Those who observed Napoleon’s birthday yesterday (August 15) no doubt remember with nostalgia and envy his power to create – admittedly within certain limits – any reality that suited him.
He had commissioned Jacques-Louis David to paint the moment during his coronation when he placed the crown on Josephine’s head – a crown he had a few moments earlier taken from the hands of the pope to put on his own. He simply ordered David to paint his mother, Laetitia, at the centre of the painting even though she had boycotted the event because she did not approve of the expense and, in any case, did not think the empire would last. She was right. He died in exile in 1821, and she in 1836 at home.
In contrast to Napoleon, Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto did not have the power to change his reality when a camera caught him reading while driving on the Gardiner Expressway.
A short course in French history will teach him to manage his affairs more carefully in future – by hiring a driver, for example.