The Italian Almanac

Napoleon at Waterloo

Napoleon's Last Stand

A high-flying Telecom Italia manager with a muddled sense of history issued an embarrassed apology on Monday after he exhorted company staff to take courage from Napoleon's 'victory' at Waterloo. Luca Luciani, general manager of the telecommunication giant's domestic mobile services, became an unwilling YouTube star after the blunder at a TI staff conference.

In a bid to boost motivation among sales staff, Luciani told them in colourful, aggressive language to take Napoleon as their role model, in particular the French emperor's performance at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. ''Everybody thought Napoleon had had it, beaten by the supremacy of his adversaries. He had five great nations against him... but with strategy, clear ideas, determination and strength, Napoleon made Waterloo his masterpiece''. Luciani concluded by telling his salesman: ''Go ahead and score like Napoleon at Waterloo''. One of the greatest leaders in military history, Napoleon was definitively defeated by British and Prussian forces at Waterloo and exiled to the island of St. Helena where he died in 1821.

Clips of Luciani's gaffe have become a hit with Italians on the Internet video site YouTube, which also carries a subtitled version.