Napoleonic Teeth

The Napoleonic dynasty, their teeth and their dentists


Xavier Riaud, DDS, PhD[1]

NAPOLEON I (1769-1821)

Is it useful to recall the story of a man with an extraordinary destiny? I do not think so. Moreover, some have done it better than I would ever do.

On August 7th 1815, the Emperor[1] and his supporters boarded the Northumberland heading to Saint Helena where it came ashore on October 14th. In 1821, during the night of May 4-5th, Napoleon died around 4 o’clock.

On December 15th 1840, the Emperor’s mortal remains were placed in the Church of the Invalides in Paris.

What do we know about Napoleon’s mouth and teeth[2]?

He was born with teeth[3]. Witnesses maintained that Bonaparte had met a lady from Toulon who had fallen in love with him “simply because of his teeth”. Constant[4], Bonaparte’s servant, mentioned his master’s nice teeth when he returned from Egypt. In 1798, Bonaparte[5], who was only a General at that time, bought his first dental kit.

Does Alexandre Dumas[6] not think the same when speaking of Bonaparte in the days following Brumaire 18th: “He had the same pretension for his teeth; indeed, his teeth were nice, but they were not as splendid as his hands.”

Napoleon’s personal hygiene was highly methodical and meticulous. Brushing his teeth was a task that he particularly valued. In this respect, the Emperor disposed of a dental kit. Therefore, in Ulm and Austerlitz, Napoleon had a campaign casket that he was reported to use the very morning between these two battles; this casket notably included toiletries (and certainly a toothbrush which the Emperor would never be separated from). This casket was the most important he had ever used and was made up of 103 individual items. In 1810, the Emperor had a kit essentially made up of rugines to remove the tartar from his teeth: a casket which Grangeret, the famous cutler, repaired the same year. [7]

When he died, his last will and testament stipulated: “I bequeath to my son my golden dental kit which is at the dentist’s”.

Moreover, from 1806 to 1813, he had Jean-Joseph Dubois-Foucou[8] (1747-1830) at his service to take care of his teeth.

According to F. Masson[9], one of Napoleon’s greatest historiographers, the care that the latter gave to his teeth was such that “all his teeth were beautiful, strong, and well-arranged”. He added: “He would carefully pick his teeth with a toothpick made of boxwood, then he would brush them for a long time with a brush soaked in opiate, floss with thin coral, and rinse his mouth with a mixture of brandy and fresh water. Finally he would clean his tongue with a silver scraper of silver gilt or tortoiseshell.” In 1806, Gervais-Chardin, “perfumer of Their Imperial and Royal Majesties”, delivered 52 boxes of opiate toothpaste worth 306 francs and 15 dozen toothpicks made of boxwood and ivory. On October 25th, 1808, he delivered 24 dozen of these toothpicks, 6 boxes of thin dental coral worth 36 francs, and 28 boxes of superior quality opiate valued at 168 francs. On March 20, 1815, Tessier, the perfumer, provided him with 3 boxes of opiate made of ebony which was worth 18 francs and 28 pots of rose-flavoured opiate worth 56 francs.

It seemed that during his reign the monarch never had to ask Dubois-Foucou for his service, apart from personal cleanings.

In 1815, while he was embarking for the island of Saint Helena, a British officer named Maitland,[10] who was the commander of the HMS Bellerophon, remarked: “His eyes are light grey, his teeth are in good condition.” Another officer, present at that very moment, said: “pale blue eyes, and unpleasant teeth”. As for Lady Malcolm, she described Napoleon with “pale or grey eyes, white teeth in good condition and equal, but small”. As for Bunbury, he maintained: “he has grey eyes, his teeth are unpleasant and dirty”. Lord Rosebery declared that: “the Emperor’s teeth are bad and dirty, and he barely shows them.” Lastly, Augustin Cabanès (1928) related that: “Napoleon ate liquorice which eventually blackened his teeth.” He added that “this assertion would need to be confirmed.”

During his exile, the Emperor[11] suffered from dental abscesses which appeared to come from his right upper wisdom tooth, which was extremely loose. In the memorial of Saint-Helena, Las Cases[12] dated the first episode of dental inflammation on October 26th 1816. “I found him with his face wrapped in a handkerchief: ‘What is the most terrible ache? What is the sharpest pain?’ he asked. I answered that it was always the one of the moment that was the worst. ‘Well, then it must be the toothache!’, Napoleon replied. Indeed, he had a fierce inflammation; his right cheek was swollen and extremely red. I started to alternately warm a flannel and a cloth that he would apply in turns on his sore cheek, and he said that made him feel better.” On Sunday 27th,”his headaches and toothaches were extremely intense. The inflammation had not diminished at all…” On the 30th, “today, the Emperor was not feeling better. That night, the doctor came; he said that he had brought harmless gargles, but he had great difficulty using them. The Emperor’s lips, throat and mouth were covered with spots. He said he could barely swallow or speak”. On Thursday 31st, “he was suffering a lot, especially from the spots that were covering his lips.” On November 2nd 1816, “the inflammation was even more decisive.”

On Tuesday 5th, “his mouth was on the road to recovery but his teeth remained extremely sensitive.” On Saturday 9th, “when having his dinner, the Emperor was feeling much better, was very happy and even lively; he was congratulating himself on having gotten over his last illness without taking medicine or paying tribute to a doctor.”

At that time, Baron Sturmer, sent from Austria to Saint-Helena, wrote to Metternich: “He is in good health, and threatens to live for a long time.” Further, he added: “He has a gumboil”.

At the time, Barry O’Meara[13], his Irish doctor, reported that Napoleon had symptoms of scurvy. In 1817, either the Emperor had swollen legs or the scurvy was spreading over his gums. In July, he suffered once again from an inflammation of the face due to his bad teeth. The doctor wanted to extract one of them which was very loose, but Napoleon refused the operation. In November, O’Meara noted: “He complained about a pain in the right cheek which came from his bad tooth. His gums were spongy and were bleeding from the slightest touch of his hand. Few days later, he wrote: “the Emperor’s gums are extremely sore. They are spongy.”, then “the right part of his jaws is significantly swollen.” Eventually, Napoleon conceded to have the tooth extracted. The doctor executed the extraction after having made the Emperor sit on the ground. Lieutenant-Colonel Gorregner[14], Sir Hugues Lowe[15] ‘s secretary in Saint Helena, remarked: “He (General Bonaparte) recently lost a tooth (wisdom tooth). It was his very first surgical operation, and under such circumstances his behaviour was far from brave. In order to be able to extract the bad tooth, Doctor O’Meara was forced to have the Emperor held down on the ground. From then on, he complained a lot and kept to his bedroom where he demanded that a fire be lit despite the hot season. There, he remained roasting for hours…” It was the very first tooth to be extracted from Napoleon’s mouth. Until then, he had never really suffered from his teeth. According to the Frenchman, “this tooth was barely rotten and could have been filled” (this is taken from Baron Sturmer’s account). On the occasion of this operation, Betsy Balcombe[16] apparently exclaimed: “I beg you pardon! You are complaining about the pain caused by an operation of such little importance! You, who assisted at countless battles, and escaped a shower of bullets, you who got injured so many times! I am ashamed of you. But anyway, give me that tooth!” Montholon[17] dated this operation on November 16th, 1817. To combat scurvy, O’Meara used antiscorbutic plants (fumitory, cochlearia, etc.) and opiate toothpaste containing the same plants triturated with canned roses. In a report dated July 9th, 1818, O’Meara[18]  related that “the gums (of the Emperor) appeared spongy and scorbutic. Three molars were affected. Given the circumstances, I considered that they must have been caused by inflammatory affections of the muscles and membranes of the jaw. Besides, I thought that catarrh had been caused by those affections. I extracted them at appropriate intervals. To destroy the scorbutic aspect that the gums had, I recommended the use of vegetables and acids. I was successful. It disappeared, then reappeared again and was cleared up by the same means. The tongue was almost constantly white.” According to Marshal Bertrand, Napoleon suffered from other dental problems after January 1818, but remained vague on the dates.

In 1821, during the night of 4-5th May, Napoleon died around 4 o’clock.

After studying his case, Dr Sven Forshufvud (?-1985), a Swedish dentist and biologist, noticed after reading the accounts of several testimonies, that the Emperor was infected with 28 of the 31 symptoms found in chronic arsenic poisoning[19].

Derobert and Hadengue[20] gave more details about Napoleon’s oral symptoms during his exile: “Within chronic arsenical intoxication, the ulcerous stomatitis of variable levels always takes the aspect of dental pyorrhoea.”

O’Meara’s prescription based on mercury and calomel certainly did not help the recovery of Napoleon.

According to an 1823 written account of Dr Walter Henry, doctor in the 66th British infantry regiment, “the skull was not opened[21]” during Napoleon’s autopsy which took place on May 6th, 1821, at 2:30 pm.

In 1821, during his burial, the testimonies of Bertrand, Montholon, Marchand, Ali, Antommarchi[22], Darroch and of English officers, reported that his face and head were entirely shaved, that his mouth was closed, and that his features were greatly altered making his face disfigured and unrecognisable.

On October 15, 1840, during the exhumation in Saint Helena, the body found in the coffin was more or less intact. How could the deterioration process have stopped nearly 20 years later?

The Surgeon-Major Guillard, the only surgeon present during the exhumation on the island, made the first observations. His description is extremely eloquent[23]: “The head, slightly raised, was found covered with yellowish, hard and very adherent teguments. Such was the outline of the orbits whose upper extremities were covered with brows. Under the eyelids, the eyeballs were still apparent and had lost little of their volume and their shape (…). The cheeks were puffy (…); the lips which had thinned were spread open and three extremely white incisors could be seen under the lower lip, which was slightly lifted on the left (…)”

The doctor also claimed that the dead man’s face had a beard and that the head had hair. The features were not altered and were young and noble[24].

In his 1825 account, Dr Antommarchi claimed that: “His mouth was still smiling and the felt part of it was slightly tensed by the sardonic smile.” Antommarchi confirmed that the body was not embalmed. The doctor is reported to have practiced phrenology by examining and measuring the defunct’s skull.

As for Jean-Joseph Dubois-Foucou[25] (1747-1830), he was successively a dental surgeon under Louis XVI (1754-1793), Napoleon 1st (1769-1821), Louis XVIII (1755-1824) and Charles X (1757-1836). As a matter of fact, his name was simply Dubois, but he added to it the name of Foucou, taken from one of his relatives, who was an artist. In 1775, he upheld his thesis entitled: “De dentis vitiose positorum curatione” and became a member of the Royal Academy of Surgery. He was also the instigator and designer of the caskets of the dentals sets of Napoleon[26] and Louis XVIII. By 1826 he was no longer working, however he kept his title.

It was reported that a toothbrush was always found in the Emperor’s campaign caskets [27], as seen in the case of the one kept in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris. This kit was made by Biennais who completed it in 1805. This set was reported to be “acquired by the Rotshschild family from a soldier who stole it from the train luggage of Napoleon during battle of Waterloo in 1815” (See Rousseau Claude, 1998).

The handle is bright red, the hair was made of wild boar hair and the screwed head was interchangeable. The imperial “N” was carved upon it. This dental set was given to Napoleon by General Bertrand who had to transmit it to the King of Rome for his 16th birthday. Unable to do so, he bequeathed the set to the city of Paris.

The doctor Barry Edward O’Meara (1786-1836) was assistant Surgeon to the English army in Egypt and Sicily in 1804, where he was fired after having fought in a duel in Messina in 1807. He was Naval Surgeon in 1808, and served on the H.M.S. Bellerophon during Napoleon’s surrender on July 15, 1815. He accompanied Napoleon to Saint-Helena where he served as the Emperor’s surgeon. It was O’Meara who extracted the Emperor’s teeth. The doctor refused to recount the discussions he had with the captive Emperor to Sir Hudson Lowe, the governor, who, irritated by his attitude, removed him from his post in 1818. Back home, he wrote a letter of denunciation regarding Lowe’s misdeeds against the Corsican, which was published in 1922 and entitled “Napoleon in exile, or a Voice from Saint-Helena” (5 editions). He was one of the founding members of the Reform Club. He died of erysipelas or of a cold caught during one of Daniel O’Connell’s meetings [28].



NAPOLEON the 2nd (1811-1832)

Napoleon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte[29] was born on March 20th, 1811. He was the son of Napoleon the 1st (1769-1821) and of the archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847).

The young prince received right from his birth the title of King of Rome. The Constitution of the 2 floréal year XII (May 18th, 1804) granted the title of Imperial Prince to the eldest son of the Emperor.

After the campaign of the Rance and the fall of Paris, Marie-Louise and his son lived in Rambouillet, then in Blois. On April 4th, 1814, Napoleon signed an abdication act preserving the rights of his son. On April 6th 1814, he finally had to renounce to his prerogatives for him and his line of descent. Napoleon bid adieu to his troops on April 20th, 1814, and left for Elba Island while the “Aiglon” and his mother left to Vienna. The young boy was also Prince of Parma, but from June 10th, 1817, he had no official powers there.

During the Hundred Days, the Emperor’s son officially became once again Imperial Prince but not King of Rome. At the end of the Hundred Days, the abdication done in the Elysée Palace on June 22nd, 1815, indicated that “My political life is over and I proclaim my son the French Emperor under the title of Napoleon the 2nd.” The boy, however, lived in Vienna and was in the lion’s den. A commission diligented by the government confirmed the choice of the deposed Emperor [30], but this decision was disconfirmed on July 7, 1815. Louis XVIII entered Paris the next day. Napoleon the 2nd had only occupied his father’s functions for 15 days.

On July 22nd, 1818, at the age of 7, he became Duke of Reichstadt. In 1830, the French people cried: “Long live Napoleon the 2nd!” in the streets of Paris and he was supposedly going to be the King of Belgium or Poland.  He died in Vienna of tuberculosis on July 22, 1832, without any alliance or descendants.

Napoleon met Lady of Montesquiou (1765-1835) who carried his son next to the Orangerie, in Saint-Cloud [31]. He asked her if his son was doing well. The governess answered: “Sometimes he is grumpy and cries. He probably has a toothache.” The Emperor was reported to retort: “It is ugly when a King cries.”

Back from a trip to Belgium, the Empress Marie-Louise found her son “well fortified, having four teeth but who is also thin and pale, which must be due to his dentition.”

Even though the Emperor was fully dedicated to his campaign in Russia, he found time to ask some news of his son’s health. This is what he wrote to Lady of Montesquiou: “I hope that you will soon tell me that his last four teeth grew.”

Back from Dresde, Marie-Louise went back to Saint-Cloud where her son was living and where he turned 16 months: “He has fifteen teeth but does not talk yet.”

In 1813, the Empress wrote: “My son is going really well. All his teeth grew since three months.”

Marie-Louise lived by the Emperor’s side for four years from 1810 to 1814. From 1813 to 1814, the Austrian lady wrote a series of letters to Napoleon where she accounted of her son’s oral health issues [32]. They were published by the Baron Carl-Fredrik Palmstierna in 1955. He faithfully transcribed the content of the letters in the French of the time.

On February 8th, 1814: “He is doing quite well but he had a raging toothache this morning which made him suffer for more than three quarters of an hour. He already has two ruined teeth which depresses me [33].”

On February 25th, 1814: “Tonight, he greatly suffered from a serious raging toothache but there is no remedy to that. It comes from a problem tooth. Dubois [34] speaks about extracting it but it will be near impossible to convince him to have this operation because when we merely suggest to put cotton on his tooth, he awfully cries out.”

On February 27th, 1814: “He is really well tonight. He slept until 6 o’clock in the morning. He was still quite grumpy and I attributed this behaviour to his toothache which often causes him great pain.”

On February 28th, 1814: “He is really well, he still felt pains yesterday night but that was just a matter of half an hour.”

On February 29th 1814, there was no problem anymore.

On March 2nd 1814: “This morning, your son still wasn’t well and he really suffers from his teeth. He has raging toothaches at every instant. I fear that his ruined teeth will still provide him with long pain.”

On March 3rd, 1814: “Your son is well; he slept well all night and was in a good mood during the rest of the day. I think that his small indisposition is completely healed provided that his bad teeth caused him no discomfort because they had really caused him great pain for a long time.”

On March 13th, 1814: “Your son sends his love, he had raging toothaches during the day but tonight he feels better and is happy.”

On March 14th, 1814: “Your son is well, he sends his love, and his raging toothaches are completely over.”

On March 16th, 1814: “He is quite well; he still suffers a bit from his teeth.”

On March 18th, 1814: “Your son sends his love; he is well except that he said he suffered from his teeth. We found out that very often he would complain about his teeth, but when I declared that going for a stroll was incompatible with the swelling and inflammation of his gums and mouth and that we would be obliged to deprive him from this pleasure, his pains suddenly disappeared and he never complained about them tonight.”

On March 20th, 1814: “You thought of your son and me a little and he sends his love to you, he is quite well and he has sometimes raging toothaches, but it is because of his ruined teeth that will make him suffer for a long time.”

On March 25th, 1814: “He spoke several times about his toothaches but as he was complaining about them when laughing, I doubted about his pains because experience proved that it might have only been a pretext or even a mischievous trick [35].

On August 3rd, 1814: “I have good news about your son’s health, I received some yesterday. He never felt so well except for his recurring painful toothaches.”

On July 1817, the baroness of Montet (1785-1866) wrote about the young prince and said that he “is from what I can see the most handsome prince; it is a shame that his teeth are so black and already hideous [36].”

Finally, “provision 6” of the Emperor’s testament stipulated: “I bequeath my son the golden dental kit left at the dentist’s [37].” According to Claude Rousseau (1998), it seemed that Biennais’s dental casket bequeathed to the Napoleon Foundation could correspond to the kit inherited by his son.

There are several theories concerning the Aiglon’s death. A lot of historians declare that he had been poisoned. Some think the lethal product may have been administered by his doctor but others suggest that it came from his dental surgeon and that he “had been paid to poison the Duke by taking care of his teeth.”

A famous Parisian daily newspaper published on August 11, 1910 an account from where a dreadful rumour originated. It is the Prince Napoleon, King Jerome’s son who was reported to have confided this account to Lady Judith [38] who was the secretary of the “Théâtre-Français”.

“The agreement was made between the Court of Vienna and the French monarchy. Napoleon’s son was no more useful in the diplomatic plans and the news of his existence became a European danger. Metternich commanded his death. It is the great Duchess Stephanie of Bade, the cousin of Napoleon the 1st, who reported to me the crime. She had a chambermaid whom she really liked. When she was about to get married, her mistress gave her a huge dowry in order to show her affection. Her ex-chambermaid married a famous dentist in Austria (Carabelli).

A few times later, she fell sick. When dying, she asked for the great archduchess to come to her deathbed to collect an importance confidence. And when her former mistress came to see her, she said: “You should undoubtedly know the truth about the Duke of Reichstadt’s death because he was a member of your family. You will certainly change of behaviour concerning some people after what I am about to tell you.”

“It is my husband who killed the son of the Empress Marie-Louise, he confessed it to me. He used to treat the young Duke’s teeth. One day, Prince Metternich [39] summoned him and spoke to him without witnesses around. He asked to slowly kill the son of Napoleon the 1st by performing during at least a year regular but sufficiently separated poisonous injections on his gums. This death was meant to appear as if he had died of melancholy. This was what I had to confess to you.”

Georg Carabelli von Lunkaszprie [40] (1787 or 1788-1842) was the first doctor to have given lectures on dentistry from 1821 in Vienna, Austria. He was a dentist at the court of the Austrian Emperor Franz and was the founder of a clinic of stomatology at the University of Vienna. In a treaty of dental anatomy that he published in 1842, he described a tuber on the palatal face of his first upper molars. He explained the description of it in a more detailed second work which was published after his death in 1844. This tuber kept the name of his discoverer.


NAPOLEON the 3rd (1808-1873)

As the dentist of the Imperial family, Thomas Evans gave an account of his privileged relationship with the Emperor in his Memoirs published in 1910.

“I met the Prince [41] soon after his arrival in Paris. He hadn’t been at the Elysée Palace for very long when he sent a message to Doctor Brewster asking if the good doctor could pay him a visit. As chance would have it, Doctor Brewster had taken ill when the message arrived and could not make it to the Palace. I had the good fortune of replacing him and visiting the Prince myself. He received me in a very amicable fashion, in such a way that I did not perceive he required the services of Doctor Brewster, and I felt unexpectedly at ease with him. I performed a light operation on him, which relieved him greatly. Once I had finished he thanked me with immense cordiality, complimenting the ‘gentle’ manner in which I had performed my work. He expressed a desire to see me again the following day. I continued to offer him my services, and from then on until the day of his death I visited him frequently, sometimes twice weekly; as it was not only in the capacity of a dentist that I would visit him – he quickly expressed to me that I was a source of friendship and confidence.”

Later on, the American dentist [42] remarked: “My professional relations with the Emperor began, as I have already said, shortly after he became President of the Republic. His teeth were extremely delicate, which, according to him, was a trait he inherited from his mother. Because of this hypersensitiveness – the term which was used by Corvisart and Nelaton – which spread throughout his body and became increasingly worse towards the end of his life, he suffered enormously from the most minor of inflammations, so much so that he required my services quite often.

In addition, he had a tendency to suffer from hemorrhaging; as a child he nearly died from loss of blood after having a tooth extracted. He owed his life to the vigilance and care of his mother, who, during the night of this hemorrhage, pressed her finger firmly into his gums until they stopped bleeding. As I was ordinarily called to the Palace for problems relating to his teeth, I almost always managed to relieve his suffering. He hated it when we caused him pain; so I approached with great caution anytime I had to touch his teeth or gums with an instrument. It was therefore only natural that the Emperor would be most grateful for the gentle manner in which I treated him, and for the great relief that I was, happily on many occasions, able to give him almost instantly. But I was not the only one in my profession to enjoy his admiration – it was afforded to all dentists. He found aid and relief in our capabilities, and for this reason he had an excellent opinion of dentists in general. 

I was lucky to have had the opportunity to provide great services to the Emperor, from a professional point of view, and I was amply rewarded in so many ways, particularly by the encouragement that he gave me and the consideration he showed me, which resulted in dentists being held in very high regard…”

He continued: “The Emperor realised quickly that I was worried about the position I occupied within his immediate entourage. And, as he saw no difference between the men except for their intelligence, merits or knowledge, I was soon officially admitted to the Elysée Palace on equal footing with medical doctors, surgeons, university professors and men of science in general.  When the Court was constituted, I received the title ‘dental-surgeon’ under the same form and conditions as the other doctors and surgeons of the ‘health service’ attached to the ‘House of the Emperor’. I wore the same golden uniform as the other members of the personal medical service, and my salary was equal to theirs [43].

I was the sole dentist at the Tuileries Court, and the Emperor showed great benevolence and attention to my well-being at every occasion, particularly in public. My position within the imperial Court allowed me to travel to other Courts, and there were few in Europe in which I was not welcomed.”

He finally explained that: “Napoleon III was a very laborious man. He went to bed late and rose early. When he needed to see me, he would arrange an appointment very early. When I arrived, he was generally in his office, where he had already been working for several hours [44]…”

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, France had friendly relations with the Union. Right from the beginning of the conflict, Evans did not hide his federal preference despite attempts by close advisers of the Emperor to convince him to support the Confederation. Napoleon the 3rd hesitated. Noticing his hesitation, the American dentist convinced his friend to wait and to let him go to the United States to report on the situation there. Upon his return to France with the information he planned to gather, the Emperor would then be able to make his decision. Napoleon agreed [45].

The dentist arrived in New York on August 23rd, 1864, and soon paid a visit to the Secretary of State, Seward, and then to President Lincoln. A few days later, he met General Grant in City Point, at the general headquarters of the Potomac Army who had besieged Petersburg and Richmond. Grant received him as soon as he arrived. The General in Chief assured Evans of the impending victory of the Union. The dentist also met the Generals Meade, Hancock and Butler. After having stayed five days at the outposts, Evans returned to Washington D.C. and then went back to Europe. As soon as he arrived, he gave an unequivocal report to the Emperor which concluded with the imminent defeat of the Confederates. Napoleon then renounced intention to intervene and deterred the English from doing the same [46].

During the 1870 debacle, the population was brewing. Paris revolted. Eugénie [47] succeeded in finding refuge at Evans’ home, where he organised her flight from the capital. At night, after preparing a coach, Evans accompanied the Empress to Deauville, passing her off as his associate (Dr John Crane)’s patient and sending her to England [48].

On June 1st, 1879, the patrol of the son of Napoleon the 3rd was caught in an ambush by the Zulus. Louis-Eugène Napoleon died during the attack. Napoleon the 4th’s body was unrecognisable as he had received 17 blows from Zulu lances to his face [49]. He was found completely naked, the Zulus having plundered his corpse. The British authorities had to appeal to someone who would be able to identify the young prince’s body. The description of his corpse was performed by Doctor Scott, then by Baron Larrey, Napoleon the 3rd’s former surgeon, the son of the illustrious surgeon of Napoleon the 1st who attended the opening of the coffin on July 11, 1879, at Chislehurst [50]. Doctor Baron Corvisart, the son of Napoleon the 1st’s “favourite doctor”, joined Larrey for the examination of the body. One of the 17 wounds, which was less serious than the others, was found on the right side of the upper lip, which was torn open. The blow which caused the wound also damaged one of his teeth, which was shattered into fragments. Soon after that discovery, an examination of his dental structure was carried out, of which Evans [51] was in charge. Before doing so, in order to perform an accurate identification of the body, Evans presented a pre-existing map of the prince’s teeth, based on those that he had previously “gold-filled”. Those specific fillings were noticeable even if other dentists had worked on the prince’s teeth after the American [52].

Thomas W. Evans was born on December 23, 1823. He obtained his doctorate in medicine at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. In 1841, Thomas became a student of the Philadelphian dentist, Dr John de Haven White [53]. He opened a surgery in Baltimore, Maryland, then in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In 1847, he acquired a certain notoriety after demonstrating a new technique for fillings using gold at the annual Philadelphia exposition, where he won first prize. There, he also met Dr John Clark, a retired Parisian doctor who returned to his place on holidays. Clark was quickly convinced that a dentist as gifted as Evans would be something of a sensation in Paris. So, in November, 1847, Evans moved to the French capital [54], where he met another American dentist, Dr Starr Brewster, who treated numerous patients in the French aristocracy. One day, Brewster, who treated Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte – the future Napoleon III (1808-1873) – was summoned to the services of the Emperor, but he was unable to attend [55]. Brewster sent Evans in his place, and from then on, Evans became the official dentist for royal European families. He earned the friendship of Napoleon, who named him the crown’s official dentist in 1853. He also became an official member of the Emperor’s council, and in 1854 was awarded the Legion of Honour.

In 1867, Thomas won the Great Prize of Honour at the Paris Exhibition of military medicine practiced during the Civil War. He studied a lot and wrote about the organisation of military hospitals, specifically about the Health Commission of the United States – which was an association made up of civil volunteers who completed the work of the Army Health Service [56].

Thomas W. Evans died in Paris, on November 14, 1897. He was buried in Philadelphia [57].


[1] Roy-Henry Bruno, Napoléon repose-t-il aux Invalides? [Is Napoleon’s body resting in the Invalides ?], in Historia, 2000; 638 : 42-48.

[2] Riaud Xavier, Les dentistes détectives de l’histoire, [The dental detectives of history] L’Harmattan (éd.), Collection Médecine à travers les siècles [Medicine throughout the centuries Collection], Paris, 2006, p. 53-57.

[3] Lamendin Henri, Petites histoires de l’art dentaire d’hier et d’aujourd’hui (Anecdodontes), L’Harmattan (éd.), Collection Ethique médicale, Paris, 2006, p. 11-12.

[4] Lamendin Henri, Napoléon, des dentistes et l’Histoire…, [Napoleon, dentists and History] in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France, 6-13/01/2000 ; 966/967 :66-71.

[5] See Tallandier M.A., Discours prononcé aux funérailles de Biennais [Speech delivered at Biennais’ funeral], Paris 1843.

[6] Dumas Alexandre, Les compagnons de Jéhu [Jehu’s companions], Phoebus (éd.), Paris, 2006, p.426.

[7] See Rousseau Claude, « Histoire de l’aménagement du cabinet dentaire – L’instrumentation: les « outils à dents » des nécessaires de Biennais. L’énigme du nécessaire dentaire de l’empereur de la Fondation Napoléon », in Actes de la SFHAD, Saint Malo, 1998,, pp.1-7.

[8] Société Odontologique de Paris, Les daviers de Napoléon [Napoleon’s forceps],, 2006, p. 4.

[9] See Lamendin Henri, 6-13/01/2000, pp. 66-71.

Once ablution was completed, he carefully cleaned his teeth, brushing them for a long time with a toothbrush soaked in a special opiate, then he rinsed his mouth with a mixture of brandy and fresh water.” (See Cabanès A., Dans l’intimité de l’Empereur [In the intimacy of the Emperor], Albin Michel (éd.), Paris, 1921, p. 57)

[10] See Lamendin Henri, Anecdodontes, op. cit., 2002, pp. 49-50.

[11] Balcombe Betsy, Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène [Napoleon in Saint-Helena], Plon (éd.), Paris, 1898, p. 22-23.

[12] De Las Cases Emmanuel, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, Le Grand Livre du Mois [Memorial of Saint-Helena, Number One Book of the Month] (éd.), Tome IV, Paris, 1999, p. 64-119 (republishing of the first version of 1822).

Las Cases gave meticulous details on Napoleon’s toilette: After shaving his beard, and cleaning his face, last of all “comes the story of his teeth”. Las Cases was banned from Saint Helena in December 1816. He also alluded to “scorbutic symptoms” from which Napoleon suffered during his exile in Saint Helena.

[13] Lamendin Henri, 6-13/01/2000, pp. 66-71.

One of Napoleon’s teeth, extracted by O’Meara, is exhibited at Madame Tussaud’s Museum in London, and is reportedly a third upper molar. Recently, one of his teeth was sold for the modest price of 19,336 euros.

[14] See Société Odontologique de Paris, « Les daviers de Napoléon » [Napoleon’s forceps], in, 2006, p. 4.

[15] See Rousseau Claude, « Histoire de l’aménagement du cabinet dentaire – L’instrumentation : les « outils à dents » des nécessaires de Biennais. L’énigme du nécessaire dentaire de l’empereur de la Fondation Napoléon », in Actes de la SFHAD, Saint Malo, 1998,  pp.1-7.

[16] See Société Odontologique de Paris, « Les daviers de Napoléon » [Napoleon’s forceps], in, 2006, p. 4.

[17] Bastien Jacques & Jeandel Roland, Napoléon à Sainte Hélène – Etude critique de ses pathologies et des causes de son décès [Napoleon in Saint-Helena- A critical study of his pathologies and the causes of his death] , Le Publieur (éd.), 2005, p. 26-29, 48, 53.

[18] Lamendin Henri, 6-13/01/2000, pp. 66-71. Later on, O’Meara commercialised «toothpaste from O’Meara, Napoleon’s former doctor in Saint Helena. »

[19] Riaud Xavier, Les dentistes détectives de l’histoire, [The dental detectives of history] L’Harmattan (éd.), Collection Médecine à travers les siècles [Medicine throughout the centuries Collection], Paris, 2007, p.69.

[20] Derobert L. & Hadengue A., Intoxications et maladies professionnelles, Flammarion (éd.), Paris, 1984.

A stomatitis is the inflammation of mucous tissues in the mouth, and a pyorrhoea is an infectious destruction of the tissues.

It was a Swedish dentist and biologist, Dr Sven Forshufvud (?-1985), who hypothesised  that the Emperor was infected with 28 of the 31 symptoms found in chronic arsenic poisoning (Riaud Xavier, Les dentistes, détectives., op. cit., 2007, pp. 68-72).

[21] Bastien Jacques & Jeandel Roland, Napoléon à Sainte Hélène., op. cit., 2005, pp. 101, 106, 112 et 120.

[22] It is worth noting that Doctor Antommarchi was reported to have made a facial print of Napoleon allowing for the creation of a funeral mask. But it also seems that the origin of the mask is questionable from a historical point of view, because it shows odd similarities with other members of Bonaparte’s family (See Roy-Henry Bruno, « Napoléon repose-t-il aux Invalides?», in Historia, 2000 ; 638 : 42-48).

[23] See Roy-Henry Bruno, « Napoléon repose-t-il aux Invalides? », in Historia, 2000 ; 638 : 42-48.

[24] See Roy-Henry Bruno, « Napoléon repose-t-il aux Invalides? », in Historia, 2000 ; 638 : 42-48.

[25] Riaud Xavier, « Une histoire dans l’Histoire : Les dents de Napoléon » [A history within History : Napoleon’s teeth], in The International Napoleonic Society, 2006, , pp. 1-7.

[26] See Rousseau Claude, « Histoire de l’aménagement opératoire du cabinet dentaire – L’énigme posée par l’attribution à Louis XVIII ou à Charles X d’un « nécessaire à dents » de Pierre-François Grangeret », in Actes de la SFHAD,, pp. 1-7.

[27] Bogopolsky Sacha, La brosse à dents., op. cit., 1995, p. 20.

[28] See, Barry Edward O’Meara, date unknown, p. 1.

[29] See, Napoléon II, 29/04/2007, pp. 1-6.

[30] See, Napoléon II, 29/04/2007, pp. 1-6.

[31] See Cabanès A., Légendes et curiosités de l’Histoire [Legends and curiosities of History], Albin Michel (éd.), Paris, 1953.

[32] See De Maar F. E. R., « Le mal aux dents du Roi de Rome » [The toothache of the King of Rome], in Revue de la Société française d’histoire de l’art dentaire,, 1981, pp. 25-26.

[33] See Palmstierna Carl-Fredrik, Marie-Louise et Napoléon (1813-1814), Stock (éd.), Paris, 1955, pp. 66, 109, 114, 117, 123 et 126.

The Aiglon had a strong chin, a feature peculiar to the Habsbourg family.

[34] Since the child was living in France at that time, it is Dubois-Foucou who was Napoleon’s personal dentist and not of Antoine Dubois (1756-1837), a surgeon who delivered Marie-Louise’s baby in 1811 as Palmstierna made it believed (1955, p. 305).

[35] See Palmstierna Carl-Fredrik, Marie-Louise., op. cit., 1955, pp. 153, 155, 159, 162, 165, 171 et 269.

[36] See Du Montet Alexandrine Prevost de la Boutetière de Saint-Mars, Souvenirs de la Baronne Du Montet (1785-1866) [Memories of Baroness Du Montet (1785-1866)], Plon (éd.), Paris, 4ème édition, 1914.

[37] See Cabanès A., Légendes et curiosités., op. cit., 1953.

[38] See Lamendin Henri, « Napoléon II : un dentiste et l’Histoire. » [Napoleon the 2nd : a dentist and History], in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France, 8-15/06/2000; 988/989 : 104-108.

[39] See Cabanès A., Légendes et curiosités., op. cit., 1953.

[40] See, Georg Carabelli, 2007, p.1.

[41] Cf. Evans Thomas W., Mémoires du Dr Thomas W. Evans, Plon (éd.), Paris,

1910, p. 2.

Prince Louis-Napoleon, future Emperor Napoleon the 3rd, arrived in Paris September 24, 1848.

[42] Cf. Evans Thomas W., Mémoires., op. cit., 1910, p. 13-14.

The American dentist remained faithful to his imperial friend and patient until the Emperor’s death in 1873.

[43] Cf. Evans Thomas W., Mémoires., op. cit., 1910, p. 13-14.

[44] Cf. Evans Thomas W., Mémoires., op. cit., 1910, p. 15-16.

Evans became the official dentist for the Court in 1853. However, he started to treat the future Empress Eugenie from Autumn 1851. It was in his dental office that Eugenie was noticed for the first time. The dentist remembered: “One day, among the people with her in my waiting room, there was by chance a friend of the Prince-President. This man, in a great rush, seemed somewhat annoyed at having to wait; so she offered him to go ahead of her, even though she herself had been waiting much longer than him; the gracious manner in which she did so surprised him, because, barely had her entered into my office, he asked me who was this beautiful young woman who had allowed him to enter before her.

Soon after, the Countess of Teba and her mother, the Countess of Montijo, were included on the list of people invited regularly to receptions at the Elysee Palace, where the Prince-President remarked; the young countess was admired and attracted the attention of all who were present.” (See Evans, 1910, pp. 66-68, & cf. Riaud Xavier, « Love story au cabinet dentaire de Thomas W. Evans ou comment Napoléon III a rencontré son Eugénie » [Love story at the dental surgery of Thomas W. Evans, or how Napoleon III met Eugenie], in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France [The dental surgeon of France], n° 1325, 15/11/2007, pp. 86-92). »

[45] See. Evans Thomas W., Mémoires., op. cit., 1910, p. 37.

[46] See Riaud Xavier, « L’influence de trois dentistes américains pendant la Guerre de Sécession » [The influence of three American dentists during the Civil War], in Revue d’Histoire des Sciences médicales [Review on the History of Medical Sciences], octobre-novembre-décembre 2007, tome XLI, n° 4, pp. 391-398 & see Riaud Xavier, « Le Dr Thomas W. Evans, ambassadeur de Napoléon III en Amérique »[ Dr Thomas W. Evans, the ambassador of Napoleon the 3rd in America], in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France [The dental surgeon of France], 20/11/2008, n° 1370, pp. 107-110.

[47] Eugenie had « She had a delicate small mouth, which, when she smiled, gleamed like a row of pearls. (See Evans, 1910, p. 68). »

A few days after her marriage, Eugenie sent her servant Pepa to help heal Evans so that he could come to the Tuileries to offer his services to her. “Her Majesty desired that I would come myself. (…) It was unusual that she would ask me to come and see her, it was as if she was asking me a favour.

As soon as I entered her room, she welcomed me cordially and with great simplicity. (…) My illustrious and very interesting patient was well at this moment, but she had recently suffered greatly and was worried her symptoms would return. And, as she had important issues to attend to during the day, and a reception that evening, I stayed several hours at the Tuileries and did all that I could so that she would be able to attend her appointments. As such we had a lot of time to talk (…) It was the first day of her marriage that she had suffered most, and the Emperor offered her his greatest sympathies; he offered her much attention, and continually entered into her office to see how she was feeling. As I was soon to be leaving Paris, I was very happy to know that my charming patient suffered no more, the Emperor returned to her room, jewel case in hand; he approached the Empress, took out of the case a magnificent pearl necklace, and passed it around her neck.” (See Evans, 1910, pp. 74-75)

[48] See Lamendin Henri, « L’impératrice Eugénie, des dentistes et l’Histoire» [The Empress Eugenie, dentists and history...], in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France [The dental surgeon of France], 16/09/1999, n° 950, pp. 38-41 & cf. Evans Thomas W., Mémoires., op. cit., 1910, pp. 246-314.

[49] See Frèrejean Alain, « Napoléon IV tombe sous les coups de sagaies des Zoulous » [Napoleon the 4th died under Zulu lances], in Historia, 1997 ; 610 : 77.

[50] See Lamendin Henri, Praticiens de l’Art dentaire [The Practioners of the Dental Art], op. cit., 2006, p. 59.

[51] See Deranian Martin H., « Thomas W. Evans: Pennsylvania’s dentist to Europe’s royalty», in J. Hist. Dent., Spring 2006; 54 (1): 17-23.

[52] See Riaud Xavier, Les dentistes, détectives., [Dental detectives of history] op. cit., 2007, pp. 97-102.

[53] Cf. Deranian Martin H., 2006, pp. 17-23.

[54] Cf. Riaud Xavier, L’influence des dentistes américains pendant la Guerre de Sécession (1861-1865) [The influence of American dentists during the Civil War (1861-1865)], L’Harmattan (éd.), Collection Médecine à travers les siècles [Medicine throughout the centuries Collection],, Paris, 2006, pp. 67-70.

[55] Cf. Iverson Daniel, « The Civil War: three dentists who made a difference », in J.Hist.Dent., 1998 Jul; 46(2): 85-88.

[56] Cf. Deranian Martin H., 2006, pp. 17-23.

[57] Cf. Iverson Daniel, 1998, pp. 85-88.

[1] Dr Xavier Riaud, 145, route de Vannes, 44800 Saint Herblain, France,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>