Napoleon Bonaparte was poisoned, not by arsenic as some theories suggest, but by the eau de cologne he splashed over himself compulsively, a scientist claims.

Parvez Haris, a professor in biomedical science at De Montfort University, Leicester, said that frequent exposure to essential oils in his favourite cologne explained changes in his health. A post-mortem examination by his British captors on St Helena found that he had developed gastric cancer.

Haris, a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, cited historical accounts that in 1810 Napoleon used an average of 36 to 40 bottles of cologne a month. In October 1808 he ordered 72 bottles.

Madame de Rémusat, a lady in waiting to Empress Josephine, said: “He never made use of any perfume except eau

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