well-attended exhibitions staged by institutions across the country.
On the anniversary itself - October 21 - the Queen and Prince Philip dined with all the surviving First Sea Lords of her reign in the admiral's cabin of HMS Victory. And at hundreds of official lunches and dinners 'the Immortal Memory' of the greatest military hero of our long island history was toasted - often in rum.
What a contrast to events across the Channel on the bicentenary this month of Napoleon's greatest victory, the battle of Austerlitz. The occasion has been almost completely ignored, so divided and uncertain have Frenchby FRENCH defeats at Trafalgar and Waterloo, along with Napoleon's death, exiled and in disgrace, hardly cover the Emperor in glory.
But it is the savage brutality with which he treated enemies, and his insensitivity over the terrible suffering he inflicted on his own troops that most offends modern historians.
Indeed, a new book in France likens his rule to that of Adolf Hitler - with polls suggesting a large number of Frenchmen agree with the author, the black academic Claude Ribbe.
Ribbe argues that Napoleon should be seen more as a genocidal dictator than the military genius who founded modern France. Ribbe lists appalling atrocities allegedly carried out under Napoleon's rule.
He accuses the Emperor of 'exterminating' part of the black population of France and of introducing a system of racial segregation.
On the French island colony of Haiti, then known as Saint Domingue, Ribbe claims Napoleon's troops launched a 'vast operation of ethnic cleansing' in 1802, to stamp out a slave revolt.
He says French troops used sulphur dioxide gas to suffocate slaves: they were 'shot, drowned, fed to dogs or gassed in the holds of slave ships'.
The Emperor banned interracial marriages, claims Ribbe, and consigned '200,000 Africans to slavery and more than a million to death'.
During three weeks of understandable resistance to the brutality of French rule in Guadeloupe, his generals refused to take prisoners.
Instead, they shot men, women and children in their own homes. Hundreds of islanders were executed in cold blood in town squares, on beaches and in …