The Trial of Napoleon Bonaparte

 A Mock Trial for Social Studies

Developed by: Colin Welch, Stewart Secondary School

Stewart, B.C., Canada


Courtroom Personnel:

The Judge: ____________________________________________________

The Lawyer(s) for the Quadruple Alliance: _____________________

The Lawyer(s) for the Defense: ________________________________

The Court Clerk/Sheriff: ______________________________________

Witnesses for the Prosecution (representing the Quadruple Alliance):

 Prince Metternich of Austria: _________________________________

 Czar Alexander 1st of Russia __________________________________

 Lord Castlereagh of Great Britain: ____________________________

 The Duke of Wellington of Great Britain: ______________________

 A Prussian Nationalist Soldier: _______________________________

 An anti-Napoleon French soldier who fought in Russia: __________________________________

 A British Merchant and Trader: ________________________________

 Others (see your teacher): ____________________________________

 Witnesses for Napoleon:

 Napoleon: _____________________________________________________

 The Chief Justice of the French Court: ________________________

 A French School Teacher: ______________________________________

 A loyal French officer who fought at Austerlitz: _____________________________

 A loyal French soldier: _______________________________________

 A French peasant: _____________________________________________

 An Italian nationalist: _______________________________________

 Others (see your teacher): ____________________________________

 Preparation And Expectations For The Participants:

 1) The chief responsibility of the judge and clerk/sheriff is to be familiar with courtroom procedures. They will be responsible for conducting the trial and making sure all participants are following proper legal procedure. These two members must complete, before the trial, a minimum two-page summary of their respective duties in a trial. A summary can be done by each person, but it is recommended that the summary is completed jointly; this summary should follow the suggested order of trial listed below. The judge and clerk/sheriff are expected to cover what their characters will say and how they will deal with lawyers and witnesses during the trial. You can talk to the teacher for references about these duties. This summary must be typed or neatly written; it will be distributed to the rest of the class before the trial to help facilitate the smooth operation of the activity.

2) The lawyers must understand how each witness (their own or the hostile witnesses) will contribute to their legal strategy. Each legal team must complete an introductory speech which outlines: the witnesses they will call in their favor; the weaknesses of the opposing side's case; and the major arguments of their own case. They will also write a closing statement which: summarizes the arguments in favor of their case; explains the weaknesses of the other side's arguments and witnesses; and a recommendation on sentencing. Lawyers should write this conclusion before the trial by anticipating what will happen, but they should also leave room on the conclusion to add details which may emerge during the trial.

      Finally, the lawyers will write up at least 6 questions for each of their own witnesses which highlight their witnesses' title and position, experience regarding Napoleon, and their opinion about Napoleon. They will need to share their questions with each witness, and reach a consensus on the best questions. The lawyers will also need to create two or three questions for their cross-examination of hostile witnesses.

      These questions should put the witness on the defensive and reinforce the arguments of the cross-examining lawyers.

 3) Each witness must prepare a 200 to 300 word summary of their character. The summary should include their character's upbringing, position, general political beliefs and opinions toward Napoleon. Those witnesses who are not specific historical characters may have to create much of their character, as long as it is within reasonable limits and nothing inaccurate about Napoleon is said. These non- specific characters are important for what they represent about Napoleon, not who they are in particular (sorry!).The witness must also create 6 to 10 likely questions they would face from their lawyers. An appropriate answer for each question will be required.

      These will be shared with their lawyers. Ask your teacher for appropriate kinds of questions.

 Suggested Order For The Trial Of Napoleon Bonaparte

 A) Opening the Trial:

 B) Taking Pleas:

 C) The Case for the Prosecution:

 D) The Case for the Defense:

 E) Summations by Counsel:

 F) The Verdict:

 G) Closing the Trial: 



1. Like any mock trial, many things will have to be improvised. Each witness, for example, may have to create many elements of his or her character. Napoleon's witnesses, for example, can be fictional, as long as they summarize Napoleon's various achievements. As a teacher, you'll have to decide for yourself about selecting roles, costuming, timing, etc. This can be stressful, but it's also very creative and rewarding!

 2. You will need many resource books for this project. Ask your librarian well ahead of time to pull all of the available books. A particularly good resource, and one which helped me create this mock trial, is Charlie and Cynthia Hou's The Riel Rebellion: A Biographical Approach. The teacher's guide, in particular, has some excellent ideas on the roles of the Judge, the Clerk/Sheriff and the lawyers. Another good legal resource is a Law 12 textbook, All About Law (3rd edition). Chapter 7 is especially helpful with trial procedure. Incidentally, even though this trial is supposedly set in 19th century Europe, the courtroom procedures I've employed are from modern Canadian criminal law.

 3. Preparation is very important; it can be tedious but it makes a world of difference for the actual trial. You should read through the expectation and suggested order pages with the entire class and make sure everyone knows what to do. (A limited "dry run" is recommended to familiarize everyone with trial procedure). This and the library research may take 3 to 5 one-hour classes. The trial and wrap-up should take 2 classes.

 4. I recommend that a very responsible and out-going student is selected as the judge. You should also have strong students acting as lawyers. They will have to be resourceful, thorough and be able to interact with others (especially when creating questions). Finally, avoid hassles -don't have a separate jury, because they tend not to do much. Let the whole class decide!


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