My Xmas Gift


I GOT A LOCK OF NAPOLEON’S HAIR FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How his hair got around …

The doctors who carried out the post-mortem on Napoleon were of the opinion that a perforated stomach ulcer which had turned cancerous was the main cause of his death. And there the matter might have rested, except that a number of his staff had kept locks of Napoleon’s hair, which were subsequently passed down the generations, sometimes coming up at auction. Unbeknown to their owners, these treasured locks of hair contained something of a small historical time bomb. [The hair revealed traces of arsenic now believed to have come from the wallpaper.]

to continue …

Scheele’s Green was a colouring pigment that had been used in fabrics and wallpapers from around 1770. It was named after the Swedish chemist Scheele who invented it. The pigment was easy to make, and was a bright green colour. But Scheele’s Green was copper arsenite. And under certain circumstances it could be deadly. Gosio discovered that if wallpaper containing Scheele’s Green became damp, and then became mouldy (this was in the days of animal glues) the mould could carry out a neat chemical trick to get rid of the copper arsenite. It converted it to a vapour form of arsenic. Normally a mixture of arsine, dimethyl and trimethyl arsine. This vapour was very poisonous indeed. Breathe in enough of the vapour, and you would go down with a nasty case of arsenic poisoning.

Shirley Bradley didn’t have a theory or a story about the colour of Napoleon’s wallpaper. She had an actual piece of the wallpaper itself. In fact, what Shirley Bradley had was a scrapbook, which had been handed down to her. The person who had owned the scrapbook had filled it with little poems and religious reflections. All the pages were dated. And one page was all about St Helena. The author of the scrapbook appeared to have visited St Helena in 1823. There was a leaf, taken from the tree that stood above Napoleon’s grave. There were various observations about the island. And there, stuck to the page, was a small scrap of paper.

follow this fascinating story:


~ by nancyfenn on December 29, 2007.

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