Napoleon Bonaparte, who had recently returned from fighting in
Egypt, led that coup but he wasn't first choice. Jean Didier Hache, a French historian who has a house in
Benbecula, has translated Marshall MacDonald's diary into English
explained what happened. He said: "The people who were backing the coup d'état wanted a
general who would back it.
"Their first choice, General Joubert, was killed in Italy.
General Moreau refused. Afterwards, they went to MacDonald who also
turned down the offer.
"Eventually they approached Bonaparte who said, 'Yes, I'll do it
by all means'. So the coup that toppled the regime was led by
Bonaparte backed by the army, including MacDonald."
It is incredible to think that the most powerful man in Europe
could have been Emperor MacDonald of France, a man who was one step
away from a poor crofting village in South Uist. It was a turbulent period in European history.
In 1813 Napoleon and France suffered a crushing defeat at the
battle of Leipzig and the Allied forces soon occupied Paris. MacDonald and other French generals went to Fontainbleau to
convince Napoleon to abdicate. In his memoirs MacDonald described their last meeting: "He was
seated before the fire, clothed in a simple dressing gown, his legs
bare, his feet in slippers, his head buried in his hands and his
elbows resting on his knees. The emperor appeared to wake from a dream and to be surprised at
Napoleon presented his marshal with the sword he had worn in his
Egyptian campaign and said: "Keep it in remembrance of me and my
friendship for you."
MacDonald then tried to negotiate the best possible terms of
abdication with the Allies, and particular with the Czar of Russia. Napoleon was exiled to Elba but [circumstances forced him to] escape and
he raised an army of
He asked MacDonald to join him but he had sworn allegiance to the
restored Monarch, King Louis XVIII and refused. Napoleon's dream of returning to power was eventually broken at
Waterloo and he was soon back in exile where he died in 1821. But while Napoleon's memory faded away MacDonald prospered.