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Old November 23rd, 2012, 02:25 AM   #141
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Originally Posted by Pacific_Victory View Post
The Napleonic Wars discussions always seem to taper off when you are gone, and they are one of my favorite subjects.
Yes well, I strive to get rid of any misconceptions. And although some may see me as a blind admirer of the man (which they have the right to do so), I actually look at the man with a critical view. My conclusions however differ sometimes. Also it is just so fascinating to talk about this person and this period in general.

It is always nice to see people like you Mangekyou, Irishcrusader and others discussing about these subjects with me. I really appreciate that. Cause I think we will never stop discussing about this man (no wonder he is the most written character in history), he had his good and bad sides. What I strive for is not to enlarge the bad ones to much (or lie about them), and minimize the good ones.

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Why did he need to worry about the British? There was never a serious chance of a British invasion of the continent before the Russian campaign. Even the British troops deployed to the Spanish Ulcer were a tiny contingent that could only operate effectively because of the Spanish partisans.
Then what about the Anglo-Russian expedition in 1799? And the British expedition into Walcheren in 1810? Britain seeked for all sorts of weaknesses in the Empire. One sign of weakness and they might have striked. And although the British contingent may have been small it was still a military intervention and was mainly the cause of the downfall of the French army in Spain.

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What Napoleon needed to fear from the British was funding. They could and did fund his enemies and urge them into attacking and betraying him.
Of course, that's why he set up this plan for a continental blockade to ruin Britain economically and stop it from funding coalitions in Europe.

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In the case of Russia, he could have combated this by offering them a better deal than the Brits were. What could the British offer the Russians? A bit of money and trade opportunities which only came on the condition that the Russians fight Napoleon, the greatest commander in all of Europe.
Meanwhile, Napoleon could have offered them much more. The land they wanted in Eastern Europe as well as his vast armies and genius to assist against the Ottomans. These were the things they really wanted and Napoleon could have delivered them.
Well Napoleon offered him everything east of the river Vistula and raised the Duchy of Warsaw to keep the balance. All in all not to bad I think. Napoleon did offer the former Tsar Paul to help against the Ottomans, but as we all know he was murdered. The attitude of the new Tsar at least until 1807 was completely different. And after 1808 Napoleon couldn't really miss troops for such and expedition with a troublesome neighbor as Austria and his problems in Spain.

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But Napoleon never took the Russians seriously enough because of how easily he had defeated their armies in the past. He thought of them the same way he thought of the Prussians or Austrians. I don't think he realized how vastly important they were.
I think in this case he was right. Just like the Austrians and Prussians also the Russians were little danger for the Grande Armee and Napoleon. I do agree that he misjudged how important the Russian Empire was as a whole.

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Think of a Napoleonic Empire in a strong alliance with Russia. Even if every other nation in Europe attacked at once they would not have been able to defeat a true joint Franco-Russian army. The manpower of Russia combined with the training of the French army combined with the genius of Napoleon at its head would have created a truly breathtaking force.
So true, but such an alliance must come from two sides. Yes he could have led Russia abandon the Continental System, but then the rest of Europe would most likely follow. Yes he could have surrendered the Duchy of Warsaw, but that would upset his other vazals. Yes he could have helped against the Ottomans, but that would have endangered his position in central Europe. All possibilities of course, but especially at that time very risky ones.

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I've read this in multiple sources but the first one that I can think of is Moscow: 1812, Napoleon's Fatal March by Zamoyski
I've read that book actually, I will search for that part as soon as I find the time.

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Perhaps, but if this is the case Napoleon did not do a good job convincing the Russians of this fact.
True, and that was one of the major faults of Napoleon. He was to much busy with his own success and had indeed a tendency to act quite arrogant towards both enemies and friends. With what he achieved that isn't of course surprising.

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It would be a hard choice, but securing Russian allegiance was worth it.
Like I said rather risky, and agree with you it may have been the wisest decision, but not the best.

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In short, leave the British alone and let them play their games on their Island. With a strong Russo-Frankish alliance Napoleon could have redone the Egyptian campaign and secured the Nile, he could have gone into Ottoman lands, and he could have put the proper amount of manpower and leadership into solving the Spanish Ulcer.
Before 1807 that was out of the question and that may indeed have been the solution after 1807, but the failure of the continental blockade took several years to be discovered, by then the Franco-Russian alliance had been damaged beyond repair.

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Basically, my strategy would be ABOVE ALL, SECURE RUSSIAN LOYALTY.
Would indeed be the wisest strategy, and here was striven towards. Not enough though and with to few concessions, I agree.

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If done correctly I believe the Russians would have embraced it. They were desperately looking for something to be proud of after their humiliation in 1805 and 1807 and Napoleon made some concessions regarding Poland and had presented a willingness to help with the Ottomans it would have secured Russian glory and perhaps a lasting agreement would have been reached.
So you think they were willingly to embrace a happy alliance with the country that recently had humiliated them. You should read about the majority of the Russian nobilities view towards Napoleon afterwards and how they convinced not to take his side. Even with concessions a happy alliance with Russia was difficult to say the least.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 09:11 AM   #142

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Just a couple of points, I think we are moving towards an agreement here.

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Originally Posted by jeroenrottgering View Post
Then what about the Anglo-Russian expedition in 1799? And the British expedition into Walcheren in 1810? Britain seeked for all sorts of weaknesses in the Empire. One sign of weakness and they might have striked. And although the British contingent may have been small it was still a military intervention and was mainly the cause of the downfall of the French army in Spain.


Of course, that's why he set up this plan for a continental blockade to ruin Britain economically and stop it from funding coalitions in Europe.
I agree with you. I was actually reading about this last night and what I hadn't realized was that a "Continental System" of sorts wasn't a completely new Napoleonic idea. In fact similar concepts had been tried before and so it is no surprise that Napoleon would try the same thing. It seems there was a perception in continental Europe at the time that Britain made all of its wealth through its Empire, by selling foreign goods to Continental Europe. So the theory was (and this was not just Napoleon's theory) that if you simply closed the continental market to the British they would have nowhere to hawk their Imperial goods and their economy would collapse. With hindsight we can see it was a bad idea but I can see how it would have looked quite attractive to Napoleon at the time.


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Well Napoleon offered him everything east of the river Vistula and raised the Duchy of Warsaw to keep the balance. All in all not to bad I think. Napoleon did offer the former Tsar Paul to help against the Ottomans, but as we all know he was murdered. The attitude of the new Tsar at least until 1807 was completely different. And after 1808 Napoleon couldn't really miss troops for such and expedition with a troublesome neighbor as Austria and his problems in Spain.
You are absolutely correct here. I have often wondered what would have happened if Paul hadn't been killed. With Paul, Napoleon did everything that I have suggested, including as you said above, offering to help fight the Ottomans. After Alexander came into power Napoleon only had one good chance to get it right and that was at Tilsit.

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I think in this case he was right. Just like the Austrians and Prussians also the Russians were little danger for the Grande Armee and Napoleon. I do agree that he misjudged how important the Russian Empire was as a whole.
Well the Russian army was of little danger to the Grandee Armee, but the Russian nation and the Russian winter are a different story.


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So true, but such an alliance must come from two sides. Yes he could have led Russia abandon the Continental System, but then the rest of Europe would most likely follow. Yes he could have surrendered the Duchy of Warsaw, but that would upset his other vazals. Yes he could have helped against the Ottomans, but that would have endangered his position in central Europe. All possibilities of course, but especially at that time very risky ones.
Well he would have been wise to abandon the Continental System, not just in Russia but everywhere.
Regarding the Duchy, we must remember Poland had been dissolved and Napoleon essentially created the Duchy as a buffer state between his Empire and the Russians. This combined with the fact that after 1807 he had a huge amount of troops stationed in Prussia meant that the Russians would never feel comfortable, there were simply too many massed French troops on their border.


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I've read that book actually, I will search for that part as soon as I find the time.
It is a great book, I'm currently re-reading it.


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True, and that was one of the major faults of Napoleon. He was to much busy with his own success and had indeed a tendency to act quite arrogant towards both enemies and friends. With what he achieved that isn't of course surprising.



Like I said rather risky, and agree with you it may have been the wisest decision, but not the best.



Before 1807 that was out of the question and that may indeed have been the solution after 1807, but the failure of the continental blockade took several years to be discovered, by then the Franco-Russian alliance had been damaged beyond repair.
Yes I agree with you. It all comes down to 1807. Personally I think the biggest problem was that Napoleon didn't understand how tenuous of a position the Russian Tsar occupied. During that time Tsars were constantly being murdered and replaced, and Alexander needed to please his nobles to ensure his own survival. Napoleon was used to the loving adoration he received from the French and probably couldn't really understand how the Russian court operated.

If we look at Tilsit, we see that Napoleon amazed and psychologically outmaneuvered Alexander. He discussed things like a joint Russo-French attack on British India and joint attacks on the Ottomans and splitting the world between the Emperor of the Occident and that of the Orient. He flattered Alexander and treated him as an equal when he didn't have to. The problem was that none of these musings were written into the actual agreement, and when quill went to paper Napoleonic France came out way ahead in the agreement. But Alexander walked away happy, he actually liked Napoleon and felt that Napoleon like him him in return and would treat him well in the future.
The problem lay in the Russian nobility and the other members of the royal family. It is said that Alexander's own mother refused to embrace him when he returned from Tilsit.


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So you think they were willingly to embrace a happy alliance with the country that recently had humiliated them. You should read about the majority of the Russian nobilities view towards Napoleon afterwards and how they convinced not to take his side. Even with concessions a happy alliance with Russia was difficult to say the least.
This ties in nicely with what I was saying above. Napoleon must have assumed that Alexander occupied a similar position in Russia as Napoleon did in France, and thus if he could convince Alexander he could secure Russia. The problem was that Alexander had to be far more reliant on pleasing his nobles if he wanted to survive. So while Napoleon was able to dazzle Alexander at Tilsit, the nobles only saw the poor terms that Russia was given and they were angry. They felt humiliated and many were ashamed of Alexander for helping a foreigner destroy Russia. From that moment on, the seeds of 1812 had been planted.

So the question becomes, what could have been done differently in 1807 to avoid it? My answer as I have said many times is more concessions to the Russians. If Alexander had come back from Tilsit with an agreement by Napoleon promising Polish land and joint campaigns into Turkish land I believe the nobles would have felt that Russia had come out ahead and would have been proud of their young Tsar for convincing the conqueror of Europe to help so much in glorifying Russia; instead they felt ashamed, angry and betrayed.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 11:50 AM   #143

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Well I think our views aren't that far away from eachother. At least you don't see it as black and white like some posters here. And I appreciate that enormously.
History is never black and white and I think if one shuts his mind to other viewpoints, it takes away alot of the idea behind studying history.

That being said, I will clarify my position. As someone who studies military history, Napoleon is always someone to admire. As a tactician, he was pretty much genius. As a tactician, I admire his abilties. As a strategist, I think he was poor. He was too ambitious with the demands of his navy, despite the inexperience and the inferiority in tactics and mindset to the Royal navy, and he wanted too much, too quickly with his land campaigns, which led to poorly conceived campaigns.

His best campaign will always be his Italian one, imo. His best battle, Austerlitz.



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Of course the fear of Britain is 100% understandable, but look at the history. We see that the revolution had barely any effect in the regions outside France controlled Europe. Austria's monarchy was far from unstable, the same for Prussia, Russia and also the modernized British monarchy. Cause you very well know the British monarchs already did a lot of concessions by reducing their power and by that reducing the change of revolution.
That is a concept that can only be seen in hindsight though. The threat was very real at the time, and Napoleon did attempt numerous failed campaigns to Ireland, for this cause.

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And wasn't Napoleon's coronation to Emperor not meant to please the European monarchs and show Europe France was finally a stable country again with a singular leader?
This point could be argued, but given his highly ambitious nature, I would say no.



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Yes I am aware of that, but Russia could very well have made their own demands. They were far from a puppet from France, and if they really viewed this continental system with such hostility then why did they force it upon others?
Napoleon had backed them into a corner after defeating them at Friedland. Conventional warfare dictates going to the negotiation table after a decisive defeat. Alexander was hardly in a position to gain anything if he continued hostilities at the time. The course of action he took at the time was probably the wisest, from his viewpoint. He was also a highly ambitious man himself, as I noted in my previous post, and Napoleon appealed to his ego by promising help in his own possible expansionist policies. Therefore, cooperation with Napoleon at the time was a positive step fo Alexander.

Most importantly, I don't think Britain was liked either, because of her own colonial ambitions, and growing dominance in the merchant sea lanes, so going against her wasn't a dificult decision for some european countries to make.



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Well you have to be honest. What about the man himself? Didn't he share the dream of a Europe divided between France and Russia when he spoke hours with Napoleon at Tilsit?
He had his own ambitions, yes. Napoleon successfully appealed to his ego.



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Strange though he sued for peace in 1807, but didn't in 1812. Also the Russian population was far from educated enough to organize a full scale revolution like the one in France. Yes the battle of Friedland with 30,000-40,000 casualties on the Russian side was disastrous, but wasn't the end of the Russian army.
He had financial support, confidence and mental capacity to move forward at this time, which he did not have in 1807.

Also, the point you make about revolution maybe slightly true, but that is again an assessment made in hindsight. As a King, he had a right to worry about such an affair, especially if there was no gain for himself or his country.



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To bad Alexander later became immune to this attitude.
Time changes many people



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Both Alexander and Napoleon should have changed their attitude to each other I agree. After their fight at Erfurt things were never the same again.
Indeed so. Also, you only have to look at how ruthlessly he disposed of Prussia itself, which in itself was very real threat to others.



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Then you could say Britain's declaration of war was rather hypocrite. It actually did little more then buy time for a future war. If you agree with that statement then Britain should be equally judged like Napoleon.
If you want to see it like that, then that is your view, but Napoleon didn't help himself by prompting Britain into warfare again, nor did the casual attitude of his brother, given that Britain did very much desire pease at this juncture in the war. When the declration was signed it was greeted with relief in Britain, until the realisms of the treaty were laid bare.

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Didn't the French had the right on Malta in the first place? The people of Malta had hated the Knightly order of St John and welcomed the French. Britain's influence was zero and their stubborness of this island, is just as offensive as Napoleon's intervention in the Helvation Republc.
This is a topic that would probably need its own thread due to the scope of it.

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Then Haiti, Haiti was a French colony. Britain already took a lot of French territory in the America's during the French and Indian war (better known as the Seven years war). Their intervention in this island didn't differ from the intervention from the British in the Thirteen Colonies.
The difference being that Napoleon was making aggressive movements during a time of peace, that would provoke the war parties in Britain. Hi attitude in response to Britain, was a bit tactless and arrogant. If he was a bit more diplomatic, he would possibly have held the high ground. Threatening Egypt and panicking the world again, was not a sound idea.

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I agree his publishment of that book wasn't indeed the most tactical move he could make, but was certainly not a reason to go to war. And I think also Britain knew this wasn't meant serious, especially with the sharp politicians it had.
Its the nature of the threat though, Jeroen, especially after a peace treaty was signed. Provoking is not the correct thing to do.



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Did you read about his return from Elba and the enthousiams of the French people. I agree in 1814 parts of the French people were tired of the wars and didn't care how peace was reached as long as it was reached. But in 1815 almost all the French people (excluding the Royalists of course) embraced Napoleon ones more with open arms.
That is what I was referring too anyway. He was greeted very well upon his return, but lost support incrementally with his laid out policies.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 11:57 AM   #144

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Originally Posted by Pacific_Victory View Post
I agree with you. I was actually reading about this last night and what I hadn't realized was that a "Continental System" of sorts wasn't a completely new Napoleonic idea. In fact similar concepts had been tried before and so it is no surprise that Napoleon would try the same thing. It seems there was a perception in continental Europe at the time that Britain made all of its wealth through its Empire, by selling foreign goods to Continental Europe. So the theory was (and this was not just Napoleon's theory) that if you simply closed the continental market to the British they would have nowhere to hawk their Imperial goods and their economy would collapse. With hindsight we can see it was a bad idea but I can see how it would have looked quite attractive to Napoleon at the time.
Yes, I agree that with hindsight, its easier to see this. Napoleon had a good idea with the continental sytem, but the manner in which he enforced it was the incorrect way, imo.

He was focused too much on forcing people to join and using force to enforce it. Such draconian measures are not going to work if one is against the idea in the first place, and is suffering as a consequence of it.

If he had of approached it more diplomatically, then he may have been able to get more result, although again this would have been hard, because the Royal Navy had the scope to disrupt it. The only difference being, that if he did it les aggressively, then there may have less chinks in the armour to shatter. This is all counter factual history, however.

So, the concept was sound, the prosecution of it was not. I think it was a move made, because, although he identified the potential fatal weakness of "the nation of shopkeepers" he was unable to do anything about it with fleet actions, so resorted to this method.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 12:54 PM   #145

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a good relationship with russia was very important and Napoleon Knew this. he worked a lot at this relationship as seen in the long talks he had with Alexander both at Tilsit and at other meetings. he needed a firm ally, someone who would discourage anyone from making war with them as france then would not be standing alone. yet it was never going to work fully as their interests clashed too much. french hegemony in europe was pushing russia in. they like britain looked to areas outside europe in expanding such as asia and the middle east. for that to continue they needed to keep the status Que in europe of a balance of power. french domination was not going to allow that. russia had little to gain and everything to lose by french hegemony so i'm doubtful that any long term alliance would have lasted.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 02:10 PM   #146

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a good relationship with russia was very important and Napoleon Knew this. he worked a lot at this relationship as seen in the long talks he had with Alexander both at Tilsit and at other meetings. he needed a firm ally, someone who would discourage anyone from making war with them as france then would not be standing alone. yet it was never going to work fully as their interests clashed too much. french hegemony in europe was pushing russia in. they like britain looked to areas outside europe in expanding such as asia and the middle east. for that to continue they needed to keep the status Que in europe of a balance of power. french domination was not going to allow that. russia had little to gain and everything to lose by french hegemony so i'm doubtful that any long term alliance would have lasted.
This is exactly how I feel. Plus an alliance between these two would severely threaten the interests of the rest of the continent and give them control of central Europe. Other nations would continuously try and chip away at this alliance and attempt to undermine it.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 09:55 PM   #147

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This is exactly how I feel. Plus an alliance between these two would severely threaten the interests of the rest of the continent and give them control of central Europe. Other nations would continuously try and chip away at this alliance and attempt to undermine it.
But who would have been able to chip away at it? Neither Austria nor Prussia was able to beat France alone, let alone a Russo-French hegemony. Even Britain and her Empire would have suddenly seemed not quite so dangerous in such a scenario. I maintain that a true and committed Russo-French alliance would have been unbeatable.

Napoleon knew this. He appealed to Alexander with promises of dividing Europe up between the "Emperors of Orient and Occident."

Somehow none of that managed to make its way into the written agreement. Napoleon thought he was being smart by implying a lot more than Alexander was really getting. In reality he was sewing the seeds of his own doom.

This was because Napoleon didn't understand just how influential the Russian nobles were, and that securing Alexander did not necessarily secure Russia.
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Old November 24th, 2012, 04:31 AM   #148

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But who would have been able to chip away at it? Neither Austria nor Prussia was able to beat France alone, let alone a Russo-French hegemony. Even Britain and her Empire would have suddenly seemed not quite so dangerous in such a scenario. I maintain that a true and committed Russo-French alliance would have been unbeatable.

Napoleon knew this. He appealed to Alexander with promises of dividing Europe up between the "Emperors of Orient and Occident."

Somehow none of that managed to make its way into the written agreement. Napoleon thought he was being smart by implying a lot more than Alexander was really getting. In reality he was sewing the seeds of his own doom.

This was because Napoleon didn't understand just how influential the Russian nobles were, and that securing Alexander did not necessarily secure Russia.
I do agree with most of what you say, but as long as Britain had money to provide, the continental armies would keep rising, and as you so rightly pointed out in the last paragraph, the nobles had a lot of influence. They could be the deciive factor. If money reached them they could be persuaded to rebel whether they have anti-French sentiments or anti-British sentiments. Lets not also forget, that some of the higher up commanders in the Russian hierarchy were anglophiles
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Old November 24th, 2012, 12:04 PM   #149

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I do agree with most of what you say, but as long as Britain had money to provide, the continental armies would keep rising, and as you so rightly pointed out in the last paragraph, the nobles had a lot of influence. They could be the deciive factor. If money reached them they could be persuaded to rebel whether they have anti-French sentiments or anti-British sentiments. Lets not also forget, that some of the higher up commanders in the Russian hierarchy were anglophiles
True, however let us not forget that until 1805 and 1807 much of the Russian nobility were Francophiles. They spoke French among themselves, read French literature and their children were brought up by French tutors. Alexander once said he prided himself on the fact that his French was better than Napoleon's.

French was the language of nobility and culture and it was what distinguished much of the Russian nobility from the Russian speaking peasantry.

The backlash against French and all things French only came around 1808, when people began to feel that Alexander had betrayed Russia and saw Tilsit as a subjugation rather than an alliance.
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Old November 24th, 2012, 02:44 PM   #150

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True, however let us not forget that until 1805 and 1807 much of the Russian nobility were Francophiles. They spoke French among themselves, read French literature and their children were brought up by French tutors. Alexander once said he prided himself on the fact that his French was better than Napoleon's.

French was the language of nobility and culture and it was what distinguished much of the Russian nobility from the Russian speaking peasantry.

The backlash against French and all things French only came around 1808, when people began to feel that Alexander had betrayed Russia and saw Tilsit as a subjugation rather than an alliance.
Yes, that is also true, but therein lies the problem. We have a divided house. Divided houses are often up for exploitation.

Napoleon was not the type of man to forget his hubris and give the Russians what they wanted therefore a "true" alliance would have been almost impossible to obtain. Both leaders were ambitious, and Napoleon was proud.
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