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Napoleon Bonaparte (born Napoleone Buonaparte;[b] 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), later known by his regnal name Napoleon I, was a French emperor and military commander who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. He was the leader of the French Republic as First Consul from 1799 to 1804, then of the French Empire as Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and briefly again in 1815. His political and cultural legacy endures as a celebrated and controversial leader. He initiated many enduring reforms, but has been criticized for his authoritarian rule. He is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and his wars and campaigns are still studied at military schools worldwide. However, historians still debate whether he was responsible for the Napoleonic Wars in which between three and six million people died.
|First Consul of the French Republic|
12 December 1799 – 18 May 1804
|Emperor of the French|
|1st reign||18 May 1804 – 6 April 1814|
|2nd reign||20 March 1815 – 22 June 1815|
|Born||15 August 1769|
|Died||5 May 1821 (aged 51)|
Longwood, Saint Helena
|Burial||15 December 1840|
Les Invalides, Paris
Napoleon was born on the island of Corsica into a family descended from Italian nobility. He was resentful of the French monarchy, and supported the French Revolution in 1789 while serving in the French army, trying to spread its ideals to his native Corsica. He rose rapidly in the ranks after saving the governing French Directory by firing on royalist insurgents. In 1796, he began a military campaign against the Austrians and their Italian allies, scoring decisive victories, and became a national hero. Two years later he led a military expedition to Egypt that served as a springboard to political power. He engineered a coup in November 1799 and became First Consul of the Republic. In 1804, to consolidate and expand his power, he crowned himself Emperor of the French.
Differences with the United Kingdom meant France faced the War of the Third Coalition by 1805. Napoleon shattered this coalition with victories in the Ulm campaign and at the Battle of Austerlitz, which led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, the Fourth Coalition took up arms against him. Napoleon defeated Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, marched the Grande Armée into Eastern Europe, and defeated the Russians in June 1807 at Friedland, forcing the defeated nations of the Fourth Coalition to accept the Treaties of Tilsit. Two years later, the Austrians challenged the French again during the War of the Fifth Coalition, but Napoleon solidified his grip over Europe after triumphing at the Battle of Wagram.
Hoping to extend the Continental System, his embargo against Britain, Napoleon invaded the Iberian Peninsula and declared his brother Joseph the King of Spain in 1808. The Spanish and the Portuguese revolted in the Peninsular War aided by a British army, culminating in defeat for Napoleon's marshals. Napoleon launched an invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812. The resulting campaign witnessed the catastrophic retreat of Napoleon's Grande Armée. In 1813, Prussia and Austria joined Russian forces in a Sixth Coalition against France, resulting in a large coalition army defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. The coalition invaded France and captured Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814. He was exiled to the island of Elba, between Corsica and Italy. In France, the Bourbons were restored to power.
Napoleon escaped in February 1815 and took control of France. The Allies responded by forming a Seventh Coalition, which defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The British exiled him to the remote island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic, where he died in 1821 at the age of 51.
Napoleon had a lasting impact on the world, bringing modernizing reforms to France and Western Europe[c] and stimulating the development of nation states. He also sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. However, his mixed record on civil rights and exploitation of conquered territories adversely affect his reputation.[d]
Napoleon's family was of Italian origin. His paternal ancestors, the Buonapartes, descended from a minor Tuscan noble family that emigrated to Corsica in the 16th century and his maternal ancestors, the Ramolinos, descended from a minor Genoese noble family. His parents Carlo Maria Bonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino maintained an ancestral home called "Casa Bonaparte", known nowadays as Maison Bonaparte, in Ajaccio. Napoleon was born there on 15 August 1769. He was the family's fourth child and third son.[e] He had an elder brother, Joseph, and younger siblings Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline, and Jérôme. Napoleon was baptized as a Catholic, under the name Napoleone. In his youth, his name was also spelled as Nabulione, Nabulio, Napolionne, and Napulione.
Napoleon was born one year after the Republic of Genoa ceded Corsica to France. The state sold sovereign rights a year before his birth and the island was conquered by France during the year of his birth. It was formally incorporated as a province in 1770, after 500 years under Genoese rule and 14 years of independence.[f] Napoleon's parents joined the Corsican resistance and fought against the French to maintain independence, even when Maria was pregnant with him. His father Carlo was an attorney who had supported and actively collaborated with patriot Pasquale Paoli during the Corsican war of independence against France; after the Corsican defeat at Ponte Novu in 1769 and Paoli's exile in Britain, Carlo began working for the new French government and in 1777 was named representative of the island to the court of Louis XVI.
The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, whose firm discipline restrained a rambunctious child. Later in life, Napoleon said, "The future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother." His maternal grandmother had married into the Swiss Fesch family in her second marriage, and Napoleon's uncle, the cardinal Joseph Fesch, fulfilled a role as protector of the Bonaparte family for some years. Napoleon's noble, moderately affluent background afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time.
When he turned 9 years old, he moved to the French mainland and enrolled at a religious school in Autun in January 1779. In May, he transferred with a scholarship to a military academy at Brienne-le-Château. In his youth he was an outspoken Corsican nationalist and supported the state's independence from France. Like many Corsicans, Napoleon spoke and read Corsican (as his mother tongue) and Italian (as the official language of Corsica). He began learning French in school at the age of around 10. Although he became fluent in French, he spoke with a distinctive Corsican accent and never learned to spell in French. Consequently, Napoleon was routinely bullied by his peers for his accent, birthplace, short stature, mannerisms, and inability to speak French quickly. He became reserved and melancholy, applying himself to reading. An examiner observed that Napoleon "has always been distinguished for his application in mathematics. He is fairly well acquainted with history and geography ... This boy would make an excellent sailor".[g]
One story told of Napoleon at the school is that he led junior students to victory against senior students in a snowball fight, showing his leadership abilities. In early adulthood, Napoleon briefly intended to become a writer; he authored a history of Corsica and a romantic novella.
On completion of his studies at Brienne in 1784, Napoleon was admitted to the École Militaire in Paris. He trained to become an artillery officer and, when his father's death reduced his income, was forced to complete the two-year course in one year. He was the first Corsican to graduate from the École Militaire. He was examined by the famed scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace.
Upon graduating in September 1785, Bonaparte was commissioned a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment.[h] He served in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. Bonaparte was a fervent Corsican nationalist during this period. He asked for leave to join his mentor Pasquale Paoli, when Paoli was allowed to return to Corsica by the National Assembly. But Paoli had no sympathy for Napoleon, as he deemed his father a traitor for having deserted the cause of Corsican independence.
He spent the early years of the Revolution in Corsica, fighting in a complex three-way struggle among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Napoleon embraced the ideals of the Revolution, becoming a supporter of the Jacobins and joining the pro-French Corsican Republicans who opposed Paoli's policy and his aspirations to secede. He was given command over a battalion of volunteers and promoted to captain in the regular army in 1792, despite exceeding his leave of absence and leading a riot against French troops.
When Corsica declared formal secession from France and requested the protection of the British government, Napoleon and his commitment to the French Revolution came into conflict with Paoli, who had decided to sabotage the Corsican contribution to the Expédition de Sardaigne by preventing a French assault on the Sardinian island La Maddalena. Bonaparte and his family were compelled to flee to Toulon on the French mainland in June 1793 because of the split with Paoli.
Although he was born "Napoleone Buonaparte", it was after this that Napoleon began styling himself "Napoléon Bonaparte". His family did not drop the name Buonaparte until 1796. The first known record of him signing his name as Bonaparte was at the age of 27 (in 1796).
Siege of Toulon
In July 1793, Bonaparte published a pro-republican pamphlet, Le souper de Beaucaire (Supper at Beaucaire), which gained him the support of Augustin Robespierre, the younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. With the help of his fellow Corsican Antoine Christophe Saliceti, Bonaparte was appointed senior gunner and artillery commander of the republican forces that arrived at Toulon on 8 September.
He adopted a plan to capture a hill where republican guns could dominate the city's harbour and force the British to evacuate. The assault on the position led to the capture of the city, and during it Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh on 16 December. Catching the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, he was put in charge of the artillery of France's Army of Italy. On 22 December he was on his way to a new post in Nice, promoted from colonel to brigadier general at the age of 24. He devised plans to attack the Kingdom of Sardinia as part of France's campaign against the First Coalition.
The French army carried out Bonaparte's plan in the Battle of Saorgio in April 1794, and then advanced to seize Ormea in the mountains. From Ormea, it headed west to outflank the Austro-Sardinian positions around Saorge. After this campaign, Augustin Robespierre sent Bonaparte on a mission to the Republic of Genoa to determine the country's intentions towards France.
Some contemporaries alleged that Bonaparte was put under house arrest at Nice for his association with the Robespierres following their fall in the Thermidorian Reaction in July 1794. Bonaparte's secretary Bourrienne disputed the allegation in his memoirs. According to Bourrienne, jealousy was responsible, between the Army of the Alps and the Army of Italy, with whom Bonaparte was seconded at the time. Bonaparte dispatched an impassioned defence in a letter to the commissar Saliceti, and was acquitted of any wrongdoing. He was released within two weeks (on 20 August), and due to his technical skills, was asked to draw up plans to attack Italian positions in the context of France's war with Austria. He also took part in an expedition to take back Corsica from the British, but the French were repulsed by the British Royal Navy.
By 1795, Bonaparte had become engaged to Désirée Clary, daughter of François Clary. Désirée's sister Julie Clary had married Bonaparte's brother Joseph. In April 1795, he was assigned to the Army of the West, which was engaged in the War in the Vendée—a civil war and royalist counter-revolution in Vendée, a region in west-central France on the Atlantic Ocean. As an infantry command, it was a demotion from artillery general—for which the army already had a full quota—and he pleaded poor health to avoid the posting.
He was moved to the Bureau of Topography of the Committee of Public Safety. He sought unsuccessfully to be transferred to Constantinople to offer his services to the Sultan. During this period, he wrote the romantic novella Clisson et Eugénie, about a soldier and his lover, in a clear parallel to Bonaparte's own relationship with Clary. On 15 September, Bonaparte was removed from the list of generals in regular service for refusing to serve in the Vendée campaign. He faced a difficult financial situation and reduced career prospects.
On 3 October, royalists in Paris declared a rebellion against the National Convention. Paul Barras, a leader of the Thermidorian Reaction, knew of Bonaparte's military exploits at Toulon and gave him command of the improvised forces in defence of the convention in the Tuileries Palace. Bonaparte had seen the massacre of the King's Swiss Guard there three years earlier and realized that artillery would be the key to its defence.
He ordered a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, to seize large cannons and used them to repel the attackers on 5 October 1795—13 Vendémiaire An IV in the French Republican Calendar. 1,400 royalists died and the rest fled. He cleared the streets with "a whiff of grapeshot", according to 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle in The French Revolution: A History.
The defeat of the royalist insurrection extinguished the threat to the Convention and earned Bonaparte sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new government, the Directory. Murat married one of Bonaparte's sisters; he also served as one of Bonaparte's generals. Bonaparte was promoted to Commander of the Interior and given command of the Army of Italy.
First Italian campaign
Two days after the marriage, Bonaparte left Paris to take command of the Army of Italy. He immediately went on the offensive, hoping to defeat the forces of Kingdom of Sardinia (1720–1861) before their Austrian allies could intervene. In a series of rapid victories during the Montenotte Campaign, he knocked Piedmont out of the war in two weeks. The French then focused on the Austrians for the remainder of the war, the highlight of which became the protracted struggle for Mantua. The Austrians launched a series of offensives against the French to break the siege, but Bonaparte defeated every relief effort, winning the battles of Castiglione, Bassano, Arcole, and Rivoli. The decisive French triumph at Rivoli in January 1797 led to the collapse of the Austrian position in Italy. At Rivoli, the Austrians lost up to 14,000 men while the French lost about 5,000.
The next phase of the campaign featured the French invasion of the Habsburg heartlands. French forces in Southern Germany had been defeated by the Archduke Charles in 1796, but Charles withdrew his forces to protect Vienna after learning of Bonaparte's assault. In the first encounter between the two, Bonaparte pushed Charles back and advanced deep into Austrian territory after winning the Battle of Tarvis in March 1797. The Austrians were alarmed by the French thrust that reached all the way to Leoben, about 100 km from Vienna, and decided to sue for peace.
The Treaty of Leoben, followed by the more comprehensive Treaty of Campo Formio, gave France control of most of northern Italy and the Low Countries, and a secret clause promised the Republic of Venice to Austria. Bonaparte marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending 1,100 years of Venetian independence. He authorized the French to loot treasures such as the Horses of Saint Mark. On the journey, Bonaparte conversed much about the warriors of antiquity, especially Alexander, Caesar, Scipio and Hannibal. He studied their strategy and combined it with his own. To a question from Bourrienne, asking whether he preferred Alexander or Caesar, Bonaparte said that he placed Alexander in the first rank, the main reason being his campaign in Asia.
His application of conventional military ideas to real-world situations enabled his military triumphs, such as creative use of artillery as a mobile force to support his infantry. He said later in life:[when?] "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".
Bonaparte could win battles by concealing troop deployments and concentrating his forces on the "hinge" of an enemy's weakened front. If he could not use his favourite envelopment strategy, he would take up the central position and attack two cooperating forces at their hinge, swing round to fight one until it fled, then turn to face the other. In this Italian campaign, Bonaparte's army captured 150,000 prisoners, 540 cannons, and 170 standards. The French army fought 67 actions and won 18 pitched battles through superior artillery technology and Bonaparte's tactics.
During the campaign, Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He founded two newspapers: one for the troops in his army and one for circulation in France. The royalists attacked him for looting Italy and warned that he might become a dictator. Bonaparte's forces extracted an estimated $45 million in funds from Italy during their campaign there, another $12 million in precious metals and jewels. His forces confiscated more than 300 priceless paintings and sculptures.
Bonaparte sent General Pierre Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d'état and purge the royalists on 4 September—the Coup of 18 Fructidor. This left Barras and his Republican allies in control again but dependent upon Bonaparte, who proceeded to peace negotiations with Austria. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Campo Formio. Bonaparte returned to Paris on 5 December 1797 as a hero. He met Talleyrand, France's new Foreign Minister—who served in the same capacity for Emperor Napoleon—and they began to prepare to invade Britain.
After two months of planning, Bonaparte decided that France's naval strength was not yet sufficient to confront the British Royal Navy. He decided on a military expedition to seize Egypt and thereby undermine Britain's access to its trade interests in India. Bonaparte wished to establish a French presence in the Middle East and join forces with Tipu Sultan, the Sultan of Mysore, an enemy of the British. Bonaparte assured the Directory that "as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he will establish relations with the Indian princes and, together with them, attack the English in their possessions". The Directory agreed in order to secure a trade route to the Indian subcontinent.
In May 1798, Bonaparte was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His Egyptian expedition included a group of 167 scientists, with mathematicians, naturalists, chemists, and geodesists among them. Their discoveries included the Rosetta Stone, and their work was published in the Description de l'Égypte in 1809. En route to Egypt, Bonaparte reached Malta on 9 June 1798, then controlled by the Knights Hospitaller. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim surrendered after token resistance, and Bonaparte captured an important naval base with the loss of only three men.
Bonaparte and his expedition eluded pursuit by the Royal Navy and landed at Alexandria on 1 July. He fought the Battle of Shubra Khit against the Mamluks, Egypt's ruling military caste. This helped the French practise their defensive tactic for the Battle of the Pyramids on 21 July, about 24 km (15 mi) from the pyramids. Bonaparte's forces of 25,000 roughly equalled those of the Mamluks' Egyptian cavalry. Twenty-nine French and approximately 2,000 Egyptians were killed. The victory boosted the French army's morale.
On 1 August 1798, the British fleet under Sir Horatio Nelson captured or destroyed all but two vessels of the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile, preventing Bonaparte from strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean. His army had succeeded in a temporary increase of French power in Egypt, though it faced repeated uprisings. In early 1799, he moved an army into the Ottoman province of Damascus (Syria and Galilee). Bonaparte led these 13,000 French soldiers in the conquest of the coastal towns of Arish, Gaza, Jaffa, and Haifa. The attack on Jaffa was particularly brutal. Bonaparte discovered that many of the defenders were former prisoners of war, ostensibly on parole, so he ordered the garrison and some 1,500–5,000 prisoners to be executed by bayonet or drowning. Men, women, and children were robbed and murdered for three days.
Bonaparte began with an army of 13,000 men. 1,500 were reported missing, 1,200 died in combat, and thousands perished from disease—mostly bubonic plague. He failed to reduce the fortress of Acre, so he marched his army back to Egypt in May. To speed the retreat, Bonaparte was alleged to have ordered plague-stricken men to be poisoned with opium. Back in Egypt on 25 July, Bonaparte defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.
Ruler of France
While in Egypt, Bonaparte stayed informed of European affairs. He learned that France had suffered a series of defeats in the War of the Second Coalition. On 24 August 1799, fearing that the Republic's future was in doubt, he took advantage of the temporary departure of British ships from French coastal ports and set sail for France, despite the fact that he had received no explicit orders from Paris. The army was left in the charge of Jean-Baptiste Kléber.
Unknown to Bonaparte, the Directory had sent him orders to return to ward off possible invasions of French soil, but poor lines of communication prevented the delivery of these messages. By the time that he reached Paris in October, France's situation had been improved by a series of victories. The Republic, however, was bankrupt and the ineffective Directory was unpopular with the French population. The Directory discussed Bonaparte's "desertion" but was too weak to punish him.
Despite the failures in Egypt, Bonaparte returned to a hero's welcome. He drew together an alliance with Talleyrand and members of the Council of Five Hundred: Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, his brother Lucien, Roger Ducos and Joseph Fouché. They overthrew the Directory by a coup d'état on 9 November 1799 ("the 18th Brumaire" according to the revolutionary calendar), closing down the Council of Five Hundred. Napoleon became "first consul" for ten years, with two consuls appointed by him who had consultative voices only. His power was confirmed by the new "Constitution of the Year VIII", originally devised by Sieyès to give Napoleon a minor role, but rewritten by Napoleon, and accepted by direct popular vote (3,000,000 in favour, 1,567 opposed). The constitution preserved the appearance of a republic but, in reality, established a dictatorship.
Bonaparte established a political system that historian Martyn Lyons called "dictatorship by plebiscite". Worried by the democratic forces unleashed by the Revolution, but unwilling to ignore them entirely, Bonaparte resorted to regular electoral consultations with the French people on his road to imperial power. He drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul, taking up residence at the Tuileries. The constitution was approved in a rigged plebiscite held the following January, with 99.94 percent officially listed as voting "yes".
Napoleon's brother, Lucien, had falsified the returns to show that 3 million people had participated in the plebiscite. The real number was 1.5 million. Political observers at the time assumed the eligible French voting public numbered about 5 million people, so the regime artificially doubled the participation rate to indicate popular enthusiasm for the consulate. In the first few months of the consulate, with war in Europe still raging and internal instability still plaguing the country, Bonaparte's grip on power remained very tenuous.
In the spring of 1800, Bonaparte and his troops crossed the Swiss Alps into Italy, aiming to surprise the Austrian armies that had reoccupied the peninsula when Bonaparte was still in Egypt.[i] After a difficult crossing over the Alps, the French army entered the plains of Northern Italy virtually unopposed. While one French army approached from the north, the Austrians were busy with another stationed in Genoa, which was besieged by a substantial force. The fierce resistance of this French army, under André Masséna, gave the northern force some time to carry out their operations with little interference.
After spending several days looking for each other, the two armies collided at the Battle of Marengo on 14 June. General Melas had a numerical advantage, fielding about 30,000 Austrian soldiers while Bonaparte commanded 24,000 French troops. The battle began favourably for the Austrians as their initial attack surprised the French and gradually drove them back. Melas stated that he had won the battle and retired to his headquarters around 3 pm, leaving his subordinates in charge of pursuing the French. The French lines never broke during their tactical retreat. Bonaparte constantly rode out among the troops urging them to stand and fight.
Late in the afternoon, a full division under Desaix arrived on the field and reversed the tide of the battle. A series of artillery barrages and cavalry charges decimated the Austrian army, which fled over the Bormida River back to Alessandria, leaving behind 14,000 casualties. The following day, the Austrian army agreed to abandon Northern Italy once more with the Convention of Alessandria, which granted them safe passage to friendly soil in exchange for their fortresses throughout the region.
Although critics have blamed Bonaparte for several tactical mistakes preceding the battle, they have also praised his audacity for selecting a risky campaign strategy, choosing to invade the Italian peninsula from the north when the vast majority of French invasions came from the west, near or along the coastline. As David G. Chandler points out, Bonaparte spent almost a year getting the Austrians out of Italy in his first campaign. In 1800, it took him only a month to achieve the same goal. German strategist and field marshal Alfred von Schlieffen concluded that "Bonaparte did not annihilate his enemy but eliminated him and rendered him harmless" while attaining "the object of the campaign: the conquest of North Italy".
Bonaparte's triumph at Marengo secured his political authority and boosted his popularity back home, but it did not lead to an immediate peace. Bonaparte's brother, Joseph, led the complex negotiations in Lunéville and reported that Austria, emboldened by British support, would not acknowledge the new territory that France had acquired. As negotiations became increasingly fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau and the French swept through Bavaria and scored an overwhelming victory at Hohenlinden in December 1800. As a result, the Austrians capitulated and signed the Treaty of Lunéville in February 1801. The treaty reaffirmed and expanded earlier French gains at Campo Formio.
Temporary peace in Europe
After a decade of constant warfare, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, bringing the Revolutionary Wars to an end. Amiens called for the withdrawal of British troops from recently conquered colonial territories as well as for assurances to curtail the expansionary goals of the French Republic. With Europe at peace and the economy recovering, Bonaparte's popularity soared to its highest levels under the consulate, both domestically and abroad. In a new plebiscite during the spring of 1802, the French public came out in huge numbers to approve a constitution that made the Consulate permanent, essentially elevating Bonaparte to dictator for life.
Whereas the plebiscite two years earlier had brought out 1.5 million people to the polls, the new referendum enticed 3.6 million to go and vote (72 percent of all eligible voters). There was no secret ballot in 1802 and few people wanted to openly defy the regime. The constitution gained approval with over 99% of the vote. His broad powers were spelled out in the new constitution: Article 1. The French people name, and the Senate proclaims Napoleon-Bonaparte First Consul for Life. After 1802, he was generally referred to as Napoleon rather than Bonaparte.
The brief peace in Europe allowed Napoleon to focus on French colonies abroad. Saint-Domingue had managed to acquire a high level of political autonomy during the Revolutionary Wars, with Toussaint L'Ouverture installing himself as de facto dictator by 1801. Napoleon saw a chance to reestablish control over the colony when he signed the Treaty of Amiens. In the 18th century, Saint-Domingue had been France's most profitable colony, producing more sugar than all the British West Indies colonies combined. However, during the Revolution, the National Convention voted to abolish slavery in February 1794. Aware of the expenses required to fund his wars in Europe, Napoleon made the decision to reinstate slavery in all French Caribbean colonies. The 1794 decree had only affected the colonies of Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe and Guiana and did not take effect in Mauritius, Reunion and Martinique, the last of which had been captured by the British and as such remained unaffected by French law.
In Guadeloupe slavery had been abolished (and its ban violently enforced) by Victor Hugues against opposition from slaveholders thanks to the 1794 law. However, when slavery was reinstated in 1802, a slave revolt broke out under the leadership of Louis Delgrès. The resulting Law of 20 May had the express purpose of reinstating slavery in Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe and French Guiana, and restored slavery throughout most of the French colonial empire (excluding Saint-Domingue) for another half a century, while the French transatlantic slave trade continued for another twenty years.
Napoleon sent an expedition under his brother-in-law General Leclerc to reassert control over Saint-Domingue. Although the French managed to capture Toussaint Louverture, the expedition failed when high rates of disease crippled the French army, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines won a string of victories, first against Leclerc, and when he died from yellow fever, then against Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau, whom Napoleon sent to relieve Leclerc with another 20,000 men. In May 1803, Napoleon acknowledged defeat, and the last 8,000 French troops left the island, and the slaves proclaimed an independent republic that they called Haiti in 1804. In the process, Dessalines became arguably the most successful military commander in the struggle against Napoleonic France. Seeing the failure of his efforts in Haiti, Napoleon decided in 1803 to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States, instantly doubling the size of the U.S. The selling price in the Louisiana Purchase was less than three cents per acre, a total of $15 million.
The peace with Britain proved to be uneasy and controversial. Britain did not evacuate Malta as promised and protested against Bonaparte's annexation of Piedmont and his Act of Mediation, which established a new Swiss Confederation. Neither of these territories were covered by Amiens, but they inflamed tensions significantly. The dispute culminated in a declaration of war by Britain in May 1803; Napoleon responded by reassembling the invasion camp at Boulogne and declaring that every British male between eighteen and sixty years old in France and its dependencies to be arrested as a prisoner of war.
During the consulate, Napoleon faced several royalist and Jacobin assassination plots, including the Conspiration des poignards (Dagger plot) in October 1800 and the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise (also known as the Infernal Machine) two months later. In January 1804, his police uncovered an assassination plot against him that involved Moreau and which was ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbon family, the former rulers of France. On the advice of Talleyrand, Napoleon ordered the kidnapping of the Duke of Enghien, violating the sovereignty of Baden. The Duke was quickly executed after a secret military trial, even though he had not been involved in the plot. Enghien's execution infuriated royal courts throughout Europe, becoming one of the contributing political factors for the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars.
To expand his power, Napoleon used these assassination plots to justify the creation of an imperial system based on the Roman model. He believed that a Bourbon restoration would be more difficult if his family's succession was entrenched in the constitution. Launching yet another referendum, Napoleon was elected as Emperor of the French by a tally exceeding 99%. As with the Life Consulate two years earlier, this referendum produced heavy participation, bringing out almost 3.6 million voters to the polls.
A keen observer of Bonaparte's rise to absolute power, Madame de Rémusat, explains that "men worn out by the turmoil of the Revolution […] looked for the domination of an able ruler" and that "people believed quite sincerely that Bonaparte, whether as consul or emperor, would exert his authority and save [them] from the perils of anarchy."[page needed]
Napoleon's coronation, at which Pope Pius VII officiated, took place at Notre Dame de Paris, on 2 December 1804. Napoleon wore a golden laurel wreath throughout the proceedings, representing victory, peace and civic virtue. For the coronation, he raised a replica of Charlemagne's crown over his own head in a symbolic gesture, but did not wear it atop the wreath. All present rose spontaneously, the men waving their hats. Joséphine, Napoleon's wife, knelt in front of him to receive her crown on her head, the event commemorated in the official painting by Jacques-Louis David. Joséphine became only the second queen to be crowned and anointed in French history, other than Marie de' Medici.
Napoleon was then crowned King of Italy, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, at the Cathedral of Milan on 26 May 1805. He created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from among his top generals to secure the allegiance of the army on 18 May 1804, the official start of the Empire.
War of the Third Coalition
Great Britain had broken the Peace of Amiens by declaring war on France in May 1803. In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement became the first step towards the creation of the Third Coalition. By April 1805, Britain had also signed an alliance with Russia. Austria had been defeated by France twice in recent memory and wanted revenge, so it joined the coalition a few months later.
Before the formation of the Third Coalition, Napoleon had assembled an invasion force, the Armée d'Angleterre, around six camps at Boulogne in Northern France. He intended to use this invasion force to strike at England. They never invaded, but Napoleon's troops received careful and invaluable training for future military operations. The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon later called La Grande Armée. At the start, this French army had about 200,000 men organized into seven corps, which were large field units that contained 36–40 cannons each and were capable of independent action until other corps could come to the rescue.
A single corps properly situated in a strong defensive position could survive at least a day without support, giving the Grande Armée countless strategic and tactical options on every campaign. On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons, and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces. By 1805, the Grande Armée had grown to a force of 350,000 men, who were well equipped, well trained, and led by competent officers.
Napoleon knew that the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy in a head-to-head battle, so he planned to lure it away from the English Channel through diversionary tactics. The main strategic idea involved the French Navy escaping from the British blockades of Toulon and Brest and threatening to attack the British West Indies. In the face of this attack, it was hoped, the British would weaken their defence of the Western Approaches by sending ships to the Caribbean, allowing a combined Franco-Spanish fleet to take control of the English channel long enough for French armies to cross and invade. However, the plan unravelled after the British victory at the Battle of Cape Finisterre in July 1805. French Admiral Villeneuve then retreated to Cádiz instead of linking up with French naval forces at Brest for an attack on the English Channel.
By August 1805, Napoleon had realized that the strategic situation had changed fundamentally. Facing a potential invasion from his continental enemies, he decided to strike first and turned his army's sights from the English Channel to the Rhine. His basic objective was to destroy the isolated Austrian armies in Southern Germany before their Russian allies could arrive. On 25 September, after great secrecy and feverish marching, 200,000 French troops began to cross the Rhine on a front of 260 km (160 mi).
Austrian commander Karl Mack had gathered the greater part of the Austrian army at the fortress of Ulm in Swabia. Napoleon swung his forces to the southeast and the Grande Armée performed an elaborate wheeling movement that outflanked the Austrian positions. The Ulm Maneuver completely surprised General Mack, who belatedly understood that his army had been cut off. After some minor engagements that culminated in the Battle of Ulm, Mack finally surrendered after realizing that there was no way to break out of the French encirclement. For just 2,000 French casualties, Napoleon had managed to capture a total of 60,000 Austrian soldiers through his army's rapid marching. Napoleon wrote after the conflict: "I have accomplished my object, I have destroyed the Austrian army by simply marching."
The Ulm Campaign is generally regarded as a strategic masterpiece and was influential in the development of the Schlieffen Plan in the late 19th century. For the French, this spectacular victory on land was soured by the decisive victory that the Royal Navy attained at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October. After Trafalgar, the Royal Navy was never again seriously challenged by a French fleet in a large-scale engagement for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars.
Following the Ulm Campaign, French forces managed to capture Vienna in November. The fall of Vienna provided the French a huge bounty as they captured 100,000 muskets, 500 cannons, and the intact bridges across the Danube. At this critical juncture, both Tsar Alexander I and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II decided to engage Napoleon in battle, despite reservations from some of their subordinates. Napoleon sent his army north in pursuit of the Allies but then ordered his forces to retreat so that he could feign a grave weakness.
Desperate to lure the Allies into battle, Napoleon gave every indication in the days preceding the engagement that the French army was in a pitiful state, even abandoning the dominant Pratzen Heights, a sloping hill near the village of Austerlitz. At the Battle of Austerlitz, in Moravia on 2 December, he deployed the French army below the Pratzen Heights and deliberately weakened his right flank, enticing the Allies to launch a major assault there in the hopes of rolling up the whole French line. A forced march from Vienna by Marshal Davout and his III Corps plugged the gap left by Napoleon just in time.
Meanwhile, the heavy Allied deployment against the French right flank weakened their center on the Pratzen Heights, which was viciously attacked by the IV Corps of Marshal Soult. With the Allied center demolished, the French swept through both enemy flanks and sent the Allies fleeing chaotically, capturing thousands of prisoners in the process. The battle is often seen as a tactical masterpiece because of the near-perfect execution of a calibrated but dangerous plan—of the same stature as Cannae, the celebrated triumph by Hannibal some 2,000 years before.
The Allied disaster at Austerlitz significantly shook the faith of Emperor Francis in the British-led war effort. France and Austria agreed to an armistice immediately and the Treaty of Pressburg followed shortly after on 26 December. Pressburg took Austria out of both the war and the Coalition while reinforcing the earlier treaties of Campo Formio and of Lunéville between the two powers. The treaty confirmed the Austrian loss of lands to France in Italy and Bavaria, and lands in Germany to Napoleon's German allies.
It imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on the defeated Habsburgs and allowed the fleeing Russian troops free passage through hostile territories and back to their home soil. Napoleon went on to say, "The battle of Austerlitz is the finest of all I have fought". Frank McLynn suggests that Napoleon was so successful at Austerlitz that he lost touch with reality, and what used to be French foreign policy became a "personal Napoleonic one". Vincent Cronin disagrees, stating that Napoleon was not overly ambitious for himself, "he embodied the ambitions of thirty million Frenchmen".
Napoleon continued to entertain a grand scheme to establish a French presence in the Middle East in order to put pressure on Britain and Russia, and perhaps form an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. In February 1806, Ottoman Emperor Selim III recognized Napoleon as Emperor. He also opted for an alliance with France, calling France "our sincere and natural ally". That decision brought the Ottoman Empire into a losing war against Russia and Britain. A Franco-Persian alliance was formed between Napoleon and the Persian Empire of Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar. It collapsed in 1807 when France and Russia formed an unexpected alliance. In the end, Napoleon had made no effective alliances in the Middle East.
War of the Fourth Coalition and Tilsit
After Austerlitz, Napoleon established the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806. A collection of German states intended to serve as a buffer zone between France and Central Europe, the creation of the Confederation spelled the end of the Holy Roman Empire and significantly alarmed the Prussians. The brazen reorganization of German territory by the French risked threatening Prussian influence in the region, if not eliminating it outright. War fever in Berlin rose steadily throughout the summer of 1806. At the insistence of his court, especially his wife Queen Louise, Frederick William III decided to challenge the French domination of Central Europe by going to war.
The initial military manoeuvres began in September 1806. In a letter to Marshal Soult detailing the plan for the campaign, Napoleon described the essential features of Napoleonic warfare and introduced the phrase le bataillon-carré ("square battalion"). In the bataillon-carré system, the various corps of the Grande Armée would march uniformly together in close supporting distance. If any single corps was attacked, the others could quickly spring into action and arrive to help.
Napoleon invaded Prussia with 180,000 troops, rapidly marching on the right bank of the River Saale. As in previous campaigns, his fundamental objective was to destroy one opponent before reinforcements from another could tip the balance of the war. Upon learning the whereabouts of the Prussian army, the French swung westwards and crossed the Saale with overwhelming force. At the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt, fought on 14 October, the French convincingly defeated the Prussians and inflicted heavy casualties. With several major commanders dead or incapacitated, the Prussian king proved incapable of effectively commanding the army, which began to quickly disintegrate.
In a vaunted pursuit that epitomized the "peak of Napoleonic warfare", according to historian Richard Brooks, the French managed to capture 140,000 soldiers, over 2,000 cannons and hundreds of ammunition wagons, all in a single month. Historian David Chandler wrote of the Prussian forces: "Never has the morale of any army been more completely shattered". Despite their overwhelming defeat, the Prussians refused to negotiate with the French until the Russians had an opportunity to enter the fight.
Following his triumph, Napoleon imposed the first elements of the Continental System through the Berlin Decree issued in November 1806. The Continental System, which prohibited European nations from trading with Britain, was widely violated throughout his reign. In the next few months, Napoleon marched against the advancing Russian armies through Poland and was involved in the bloody stalemate at the Battle of Eylau in February 1807. After a period of rest and consolidation on both sides, the war restarted in June with an initial struggle at Heilsberg that proved indecisive.
On 14 June Napoleon obtained an overwhelming victory over the Russians at the Battle of Friedland, wiping out the majority of the Russian army in a very bloody struggle. The scale of their defeat convinced the Russians to make peace with the French. On 19 June, Tsar Alexander sent an envoy to seek an armistice with Napoleon. The latter assured the envoy that the Vistula River represented the natural borders between French and Russian influence in Europe. On that basis, the two emperors began peace negotiations at the town of Tilsit after meeting on an iconic raft on the River Niemen. The very first thing Alexander said to Napoleon was probably well-calibrated: "I hate the English as much as you do". Their meeting lasted two hours. Despite waging wars against each other the two Emperors were very much impressed and fascinated by one another. "Never," said Alexander afterward, "did I love any man as I loved that man."
Alexander faced pressure from his brother, Duke Constantine, to make peace with Napoleon. Given the victory he had just achieved, the French emperor offered the Russians relatively lenient terms—demanding that Russia join the Continental System, withdraw its forces from Wallachia and Moldavia, and hand over the Ionian Islands to France.[full citation needed] By contrast, Napoleon dictated very harsh peace terms for Prussia, despite the ceaseless exhortations of Queen Louise. Wiping out half of Prussian territories from the map, Napoleon created a new kingdom of 2,800 square kilometres (1,100 sq mi) called Westphalia and appointed his young brother Jérôme as its monarch.
Prussia's humiliating treatment at Tilsit caused a deep and bitter antagonism that festered as the Napoleonic era progressed. Moreover, Alexander's pretensions at friendship with Napoleon led the latter to seriously misjudge the true intentions of his Russian counterpart, who would violate numerous provisions of the treaty in the next few years. Despite these problems, the Treaties of Tilsit at last gave Napoleon a respite from war and allowed him to return to France, which he had not seen in over 300 days.[full citation needed]
Peninsular War and Erfurt
The settlements at Tilsit gave Napoleon time to organize his empire. One of his major objectives became enforcing the Continental System against the British forces. He decided to focus his attention on the Kingdom of Portugal, which consistently violated his trade prohibitions. After defeat in the War of the Oranges in 1801, Portugal adopted a double-sided policy.
Unhappy with this change of policy by the Portuguese government, Napoleon negotiated a secret treaty with Charles IV of Spain and sent an army to invade Portugal. On 17 October 1807, 24,000 French troops under General Junot crossed the Pyrenees with Spanish cooperation and headed towards Portugal to enforce Napoleon's orders. This attack was the first step in what would eventually become the Peninsular War, a six-year struggle that significantly sapped French strength. Throughout the winter of 1808, French agents became increasingly involved in Spanish internal affairs, attempting to incite discord between members of the Spanish royal family. On 16 February 1808, secret French machinations finally materialized when Napoleon announced that he would intervene to mediate between the rival political factions in the country.
Marshal Murat led 120,000 troops into Spain. The French arrived in Madrid on 24 March, where wild riots against the occupation erupted just a few weeks later. Napoleon appointed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as the new King of Spain in the summer of 1808. The appointment enraged a heavily religious and conservative Spanish population. Resistance to French aggression soon spread throughout Spain. The shocking French defeats at the Battle of Bailén and the Battle of Vimiero gave hope to Napoleon's enemies and partly persuaded the French emperor to intervene in person.
Before going to Iberia, Napoleon decided to address several lingering issues with the Russians. At the Congress of Erfurt in October 1808, Napoleon hoped to keep Russia on his side during the upcoming struggle in Spain and during any potential conflict against Austria. The two sides reached an agreement, the Erfurt Convention, that called upon Britain to cease its war against France, that recognized the Russian conquest of Finland from Sweden and made it an autonomous Grand Duchy, and that affirmed Russian support for France in a possible war against Austria "to the best of its ability".
Napoleon then returned to France and prepared for war. The Grande Armée, under the Emperor's personal command, rapidly crossed the Ebro River in November 1808 and inflicted a series of crushing defeats against the Spanish forces. After clearing the last Spanish force guarding the capital at Somosierra, Napoleon entered Madrid on 4 December with 80,000 troops. He then unleashed his soldiers against Moore and the British forces. The British were swiftly driven to the coast, and they withdrew from Spain entirely after a last stand at the Battle of Corunna in January 1809 and the death of Moore.
Napoleon would end up leaving Iberia in order to deal with the Austrians in Central Europe, but the Peninsular War continued on long after his absence. He never returned to Spain after the 1808 campaign. Several months after Corunna, the British sent another army to the peninsula under Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. The war then settled into a complex and asymmetric strategic deadlock where all sides struggled to gain the upper hand. The highlight of the conflict became the brutal guerrilla warfare that engulfed much of the Spanish countryside. Both sides committed the worst atrocities of the Napoleonic Wars during this phase of the conflict.
The vicious guerrilla fighting in Spain, largely absent from the French campaigns in Central Europe, severely disrupted the French lines of supply and communication. Although France maintained roughly 300,000 troops in Iberia during the Peninsular War, the vast majority were tied down to garrison duty and to intelligence operations. The French were never able to concentrate all of their forces effectively, prolonging the war until events elsewhere in Europe finally turned the tide in favour of the Allies. After the invasion of Russia in 1812, the number of French troops in Spain vastly declined as Napoleon needed reinforcements to conserve his strategic position in Europe. By 1814 the Allies had pushed the French out of the peninsula.
The impact of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and ousting of the Spanish Bourbon monarchy in favour of his brother Joseph had an enormous impact on the Spanish empire. In Spanish America many local elites formed juntas and set up mechanisms to rule in the name of Ferdinand VII of Spain, whom they considered the legitimate Spanish monarch. The outbreak of the Spanish American wars of independence in most of the empire was a result of Napoleon's destabilizing actions in Spain and led to the rise of strongmen in the wake of these wars.
War of the Fifth Coalition and Marie Louise
After four years on the sidelines, Austria sought another war with France to avenge its recent defeats. Austria could not count on Russian support because the latter was at war with Britain, Sweden, and the Ottoman Empire in 1809. Frederick William of Prussia initially promised to help the Austrians but reneged before conflict began. A report from the Austrian finance minister suggested that the treasury would run out of money by the middle of 1809 if the large army that the Austrians had formed since the Third Coalition remained mobilized. Although Archduke Charles warned that the Austrians were not ready for another showdown with Napoleon, a stance that landed him in the so-called "peace party", he did not want to see the army demobilized either. On 8 February 1809, the advocates for war finally succeeded when the Imperial Government secretly decided on another confrontation against the French.
In the early morning of 10 April, leading elements of the Austrian army crossed the Inn River and invaded Bavaria. The early Austrian attack surprised the French; Napoleon himself was still in Paris when he heard about the invasion. He arrived at Donauwörth on the 17th to find the Grande Armée in a dangerous position, with its two wings separated by 120 km (75 mi) and joined by a thin cordon of Bavarian troops. Charles pressed the left wing of the French army and hurled his men towards the III Corps of Marshal Davout.
In response, Napoleon came up with a plan to cut off the Austrians in the celebrated Landshut Maneuver. He realigned the axis of his army and marched his soldiers towards the town of Eckmühl. The French scored a convincing win in the resulting Battle of Eckmühl, forcing Charles to withdraw his forces over the Danube and into Bohemia. On 13 May, Vienna fell for the second time in four years, although the war continued since most of the Austrian army had survived the initial engagements in Southern Germany.
On 21 May, the French made their first major effort to cross the Danube, precipitating the Battle of Aspern-Essling. The battle was characterized by a vicious back-and-forth struggle for the two villages of Aspern and Essling, the focal points of the French bridgehead. A sustained Austrian artillery bombardment eventually convinced Napoleon to withdraw his forces back onto Lobau Island. Both sides inflicted about 23,000 casualties on each other. It was the first defeat Napoleon suffered in a major set-piece battle, and it caused excitement throughout many parts of Europe because it proved that he could be beaten on the battlefield.
After the setback at Aspern-Essling, Napoleon took more than six weeks in planning and preparing for contingencies before he made another attempt at crossing the Danube. From 30 June to the early days of July, the French recrossed the Danube in strength, with more than 180,000 troops marching across the Marchfeld towards the Austrians. Charles received the French with 150,000 of his own men. In the ensuing Battle of Wagram, which also lasted two days, Napoleon commanded his forces in what was the largest battle of his career up until then. Napoleon finished off the battle with a concentrated central thrust that punctured a hole in the Austrian army and forced Charles to retreat. Austrian losses were very heavy, reaching well over 40,000 casualties. The French were too exhausted to pursue the Austrians immediately, but Napoleon eventually caught up with Charles at Znaim and the latter signed an armistice on 12 July.
In the Kingdom of Holland, the British launched the Walcheren Campaign to open up a second front in the war and to relieve the pressure on the Austrians. The British army only landed at Walcheren on 30 July, by which point the Austrians had already been defeated. The Walcheren Campaign was characterized by little fighting but heavy casualties thanks to the popularly dubbed "Walcheren Fever". Over 4,000 British troops were lost in a bungled campaign, and the rest withdrew in December 1809. The main strategic result from the campaign became the delayed political settlement between the French and the Austrians. Emperor Francis waited to see how the British performed in their theatre before entering into negotiations with Napoleon.
The resulting Treaty of Schönbrunn in October 1809 was the harshest that France had imposed on Austria in recent memory. Metternich and Archduke Charles had the preservation of the Habsburg Empire as their fundamental goal, and to this end, they succeeded by making Napoleon seek more modest goals in return for promises of friendship between the two powers. While most of the hereditary lands remained a part of the Habsburg realm, France received Carinthia, Carniola, and the Adriatic ports, while Galicia was given to the Poles and the Salzburg area of the Tyrol went to the Bavarians. Austria lost over three million subjects, about one-fifth of her total population, as a result of these territorial changes.
Napoleon turned his focus to domestic affairs after the war. Empress Joséphine had still not given birth to a child from Napoleon, who became worried about the future of his empire following his death. Desperate for a legitimate heir, Napoleon divorced Joséphine on 10 January 1810 and started looking for a new wife. Hoping to cement the recent alliance with Austria through a family connection, Napoleon married the 18-year-old Archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of Emperor Francis II. On 20 March 1811, Marie Louise gave birth to a baby boy, whom Napoleon made heir apparent and bestowed the title of King of Rome. His son never actually ruled the empire but given his brief titular rule and cousin Louis-Napoléon's subsequent naming himself Napoléon III, historians often refer to him as Napoleon II.
Invasion of Russia
In 1808, Napoleon and Tsar Alexander met at the Congress of Erfurt to preserve the Russo-French alliance. The leaders had a friendly personal relationship after their first meeting at Tilsit in 1807. By 1811, however, tensions had increased, a strain on the relationship became the regular violations of the Continental System by the Russians as their economy was failing, which led Napoleon to threaten Alexander with serious consequences if he formed an alliance with Britain.
By 1812, advisers to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire and the recapture of Poland. On receipt of intelligence reports on Russia's war preparations, Napoleon expanded his Grande Armée to more than 450,000 men. He ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the Russian heartland and prepared for an offensive campaign; on 24 June 1812 the invasion 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 had been the Bar Confederation uprising by Polish nobles against Russia in 1768. Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of Poland to be joined with the Duchy of Warsaw and an independent Poland created. This was rejected by Napoleon, who stated he had promised his ally Austria this would not happen. Napoleon refused to manumit the Russian serfs because of concerns this might provoke a reaction in his army's rear. The serfs later committed atrocities against French soldiers during France's retreat.
The Russians avoided Napoleon's objective of a decisive engagement and instead retreated deeper into Russia. A brief attempt at resistance was made at Smolensk in August; the Russians were defeated in a series of battles, and Napoleon resumed his advance. The Russians again avoided battle, although in a few cases this was only achieved because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity arose. Owing to the Russian army's scorched earth tactics, the French found it increasingly difficult to forage food for themselves and their horses.
The Russians eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September: the Battle of Borodino resulted in approximately 44,000 Russian and 35,000 French dead, wounded or captured, and may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history up to that point in time. Although the French had won, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle Napoleon had hoped would be decisive. Napoleon's own account was: "The most terrible of all my battles was the one before Moscow. The French showed themselves to be worthy of victory, but the Russians showed themselves worthy of being invincible".[full citation needed]
The Russian army withdrew and retreated past Moscow. Napoleon entered the city, assuming its fall would end the war and Alexander would negotiate peace. Moscow was burned, rather than surrendered, on the order of Moscow's governor Feodor Rostopchin. After five weeks, Napoleon and his army left. In early November Napoleon became concerned about the loss of control back in France after the Malet coup of 1812. His army walked through snow up to their knees, and nearly 10,000 men and horses froze to death on the night of 8/9 November alone. After the Battle of Berezina Napoleon managed to escape but had to abandon much of the remaining artillery and baggage train. On 5 December, shortly before arriving in Vilnius, Napoleon left the army in a sledge.[failed verification]
The French suffered in the course of a ruinous retreat, including from the harshness of the Russian Winter. The Armée had begun as over 400,000 frontline troops, with fewer than 40,000 crossing the Berezina River in November 1812.[full citation needed] The Russians had lost 150,000 soldiers 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 rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France's loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a new coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813.
Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.
The Allies offered peace terms in the Frankfurt proposals in November 1813. Napoleon would remain as Emperor of the French, but it would be reduced to its "natural frontiers". That meant that France could retain control of Belgium, Savoy and the Rhineland (the west bank of the Rhine River), while giving up control of all the rest, including all of Spain and the Netherlands, and most of Italy and Germany. Metternich told Napoleon these were the best terms the Allies were likely to offer; after further victories, the terms would be harsher and harsher. Metternich's motivation was to maintain France as a balance against Russian threats while ending the highly destabilizing series of wars.
Napoleon, expecting to win the war, delayed too long and lost this opportunity; by December the Allies had withdrawn the offer. When his back was to the wall in 1814, he tried to reopen peace negotiations on the basis of accepting the Frankfurt proposals. The Allies now had new, harsher terms that included the retreat of France to its 1791 boundaries, which meant the loss of Belgium, but Napoleon would remain Emperor. However, he rejected the terms. The British wanted Napoleon permanently removed, and they prevailed, though Napoleon adamantly refused.
Napoleon withdrew into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and little cavalry; he faced more than three times as many Allied troops. Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's older brother, abdicated as king of Spain on 13 December 1813 and assumed the title of lieutenant general to save the collapsing empire. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. By the middle of January 1814, the Coalition had already entered France's borders and launched a two-pronged attack on Paris, with Prussia entering from the north, and Austria from the east, marching out of the capitulated Swiss confederation. The French Empire, however, would not go down so easily. Napoleon launched a series of victories in the Six Days' Campaign. While they repulsed the coalition forces and delayed the capture of Paris by at least a full month, these were not significant enough to turn the tide. The coalitionaries camped on the outskirts of the capital on 29 March. A day later, they advanced onto the demoralized soldiers protecting the city. Joseph Bonaparte led a final battle at the gates of Paris. They were greatly outnumbered, as 30,000 French soldiers were pitted against a combined coalition force that was five times greater. They were defeated, and Joseph retreated out of the city. The leaders of Paris surrendered to the Coalition on the last day of March 1814. On 1 April, Alexander addressed the Sénat conservateur. Long docile to Napoleon, under Talleyrand's prodding it had turned against him. Alexander told the Sénat that the Allies were fighting against Napoleon, not France, and they were prepared to offer honourable peace terms if Napoleon were removed from power. The next day, the Sénat passed the Acte de déchéance de l'Empereur ("Emperor's Demise Act"), which declared Napoleon deposed.
Napoleon had advanced as far as Fontainebleau when he learned that Paris had fallen. When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his senior officers and marshals mutinied. On 4 April, led by Ney, the senior officers confronted Napoleon. When Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, Ney replied that the army would follow its generals. While the ordinary soldiers and regimental officers wanted to fight on, the senior commanders were unwilling to continue. Without any senior officers or marshals, any prospective invasion of Paris would have been impossible. Bowing to the inevitable, on 4 April Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son, with Marie Louise as regent. However, the Allies refused to accept this under prodding from Alexander, who feared that Napoleon might find an excuse to retake the throne. Napoleon was then forced to announce his unconditional abdication only two days later.
In his farewell address to the soldiers of Old Guard in 20 April, Napoleon said:
"Soldiers of my Old Guard, I have come to bid you farewell. For twenty years you have accompanied me faithfully on the paths of honor and glory. ...With men like you, our cause was [not] lost, but the war would have dragged on interminably, and it would have been a civil war. ... So I am sacrificing our interests to those of our country. ...Do not lament my fate; if I have agreed to live on, it is to serve our glory. I wish to write the history of the great deeds we have done together. Farewell, my children!"
Exile to Elba
The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to make in the interests of France.
Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April 1814.— Act of abdication of Napoleon
In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the Allies exiled Napoleon to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 10 km (6 mi) off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain the title of Emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried after nearly being captured by the Russians during the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, however, and he survived to be exiled, while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. He was conveyed to the island on HMS Undaunted by Captain Thomas Ussher, and he arrived at Portoferraio on 30 May 1814. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, oversaw the construction of new roads, issued decrees on modern agricultural methods, and overhauled the island's legal and educational system. A few months into his exile, Napoleon learned that his ex-wife Joséphine had died in France. He was devastated by the news, locking himself in his room and refusing to leave for two days.
Separated from his wife and son, who had returned to Austria, 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, Napoleon escaped from Elba in the brig Inconstant on 26 February 1815 with 700 men. Two days later, he landed on the French mainland at Golfe-Juan and started heading north.
The 5th Regiment was sent to intercept him and made contact just south of Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot range, shouted to the soldiers, "Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish." The soldiers quickly responded with, "Vive L'Empereur!" Ney, who had boasted to the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII, that he would bring Napoleon to Paris in an iron cage, affectionately kissed his former emperor and forgot his oath of allegiance to the Bourbon monarch. The two then marched together toward Paris with a growing army. The unpopular Louis XVIII fled to Belgium after realizing that he had little political support. On 13 March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw. Four days later, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia each pledged 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 him had reached 200,000, and he decided to go on the offensive to attempt to drive a wedge between the oncoming British and Prussian armies. The French Army of the North crossed the frontier into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, in modern-day Belgium.
Napoleon's forces fought two Coalition armies, commanded by the British Duke of Wellington and the Prussian Prince Blücher, at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. Wellington's army withstood repeated attacks by the French and survived through the day while the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank.
Napoleon returned to Paris and found that both the legislature and the people had turned against him. Realizing that his position was untenable, he abdicated on 22 June in favour of his son. He left Paris three days later and settled at Joséphine's former palace in Malmaison (on the western bank of the Seine about 17 kilometres (11 mi) west of Paris). Even as Napoleon travelled to Paris, the Coalition forces swept through France (arriving in the vicinity of Paris on 29 June), with the stated intent of restoring Louis XVIII to the French throne.
When Napoleon heard that Prussian troops had orders to capture him dead or alive, he fled to Rochefort, considering an escape to the United States. British ships were blocking every port. Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland on HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815.
Exile on Saint Helena
Napoleon was held in British custody and transferred to the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,870 km (1,162 mi) from the west coast of Africa. Napoleon and 27 followers arrived at Jamestown, Saint Helena, in October 1815 on board HMS Northumberland. The prisoner was guarded by a garrison of 2,100 soldiers while a squadron of 10 ships continuously patrolled the waters to prevent escape. In the following years, there were rumours of escape plots, but no serious attempts were made.
Napoleon stayed for two months at Briars pavilion before he was moved to Longwood House, a 40-room wooden bungalow. The location and interior of the house were damp, windswept, rat-infested and unhealthy. The Times published articles insinuating the British government was trying to hasten his death. Napoleon often complained of his living conditions in letters to the island's governor, Hudson Lowe, while his attendants complained of "colds, catarrhs, damp floors and poor provisions".
Napoleon insisted on imperial formality. When he held a dinner party, men were expected to wear military dress and "women [appeared] in evening gowns and gems. It was an explicit denial of the circumstances of his captivity". He formally received visitors, read, and dictated his memoirs and commentaries on military campaigns. He studied English under Count Emmanuel de Las Cases for a few months but gave up as he was poor at languages.
Napoleon also circulated reports of poor treatment in the hope that public opinion would force the allies to revoke his exile on Saint Helena. Under instructions from the British government, Lowe cut Napoleon's expenditure, refused to recognize him as a former emperor, and made his supporters sign a guarantee they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely. Accounts of the mistreatment led, in March 1817, to a debate in parliament and Lord Holland's call for an inquiry.
In mid-1817, Napoleon's health worsened. His physician, Barry O'Meara, diagnosed chronic hepatitis and warned Lowe that the poor climate and lack of exercise would kill the prisoner. Lowe thought O'Meara was exaggerating and dismissed him in July 1818.
In November 1818, the allies announced that Napoleon would remain a prisoner on Saint Helena for life. When he learnt the news, he became depressed and more isolated, spending longer periods in his rooms which further undermined his health. A number of his entourage also left Saint Helena including Las Cases in December 1816, General Gaspard Gourgaud in March 1818 and Albine de Montholon, who was possibly Napoleon's lover, in July 1819.
|Custody of Napoleon Buonaparte Act 1816|
|Act of Parliament|
|Long title||An Act for the more effectually detaining in Custody Napoleon Buonaparté.|
|Citation||56 Geo. 3. c. 22|
|Royal assent||11 April 1816|
|Commencement||11 April 1816|
|Repealed||5 August 1873|
|Repealed by||Statute Law Revision Act 1873|
|Intercourse with Saint Helena Act 1816|
|Act of Parliament|
|Long title||An Act for regulating the Intercourse with the Island of Saint Helena, during the time Napoleon Buonaparté shall be detained there; and for indemnifying persons in the cases therein mentioned.|
|Citation||56 Geo. 3. c. 23|
|Royal assent||11 April 1816|
|Commencement||11 April 1816|
|Repealed||5 August 1873|
|Repealed by||Statute Law Revision Act 1873|
Napoleon's health continued to worsen and in March 1821 he was confined to bed. In April he wrote two wills declaring that he had been murdered by the British, that the Bourbons would fall and that his son would rule France. He left his fortune to 97 legatees and asked to be buried by the Seine.
On 3 May he was given the last rites but could not take communion due to his illness. He died on 5 May 1821 at age 51. His last words, variously recorded by those present, were either France, l'armée, tête d'armée, Joséphine ("France, the army, head of the army, Joséphine"), or qui recule...à la tête d'armée ("who retreats... at the head of the army") or "France, my son, the Army."
Antommarchi and the British wrote separate autopsy reports, each concluding that Napoleon had died of internal bleeding caused by stomach cancer, the disease that had killed his father. A later theory, based on high concentrations of arsenic found in samples of Napoleon's hair, held that Napoleon had died of arsenic poisoning. However, subsequent studies also found high concentrations of arsenic in hair samples from Napoleon's childhood and from his son and Joséphine. Arsenic was widely used in medicines and products such as hair creams in the 19th century. A 2021 study by an international team of gastrointestinal pathologists concluded that Napoleon died of stomach cancer.
Napoleon's original death mask was created on 7 May by the British surgeon Francis Burton with the assistance of Antommarchi. Napoleon's heart and intestines were removed and sealed inside his coffin. Claims that Antommarchi souvenired Napoleon's penis are unlikely.
In 1840, the British government gave Louis Philippe I permission to return Napoleon's remains to France. Napoleon's body was exhumed and found to be well preserved as it had been sealed in four coffins (two of metal and two of mahogany) and placed in a masonry tomb. On 15 December 1840, a state funeral was held in Paris before a crowd of 700,000 to one million who lined the route of the funeral procession to the chapel of the Esplanade des Invalides. The coffin was later placed in the cupola in St Jérôme's Chapel, where it remained until the tomb designed by Louis Visconti was completed. In 1861, Napoleon's remains were entombed in a sarcophagus in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides.
Napoleon was baptized in Ajaccio on 21 July 1771. He was raised as a Catholic but never developed much faith, though he recalled the day of his First Communion in the Catholic Church to be the happiest day of his life. As an adult, Napoleon was a deist, believing in an absent and distant God. However, he had a keen appreciation of the power of organized religion in social and political affairs, and he paid a great deal of attention to bending it to his purposes. He noted the influence of Catholicism's rituals and splendors. Napoleon once said "religion is a sort of inoculation or vaccine which, while satisfying our sense of the supernatural, guarantees us from the charlatans and the magicians".
Napoleon had a civil marriage with Joséphine de Beauharnais, without religious ceremony. Napoleon was crowned Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame de Paris in a ceremony presided over by Pope Pius VII. On the eve of the coronation ceremony, and at the insistence of Pope Pius VII, a private religious wedding ceremony of Napoleon and Joséphine was celebrated. Napoleon's half-uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch, performed the wedding. This marriage was annulled by tribunals under Napoleon's control in January 1810. On 1 April 1810, Napoleon married the Austrian princess Marie Louise in a Catholic ceremony. Napoleon was excommunicated by the pope through the bull Quum memoranda in 1809, but later reconciled with the Catholic Church before his death in 1821. While in exile in Saint Helena, he is recorded to have said "I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man." He also defended Muhammad ("a great man") against Voltaire's Mahomet.
Seeking national reconciliation between revolutionaries and Catholics, Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed the Concordat of 1801 on 15 July 1801. It solidified the Catholic Church as the majority church of France and brought back most of its civil status. The hostility of devout Catholics against the state had now largely been resolved. The Concordat did not restore the vast Church lands and endowments that had been seized during the revolution and sold off. As a part of the Concordat, Napoleon presented another set of laws called the Organic Articles.
While the Concordat restored much power to the papacy, the balance of church–state relations had tilted firmly in Napoleon's favour. He selected the bishops and supervised church finances. Napoleon and the pope both found the Concordat useful. Similar arrangements were made with the Church in territories controlled by Napoleon, especially Italy and Germany. Now, Napoleon could win favour with the Catholics while also controlling Rome in a political sense. Napoleon said in April 1801, "Skillful conquerors have not got entangled with priests. They can both contain them and use them". French children were issued a catechism that taught them to love and respect Napoleon.
Arrest of Pope Pius VII
In 1809, under Napoleon's orders, Pope Pius VII—who had excommunicated Napoleon that year, following his annexation of the Papal States—was placed under arrest in Italy. In 1812 the prisoner pontiff was transferred to France, being held in the Palace of Fontainebleau. Because the arrest was made in a clandestine manner, some sources describe it as a kidnapping. In January 1813, Napoleon personally forced the pope to sign a humiliating "Concordat of Fontainebleau" which was later repudiated by the pontiff. The pope was not released until 1814, when the Coalition invaded France.
Napoleon emancipated Jews, as well as Protestants in Catholic countries and Catholics in Protestant countries, from laws which restricted them to ghettos, and he expanded their rights to property, worship, and careers. Despite the antisemitic reaction to Napoleon's policies from foreign governments and within France, he believed emancipation would benefit France by attracting Jews to the country given the restrictions they faced elsewhere.
In 1806 an assembly of Jewish notables was gathered by Napoleon to discuss 12 questions broadly dealing with the relations between Jews and Christians, as well as other issues dealing with the Jewish ability to integrate into French society. Later, after the questions were answered in a satisfactory way according to the Emperor, a "great Sanhedrin" was brought together to transform the answers into decisions that would form the basis of the future status of the Jews in France and the rest of the empire Napoleon was building.
He stated, "I will never accept any proposals that will obligate the Jewish people to leave France, because to me the Jews are the same as any other citizen in our country. It takes weakness to chase them out of the country, but it takes strength to assimilate them". He was seen as so favourable to the Jews that the Russian Orthodox Church formally condemned him as "Antichrist and the Enemy of God".
One year after the final meeting of the Sanhedrin, on 17 March 1808, Napoleon placed the Jews on probation. Several new laws restricting the citizenship the Jews had been offered 17 years previously were instituted at that time. However, despite pressure from leaders of a number of Christian communities to refrain from granting Jews emancipation, within one year of the issue of the new restrictions, they were once again lifted in response to the appeal of Jews from all over France.
Pieter Geyl wrote in 1947, "It is impossible that two historians, especially two historians living in different periods, should see any historical personality in the same light." There is no dispute that Napoleon was ambitious, although commentators disagree on whether his ambition was mostly for his own power and glory or for the welfare of France. Historians agree that Napoleon was highly intelligent with an excellent memory, and was a superior organizer who could work efficiently for long hours. In battle, he could rapidly dictate a series of complex commands to his subordinates, keeping in mind where major units were expected to be at each future point.
He was an inspiring leader who could obtain the best from his soldiers and subordinates. The Duke of Wellington said his presence on the battlefield was worth 40,000 soldiers. He could charm people when he needed to but could also publicly humiliate them and was known for his rages when his plans were frustrated. Historian McLynn sees him as a misogynist with a cruel streak which he often inflicted on women, children and animals.
There is debate over whether Napoleon was an outsider who never felt at home in France or with other people. Taine said Napoleon saw others only as instruments and was cut off from feelings of admiration, sympathy or pity. Arthur Lévy replied that Napoleon genuinely loved Joséphine and often showed humanity and compassion to his enemies or those who had let him down. He had the normal middle class virtues and understood the common man.
Similarly, historians are divided over whether Napoleon was consistently ruthless when his power was threatened or surprisingly indulgent in some cases. Those arguing for a ruthless personality point to episodes such as his violent suppression of revolts in France and conquered territories, his execution of the Duc de Enghien and plotters against his rule, and his massacre of Turkish prisoners of war in Syria in 1799. Others point to his mild treatment of disloyal subordinates such as Bernadotte, Talleyrand and Fouché.
Many historians see Napoleon as pragmatic and a realist, at least in the early years of his rule. He wasn't driven by ideology and promoted capable men irrespective of their political and social background, as long as they were loyal. As an expert in military matters, he valued technical expertise and listened to the advice of experts in other fields. However, there is a consensus that once he dominated Europe he became more intolerant of other views and surrounded himself with "yes men". Towards the end of his reign he lost his realism and ability to compromise.
Some historians talk of Napoleon's dual nature: a rationalist with a strong romantic streak. He took a team of scholars, artists and engineers with him to Egypt in order to scientifically study the country's culture and history, but at the same time was struck by romantic "orientalism". "I was full of dreams," he stated. "I saw myself founding a religion, marching into Asia, riding an elephant, a turban on my head and in my hand a new Koran that I would have composed to suit my need.”
Napoleon was superstitious. He believed in omens, numerology, fate and lucky stars, and always asked of his generals: is he lucky? Dwyer states that Napoleon's victories at Austerlitz and Jena in 1805–06 left him even more certain of his destiny and invincibility. "I am of the race that founds empires", he once boasted, deeming himself an heir to the Ancient Romans.
Various psychologists have attempted to explain Napoleon's personality. Alfred Adler cited Napoleon to describe an inferiority complex in which short people adopt over-aggressive behaviour to compensate for lack of height; this inspired the term Napoleon complex. Adler, Fromm and Reich ascribed his nervous energy to sexual dysfunction. Harold T. Parker speculated that rivalry with his older brother and bullying when he moved to France led him to develop an inferiority complex which made him domineering.
Appearance and image
Many of those who met Napoleon were surprised by his unremarkable physical appearance in contrast to his significant deeds and reputation. In his youth he was consistently described as small and thin. English painter Joseph Farington, who met him in 1802, said "Samuel Rogers stood a little way from me and... seemed to be disappointed in the look of [Napoleon's] countenance ["face"] and said it was that of a little Italian." Farington said Napoleon's eyes were "lighter, and more of a grey, than I should have expected from his complexion", that "his person is below middle size", and that "his general aspect was milder than I had before thought it."
A friend who first met him as a young man said Napoleon was only notable "for the dark color of his complexion, for his piercing and scrutinising glance, and for the style of his conversation". He also said that Napoleon was serious and sombre. Johann Ludwig Wurstemberger, who accompanied Napoleon in 1797 and 1798, noted that "Bonaparte was rather slight and emaciated-looking; his face, too, was very thin, with a dark complexion... his black, unpowdered hair hung down evenly over both shoulders", but that, despite his slight and unkempt appearance, "[h]is looks and expression were earnest and powerful."[page needed]
Denis Davydov considered him average in appearance:
His face was slightly swarthy, with regular features. His nose was not very large, but straight, with a slight, hardly noticeable bend. The hair on his head was dark reddish-blond; his eyebrows and eyelashes were much darker than the colour of his hair, and his blue eyes, set off by the almost black lashes, gave him a most pleasing expression ... The man I saw was of short stature, just over five feet tall, rather heavy although he was only 37 years old.
During the Napoleonic Wars, he was depicted by the British press as a dangerous tyrant, poised to invade. A nursery rhyme warned children that Bonaparte ate naughty people; the "bogeyman". He was mocked as a short-tempered small man and was nicknamed "Little Boney in a strong fit". In fact, at about 170 cm (5 ft 7 in), he was of average height.
In his later years he gained weight and had a sallow complexion. Novelist Paul de Kock, who saw him in 1811, called Napoleon "yellow, obese, and bloated".[page needed] A British captain who met him in 1815 stated "I felt very much disappointed, as I believe everyone else did, in his appearance ... He is fat, rather what we call pot-bellied, and although his leg is well shaped, it is rather clumsy ... He is very sallow, with light grey eyes, and rather thin, greasy-looking brown hair, and altogether a very nasty, priestlike-looking fellow."
Napoleon instituted numerous reforms, many of which had a lasting impact on France, Europe and the world. He reformed the French administration, codified French law, implemented a new education system, and established the first French central bank, the Banque de France. He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, which sought to reconcile the majority Catholic population to his regime. It was presented alongside the Organic Articles, which regulated public worship in France. He also implemented civil and religious equality for protestants and Jews. In May 1802, he instituted the Legion of Honour to encourage civilian and military achievements. The order is still the highest decoration in France. He introduced three French constitutions culminating in the reintroduction of a hereditary monarchy and nobility.
Napoleon introduced a series of centralizing administrative reforms soon after taking power. In 1800, he established prefects appointed to run France's regional departments, sub-prefects to run districts and mayors to run towns. Local representative bodies were retained, but their powers were reduced and indirect elections with a high property qualification replaced direct elections. Real power in the regions was now in the hands of the prefects who were judged by how they met the main priorities of Napoleon's government: efficient administration, law and order, stimulating the local economy, gathering votes for plebiscites, conscripting soldiers and provisioning the army.
An enduring reform was the foundation, in December 1799, of the Council of State, an advisory body of experts which could also draft laws for submission to the legislative body. Napoleon drew many of his ministers and ambassadors from the council. It was the council which undertook the codification of French law.
After several attempts by revolutionary governments, Napoleon officially introduced the metric system in France in 1801 and it was spread through western Europe by his armies. The new system was unpopular in some circles, so in 1812 he introduced a compromise system in the retail trade called the mesures usuelles (traditional units of measurement). In December 1805, Napoleon abolished the Revolutionary calendar, with its ten-day week, which had been introduced in 1793.
Napoleon's civil code of laws, known from 1807 as the Napoleonic Code, was implemented in March 1804. It was prepared by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, the Second Consul. Napoleon participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. The code introduced a clearly written and accessible set of national laws to replace the various regional and customary law systems that had operated in France.
The civil code entrenched the principles of equality before the law, religious toleration, secure property rights, equal inheritance for all legitimate children, and the abolition of the vestiges of feudalism. However, it also reduced the rights of women and children and severely restricted the grounds for divorce.
A criminal code was promulgated in 1808, and eventually seven codes of law were produced under Napoleon. The Napoleonic code was carried by Napoleon's armies across Europe and influenced the law in many parts of the world. Cobban described it as, "the most effective agency for the propagation of the basic principles of the French Revolution."
In the field of military organization, Napoleon borrowed from previous theorists such as Jacques Antoine Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert, and from the reforms of preceding French governments, and then developed what was already in place. He continued the Revolutionary policies of conscription and promotion based primarily on merit.
Corps replaced divisions as the largest army units, mobile artillery was integrated into reserve batteries, the staff system became more fluid, and cavalry returned as an important formation in French military doctrine. These methods are now referred to as essential features of Napoleonic warfare.
Napoleon was regarded by the influential military theorist Carl von Clausewitz as a genius in the art of war, and many historians rank him as a great military commander. Wellington considered him the greatest military commander of all time. Cobban states that he showed his genius in moving troops quickly and concentrating them on strategic points. Conner states that his principles were to keep his forces united, keep no weak point unguarded, seize important points quickly, and seize his chance. Owen Connelly, however, states, "Napoleon's personal tactics defy analysis." He used his intuition, engaged his troops, and reacted to what developed.
Under Napoleon, 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. The political effect of war increased; defeat for a European power meant more than the loss of isolated enclaves. Near-Carthaginian peaces intertwined whole national efforts, intensifying the Revolutionary phenomenon of total war.
Napoleon's educational reforms laid the foundation of a modern system of secondary and tertiary education in France and throughout much of Europe. He synthesized academic elements from the Ancien Régime, The Enlightenment, and the Revolution. His education laws of 1802 left most primary education in the hands of religious or communal schools which taught basic literacy and numeracy for a minority of the population. He abolished the revolutionary central schools and replaced them with secondary schools and elite lycées where the curriculum was based on reading, writing, mathematics, Latin, natural history, classics, and ancient history.
He retained the revolutionary higher education system, with grandes écoles in professions including law, medicine, pharmacy, engineering and school teaching. He introduced grandes écoles in history and geography, but opposed one in literature because it wasn't vocational. He also founded the military academy of Saint Cyr. He promoted the advanced centres, such as the École Polytechnique, that provided both military expertise and advanced research in science.
In 1808, he founded the Imperial University, a supervisory body with control over curriculum and discipline. The following year he introduced the baccalaureate. The system was designed to produce the efficient bureaucrats, technicians, professionals and military officers that the Napoleonic state required. It outperformed its European counterparts, many of which borrowed from the French system.
Female education, in contrast, was designed to be practical and religious, based on home science, the catechism, basic literacy and numeracy, and enough science to eradicate superstition.
Memory and evaluation
There is debate over whether Napoleon was "an enlightened despot who laid the foundations of modern Europe" or "a megalomaniac who wrought greater misery than any man before the coming of Hitler". He was compared to Adolf Hitler by Pieter Geyl in 1947, and Claude Ribbe in 2005. Most modern critics of Napoleon, however, reject the Hitler comparison, arguing that Napoleon did not commit genocide and did not engage in the mass murder and imprisonment of his political opponents. Nevertheless, Bell and McLynn condemn his killing of 3,000-5,000 Turkish prisoners of war in Syria.
A number of historians have argued that his expansionist foreign policy was a major factor in the Napoleonic wars which cost six million lives and caused economic disruption for a generation. McLynn and Barnett suggest that Napoleon's reputation as a military genius is exaggerated. Cobban and Conner argue that Napoleon had insufficient regard for the lives of his soldiers and that his battle tactics led to excessive casualties.
Critics also cite Napoleon's exploitation of conquered territories. To finance his wars, Napoleon increased taxes and levies of troops from annexed territories and satellite states. He also introduced discriminatory tariff policies which promoted French trade at the expense of allies and satellite states. He institutionalized plunder: French museums contain art stolen by Napoleon's forces from across Europe. Artefacts were brought to the Musée du Louvre for a grand central museum; an example which would later be followed by others.
Many historians have criticized Napoleon's authoritarian rule, especially after 1807, which included censorship, the closure of independent newspapers, the bypassing of direct elections and representative government, the dismissal of judges showing independence, and the exile of critics of the regime. Historians also blame Napoleon for reducing the civil rights of women, children and people of colour, and reintroducing the legal penalties of civil death and confiscation of property. His reintroduction of an hereditary monarchy and nobility remains controversial. His role in the Haitian Revolution and decision to reinstate slavery in France's overseas colonies adversely affect his reputation.
Propaganda and memory
Napoleon's use of propaganda contributed to his rise to power, legitimated his régime, and established his image for posterity. Strict censorship, controlling various key constituents of the press, books, theatre, and art were part of his propaganda scheme, aimed at portraying him as bringing desperately wanted peace and stability to France. The propagandistic rhetoric changed in relation to events and to the atmosphere of Napoleon's reign, focusing first on his role as a general in the army and identification as a soldier, and moving to his role as emperor and a civil leader. Specifically targeting his civilian audience, Napoleon fostered a relationship with the contemporary art community, taking an active role in commissioning and controlling different forms of art production to suit his propaganda goals.
Hazareesingh (2004) explores how Napoleon's image and memory are best understood. They played a key role in collective political defiance of the Bourbon restoration monarchy in 1815–1830. People from different walks of life and areas of France, particularly Napoleonic veterans, drew on the Napoleonic legacy and its connections with the ideals of the 1789 Revolution.
Las Cases, who was with Napoleon in exile, eventually published The Memorial of Saint Helena which depicted Napoleon a liberal, visionary ruler for European unification, deposed by reactionary elements of the Ancien Régime.
Widespread rumours of Napoleon's return from St. Helena and Napoleon as an inspiration for patriotism, individual and collective liberties, and political mobilization manifested themselves in seditious materials, displaying the tricolour and rosettes. There were also subversive activities celebrating anniversaries of Napoleon's life and reign and disrupting royal celebrations—they demonstrated the prevailing and successful goal of the varied supporters of Napoleon to constantly destabilize the Bourbon regime.
Datta (2005) shows that, following the collapse of militaristic Boulangism in the late 1880s, the Napoleonic legend was divorced from party politics and revived in popular culture. Concentrating on two plays and two novels from the period—Victorien Sardou's Madame Sans-Gêne (1893), Maurice Barrès's Les Déracinés (1897), Edmond Rostand's L'Aiglon (1900), and André de Lorde and Gyp's Napoléonette (1913)—Datta examines how writers and critics of the Belle Époque exploited the Napoleonic legend for diverse political and cultural ends. International Napoleonic Congresses take place regularly, with participation by members of the French and American military, French politicians and scholars from different countries. In January 2012, the mayor of Montereau-Fault-Yonne, near Paris—the site of a late victory of Napoleon—proposed development of Napoleon's Bivouac, a commemorative theme park at a projected cost of 200 million euros.
Long-term influence outside France
Napoleon was responsible for spreading the values of the French Revolution to other countries, especially through the Napoleonic Code. After the fall of Napoleon, not only was it retained by conquered countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, parts of Italy and Germany, but it has been used as the basis of certain parts of law outside Europe including the Dominican Republic, the US state of Louisiana and the Canadian province of Quebec. The code was also used as a model in many parts of Latin America. The reputation of Napoleon in Poland has been favourable, especially for his support of independence, opposition to Russia, his legal code, the abolition of serfdom, and the introduction of modern middle class administration.
Dieter Langewiesche described the Napoleonic code as a "revolutionary project" that spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by the extension of the right to own property and an acceleration towards the end of feudalism. Napoleon reorganized what had been the Holy Roman Empire, made up of about three hundred Kleinstaaterei, into a more streamlined forty-state Confederation of the Rhine; this helped promote the German Confederation and the unification of Germany in 1871.[full citation needed]
Napoleon directly overthrew remnants of feudalism in much of western Continental Europe. He liberalized property laws, ended seigneurial dues, abolished the guild of merchants and craftsmen to facilitate entrepreneurship, legalized divorce, closed the Jewish ghettos and made Jews equal to everyone else. The Inquisition ended as did the Holy Roman Empire. The power of church courts and religious authority was sharply reduced and equality under the law was proclaimed for all men.
Napoleon indirectly began the process of Latin American independence when he invaded Spain in 1808. The abdication of King Charles IV and renunciation of his son, Ferdinand VII created a power vacuum that was filled by native born political leaders such as Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. Such leaders embraced nationalistic sentiments influenced by French nationalism and led successful independence movements in Latin America.
Napoleon also significantly aided the United States when he agreed to sell the territory of Louisiana for 15 million dollars during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. That territory almost doubled the size of the United States, adding the equivalent of 13 states to the Union.
By wanting to make his dynasty the most ancient in Europe, Napoleon ousted numerous houses in favor of his own family. Talleyrand commented that "either these newly created sovereigns respected his overarching plan and became its satellites, which made it impossible for them to take root in the country entrusted to them; or they must reject it. … Each new creation thus became a source of dissolution in Napoleon’s fortune."
Wives, mistresses, and children
Napoleon was first engaged to Désirée Clary, the younger sister of his brother Joseph's wife, in 1795. After meeting Joséphine (née Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) later that year, he broke off the engagement to Désirée. He then married Joséphine in 1796, at the age of 26.
Joséphine was a 32-year-old widow whose first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, had been executed during the Reign of Terror. Five days after Alexandre de Beauharnais' death, the Reign of Terror initiator Maximilien de Robespierre was overthrown and executed, and, with the help of high-placed friends, Joséphine was freed. Until she met Bonaparte, she had been known as "Rose", a name which he disliked. He called her "Joséphine" instead, and she went by this name henceforth. Bonaparte often sent her love letters while on his campaigns. He formally adopted her son Eugène and second cousin (via marriage) Stéphanie and arranged dynastic marriages for them. Joséphine had her daughter Hortense marry Napoleon's brother Louis.
Joséphine had lovers, such as Lieutenant Hippolyte Charles, during Napoleon's Italian campaign. Napoleon learnt of that affair and a letter he wrote about it was intercepted by the British and published widely, to embarrass Napoleon. Napoleon had his own affairs too: during the Egyptian campaign he took Pauline Bellisle Fourès, the wife of a junior officer, as his mistress. She became known as "Cleopatra".[j]
While Napoleon's mistresses had children by him, his marriage to Joséphine did not produce an heir, possibly because of either the stresses of her imprisonment during the Reign of Terror or an abortion she may have had in her twenties. Napoleon chose divorce so he could remarry in search of an heir. Despite his divorce from Joséphine, Napoleon showed his dedication to her for the rest of his life. When he heard the news of her death while in exile in Elba, he locked himself in his room and would not come out for two full days. Her name would also be his final word on his deathbed in 1821.
On 11 March 1810 by proxy, he married the 19-year-old Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, and a great-niece of Marie Antoinette. Thus, he had married into a German royal and imperial family. Louise was less than happy with the arrangement, at least at first, stating: "Just to see the man would be the worst form of torture". Her great-aunt had been executed in France, while Napoleon had fought numerous campaigns against Austria all throughout his military career. However, she seemed to warm up to him over time. After her wedding, she wrote to her father: "He loves me very much. I respond to his love sincerely. There is something very fetching and very eager about him that is impossible to resist".
Napoleon and Marie Louise remained married until his death, though she did not join him in exile on Elba and thereafter never saw her husband again. The couple had one child, Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (1811–1832), known from birth as the King of Rome. He became Napoleon II in 1814 and reigned for only a fortnight. He was awarded the title of the Duke of Reichstadt in 1818 and died of tuberculosis aged 21, with no children.
Napoleon acknowledged one illegitimate son: Charles Léon (1806–1881) by Eléonore Denuelle de La Plaigne. Alexandre Colonna-Walewski (1810–1868), the son of his Polish mistress Maria Walewska, although acknowledged by Walewska's husband, was also widely known to be his child, and the DNA of his direct male descendant has been used to help confirm Napoleon's Y-chromosome haplotype E1b1b1c1*. He may have had further unacknowledged illegitimate offspring as well, such as Eugen Megerle von Mühlfeld by Emilie Victoria Kraus von Wolfsberg and Hélène Napoleone Bonaparte (1816–1907) by Albine de Montholon.
- As King of France
- English: / /, French: Napoléon Bonaparte [napɔleɔ̃ bɔnapaʁt]; Corsican: Napulione Buonaparte.
- He established a system of public education, abolished the vestiges of feudalism, emancipated Jews and other religious minorities, abolished the Spanish Inquisition, enacted legal protections for an emerging middle class, and centralized state power at the expense of religious authorities.
- He abolished the free press, ended directly elected representative government, exiled and jailed critics of his regime, reinstated slavery in France's colonies except for Haiti, banned the entry of blacks and mulattos into France, reduced the civil rights of women and children, reintroduced a hereditary monarchy and nobility, and violently repressed popular uprisings against his rule. 
- His brother, also called Napoleon, died at birth and his sister, Maria Anna, died shortly before her first birthday. In total, two siblings died at birth and three died in infancy.
- Although the 1768 Treaty of Versailles formally ceded Corsica's rights, it remained un-incorporated during 1769 until it became a province of France in 1770. Corsica would be legally integrated as a département in 1789.
- Aside from his name, there does not appear to be a connection between him and Napoleon's theorem.
- He was mainly referred to as Bonaparte until he became First Consul for life.
- This is depicted in Bonaparte Crossing the Alps by Hippolyte Delaroche and in Jacques-Louis David's imperial Napoleon Crossing the Alps. He is less realistically portrayed on a charger in the latter work.
- One night, during an illicit liaison with actress Marguerite Georges, Napoleon had a major fit. This and other more minor attacks have led historians to debate whether he had epilepsy and, if so, to what extent.
- "CPA: corse, AJACCIO, L'ACTE DE BAPTEME DE NAPOLEON Ier". www.antiqu-arts.com. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
- Roberts 2014, Introduction
- Messenger, Charles, ed. (2001). Reader's Guide to Military History. Routledge. pp. 391–427. ISBN 978-1-135-95970-8.
- Roberts, A. (2016). Napoleon the Great. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Limited. (p. 1)
- Geoffrey Ellis (1997). Napoleon. Pearson Education Limited. ISBN 978-1317874690.
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