Napoleon I

Napoleon I

Napoleon I, 1769-1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal."

Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at Brienne and Paris. He received his commission in the artillery in 1785. After the outbreak of the French Revolution he attempted to join the Corsican patriots led by Pasquale Paoli, but his family was thought to be pro-French. His family was condemned for its opposition to Corsican independence from France and fled the island shortly after the outbreak of civil war in Apr., 1793.

Early Campaigns

Returning to military duty in France, Bonaparte was associated with the Jacobins and first attracted notice by his distinguished part in dislodging the British from Toulon (1793); he was promoted to brigadier general and sent to the Italian front. Returning to military duty in France, briefly under arrest in the Thermidorian reaction (1794; see Thermidor), he was released but remained out of favor.

A political event was to reopen his career overnight. In Oct., 1795, the Convention was assailed by a royalist Parisian uprising (see Vendémiaire), and Paul Barras persuaded the Convention to place Bonaparte in command of the troops. Napoleon dispersed the mob with what he called "a whiff of grapeshot"—which killed about 100 insurgents. He was given command of the army of the interior. After drawing up a plan for an Italian campaign, he was, again with Barras's help, made commander in chief of the army of Italy.

He left for Italy in Mar., 1796, after marrying Josephine de Beauharnais (see Josephine). Assuming command of an ill-supplied army, he succeeded within a short time in transforming it into a first-class fighting force. The brilliant success of his Italian campaign was based on three factors: his supply system, which he made virtually independent of the financially exhausted Directory by allowing the troops to live off the land; his reliance on speed and massed surprise attacks by small but compact units against the Austrian forces; and his influence over the morale of his soldiers.

Napoleon swept across N Italy, forcing Sardinia to sign a separate peace in May, 1796. After his victory at Lodi (May 10), he entered Milan (May 14) and laid siege to Mantua (July, 1796). After the great victories of Arcole (Nov., 1796) and Rivoli (Jan., 1797) and the fall of Mantua (Feb., 1797), Bonaparte began to cross the Alps toward Vienna. However, the slow advance of the northern French armies in Germany and the danger of being cut off in the rear caused him to arrange—without instructions from Paris—the truce of Leoben (Apr., 1797), sealed in October by the Treaty of Campo Formio.

Now the idol of half of Europe, Bonaparte returned to France. His plan for an invasion of Britain across the channel was canceled, and he made alternative plans to crush the British Empire by striking at Egypt and, ultimately, at India. The plan was supported by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand and by the directors. Bonaparte sailed in May, 1798, succeeded in evading Horatio Nelson, and took Malta on the way to Egypt. Shortly after landing at Aboukir (Abu Qir), he won a brilliant victory over the Mamluks in the battle of the Pyramids (July, 1798). His successes, however, were made useless when the French fleet was utterly destroyed (Aug. 1-2) by Nelson in Aboukir Bay.

The Ottoman Empire, of which Egypt was a province, declared war on France. A French expedition to Syria was repelled at Acre. Back in Egypt, Napoleon defeated Ottoman forces attempting to land at Aboukir (July, 1799). Meanwhile, in Europe matters were going from bad to worse for the French. They were expelled from Italy by the forces of the Second Coalition (see French Revolutionary Wars), and at home the Directory faced political ruin. Unannounced, Napoleon returned to France, leaving General Kléber in charge of a hopeless situation in Egypt, and joined a conspiracy already hatched by Emmanuel Sieyès, one of the directors.

The Consulate

The Directory was overthrown by the coup of 18 Brumaire (Nov. 9-10, 1799), and the Consulate was established with Bonaparte as first consul. The autocratic constitution of the year VIII was accepted by plebiscite. In effect, the constitution established the dictatorship of Bonaparte. As Consul, Napoleon made a point of ruling as a civilian, but he was more authoritarian than Louis XVI. Napoleon declared that France had finished with the "romance of the revolution." He centralized the administration, while giving local prefects considerable power in executing the policies of the central government. Officials and military officers were recruited from several strata of society and from all revolutionary factions, including émigrés. However they were appointed, not elected, and strict obedience was enforced.

Bonaparte's administrative reforms established an efficient modern state that was capable of effectively mobilizing its resources and afforded him vast patronage powers. He established the Bank of France. He also made peace with the Roman Catholic Church by the Concordat of 1801, which reestablished the church in France, but bound it to the success of his regime. He thereby neutralized the antirevolutionary priests who had encouraged peasant unrest (see Chouans) since 1793. Church property was not restored, but church unity and status were reestablished in return for stricter submission to civil authorities. The legal system was reformed with the Code Napoléon, which was begun before Bonaparte's consulate but was marked by his priorities.

While establishing the regime at home, Napoleon also dealt with France's enemies (1800), crossing the St. Bernard pass and defeating (June 14) the Austrians at Marengo, Italy. With the Treaty of Lunéville (1801) with Austria and the Treaty of Amiens (1802) with Great Britain, the Second Coalition was ended and France became paramount on the Continent. Napoleon's ambition did not rest. In Aug., 1802, a plebiscite approved his becoming first consul for life; a modified constitution, that of the year X, came into force. In the same year he incorporated Piedmont into France.

His continued intervention in Italy, Germany, the Helvetic Republic (Switzerland), and the Netherlands as well as his refusal to arrange a commercial treaty with Great Britain aroused British distrust. Britain failed to restore Malta to the Knights Hospitalers, as the Treaty of Amiens had stipulated. In May, 1803, Britain again declared war on France. Napoleon built up his army, apparently preparing to invade England, but the invasion fleet he assembled (1803-5) was repeatedly struck by storms, and a major part of the French fleet was engaged in the disastrous expedition of Charles Leclerc to Haiti.

The Empire

While warfare languished, Napoleon took advantage of the plot of Georges Cadoudal against his life, seized and executed the duc d'Enghien, and had himself proclaimed emperor of the French by a subservient senate and tribunate (May, 1804). Confirmation by a plebiscite was a foregone conclusion, and on Dec. 2, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Napoleon took the crown from the hands of Pope Pius VII and set it on his own head. An imperial court and a nobility were created.

The constitution of the year XII retained the features of the previous two constitutions, but its liberal provisions were gradually restricted. When Napoleon, in 1805, proclaimed himself king of Italy and annexed Genoa to France, a Third Coalition was formed against him by Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Sweden. Napoleon crushed the Austrians at Ulm, occupied Vienna, and won (Dec. 2, 1805) his most brilliant victory over the combined Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz.

Austria, with the harsh Treaty of Pressburg (Dec. 26), was forced out of the coalition. Prussia, which entered the coalition late in 1806, was thoroughly defeated (Oct. 14) at Jena, and Napoleon entered Berlin in triumph. British sea power, however, had grown stronger than ever through Nelson's victory at Trafalgar (1805), and Napoleon resolved to defeat Britain by economic warfare. His Continental System was answered by the British orders in council.

On land, warfare with Russia continued. The indecisive battle at Eylau (Feb. 8, 1807; now Bagrationovsk) was made good by Napoleon at Friedland (June 14), and Russia submitted. By the treaties of Tilsit (July, 1807; see Sovetsk), King Frederick William III of Prussia lost half of his territories and became a vassal to France; Russia recognized the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, created from Prussian Poland, and other territorial changes. Sweden was defeated in 1808 with the help of Russia.

With only Britain left in the field, Napoleon was now master of the Continent. The whole map of Europe was rearranged. The states of Germany had already been altered by the Confederation of the Rhine; Napoleon's allies, the electors of Bavaria, Württemberg, and Saxony, were made kings; the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved (1806); the kingdoms of Holland and Westphalia were created (1806 and 1807), with Napoleon's brothers Louis and Jérôme Bonaparte (see under Bonaparte, family) occupying the thrones.

Napoleon's stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais, was made (1805) viceroy of Italy, and a third brother, Joseph Bonaparte (see under Bonaparte, family), became (1806) king of Naples. In 1808 Napoleon made Joseph king of Spain after obtaining the abdication of Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII; in Naples, Joseph was replaced with Marshal Joachim Murat, who was married to Napoleon's sister Caroline. Another Napoleonic marshal, Jean Bernadotte, became heir to the Swedish throne in 1810 (see Charles XIV).

An attempt (1809) by Austria to reopen war against France was defeated at Wagram (July 6, 1809) and resulted in the cession of Illyria to France by the Treaty of Schönbrunn. The Papal States were declared annexed to France (1809), and when Pope Pius VII replied with an excommunication, he was imprisoned and later was forced to sign an additional concordat. Napoleon secured an annulment of his marriage with Josephine, who was unable to bear him a child, and was married in Mar., 1810, to Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I (formerly Holy Roman Emperor Francis II). A son was born to them (the "king of Rome," later known as the duke of Reichstadt or Napoleon II), thus insuring the imperial succession.

Decline and Fall

Great Britain had never submitted, and the Continental System proved difficult to enforce. Napoleon's first signs of weakness appeared early in the Peninsular War (1808-14). The victory of 1809 over Austria had been costly, and the victory of Archduke Charles at Aspern (May, 1809) showed that the emperor was not invincible. Everywhere forces were gathering to cast off the Napoleonic yoke.

Napoleon's decision to invade Russia marked the turning point of his career. His alliance with Czar Alexander I, dating from the treaties of Tilsit and extended at the Congress of Erfurt (1808), was tenuous. When the czar rejected the Continental System, which was ruinous to Russia's economy, Napoleon gathered the largest army Europe had ever seen. The Grande Armée, some 500,000 strong, including troops of all the vassal and allied states, entered Russia in June, 1812. The Russian troops, under Mikhail Kutuzov, fell back, systematically devastating the land.

After the indecisive battle of Borodino (Sept. 7), in which both sides suffered terrible losses, Napoleon entered Moscow (Sept. 14), where only a few thousand civilians had stayed behind. On Sept. 15, fires broke out all over Moscow; they ceased only on Sept. 19, leaving the city virtually uninhabitable. With his troops decimated, his prospective winter quarters burned down, his supply line overextended, and the Russian countryside and grain stores empty, Napoleon, after sending an unsuccessful feeler to the czar for peace, began his fateful retreat on Oct. 19. Stalked by hunger, the Grande Armée, now only a fifth of its original strength, reached the Berezina River late in November. After the passage of that river, secured at a terrible sacrifice, the retreat became a rout.

In December Napoleon left his army, returning to Paris to bolster French forces. Of his allies, Prussia was the first to desert; a Prussian truce with the czar (Dec. 30) was followed by an alliance in Feb., 1813. Great Britain and Sweden joined the coalition, followed (Aug., 1813) by Austria, and the "War of Liberation" began. At the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig (Oct. 16-19), Napoleon was forced to retreat. In November the allies offered Napoleon peace if France would return to her natural boundaries, the Rhine and the Alps. Napoleon rejected the offer, and the allies continued their advance. They closed in on Paris, which fell to them on Mar. 31, 1814.

Napoleon abdicated, first in favor of his son and then unconditionally (Apr. 11). He was exiled to Elba, which the allies gave him as a sovereign principality. His victors were still deliberating at the Congress of Vienna (see Vienna, Congress of) when Napoleon, with a handful of followers, landed near Cannes (Mar. 1, 1815). In the course of a triumphant march northward he once more rallied France behind him. King Louis XVIII fled, and Napoleon entered Paris (Mar. 20), beginning his ephemeral rule of the Hundred Days.

Attempting to reconstruct the empire, Napoleon liberalized the constitution, but his efforts were cut short when warfare began again. Napoleon was utterly crushed in the Waterloo campaign (June 12-18). He again abdicated and surrendered himself to a British warship, hoping to find asylum in England. Instead he was shipped as a prisoner of war to the lonely island of Saint Helena, where he spent his remaining years quarreling with the British governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, talking with his ever-dwindling group of followers, and dictating his memoirs., He died May 5, 1821, officially from stomach cancer, but the presence of arsenic in samples of his hair have led some modern researchers to suggest he was poisoned. Napoleon's remains were ordered to be returned to France by Louis Philippe in 1840 and were entombed under the dome of the Invalides in Paris.

Napoleon's Legacy

The Napoleonic legend, the picture of a liberal conqueror spreading the French Revolution throughout Europe and of the quintessential Romantic man of action, was a potent factor in French history and helped make Napoleon's nephew French emperor as Napoleon III. Estimates of Napoleon's place in history differ widely. He was beyond doubt one of the greatest military leaders in history and dominated his times so completely that European history between 1800 and 1815 is commonly described as the Napoleonic era. But his legacy is mixed.

Napoleon promoted the growth of the modern state through his administrative and legal reforms, and his changes in the map of Europe stimulated movements for national unification. However, his use of such ruthless police chiefs as Joseph Fouché to suppress all opposition, if relatively mild by 20th-century standards, set an ominous precedent. More or less apocryphal sayings and anecdotes illustrating Napoleon's character and manners are as innumerable as the books written about him.


See Napoleon's memoirs, dictated to E. de Las Cases et al., and his correspondence. See also biographies by V. Cronin (1971), F. McLynn (1997), A. Schom (1997), and P. Johnson (2002); P. Geyl, Napoleon: For and Against (1949); studies of Napoleon and his era by J. C. Herold (1955), G. Lefebvre (2 vol., tr. 1969), J. Tulard (1971), L. Bergeron (1981), O. Connelly (1985, 1987), R. Asprey (2001), and I. Woloch (2001).

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who had a significant impact on the history of Europe. He was a general during the French Revolution, the ruler of France as First Consul of the French Republic and Emperor of the French and King of Italy, Mediator of the Swiss Confederation and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine.

Born in Corsica and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France, he rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. In 1799, Napoleon staged a coup d'état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later he crowned himself Emperor of the French. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, he turned the armies of France against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a lengthy streak of military victories - epitomised through battles such as Austerlitz and Friedland. He maintained France's sphere of influence through the formation of an extensive alliance system, including the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.

The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. His Grande Armée was decimated in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at the Leipzig, invaded France and exiled him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he returned and was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon spent the last six years of his life under British supervision on the island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. The autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer though Sten Forshufvud and other scientists in the 1960s alleged he had been poisoned with arsenic.

Napoleon developed few military innovations, drew his tactics from a variety of sources and scored major victories with a modernised French army. His campaigns are studied at military academies all over the world and he is widely regarded as one of history's greatest commanders. Whilst considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the bureaucratic foundations for the modern French state.

Origins and education

Napoleon was born in the town of Ajaccio, Corsica, on 15 August 1769, one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He was named Napoleone di Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione), though he later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte. His heritage would later earn him popularity amongst the local populace during his Italian campaigns.

The Corsican Buonapartes originated from minor Italian nobility, which came to Corsica in the 16th century when the island was still a possession of Genoa. His father Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1778, where he remained for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino, whose firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious Napoleon. Napoleon had an elder brother, Joseph, and younger siblings Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline and Jérôme. He was baptised Catholic just before his second birthday, on 21 July 1771 at Ajaccio Cathedral.

Napoleon's noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. On 15 May 1779, at age nine, Napoleon was admitted to a French military academy at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes. He had to learn French before he entered the school, spoke with a marked Italian accent and never learned to spell properly. During these school years Napoleon was teased by other students for his accent and he buried himself in study. On completion of his studies at Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Militaire in Paris. Though he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery and completed the two-year course of study in one year. An examiner judged him as very applied to "abstract sciences, little curious as to the others; a thorough knowledge of mathematics and geography.

Early career

Upon graduation in September 1785, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment and took up his new duties at the age of 16. Napoleon served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, though he took nearly two years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period. Keen to maintain political connections back home, Napoleon wrote to Pasquale Paoli, the Corsican nationalist, in May 1789: "As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odius sight which was the first to strike me. He spent most of the next four years in Corsica, amidst a complex three-way struggle between royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction and gained the rank of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. It is not clear how, after he had exceeded his leave of absence and led a riot against a French army in Corsica, he was able to convince military authorities in Paris to promote him to Captain in July 1792. He returned to Corsica but came into conflict with Paoli after the Corsican leader sabotaged an assault, involving Napoleon, on the island of La Maddalena. Bonaparte and his family had to flee to the French mainland in June 1793; Napoleon's best opportunity for advancement was now through the French military.

Through the help of fellow Corsican Antoine Christophe Saliceti, Napoleon was appointed artillery commander of the French forces at the siege of Toulon. The city had risen in revolt against the republican government and was occupied by British troops. He spotted an ideal hill placing that allowed French guns to dominate the city's harbour and force the British ships to evacuate. The assault on the position, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led to the recapture of the city and his promotion to Brigadier General. His actions brought him to the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, and he became a close associate of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. Following the fall of the Robespierres, Napoleon was briefly imprisoned in the Château d'Antibes in August 1794, but was released within two weeks. He also became engaged to Désirée Clary, later Queen of Sweden and Norway, but the engagement was broken off by Napoleon in 1796.

13 Vendémiaire

Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries organised an armed protest against the National Convention on 3 October 1795. Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces that were defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, who later became his brother-in-law, and used it to repel the attackers, 1400 of whom died and the rest fled. The defeat of the Royalist insurrection extinguished the threat to the Convention and earned him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory, particularly that of its leader, Barras. Napoleon was quickly promoted to Général de Division and within six months, he was given command of the French Army of Italy. Also, within weeks of Vendémiaire he was romantically attached to Barras's former mistress, Joséphine de Beauharnais, whom he married on 9 March 1796.

First Italian campaign

Two days after the marriage, Bonaparte left Paris to take command of the Army of Italy and led it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Battle of Montenotte and Battle of Lodi, he defeated Austrian forces, then drove them out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States.

Bonaparte argued against the wishes of Directory atheists, such as Louis Marie la Révellière-Lepaux, to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope, because he reasoned this would create a power vacuum that would be exploited by the Kingdom of Naples. Instead, in March 1797, Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced it to sue for peace. The resulting Treaty of Leoben gave France control of most of northern Italy, along with the Low Countries and Rhineland, but a secret clause promised the Republic of Venice to Austria. Bonaparte then marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending more than 1,000 years of independence. By July 1797, Bonaparte had organised many of the French-dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.

His application of conventional military ideas to real-world situations effected many of his military triumphs, such as creative use of artillery as a mobile force to support his infantry. He described his tactics: "I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning. Look at Caesar; he fought the first like the last. Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign depict his use of the Claude Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also adept at both espionage, deception and knew when to strike. He often won battles by his use of spies to gather information about enemy forces, concealment of troop deployments and concentration of his forces on the unsuspecting enemy. In this campaign, often considered his greatest, Napoleon's army captured 150,000 prisoners, 540 cannons and 170 standards. A year's campaign had seen the French army fight 67 actions and win 18 pitched battles due to superior artillery technology and Napoleon's tactics and strategy.

During the campaign, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as well. In May 1797 he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris, Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux. Elections in mid-1797 gave the royalist party increased power which alarmed Barras and his allies on the Directory. The royalists, in turn, attacked Bonaparte for looting Italy and claimed he had overstepped his authority in dealings with the Austrians. Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d'état and purge the royalists on 4 September (18 Fructidor). This left Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent on Bonaparte to maintain it. Bonaparte himself proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, then returned to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force in government, more popular than the Directors.

Egyptian expedition

In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed a military expedition to seize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to India. The Directory, though troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily agreed in order that the popular general would be absent from the centre of power.

In May, Bonaparte was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His Egyptian expedition included a group of 167 scientists: mathematicians, naturalists, chemists and geodesers among them; their discoveries included the Rosetta Stone and their work was published in the Description of Egypt in 1809. Ahmed Youssef writes that this deployment of intellectual resources was an indication of Bonaparte's devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, whilst Juan Cole is inclined to see it as a masterstroke of propaganda, which obfuscated imperialism. In a largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations that cast him as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praised the precepts of Islam.

En route to his campaign in Egypt, Napoleon seized Malta on 9 June 1798. He requested safe harbour to resupply his ships, waited until his ships were safely in port, and then turned his guns on his hosts. The Knights Hospitaller were unable to defend themselves from this attack.

On 1 July, Napoleon and his army landed at Alexandria, after they had eluded pursuit by the British Royal Navy. He then successfully fought the Battle of Chobrakit against the Mamluks, an old power in the Middle East. This battle helped the French plan their attack in the Battle of the Pyramids fought over a week later, about 6 km from the pyramids. Bonaparte's forces were greatly outnumbered by the Mamelukes cavalry - 20,000 against 60,000 - he formed hollow squares which kept supplies safely on the inside. In all, 300 French and approximately 6,000 Egyptians were killed.

While the battle on land was a resounding French victory, the British Royal Navy won control of the sea. The ships that had landed Bonaparte and his army sailed back to France, while a fleet of ships of the line remained to support the army along the coast. On 1 August the British fleet under Horatio Nelson captured or destroyed all but two French vessels in the Battle of the Nile. With Bonaparte land-bound, his goal of a strengthened French position in the Mediterranean Sea was frustrated, but his army had temporarily succeeded in the consolidation of French power in Egypt, though it faced repeated uprisings.

In early 1799, he led the army into the Ottoman province of Damascus (Syria and Galilee) and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease - mostly bubonic plague - and poor supplies. Napoleon led 13,000 French soldiers in the conquest of the coastal towns of Arish, Gaza, Jaffa, and Haifa.

The storming of Jaffa was particularly brutal. The French took control of the city within a few hours of the start of the attack and bayoneted approximately 2,000 Turkish soldiers that tried to surrender. The soldiers then turned on the inhabitants of the town. Men, women, and children were robbed and murdered for three days, and the massacre ended with even more bloodshed, as Napoleon ordered 3,000 Turkish prisoners executed.

With his army weakened by the plague, Napoleon was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and returned to Egypt in May. To speed up the retreat, he ordered plague-stricken men to be poisoned; it is not clear how many died. His supporters have argued this decision was necessary given the continued harassment of stragglers by Ottoman forces. Back in Egypt, on 25 July, Bonaparte defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.

Ruler of France

Whilst in Egypt, Bonaparte stayed informed of European affairs through irregular delivery of newspapers and dispatches. He learnt France had suffered a series of defeats in the War of the Second Coalition. On 24 August 1799 he took advantage of the temporary departure of British ships from French coastal ports and set sail for France, despite the fact he had received no orders from Paris. The army was left in the charge of Jean Baptiste Kléber.

Unknown to Napoleon, the Directory had earlier sent him orders to return with his army to ward off possible invasions of French soil but poor lines of communication meant the messages had failed to reach the French general. By the time he reached Paris in October, France's situation had been improved by a series of victories. The Republic was bankrupt however, and the ineffective Directory was unpopular with the public. The Directory had discussed Napoleon's "desertion" but it was now too weak to punish him.

Bonaparte was approached by one of the Directors, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, who sought his support for a coup to overthrow the constitutional government. The leaders of the plot included Bonaparte's brother Lucien, the speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, Joseph Fouche and Talleyrand. On 9 November - 18 Brumaire - Bonaparte was charged with the safety of the legislative councils, who were persuaded to remove to Château de Saint-Cloud, to the west of Paris, after a rumour of a Jacobin rebellion was spread by the plotters. By the following day, the deputies had realized they faced an attempted coup. Faced with their remonstrations, Napoleon led troops to seize control and disperse them, which left a rump legislature to name Bonaparte, Sièyes, and Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government. Though Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmanoeuvered by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul. This made Bonaparte the most powerful person in France, powers that were increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which declared him First Consul for life.

French Consulate

Bonaparte instituted several lasting reforms, including centralised administration of the departements, higher education, a tax system, a central bank, law codes, and road and sewer systems. He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, which sought to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime. It was presented alongside the Organic Articles, which regulated public worship in France. His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic code or Civil Code, has importance to this day in modern continental Europe, Latin America and the US, specifically Louisiana.

The Code was prepared by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, who held the office Second Consul from 1799 to 1804; Bonaparte participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of due process. When enacted, it sought to protect personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in contemporary European courts.

Second Italian campaign

In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered during his absence in Egypt. With his troops he crossed the Alps on a mule, as depicted in Bonaparte Crossing the Alps by Hippolyte Delaroche - not on a charger as shown in Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Though the campaign began badly, Napoleon's forces eventually routed the Austrians in June at the Battle of Marengo, resulting in an armistice. Napoleon's brother Joseph, led the peace negotiations in Luneville. He reported that Austria, emboldened by British backing, would not recognise France's newly gained territory. As negotiations became more and more fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result, the Treaty of Luneville was signed in February 1801: the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased. Later that year, Bonaparte became President of the French Academy of Sciences and appointed Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre its Permanent Secretary. He also reestablished slavery in France which had been banned following the revolution.

Interlude of peace

The British signed the Treaty of Amiens in October 1801 and March 1802, this set the terms for peace, which included the withdrawal of British troops from most colonial territories recently occupied. The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The monarchies of Europe were reluctant to recognise a republic as they feared the ideas of the revolution might be exported to them. In Britain, the brother of Louis XVI was welcomed as a state guest though officially Britain recognised France as a republic. Britain failed to evacuate Malta, as promised, and protested against France's annexation of Piedmont, and Napoleon's Act of Mediation in Switzerland, though neither of these areas were covered by the Treaty.

In 1803 Bonaparte faced a major setback and eventual defeat in the Haitian Revolution. Following a slave revolt, he sent an army to reconquer Saint-Domingue and establish a base. The force was, however, destroyed by yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Haitian Generals Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Faced by imminent war with Britain and bankruptcy, he recognised French possessions on the mainland of North America would be indefensible and sold them to the United States - the Louisiana Purchase - for less than three cents per acre ($7.40 per km²). The dispute over Malta ended with a declaration of war on France by Britain in 1803, to support French royalists.

French Empire

In January 1804, Bonaparte's police uncovered an assassination plot against him, ostensibly sponsored by the former rulers of France, the Bourbons. In retaliation, Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Duke of Enghien, in violation of Baden's sovereignty. After a hurried secret trial, the Duke was executed on 21 March. Bonaparte used this incident to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France, with himself as Emperor, on the theory that a Bourbon restoration would be impossible once the Bonapartist succession was entrenched in the constitution.

Napoleon crowned himself Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre Dame de Paris and then crowned Joséphine Empress. At Milan Cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

War of the Third Coalition

In 1805 Britain convinced Austria and Russia to join a Third Coalition against France. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and tried to lure it away from the English Channel in the hope a Spanish and French fleet could take control of the Channel long enough for French armies to cross and invade England. However, because Austria and Russia had prepared an invasion of France, he had to change his plans and turn his attention to the continent. The newly formed Grande Armée secretly marched to Germany. On 20 October 1805, it surprised the Austrians at Ulm, but the next day Britain's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar meant the Royal Navy gained control of the seas. A few weeks later on 2 December, the first anniversary of his coronation, Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia at Austerlitz which ended the third coalition. Historian Frank Mclynn suggests Napoleon was so successful at Austerlitz he lost touch with reality, and what used to be French foreign policy became a "personal Napoleonic one". Again Austria had to sue for peace: the Peace of Pressburg led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine with Napoleon as its Protector.

War of the Fourth Coalition

The Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in October. He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland, and was involved at the bloody stalemate of the Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a decisive victory at Friedland, he signed the Treaties of Tilsit with Tsar Alexander I of Russia which divided Europe between the two powers. He placed puppet rulers on the thrones of German states, including his brother Jerome as king of the new Kingdom of Westphalia. In the French-controlled part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw, with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813, Napoleon also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.

In addition, Napoleon also waged economic war with an attempt to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the "Continental System", though it did not succeed.

Peninsular War

Portugal did not comply with the Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon invaded Portugal with the support of Spain. Under the pretext of a reinforcement of the Franco-Spanish army that was occupying Portugal, Napoleon invaded Spain as well, replaced Charles IV with his brother Joseph and placed his brother-in-law Joachim Murat in Joseph's stead at Naples. This led to resistance from the Spanish army and civilians in the Dos de Mayo Uprising. Following a French retreat from much of the country, Napoleon himself took command and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then outmanoeuvred a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast. But before the Spanish population had been fully subdued, Austria again threatened war and Napoleon returned to France. The costly and often brutal Peninsular War continued, and Napoleon left several hundred thousand of his finest troops to battle Spanish guerrillas as well as British and Portuguese forces commanded by the Duke of Wellington. French control over the Iberian Peninsula deteriorated and collapsed in 1813; the war went on through allied victories and concluded after Napoleon's abdication in 1814.

War of the Fifth Coalition

In April 1809, Austria abruptly broke its alliance with France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. After early successes, the French faced difficulties in crossing the Danube and then suffered a defeat in May at Aspern-Essling near Vienna. The Austrians failed to capitalise on the situation and allowed Napoleon's forces to regroup. The Austrians were defeated once again at Wagram and a new peace was signed between Austria and France. The other member of the coalition was Britain. In addition to its position in the Iberian Peninsula, the British planned to open another front in mainland Europe. However, by the time the British landed at Walcheren, Austria had already sued for peace. The expedition was a disaster and was characterised by little fighting but 4,000 casualties due to what the soldiers called, "Walcheren Fever".

Concurrently with this war, Napoleon annexed the Papal States because of the Church's refusal to support the Continental System. Pius VII responded by excommunicating the emperor and the Pope was then abducted by Napoleon's officers. Though Napoleon did not order his abduction, he did not order Pius' release either. The Pope was moved throughout Napoleon's territories, sometimes whilst ill, and Napoleon sent delegations to pressure him into issues including giving-up power and a new concordat with France. The Pope remained confined for 5 years, and did not return to Rome until May 1814. In 1810 the Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Joséphine. The marriage further strained relations with the Church and thirteen cardinals were imprisoned for non-attendance at the ceremony.

Invasion of Russia

The Congress of Erfurt had sought to preserve the Russo-French alliance and the leaders had had a friendly personal relationship after their first meeting at Tilsit in 1807. By 1811, however, tensions were building between the two nations and Alexander was under strong pressure from the Russian nobility to break off the alliance. The first clear sign the alliance was deteriorating was the relaxation of the Continental System in Russia, which angered Napoleon. By 1812, advisers to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire and the recapture of Poland.

Russia deployed large numbers of troops on the Polish borders, more than 300,000 of its total army strength of 410,000. On receipt of intelligence reports on Russia's war preparations, Napoleon expanded his Grande Armée to more than 450,000 men, in addition to at least 300,000 men already deployed in Iberia. Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared for an offensive campaign.

On 23 June 1812, Napoleon's invasion of Russia commenced. In an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, Napoleon termed the war the "Second Polish War" - the first Polish war was the Bar Confederation uprising by Polish nobles against Russia. Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, though this was rejected by Napoleon, who feared it would bring Prussia and Austria into the war against France. Napoleon also rejected requests to free the Russian serfs, due to concerns this might provoke a reaction in his army's rear.

The Russians avoided Napoleon's objective of a decisive engagement and instead retreated ever deeper into Russia. A brief attempt at resistance was made at Smolensk in the middle of August, but the Russians were defeated in a series of battles in the area and Napoleon resumed his advance. The Russians then repeatedly avoided battle with the Grande Armée, though in a few cases this was only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity arose. Thanks to the Russian army's scorched earth tactics, the French were finding it increasingly difficult to forage food for themselves and their horses. Along with hunger, the French also suffered from the harsh Russian winter.

The Russians eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September. Losses were almost even, with slightly more casualties on the Russian side, after what may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history: the Battle of Borodino. Though Napoleon had won, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle the French had hoped would be decisive. Napoleon's own account was: "Of the fifty battles I have fought, the most terrible was that before Moscow. The French showed themselves to be worthy victors, and the Russians can rightly call themselves invincible. The Russian army withdrew and retreated past Moscow. Napoleon entered the city, assuming its fall would end the war and Alexander would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city's military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, concerned about loss of control back in France, Napoleon and his army left.

The French suffered greatly in the course of a ruinous retreat; the Armée had begun as over 450,000 frontline troops, but in the end fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River in November 1812, to escape. The strategy employed by the Russians had worn down the invaders: French losses in the campaign were about 570,000 in total. The Russians lost 150,000 in battle and hundreds of thousands of civilians.

War of the Sixth Coalition

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 while both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually French troops withdrew to the German states to rejoin the expanding force there. This force continued to expand to the point where Napoleon could field a force of 350,000 troops.

Heartened by Napoleon's losses in Russia, Prussia rejoined the Coalition that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Allies which culminated in the Battle of Dresden on 26–27 August 1813 - the battle resulted in 38,000 casualties to the Coalition forces, whilst the French sustained around 10,000.

Despite these initial successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the Battle of Leipzig from 16–19 October. Some of the German states switched sides in the midst of the battle to fight against France. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.

Napoleon withdrew back into France; his army was now reduced to 70,000 men still in formed units and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded and vastly outnumbered: British armies pressed from the south, in addition to other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days Campaign, though this was not significant enough to change the overall strategic position and Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.

When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his Marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Ney said the army would not march on Paris. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. On 6 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son, but the Allies refused to accept this and demanded unconditional surrender. Napoleon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April; however, the Allies allowed him to retain his title of Emperor. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea 20 km off the coast of Italy. Napoleon attempted to commit suicide by taking poison from a vial he carried. However, the poison had weakened with age and he survived to be deported whilst his wife and son took refuge in Vienna. In exile, he ran Elba as a little country, created a tiny navy and army, opened mines, and helped farmers improve their land.

Hundred Days

In France, the royalists had taken over and restored Louis XVIII to power. Meanwhile Napoleon, separated from his wife and son (who had come under Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean, escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the French mainland on 1 March 1815. Louis XVIII sent the 5th Regiment of the Line to meet him at Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot shouted, "Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish. The soldiers responded with, "Vive L'Empereur!" and marched with Napoleon to Paris. On 13 March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw and four days later the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Russia, Austria and Prussia bound themselves to put 150,000 men into the field to end his rule. Napoleon arrived in Paris on 20 March and governed for a period now called the Hundred Days. By the start of June the armed forces available to Napoleon had reached 200,000 and the French Army of the North crossed the frontier into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, in modern-day Belgium. Napoleon was finally defeated by the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. Wellington's army withstood repeated attacks by the French and drove them from the field, while the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. The French army left the battlefield in disorder, which allowed Coalition forces to enter France and restore Louis XVIII to the French throne.

Off the port of Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, blocked from an escape to the United States, Napoleon made his formal surrender to Captain Frederick Maitland of on 15 July 1815.

Exile on Saint Helena

Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British in October 1815, to the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, 2,000 km from any major landmass. Before Napoleon moved to Longwood House in December 1815, he lived in a pavilion on the Briars estate, which belonged to William Balcombe (1779-1829), and became friendly with the family, especially the younger daughter Lucia Elizabeth (Betsy) who later wrote Recollections of the Emperor Napoleon. This relationship ended in 1818 when British authorities became suspicious that Balcombe had acted as an intermediary between Napoleon and Paris, and dismissed him from the island.

Longwood had fallen into disrepair, and the location was damp, windswept and considered unhealthy even by the British. With a small cadre of followers, Napoleon dictated his memoirs and criticised his captors - particularly Hudson Lowe, the British governor of the island and Napoleon's custodian. Lowe's treatment of Napoleon is regarded by historians, such as Frank McLynn, as poor. Lowe exacerbated a difficult situation through several measures including: a reduction in Napoleon's expenditure, no gifts could be delivered to him if they mentioned his imperial status and all his supporters had to sign a document that guaranteed they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely. Napoleon and his entourage did not accept the legality or justice of his captivity, and the slights they received could become magnified. In the early years of exile Napoleon received many visitors, to the anger and consternation of the French minister Richelieu. From 1818 however, as the restrictions placed on him were increased, he lived the life of a recluse.

In 1818 The Times reported a false rumour of Napoleon's escape and said that the news was greeted by spontaneous illuminations in London - a custom in which householders place candles in street-facing windows, to herald good news. There was sympathy for him also in the political opposition in the British Parliament. Lord Holland - the nephew of the former Whig leader Charles James Fox - made a speech to the House of Lords that the prisoner should be treated with no unnecessary harshness. As Napoleon read The Times during his exile, he hoped for release on the possibility that Holland would become Prime Minister.

Napoleon also enjoyed the support of Lord Cochrane who was closely involved in Chile and Brazil's struggle for independence. It was Cochrane's aim to rescue and then help him set up a new empire in South America, a scheme frustrated by Napoleon's death in 1821. There were several plots to rescue Napoleon from captivity, including one from Brazil and another from Texas, where 400 exiled soldiers from the Grand Armée dreamed of a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America. There was even a plan to rescue him with a submarine. For Lord Byron, amongst others, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely and flawed genius. Conversely, the news that Napoleon had taken-up gardening at Longwood appealed to more domestic British sensibilities.


In February 1821, his health began to fail rapidly and on 3 May, two English physicians who had recently arrived, attended him and could only recommend palliatives. He died two days later, having confessed his sins and received Extreme Unction and Viaticum at the hands of Father Ange Vignali. His last words were, "France, armée, tete d'armée, Joséphine." He had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but was buried on St. Helena, in the "valley of the willows", in an unmarked tomb.

In 1840, Louis-Philippe of France obtained permission from the British to return Napoleon's remains to France. The remains were transported aboard the frigate Belle-Poule, which had been painted black for the occasion and on 29 November she arrived in Cherbourg. The remains were transferred to the steamship Normandie, which transported them to Le Havre, up the Seine to Rouen and on to Paris. On 15 December a state funeral was held. The hearse proceeded from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysees, across the Place de la Concorde to the Esplanade and then to the cupola in St Jerome's Chapel, where it stayed until the tomb designed by Louis Visconti was completed. In 1861 Napoleon's remains were entombed in a porphyry sarcophagus in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides. Hundreds of millions have since visited his tomb.

Napoleon's original death mask was created around 6 May, though it is not clear which doctor took it. During this period, it was customary to cast a death mask or mold of a leader. A mixture of wax or plaster was placed over his face and removed after the form hardened. From this impression, subsequent copies were cast.

Cause of death

Napoleon's physician, Francesco Antommarchi, led the autopsy which found the cause of death to be stomach cancer, though he did not sign the official English report, stating, "What had I to do with...English reports? Napoleon's father had died of stomach cancer though this was seemingly unknown at the time of the autopsy. Antommarchi found evidence of a stomach ulcer and it was the most convenient explanation for the British who wanted to avoid criticism over their care of the former French emperor.

In 1955 the diaries of Napoleon's valet, Louis Marchand, appeared in print. His description of Napoleon in the months before his death led Sten Forshufvud to put forward other causes for his death, including deliberate arsenic poisoning, in a 1961 paper in Nature. Arsenic was used as a poison during the era because it was then undetectable when administered over a long period. Forshufvud, in a 1978 book with Ben Weider, noted the emperor's body was found to be remarkably well-preserved when it was moved in 1840, which supported the hypothesis of unusually high levels of arsenic, a strong preservative, and therefore the poisoning theory. Forshufvud and Weider noted Napoleon had attempted to quench abnormal thirst by drinking high levels of orgeat syrup that contained cyanide compounds in the almonds used for flavouring. Forshufvud and Weider maintained that the potassium tartrate used in his treatment prevented his stomach from expelling these compounds. They claimed the thirst was a symptom of arsenic poisoning, and the calomel given to Napoleon became a massive overdose, which caused stomach bleeding that killed him and left behind extensive tissue damage. Forshufvud and Weider suggested the autopsy doctors could have mistaken this damage for cancer aftereffects. A 2007 article stated that the type of arsenic found in Napoleon's hair shafts was mineral type, the most toxic, and therefore according to toxicologist Dr Patrick Kintz, this supported the conclusion that his death was murder. Different researchers, in another 2008 study, analysed samples of Napoleon's hair from throughout his life, and from his family and other contemporaries. All samples had high levels of arsenic, approximately 100 times higher than the current average. According to researchers, Napoleon's body was already heavily contaminated with arsenic as a boy, and the high arsenic concentration in his hair was not due to intentional poisoning; people were constantly exposed to arsenic from glues and dyes, throughout their lives.

There have been modern studies which have supported the original autopsy finding. In May 2005, a team of Swiss physicians suggested there was more evidence for stomach cancer after studies of his trouser waist sizes indicated he had lost weight just before his death. Also, in October 2005 a document was unearthed in Scotland that presented an account of the autopsy which seemed to confirm its conclusion. A 2007 study found no evidence of arsenic poisoning in the relevant organs and concluded stomach cancer was the cause of death.

Religious Faith

After Napoleon's death, Henry Parry Liddon asserted that Napoleon, while in exile on St. Helena, compared himself unfavourably to Christ. According to Liddon's sources, Napoleon said to Count Montholon that while he and others such as "Alexander, Caesar and Charlemagne" founded vast empires, their achievements relied on force, while Jesus "founded his empire on love." After further discourse about Christ and his legacy, Napoleon then reputedly said, "It...proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

An earlier quotation attributed to Napoleon suggested he may have been an admirer of Islam: "I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Qur'an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness. However, Napoleon's private secretary during his conquest of Egypt, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, wrote that Napoleon had no serious interest in Islam or any other religion beyond their political value.

Marriages and children

Napoleon married Joséphine in 1796, when he was 26; she was a 32-year old widow whose first husband had been executed during the revolution. Until she met Bonaparte, she had always been Rose, a name which he disliked. He called her 'Joséphine,' which she took up, and sent her many love letters whilst on his campaigns. He formally adopted her son Eugène and cousin Stéphanie, and arranged dynastic marriages for them. Joséphine had her daughter Hortense marry Napoleon's brother, Louis.

Joséphine had several lovers, including a Hussar lieutenant Hippolyte Charles during Napoleon's Italian campaign. Napoleon also had many affairs: during the Egyptian campaign he became involved with Pauline Bellisle Foures, the wife of a junior officer; she became known as "Napoleon's Cleopatra." Shortly before the imperial coronation, Joséphine caught Napoleon in the bedroom of her lady-in-waiting, Elisabeth de Vaudey. Napoleon threatened to divorce Joséphine as she had not produced an heir, an impossibility due to the stresses of her imprisonment during the Terror or she may have had an abortion in her twenties. They were temporarily reconciled through the efforts of Hortense.

Napoleon ultimately decided to divorce so he could remarry in search of an heir. Therefore in March 1810, he married Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria by proxy; he had married into the German royal family. They remained married until his death, though she did not join him in exile. The couple had one child Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (1811–32), known from birth as the King of Rome. He was later to become Napoleon II though reigned for only two weeks and was awarded the title of the Duke of Reichstadt in 1818; he had no children himself.

Napoleon acknowledged two illegitimate children:

He may have had further illegitimate offspring:


Napoleon has become a worldwide cultural icon who symbolises strength, genius and military and political power. Since his death, countless towns, streets, ships, and even cartoon characters have been named after him. In apparent contradiction, the stock character of Napoleon is generally a comically short "petty tyrant" which has been a cliché in popular culture. Napoleon's name has been lent to the Napoleon complex, a colloquial term that describes a type of inferiority complex associated with shortness. He is often portrayed with a comically large bicorne and one hand tucked inside his coat - a reference to the 1812 painting by Jacques-Louis David. This caricature sometimes displaces the real historical figure.

During the Napoleonic Wars he was taken seriously by the British as a dangerous tyrant, poised to invade. British propaganda of the time depicted Napoleon as of smaller than average height and it is this image that persists. Confusion about his height also stems from the fact that the French and English inches are different sizes - 2.70 and 2.54 cm respectively. According to contemporary sources, he in fact grew to just under 1.7 m, just under average height for a Frenchman at the time.

Napoleonic Code

The Napoleonic code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained in force after Napoleon's defeat. Napoleon himself said: "My true glory is not to have won 40 battles...Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. ... But...what will live forever, is my Civil Code. Dieter Langewiesche described the code as a "revolutionary project" which spurred the development of bourgeoisie society in Germany by extending the right to own property and breaking feudalism. Napoleon reorganised what had been the Holy Roman Empire, made-up of more than a thousand entities, into a more streamlined forty-state Confederation of the Rhine, providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany into a German Empire in 1871. The movement of national unification in Italy was also precipitated by Napoleonic rule in the country. These changes contributed to the development of nationalism and the Nation state.

Metric system

Even though the official introduction of the metric system in the Paris region in September 1799 was never popular with large sections of French society, Napoleon's rule greatly aided adoption of the new standard across the French sphere of influence. Napoleon ultimately took a retrograde step in 1812, as he passed legislation to return France to its traditional units of measurement, but these were decimalised and as such the foundations were laid for the definitive introduction of the metric system across Europe in the middle of the 19th century.


Napoleon left a Bonapartist dynasty that would rule France again: his nephew, Napoleon III of France, became Emperor of the Second French Empire and was the first President of France. In a wider sense, Bonapartism now refers to a Marxist concept of a government that forms when class rule is not secure and a military, police, and state bureaucracy intervenes to establish order.


Napoleon ended lawlessness and disorder according to historian John Abbott. However, Napoleon has been compared with later autocrats: he was not significantly troubled when faced with the prospect of war and death for thousands; turned his search for undisputed rule into a series of conflicts throughout Europe and ignored treaties and conventions alike. Napoleon institutionalised plunder of conquered territories: French museums contain art stolen by Napoleon's forces from across Europe. Artefacts were brought to the Louvre in Paris for a grand central Museum; his example would later serve as inspiration for more notorious imitators. He was considered a tyrant and usurper, by his opponents. When other countries offered terms to Napoleon which would have restored France's borders to positions that would have delighted his predecessors, he refused compromise and only accepted surrender. Critics of Napoleon argue his true legacy was a loss of status for France and needless deaths. Historian Victor Davis Hanson writes, "After all, the military record is unquestioned - 17 years of wars, perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas colonies lost. Napoleon's initial success may have sowed the seeds for his downfall; not used to such catastrophic defeats in the rigid power system of 18th century Europe, nations found life under the French yoke intolerable, this sparked revolts, wars, and general instability that plagued the continent until 1815. Nevertheless, internationally there are still many who admire his accomplishments.


In the field of military organisation, he borrowed from previous theorists and the reforms of preceding French governments and developed much of what was already in place. He continued, for example, the Revolution's policy of promotion based primarily on merit. Corps replaced divisions as the largest army units, artillery was integrated into reserve batteries, the staff system became more fluid, and cavalry once again became an important formation in French military doctrine. Though he is credited with the introduction of conscription, one of the restored monarchy's first acts was to end it. Weapons and technology remained largely static through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, but 18th century operational mobility underwent massive restructuring. Napoleon's biggest influence was in the conduct of warfare, he was regarded by the influential military theorist Carl von Clausewitz as a genius in the operational art of war. A new emphasis towards the destruction, not just outmanoeuvering, of enemy armies emerged. Invasions of enemy territory occurred over broader fronts which made wars costlier and more decisive - a phenonemon that came to be known as Napoleonic warfare, though he did not give it this name. The political aspects of war had been totally revolutionised, defeat for a European power now meant more than the loss of isolated enclaves. Near-Carthaginian peaces intertwined whole national efforts, economic and militaristic, into collisions that upset international conventions.

Historians place Napoleon as one of the greatest military strategists who ever lived, along with Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Wellington, when asked who was the greatest general of the day, answered: "In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.



Books referenced

  • Archer, Christon I.; John R. Ferris, Holger H. Herwig (2002). World History of Warfare. University of Nebraska Press.
  • Chandler, David (1995). The Campaigns of Napoleon. Simon & Schuster.
  • Gates, David (2001). The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War. Da Capo Press.
  • McLynn, Frank (1998). Napoleon.
  • Riehn, Richard (1991). 1812 Napoleon's Russian Campaign. Wiley.
  • Schom, Alan (1998). Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life. Harper Perennial.

Further reading

External links

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