Comparing the Two Napoleons (With Apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

It’s not that rare for two films with similar subject matter to be released within a relatively short time of each other, but it is for movies* with such a particular focus as The Emperor’s New Clothes (2001) and Monsieur N. two years later.


Both pictures posit ‘What If’ scenarios, which propose a different fate for the fallen Emperor Napoleon after his defeat at Waterloo and exile to the remote South Atlantic island 0f St Helena.


I’m not going to give away any plot details, as that would spoil the movies – The Emperor’s New Clothes is rather lighter than Monsieur N, but they both have a (perhaps) surprisingly upbeat view of Boney.


The Emperor's New Clothes (2004) | Film4 Trailer


The late Ian Holm essays his third portrayal of Napoleon (after the TV series Napoleon & Love and Time Bandits) and very good he is too, despite being almost twenty years too old for the part (the former emperor died at the age of just 51).


Monsieur N - Trailer


Respected French actor Philippe Torreton plays Bonaparte in Monsieur N with a more serious tone, but he’s equally watchable. Richard E Grant is the bad guy – Nap’s arrogant/insecure jailor on St Helena, Sir Hudson Lowe. The movie was directed by Antoine de Caunes, best known in the UK as the cheeky presenter of the Ch4 show Eurotrash:



*a recent exception being Anthropoid (2016) and The Man with the Iron Heart (2017), which both concerned the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during World War II.


Vive L’Empereur!

Avatar photo

Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'