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.
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. 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.
Napoleon Bonaparte (born Napoleone Buonaparte; 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.
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. 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 baptized in Ajaccio on 21 July 1771, and raised a Roman Catholic. He began to question his faith at age 13 while at Brienne. Biographers have variously described him from that time as a deist, a follower of Rousseau's "natural religion" or a believer in destiny. He consistently expressed his belief in a God or creator.
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".
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. 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.
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.
The Jews of France had been granted full civil rights in September 1791 and religious equality in 1795. The revolutionary and Napoleonic regimes abolished Jewish ghettoes in the territories they conquered. Napoleon wished to assimilate Jews into French society and convened an assembly of Jewish notables in 1806 to that end. In 1807, he summoned a Great Sanhedrin to adapt the law of Moses to those of the empire. An imperial decree of March 1808 organized Jewish worship into consistories, limited usury and encouraged Jews to adopt a family name, intermarriage, and civil marriage and divorce. Jews, however, were still subject to discrimination in many parts of the empire and satellite states.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In February 1795, the National Convention proclaimed religious equality for France's protestant churches and other religions. In April 1802, Napoleon published laws increasing state control of Calvinist congregations and Lutheran directories, with their pastors to be paid by the state. With Napoleon's military victories, formal religious equality and civil rights for religious minorities spread to the conquered territories and satellite states, although their implementation varied with the local authorities.
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 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.
After a romantic relationship with Désirée Clary, Napoleon married Joséphine in 1796, but the marriage produced no children. In 1806, he adopted his step-son, Eugène de Beauharnais (1781–1824), and his second cousin, Stéphanie de Beauharnais (1789–1860), and arranged dynastic marriages for them.
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).
Napoleon had a civil marriage with Joséphine in 1796 and, at the pope's insistence, a private religious ceremony with her the day before his coronation as Emperor in 1804. This marriage was annulled by tribunals under Napoleon's control in January 1810. In 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. His will in 1821 stated, "I die in the Apostolical Roman religion, in the bosom of which I was born, more than fifty years since."
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.
Within weeks, he was romantically involved with Joséphine de Beauharnais, the former mistress of Barras. The couple married on 9 March 1796 in a civil ceremony.
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, "his looks and expression were earnest and powerful."
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.
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 Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, France's new Foreign Minister—who served in the same capacity for Emperor Napoleon—and they began to prepare to invade Britain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
He understood the power of organized religion in social and political affairs, and later sought to use it to support his regime. His attitude to religion is often described as utilitarian. In 1800 he stated, "it was by making myself a Catholic that I won the war in the Vendée, by making myself a Moslem that I established myself in Egypt, by making myself an ultramontane that I turned men's hearts towards me in Italy. If I were to govern a nation of Jews I would rebuild the Temple of Solomon."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Seeking national reconciliation between revolutionaries and Catholics, Napoleon and Pope Pius VII agreed to a Concordat on 15 July 1801. The agreement recognized the Catholic Church as the majority church of France and in return the Church recognized Napoleon's regime, undercutting much of the ground from royalists. The Concordat confirmed the seizure of Church lands and endowments during the revolution, but reintroduced state salaries for the clergy. The government also controlled the nomination of bishops for investiture by the pope. Bishops and other clergy were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the regime.
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.
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."
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.
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.
When the Concordat was published on 8 April 1802, Napoleon presented another set of laws called the Organic Articles, which further increased state control over the French Church. Similar arrangements were made with the Church in territories controlled by Napoleon, especially in Italy and Germany.
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 had a lasting impact on the world, bringing modernizing reforms to France and Western Europe 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.
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.
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 joined the coalition a few months later seeking revenge against France.
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.
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.
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.
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 Crossing the Alps, romantic version by Jacques-Louis David in 1805
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 decided on another confrontation against the French.
Napoleon progressively occupied and annexed the Papal States from 1805. When he annexed Rome in May 1809, the pope excommunicated him the following month. In July, French officials arrested the pope in the Vatican and exiled him to Savona. In 1812 the pontiff was transferred to the Palace of Fontainebleau in France. In January 1813, Napoleon pressured the pope to sign a new "Concordat of Fontainebleau" which was soon repudiated by the pontiff. The pope was not released until 1814.
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.
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.
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.
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". 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."
He is often portrayed wearing a large bicorne hat—sideways—with a hand-in-waistcoat gesture—a reference to the painting produced in 1812 by Jacques-Louis David.
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.
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.
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. The Russians had lost 150,000 soldiers in battle and hundreds of thousands of civilians.
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.
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 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. The following day, Talleyrand was elected as the head of a provitional government. On 2 April, the Sénat voted the deposition of Napoleon, and on the following day passed the Acte de déchéance de l'Empereur ("Emperor's Demise Act") via a Sénatus-consulte.
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.
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.
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.
Napoleon's marriage to Marie Louise produced one child, Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (1811–1832), known from birth as the King of Rome. When Napoleon abdicated in 1815 he named his son his successor as "Napoleon II", but the allies refused to recognize him. He was awarded the title of the Duke of Reichstadt in 1818 and died of tuberculosis aged 21, with no children.
The Napoleonic legend 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. The defiance manifested itself 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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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 September 1819, two priests and a new physician, Francesco Antommarchi, joined Napoleon's retinue.
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."
Napoleonic propaganda survived his exile to Saint Helena. Las Cases, who was with Napoleon in exile, published The Memorial of Saint Helena in 1822, creating a legend of Napoleon as a liberal, visionary proponent of European unification, deposed by reactionary elements of the Ancien Régime. Napoleon remained a central figure in the romantic art and literature of the 1820s and 1830s.
Bell sees the return of Napoleon's remains to France in 1840 as an attempt by Louis-Phillipe to prop up his unpopular regime by associating it with Napoleon, and that the regime of Napoleon III was only possible due to the continued resonance of the Napoleonic legend.
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.
Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, realist version by Paul Delaroche in 1848
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, as it sparked a new wave of German nationalism that opposed the French intervention.
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.
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.