Mystery of Napolean’s Death Said Resolved
January 17, 2007 1 Comment
After being defeated by the British in 1815, the French Emperor was exiled to St. Helena–an island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Six years later, at the age of 52, Bonaparte whispered his last words, “Head of Army!”
An autopsy at the time determined that stomach cancer was the cause of his death. But some arsenic found in 1961 in the ruler’s hair sparked rumors of poisoning. Had Napoleon escaped exile, he could have changed the balance of power in Europe; therefore murder speculations didn’t seem outlandish.
However, a new study–combining current medical knowledge, autopsy reports, Bonaparte’s physician memoirs, eyewitness accounts, and family medical histories–found that gastrointestinal bleeding was the immediate cause of death.
“This analysis suggests that, even if the emperor had been released or escaped from the island, his terminal condition would have prevented him from playing a further major role in the theater of European history,” said lead study author, Robert Genta of University of Texas Southwestern. “Even today, with the availability of sophisticated surgical techniques and chemotherapies, patients with gastric cancer as advanced as Napoleon’s have a poor prognosis.”