Napoleon

Napoleon
Portrait of Napoleon in his late thirties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image he stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.
Emperor of the French
1st reign18 May 1804 – 6 April 1814
SuccessorLouis XVIII[a]
2nd reign20 March 1815 – 22 June 1815
SuccessorLouis XVIII[a]
First Consul of the French Republic
In office
13 December 1799 – 18 May 1804
Born(1769-08-15)15 August 1769
Ajaccio, Corsica
Died5 May 1821(1821-05-05) (aged 51)
Longwood, Saint Helena
Burial15 December 1840
Spouses
(m. 1796; ann. 1810)
(m. 1810; sep. 1814)
SignatureNapoleon's signature

Napoleon Bonaparte (born Napoleone di Buonaparte;[1][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 the degree to which he was responsible for the Napoleonic Wars, in which between three and six million people died.[2][3]

Napoleon was born on the island of Corsica into a family descended from Italian nobility.[4][5] 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.[6] 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 latter's size.[2][13] However, his mixed record on civil rights and exploitation of conquered territories adversely affect his reputation.[d]


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  1. ^ Dwyer 2008a, p. xv.
  2. ^ a b Roberts 2014, Introduction
  3. ^ Messenger, Charles, ed. (2001). Reader's Guide to Military History. Routledge. pp. 391–427. ISBN 978-1-135-95970-8.
  4. ^ Roberts 2014, p. 3.
  5. ^ Geoffrey Ellis (1997). "Chapter 2". Napoleon. Pearson Education Limited. ISBN 978-1317874690. Archived from the original on 22 August 2022. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  6. ^ Forrest, Alan (2015). Waterloo: Great Battles. Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-19-966325-5. Archived from the original on 27 February 2024. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  7. ^ Grab 2003, p. 56.
  8. ^ Broers, M.; Hicks, P.; Guimera, A. (10 October 2012). The Napoleonic Empire and the New European Political Culture. Springer. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-137-27139-6. Archived from the original on 2 December 2023. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  9. ^ Conner 2004, pp. 38–40.
  10. ^ Pérez, Joseph (2005). The Spanish Inquisition: A History. Yale University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-300-11982-4. Archived from the original on 2 December 2023. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  11. ^ Fremont-Barnes & Fisher 2004, p. 336.
  12. ^ Grab 2017, pp. 204–211.
  13. ^ Connelly 2006, p. 70.
  14. ^ Dwyer 2015a, pp. 574–76, 582–84.
  15. ^ Conner 2004, pp. 32–34, 50–51.
  16. ^ Bell 2015, p. 52.
  17. ^ Repa, Jan (2 December 2005). "Furore over Austerlitz ceremony". BBC. Archived from the original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010.