people called Napoleon

I'm doing some quick research on William Fitton, the ultra-radical of Royton, who had a son called Napoleon. He died in 1820, so I looked him up on FindMyPast, and to my amazement I found hundreds of people called Napoleon.

I searched for people called Napoleon who were born in 1803-5, i.e. at the height of the French invasion scares and peak propaganda against 'Old Boney'.

Even accounting for multiple entries, the results are astounding:

Find My entries for Napoleon, born 1803-5
Matt McCormack pointed me to the excellent work of Simon Bainbridge of Lancaster University - I've not got time to check what he's written on this topic to see if he's got an answer to why so many people were baptised with the name, but will do so as soon as I can.

It does question the patriotism thesis about the effectiveness of anti-French anti-Napoleonic propaganda. Even though we were all supposed to be against Old Boney, the Romantic appeal of a great leader obviously still had a great pull even during the peak invasion scares. Stuart Semmel in his book Napoleon and the British argues for a more nuanced approach to understanding how people viewed Napoleon, which was more complicated than the Gillray propaganda or Linda Colley's account of patriotism presumed.

I'm still a little confused why supposedly staunchly patriotic Anglican vicars would even agree to baptise children with the name of our central enemy - any ideas?

Update - on Twitter, Elodie Duche did a French comparison with people baptised Nelson at the same time, with equally intriguing results:

And Mark Crail did a quick grab of the data from Ancestry, and here is my map of 123 of the names he found:

View people baptised Napoleon in a full screen map

And here is a quick search of Old Bailey online for cases featuring Napoleons. There are 30 entries, though some are duplicate and some of the later 19th century ones appear to be French immigrants.

And Louise Falcini found this example from the workhouse registers on London Lives:


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