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Napoléon Bonaparte (/nəˈpoʊliən, -ˈpoʊljən/; French: [napɔleɔ̃ bɔnapaʁt], born Napoleone di Buonaparte; on the 15th August in 1769 – 5th of May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution and its associated wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815.
Napoleon dominated European affairs for almost two decades while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won the large majority of his battles and seized control of most of continental Europe before his ultimate defeat in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide and he remains simultaneously one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in European history.
In civil affairs he implemented a wide array of liberal reforms across Europe, as summarized by British historian Andrew Roberts:
The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Origins and education
Napoleon was born in Corsica in a relatively modest family of noble Italian ancestry that had settled in Corsica in the 16th century. Well-educated and an avid reader, he spoke French with a heavy Corsican accent. A supporter of the radical Jacobin faction, his military skills led to very rapid promotions under the French First Republic. His fame came especially in his Italian and Egyptian campaign, against coalitions of enemies of the French Revolution.
Napoleon took power in 1799 and installed himself as First Consul with few restrictions on his control of France. In 1804 he was crowned emperor of the French people. He made peace with the pope and the Catholic Church, much to the relief of the religious element. He launched a new aristocracy for France while allowing the return of most of the aristocrats who had been forced into exile by the Revolution. He fought a series of wars—the Napoleonic Wars—that involved complex ever-changing coalitions against the French Empire. With his victories at Ulm and Austerlitz (1805), he put an end to the Third Coalition, then he dissolved the old Holy Roman Empire and created the Confederation of the Rhine. However, his navy was destroyed at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) and Britain imposed a naval blockade of the French coasts. In retaliation, he established the Continental System to cut off all European trade with Britain. A Fourth Coalition was set up against France, but was defeated at the battles of Jena-Auerstedt (1806), Eylau and Friedland (1807). It resulted in the dismemberment of Prussia and the resurgence of a Polish State. At Wagram (1809), Napoleon dissolved a Fifth Coalition and secured a dominant position in continental Europe.
Napoleon maintained the French sphere of influence through the formation of fluctuating alliances and the elevation of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French vassal states. Napoleon was himself President (1802–1805), then king of Italy (1805–1814), Mediator of the Swiss Confederation (1803–1813) and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine (1806–1813). When Napoleon placed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the throne of Spain and tried to compel Portugal to follow his Continental System, it led to opposition in both countries and, with assistance of the British army, to the Peninsular War which drained French resources.
To enforce the Continental blockade, his large-scale invasion of Russia (1812) proved to be a major military failure with his Grande Armée virtually destroyed. Most European countries then turned against him. The Sixth Coalition defeated him at the Battle of Leipzig (1813) and invaded France. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and go in exile to the island of Elba, most French territorial gains since 1792 were reversed and the king of France was restored. In 1815, he escaped and returned to power for hundred days, but was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. He spent the last 6 years of his life in confinement by the British on the remote island of Saint Helena. He was the great hero of the French people throughout the 19th century, and his nephew Napoleon III built on that fame to become ruler of France, 1848–1870.
Napoleon was born on 15 August 1769 to Carlo Maria di Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino in his family’s ancestral home, Casa Buonaparte, in the town of Ajaccio, the capital of the island of Corsica. He was their 4th child and 3rd son. This was a year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He was christened Napoleone di Buonaparte, probably named after an uncle (an older brother, who did not survive infancy, was the first of the sons to be called Napoleone). In his twenties, he adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte.
The Corsican Buonapartes were descended from minor Italian nobility of Tuscan origin, who had come to Corsica from Liguria in the 16th century.
His father, Nobile Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1777. The dominant influence of Napoleon’s childhood was his mother, Letizia Ramolino, whose firm discipline restrained a rambunctious child. Napoleon’s maternal grandmother had married into the Swiss Fesch family in her second marriage, and Napoleon’s uncle, the later cardinal Joseph Fesch, would fulfill the role as protector of the Bonaparte family for some years.
He had an elder brother, Joseph; and younger siblings, Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline and Jérôme. A boy and girl were born before Joseph but died in infancy. Napoleon was baptised as a Catholic.
Napoleon’s noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. In January 1779, Napoleon was enrolled at a religious school in Autun, in mainland France, to learn French. In May he was admitted to a military academy at Brienne-le-Château. He always spoke with a marked Corsican accent and never learned to spell French properly. Napoleon was teased by other students for his accent and applied 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 elite 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, whom Napoleon later appointed to the Senate. At the age of 17, Napoleon reputedly said: “Life is a burden to me. Nothing gives me pleasure. I find only sadness in everything around me. It is very difficult because of the ways of those with whom I live, and probably always shall live, are as different from mine as moonlight is from sunlight”.
Upon graduating in September 1785, Bonaparte was commissioned a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment. He served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, and took nearly two years’ leave in Corsica and Paris during this period. A fervent Corsican nationalist, Bonaparte wrote to the Corsican leader Pasquale Paoli in May 1789:
As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odious sight which was the first to strike me.
He spent the early years of the Revolution in Corsica, fighting in a complex three-way struggle among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. He supported the revolutionary Jacobin faction, gained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Corsican militia, and gained command over a battalion of volunteers. Despite exceeding his leave of absence and leading a riot against a French army in Corsica, he was promoted to captain in the regular army in July 1792.
He returned to Corsica and came into conflict with Paoli, who had decided to split with France and sabotage the French assault on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena in February 1793, where Bonaparte was one of the expedition leaders. Bonaparte and his family fled to the French mainland in June 1793 because of the split with Paoli.
Siege of Toulon
In the July of 1793, Bonaparte published a pro-republican pamphlet, Le souper de Beaucaire (Supper at Beaucaire), which gained him the admiration and support of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. With the help of his fellow Corsican Antoine Christophe Saliceti, Bonaparte was appointed artillery commander of the republican forces at the siege of Toulon. The city had risen against the republican government and was occupied by British troops.
He adopted a plan to capture a hill where republican guns could dominate the city’s harbour and force the British ships to evacuate. The assault on the position, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led to the capture of the city. He was promoted to brigadier general at the age of 24. Catching the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, he was put in charge of the artillery of France’s Army of Italy.
Whilst waiting for confirmation of this post, Napoleon spent time as inspector of coastal fortifications on the Mediterranean coast near Marseille. He devised plans for attacking the Kingdom of Sardinia as part of France’s campaign against the First Coalition. The commander of the Army of Italy, Pierre Jadart Dumerbion, had seen many generals executed for failing or for having the wrong political views. Therefore, he deferred to the powerful représentants en mission, Augustin Robespierre and Saliceti, who in turn were ready to listen to the freshly promoted artillery general.
Carrying out Bonaparte’s plan in the Battle of Saorgio in April 1794, the French army advanced north-east along the Italian Riviera then turned north to seize Ormea in the mountains. From Ormea, they thrust west to outflank the Austro-Sardinian positions around Saorge. Later, Augustin Robespierre sent Bonaparte on a mission to the Republic of Genoa to determine that country’s intentions towards France.
Following the fall of the Robespierres in the Thermidorian Reaction in July 1794, one account alleges that Bonaparte was put under house arrest at Nice for his association with the brothers. Napoleon’s secretary, Bourrienne, disputed this allegation in his memoirs. According to Bourrienne, jealousy between the Army of the Alps and the Army of Italy (with whom Napoleon was seconded at the time) was responsible. After an impassioned defense in a letter Bonaparte dispatched to representants Salicetti and Albitte, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
He was released within two weeks 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 Royal Navy.
Bonaparte became engaged to Désirée Clary, whose sister, Julie Clary, had married Bonaparte’s elder brother Joseph; the Clarys were a wealthy merchant family from Marseilles. In the April of 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 and sought, unsuccessfully, to be transferred to Constantinople in order to offer his services to the Sultan. During this period, he wrote a romantic novella, Clisson et Eugénie, about a soldier and his lover, in a clear parallel to Bonaparte’s own relationship with Désirée. On 15th September, Bonaparte was removed from the list of generals in regular service for his refusal to serve in the Vendée campaign. He faced a difficult financial situation and reduced career prospects.
On the 3rd 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. Having seen the massacre of the King’s Swiss Guard there three years earlier, he realised 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 the 5th October in 1795—13 Vendémiaire An IV in the French Republican Calendar. After 1,400 royalists died, the rest fled. He had cleared the streets with “a whiff of grapeshot”, according to the 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 his sisters and became his brother-in-law; he also served under Napoleon as one of his generals. Bonaparte was promoted to Commander of the Interior and given command of the Army of Italy.
Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras’s former mistress, Joséphine de Beauharnais. They married on the 9th March in 1796 after he had broken off his engagement to Désirée Clary.
First Italian campaign
Two days after the marriage, Bonaparte left Paris to take command of the Army of Italy and led it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Battle of Lodi he defeated Austrian forces and drove them out of Lombardy. He was defeated at Caldiero by Austrian reinforcements, led by József Alvinczi, though Bonaparte regained the initiative at the crucial Battle of the Bridge of Arcole and proceeded to subdue the Papal States.
Bonaparte argued against the wishes of Directory atheists to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope as he reasoned this would create a power vacuum which would be exploited by the Kingdom of Naples. Instead, in March 1797, Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced it to negotiate peace. The Treaty of Leoben 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 independence; he also authorised the French to loot treasures such as the Horses of Saint Mark.
His application of conventional military ideas to real-world situations affected his military triumphs, such as creative use of artillery as a mobile force to support his infantry. He referred to his tactics thus: “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.”
He was adept at espionage and deception and could win battles by concealment of troop deployments and concentration of 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 co-operating 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 another for circulation in France. The royalists attacked Bonaparte for looting Italy and warned he might become a dictator. Bonaparte sent General Pierre Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d’état and purge the royalists on 4 September—Coup of 18 Fructidor. This left Barras and his Republican allies in control again but dependent on Bonaparte, who proceeded to peace negotiations with Austria. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Campo Formio, and Bonaparte returned to Paris in December as a hero. He met Talleyrand, France’s new Foreign Minister—who would later serve in the same capacity for Emperor Napoleon—and they began to prepare for an invasion of Britain.
After two months of planning, Bonaparte decided France’s naval power was not yet strong enough to confront the Royal Navy in the English Channel and proposed 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, with the ultimate dream of linking with a Muslim enemy of the British in India, Tipu Sultan.
Napoleon 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.” According to a report written in the February of 1798 by Talleyrand: “Having occupied and fortified Egypt, we shall send a force of 15,000 men from Suez to India, to join the forces of Tipu-Sahib and drive away the English.” The Directory agreed in order to secure a trade route to India.
In May 1798, Bonaparte was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His Egyptian expedition included a group of 167 scientists: 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 the 9th of June in 1798, then controlled by the Knights Hospitaller. The two-hundred Knights of French origin did not support the Grand Master, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, who had succeeded a Frenchman, and made it clear they would not fight against their compatriots. Hompesch surrendered after token resistance, and Bonaparte captured an important naval base with the loss of only three men.
General Bonaparte and his expedition eluded pursuit by the Royal Navy and on 1 July landed at Alexandria. He fought the Battle of Shubra Khit against the Mamluks, Egypt’s ruling military caste. This helped the French practice their defensive tactic for the Battle of the Pyramids, fought on 21st July, about 24 km (15 mi) from the pyramids. General Bonaparte’s forces of 25,000 roughly equalled those of the Mamluks’ Egyptian cavalry, but he formed hollow squares with supplies kept safely inside. Twenty-nine French and approximately 2,000 Egyptians were killed. The victory boosted the morale of the French army.
On 1 August, the British fleet under Horatio Nelson captured or destroyed all but two French vessels in the Battle of the Nile, and Bonaparte’s goal of a strengthened French position in the Mediterranean was frustrated. 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, on discovering many of the defenders were former prisoners of war, ostensibly on parole, ordered the garrison and 1,400 prisoners to be executed by bayonet or drowning to save bullets. Men, women and children were robbed and murdered for three days.
With his army weakened by disease—mostly bubonic plague—and poor supplies, Bonaparte was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre and returned to Egypt in May. To speed up the retreat, he ordered plague-stricken men to be poisoned. (However, British eyewitness accounts later showed that most of the men were still alive and had not been poisoned.) His supporters have argued this was necessary given the continued harassment of stragglers by Ottoman forces, and indeed those left behind alive were tortured and beheaded by the Ottomans. Back in Egypt, on 25th July, Bonaparte defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.
Ruler of France
While in Egypt, Bonaparte stayed informed of European affairs through irregular delivery of newspapers and dispatches. He learned that France had suffered a series of defeats in the War of the Second Coalition. On the 24th August 1799, he took advantage of the temporary departure of British ships from French coastal ports and set sail for France, despite the fact he had received no 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 he reached Paris in October, France’s situation had been improved by a series of victories. The Republic was, however, 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, Napoleon returned to a hero’s welcome. In alliance with the director Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, his brother Lucien; the speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos; another Director, Joseph Fouché; and Talleyrand, he overthrew the Directory by a coup d’état on November the 9th, 1799 (“the 18th Brumaire” according to the revolutionary calendar), and closed 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 (“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 favor, 1,567 opposed). The constitution preserved the appearance of a republic but in reality established a military dictatorship. The days of Brumaire sounded the end of the short-lived republic: no more representative government, assemblies, or collegial executive.
Though Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmanoeuvred by Bonaparte. Having seized power, Lefebvre notes, “Napoleon immediately set about organizing his dictatorship.” He drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul, and he took up residence at the Tuileries. The constitution was approved in a plebiscite held the following January, with 99.94 percent officially listed as voting “yes”—an implausibly high result.
In 1800, Bonaparte and his troops crossed the Alps into Italy, where French forces had been almost completely driven out by the Austrians whilst he was in Egypt. The campaign began badly for the French after Bonaparte made strategic errors; one force was left besieged at Genoa but managed to hold out and thereby occupy Austrian resources. This effort, and French general Louis Desaix’s timely reinforcements, allowed Bonaparte narrowly to avoid defeat and to triumph over the Austrians in June at the significant Battle of Marengo.
Bonaparte’s brother Joseph led the peace negotiations in Lunéville and reported that Austria, emboldened by British support, would not recognise France’s newly gained territory. As negotiations became increasingly fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result, the Treaty of Lunéville was signed in February of 1801; the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased.
Temporary peace in Europe
Both France and Britain had become tired of war and signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802. This called for the withdrawal of British troops from most colonial territories it had recently occupied. Bolstered by this treaty, Napoleon was made First Consul for life in a 10 May plebiscite, with an implausible 99.8% voting in favour.
The peace was uneasy and short-lived. 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, though neither of these territories were covered by the treaty. The dispute culminated in a declaration of war by Britain in May 1803, and he reassembled the invasion camp at Boulogne.
Bonaparte faced a major setback and eventual defeat in the Haitian Revolution. By the Law of 20th of May in 1802 Bonaparte re-established slavery in France’s colonial possessions, where it had been banned following the Revolution. Following a slave revolt a decade earlier, he sent an expeditionary army to reconquer Saint-Domingue (Haiti) on the western side of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea and re-establish a base for an expanded colonial empire in the West Indies and North America. The French Imperial army was soon, however, infected and destroyed by yellow fever, amid fierce resistance led by Haitian revolutionary generals Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Faced by imminent war against Britain, within a year of dispatching the army to Haiti and possible bankruptcy, Napoleon now recognised any French possessions on the mainland of North America would be indefensible considering Britain’s control of the sea. So, unexpectedly he sold them to the US in 1803—the Louisiana Purchase—for less than three cents per acre, $15 million.
Napoleon faced royalist and Jacobin plots as France’s ruler, including the Conspiration des poignards (Dagger plot) in the October of 1800 and the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise (also known as the infernal machine) two months later. In the January of 1804, his police uncovered an assassination plot against him which involved Moreau and which was ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbon former rulers of France. On the advice of Talleyrand, Napoleon ordered the kidnapping of Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien, in violation of neighbouring Baden’s sovereignty. After a secret trial the Duke was executed, even though he had not been involved in the plot.
Napoleon used the plot to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France with himself as emperor. He believed a Bourbon restoration would be more difficult if the Bonapartist succession was entrenched in the constitution. Napoleon was elected as “Emperor of the French” in a plebiscite held in November. Since there would be an heir, it would also make it all but impossible to change the regime by assassinating Napoleon. As before, this vote was implausibly lopsided, with 99.93 percent officially voting yes.
He was crowned by Pope Pius VII as Napoleon I, on the 2nd December in 1804 at Notre Dame de Paris and then crowned Joséphine Empress. According to legend, Napoleon seized the crown out of the hands of the pope at the last minute and crowned himself to avoid being subject to papal authority. However, this story is apocryphal; the coronation procedure had been agreed in advance. Ludwig van Beethoven, a long-time admirer, was disappointed at this turn towards imperialism and scratched his dedication to Napoleon from his 3rd Symphony.
At Milan Cathedral on 26th of May in 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy. He created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from amongst his top generals, to secure the allegiance of the army.
War of the Third Coalition
Great Britain broke the Peace of Amiens and declared war on France in May 1803. Napoleon set up a camp at Boulogne-sur-Mer to prepare for an invasion of Britain. By 1805, Britain had convinced Austria and Russia to join a Third Coalition against France. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy in a head-to-head battle and planned to lure it away from the English Channel.
The French Navy would escape from the British blockades of Toulon and Brest and threaten to attack the West Indies, thus drawing off the British defence of the Western Approaches, in the hope a Franco-Spanish fleet could take control of the channel long enough for French armies to cross from Boulogne and invade England. However, after defeat at the naval Battle of Cape Finisterre in July 1805 and Admiral Villeneuve’s retreat to Cádiz, invasion was never again a realistic option for Napoleon.
As the Austrian army marched on Bavaria, he called the invasion of Britain off and ordered the army stationed at Boulogne, his Grande Armée, to march to Germany secretly in a turning movement—the Ulm Campaign. This encircled the Austrian forces about to attack France and severed their lines of communication. On the 20th of October in 1805, the French captured 30,000 prisoners at Ulm, though the next day Britain’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar meant the Royal Navy gained control of the seas.
Six weeks later, on the first anniversary of his coronation, Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia at Austerlitz. This ended the Third Coalition, and he commissioned the Arc de Triomphe to commemorate the victory. Austria had to concede territory; the Peace of Pressburg led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and creation of the Confederation of the Rhine with Napoleon named as its Protector.
Napoleon would go on to say, “The battle of Austerlitz is the finest of all I have fought.” Frank McLynn suggests Napoleon was so successful at Austerlitz he lost touch with reality, and what used to be French foreign policy became a “personal Napoleonic one”. Vincent Cronin disagrees, stating Napoleon was not overly ambitious for himself, that “he embodied the ambitions of thirty million Frenchmen”.
Even after the failed campaign in Egypt, Napoleon continued to entertain a grand scheme to establish a French presence in the Middle East. An alliance with Middle-Eastern powers would have the strategic advantage of pressuring Russia on its southern border. From 1803, Napoleon went to considerable lengths to try to convince the Ottoman Empire to fight against Russia in the Balkans and join his anti-Russian coalition.
Napoleon sent General Horace Sebastiani as envoy extraordinary, promising to help the Ottoman Empire recover lost territories. In the February of 1806, following Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz and the ensuing dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire, the Ottoman Emperor Selim III finally recognised Napoleon as Emperor, formally opting for an alliance with France “our sincere and natural ally”, and war with Russia and England.
A Franco-Persian alliance was also formed, from 1807 to 1809, between Napoleon and the Persian Empire of Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar, against Russia and Great Britain. The alliance ended when France allied with Russia and turned its focus to European campaigns.
War of the Fourth Coalition
The Fourth Coalition was assembled in 1806, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in October. He marched against advancing Russian armies through Poland and was involved in the bloody stalemate of the Battle of Eylau on the 6th of February in 1807.
After a decisive victory at Friedland, he signed the Treaties of Tilsit; one with Tsar Alexander I of Russia which divided the continent between the two powers; the other with Prussia which stripped that country of half its territory. Napoleon placed puppet rulers on the thrones of German states, including his brother Jérôme as king of the new Kingdom of Westphalia. In the French-controlled part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler.
With his Milan and Berlin Decrees, Napoleon attempted to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the Continental System. This act of economic warfare did not succeed, as it encouraged British merchants to smuggle into continental Europe, and Napoleon’s exclusively land-based customs enforcers could not stop them.
The former Spanish king was dethroned by Napoleon who put his own brother on the throne. Spaniards revolted. Thompson says the Spanish revolt was, “a reaction against new institutions and ideas, a movement for loyalty to the old order: to the hereditary crown of the Most Catholic kings, which Napoleon, an excommunicated enemy of the Pope, had put on the head of a Frenchman; to the Catholic Church persecuted by republicans who had desecrated churches, murdered priests, and enforced a “loi des cultes”; and to local and provincial rights and privileges threatened by an efficiently centralized government. The peninsular campaign in Spain proved a major disaster for France. Napoleon did well in when he was in direct charge, but that followed severe losses, and was followed by worse losses. Spain proved to be a major, long-term drain on money, manpower and prestige. Historian David Gates called it the “Spanish ulcer.”
Portugal defied the Continental System, so in 1807 Napoleon invaded with the support of Spain. Under the pretext of a reinforcement of the Franco-Spanish army occupying Portugal, Napoleon invaded Spain as well, replaced Charles IV with his brother Joseph and placed his brother-in-law Joachim Murat in Joseph’s stead at Naples. This led to resistance from the Spanish army and civilians in the Dos de Mayo Uprising.
In Spain, Napoleon faced a new type of war, termed a guerrilla war, in which the local population, inspired by religion and patriotism, took up arms. The French had to contend not only with regular armies, but also attacks by guerrillas using ambushes, sabotage and armed uprisings. Vicious reprisals by the French only escalated the hatreds and attacks.
Following a French retreat from much of the country, and the surrender of Dupont’s French army of 18,000 men, Napoleon took personal command and defeated the Spanish Army. He retook Madrid, then outmanoeuvred a British army sent to support the Spanish and drove it to the coast. Before the Spanish population had been fully subdued, Austria again threatened war, and Napoleon returned to France.
The costly and often brutal Peninsular War continued in Napoleon’s absence. Although Napoleon left 300,000 of his finest troops to battle Spanish guerrillas as well as British and Portuguese forces commanded by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, French control over the peninsula again deteriorated.
France lost the Peninsular War; Napoleon realized it had been a disaster for his cause, writing later, “That unfortunate war destroyed me….All the circumstances of my disasters are bound up in that fatal knot.”
War of the Fifth Coalition and remarriage
In the April of 1809, Austria abruptly broke its alliance with France, and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. After early successes, the French faced difficulties in crossing the Danube and suffered a defeat in May at the Battle of Aspern-Essling near Vienna. The Austrians failed to capitalise on the situation and allowed Napoleon’s forces to regroup. He defeated the Austrians again at Wagram, and the Treaty of Schönbrunn was signed between Austria and France
Britain was the other member of the coalition. In addition to the Iberian Peninsula, the British planned to open another front in mainland Europe. However, Napoleon was able to rush reinforcements to Antwerp, owing to Britain’s inadequately organised Walcheren Campaign
He concurrently annexed the Papal States because of the Church’s refusal to support the Continental System; Pope Pius VII responded by excommunicating the emperor. The pope was then abducted by Napoleon’s officers, and though Napoleon had not ordered his abduction, he did not order Pius’ release. The pope was moved throughout Napoleon’s territories, sometimes while ill, and Napoleon sent delegations to pressure him on issues including agreement to a new concordat with France, which Pius refused. In 1810 Napoleon married Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, following his divorce of Joséphine; this further strained his relations with the Church, and thirteen cardinals were imprisoned for non-attendance at the marriage ceremony. The pope remained confined for 5 years and did not return to Rome until May 1814.
In November 1810, Napoleon consented to the ascent to the Swedish throne of Bernadotte, one of his marshals, with whom Napoleon had always had strained relations. Napoleon had indulged Bernadotte’s indiscretions because he was married to Désirée Clary, his former fiancée and sister of the wife of his brother Joseph. Napoleon came to regret accepting this appointment when Bernadotte later allied Sweden with France’s enemies.
In September and Octoberof 1811 Napoleon visited the Dutch départements; Amsterdam became the third capital of his empire.
Invasion of Russia
The Congress of Erfurt sought to preserve the Russo-French alliance, and the leaders had a friendly personal relationship after their first meeting at Tilsit in 1807. By 1811, however, tensions had increased and Alexander was under pressure from the Russian nobility to break off the alliance. An early sign the relationship had deteriorated was the Russian’s virtual abandonment of the Continental System, 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 the 23rd of June in 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 the 7th of 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.”
The Russian army withdrew and retreated past Moscow. Napoleon entered the city, assuming its fall would end the war and Alexander would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city’s governor Feodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulation, Moscow was burned. After five weeks, Napoleon and his army left. Early November Napoleon got concerned about loss of control back in France after the Malet coup of 1812. His army walked through the snow up till their knees and nearly 10,000 men and horses froze to death on the night of November 8/9 alone. After Battle of Berezina Napoleon succeeded 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.
The French suffered greatly 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, but in the end fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River in November 1812. The Russians had lost 150,000 in battle and hundreds of thousands of civilians.
War of the Sixth Coalition
There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was then 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 France, 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. Napoleon would remain Emperor, however he rejected the term. The British wanted Napoleon permanently removed; they prevailed. Napoleon adamantly refused.
Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers, and little cavalry; he faced more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days’ Campaign, though these were not significant enough to turn the tide. The leaders of Paris surrendered to the Coalition in the March of 1814.
On 1 April, Alexander addressed Sénat conservateur which had previously been docile to Napoleon but under Talleyrand’s prodding had turned against him. Alexander told the Sénat that the Allies were fighting against Napoleon, not France, and they were prepared to offer honorable 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 was lost. When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On the 4th of April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. While the ordinary soldiers and regimental officers wanted to fight on, 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.
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 do in the interests of France.
Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11th April in 1814.
-Act of abdication of Napoleon
In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victors exiled him to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km (12 mi) off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried since a near-capture by Russians on the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, and he survived to be exiled while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods.
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 ship Swiftsure on the 26th of February in 1815. He landed at Golfe-Juan on the French mainland, two days later.
The 5th Regiment was sent to intercept him and made contact just south of Grenoble on 7th of March in 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot range, shouted, “Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish.”
The soldiers responded with, “Vive L’Empereur!” and marched with Napoleon to Paris; Louis XVIII fled. On the 13th March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw, and 4 days later Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia bound themselves to each put 150,000 men into the field to end his rule.
Napoleon arrived in Paris on the 20th of 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 the allies, led by Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th of June in 1815. Wellington’s army withstood repeated attacks by the French and drove them from the field while the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon’s right flank.
Napoleon returned to Paris and found that both the legislature and the people had turned violently on him. Realizing his position was untenable, he abdicated on the 22nd of June in favour of his son. He left Paris 3 days later and settled at Josephine’s former home in Malmaison. Coalition forces swept into France soon afterward, intent on restoring Louis XVIII to the French throne.
When Napoleon got word that Prussian troops had orders to capture him dead or alive, he fled to Rochefort, considering an escape to the US. However, British ships were blocking every port. Finally, Napoleon demanded asylum from the British Captain Frederick Maitland on HMS Bellerophon on the 15th of July in 1815.
Exile on Saint Helena
Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled to the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,870 km (1,162 mi) from the west coast of Africa. In his first two months there, he lived in a pavilion on the Briars estate, which belonged to a William Balcombe. Napoleon became friendly with his family, especially his younger daughter Lucia Elizabeth, who later wrote Recollections of the Emperor Napoleon. This friendship ended in 1818 when British authorities became suspicious that Balcombe had acted as an intermediary between Napoleon and Paris and dismissed him from the island.
Napoleon moved to Longwood House in December of 1815; it had fallen into disrepair, and the location was damp, windswept and unhealthy. The Times published articles insinuating the British government was trying to hasten his death, and he often complained of the living conditions in letters to the governor and his custodian, Hudson Lowe.
With a small cadre of followers, Napoleon dictated his memoirs and criticised his captors—particularly Lowe. Lowe’s treatment of Napoleon is regarded as poor by historians such as Frank McLynn. Lowe exacerbated a difficult situation through measures including a reduction in Napoleon’s expenditure, a rule that no gifts could be delivered to him if they mentioned his imperial status, and a document his supporters had to sign that guaranteed they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely.
In 1818, The Times reported a false rumour of Napoleon’s escape and said the news had been greeted by spontaneous illuminations in London.[note 6] There was sympathy for him in the British Parliament: Lord Holland gave a speech that demanded the prisoner be treated with no unnecessary harshness. Napoleon kept himself informed of the events through The Times and hoped for release in the event that Holland became prime minister. He also enjoyed the support of Lord Cochrane, who was involved in Chile’s and Brazil’s struggle for independence, and wanted to rescue Napoleon and help him set up a new empire in South America, a scheme frustrated by Napoleon’s death in 1821.
There were other plots to rescue Napoleon from captivity, including one from Texas, where exiled soldiers from the Grande Armée wanted a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America. There was even a plan to rescue him with a primitive submarine. For Lord Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely and flawed genius. The news that Napoleon had taken up gardening at Longwood also appealed to more domestic British sensibilities.
His personal physician, Barry O’Meara, warned the authorities of his declining state of health mainly caused, according to him, by the harsh treatment of the captive in the hands of his “gaoler”, Lowe, which led Napoleon to confine himself for months in his damp and wretched habitation of Longwood. O’Meara kept a clandestine correspondence with a clerk at the Admiralty in London, knowing his letters were read by higher authorities: he hoped, in such way, to raise alarm in the government, but to no avail.
In February of 1821, Napoleon’s health began to deteriorate rapidly, and on 3rd May two British physicians, who had recently arrived, attended on him but could only recommend palliatives. He died two days later, after confession, Extreme Unction and Viaticum in the presence of Father Ange Vignali. His last words were, “France, l’armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine.” (“France, army, head of the army, Joséphine.”)
Napoleon’s original death mask was created around 6th May, although it is not clear which doctor created it.In his will, he had asked to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but the British governor said he should be buried on Saint Helena, in the Valley of the Willows. Hudson Lowe insisted the inscription should read “Napoleon Bonaparte”; Montholon and Bertrand wanted the Imperial title “Napoleon” as royalty were signed by their first names only. As a result the tomb was left nameless.
Photo of a large, shiny burgundy cuboid-shaped vessel raised on a dark green plinth. There are two female statues in the background either side of the vessel.
In 1840, Louis Philippe I obtained permission from the British to return Napoleon’s remains to France. The remains were transported aboard the frigate Belle-Poule, which had been painted black for the occasion, and on 29th of November she arrived in Cherbourg. The remains were transferred to the steamship Normandie, which transported them to Le Havre, up the Seine to Rouen and on to Paris.
On the 15th of December, a state funeral was held. The hearse proceeded from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Élysées, across the Place de la Concorde to the Esplanade des Invalides and then to 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 porphyry sarcophagus in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides.
Cause of death
The cause of his death has been debated. Napoleon’s physician, François Carlo Antommarchi, led the autopsy, which found the cause of death to be stomach cancer. Antommarchi did not, however, sign the official report. Napoleon’s father had died of stomach cancer, although this was seemingly unknown at the time of the autopsy. Antommarchi found evidence of a stomach ulcer; this was the most convenient explanation for the British, who wanted to avoid criticism over their care of Napoleon.
In 1955, the diaries of Napoleon’s valet, Louis Marchand, were published. His description of Napoleon in the months before his death led Sten Forshufvud in a 1961 paper in Nature to put forward other causes for his death, including deliberate arsenic poisoning. Arsenic was used as a poison during the era because it was undetectable when administered over a long period. Forshufvud, in a 1978 book with Ben Weider, noted that Napoleon’s body was found to be remarkably well preserved when moved in 1840. Arsenic is a strong preservative, and therefore this supported the poisoning hypothesis. Forshufvud and Weider observed that Napoleon had attempted to quench abnormal thirst by drinking large amounts of orgeat syrup that contained cyanide compounds in the almonds used for flavouring.
They maintained that the potassium tartrate used in his treatment prevented his stomach from expelling these compounds and that his thirst was a symptom of the poison. Their hypothesis was that the calomel given to Napoleon became an overdose, which killed him and left extensive tissue damage behind. According to a 2007 article, the type of arsenic found in Napoleon’s hair shafts was mineral, the most toxic, and according to toxicologist Patrick Kintz, this supported the conclusion that he was murdered.
There have been modern studies that have supported the original autopsy finding. In a 2008 study, researchers analysed samples of Napoleon’s hair from throughout his life, as well as samples from his family and other contemporaries. All samples had high levels of arsenic, approximately 100 times higher than the current average. According to these researchers, Napoleon’s body was already heavily contaminated with arsenic as a boy, and the high arsenic concentration in his hair was not caused by intentional poisoning; people were constantly exposed to arsenic from glues and dyes throughout their lives. Studies published in 2007 and 2008 dismissed evidence of arsenic poisoning, and confirmed evidence of peptic ulcer and gastric cancer as the cause of death.
Time Line of the Napoleonic War
Napoleon involved in Corsican politics.
January: Napoleon joins the Jacobins
February: Napoleon re-joins the ‘La Fere’ (newly designated the ‘1st’) Artillery Regiment at Auxonne
June: Napoleon promoted to 1st lieutenant and re-assigned to 4th (former ‘Grenoble’) Artillery Regiment at Valence
20th June: Flight of the French Royal family.
July: French army officers required to take oath to new Constitution. Napoleon did, many Royalist officers did not.
October: Napoleon returns to Corsica.
20th April: French Assembly declares war on Austria.
26th June: First Coalition formed.
10th August: Napoleon witnesses the storming of the Tuileries.
20th September: Battle of Valmy, the revolution endures.
6th November: Battle of Jemappes, French gain Austrian Netherlands.
21st January: Louix XVI guillotined.
18th March: Battle of Neewinden, Austrians take Austrian Netherlands back.
11th June: Losers in Corsican political struggle Bonaparte family flees to Toulon.
16th September- 19 December: Napoleon distinguishes himself at the siege of Toulon.
15th-16th October: Battle of Wattignies, French relieve Maubeuge and close road to Paris.
22nd December: Napoleon appointed general of brigade.
February: Napoleon appointed commander of artillery in the Army of Italy.
26th June: Battle of Fleurus.
27th July: Fall of Robespierre (Napoleons patron)
8th August: Napoleon arrested, but released after a period of imprisonment, during which he rightly feared for his life.
16th May: Peace of Basle; Prussia leaves war.
19th August: Peace with Spain.
5th October: ‘The whiff of grapeshot’; Napoleon saves the government by turning his cannon on rioters. Cavalry Major Murat retrieves the necessary artillery.
8th March: Napoleon marries Josephine.
11th March: Napoleon is appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Italy.
10th-12th April: Battle of Montenotte.
13th April: “Battle” of Millesimo.
14th-15th April: Battle of Dego.
16th-17th April: Battle of Ceva.
20th April: Mondovi taken, Napoleon’s army reaches the plains of Northern Italy.
28th April: Armistice of Cherasco, Piedmont out of the war.
10th May: Action at Lodi
4th June: Battle of First Battlesof Altenkirchen
19th June: Battle of Ukerath
28th June: Battle of Kinzig (Rechen)
5th July: Battle of Rastatt
9th July: Battle of Ettlingen (Malsch)
14th July: Battle of Haslach
5th August: Battle of Castigione
7th August: Battle of Forcheim
11th August: Battle of Neresheim
24th August: Battle of Friedberg
24th August: Battle of Amberg
3rd September: Battle of Wuzberg
8th September: Battle of Bassano
2nd October: Battle of Biberach
19 thOctober: Battle of Emmendlingen (or Emmendingen)
23rd October: Battle of Schliengen
15th-17th November: Battle of Arcola
14th January: Battle of Rivoli.
18th April: Battle of Second Battle of Altenkirchen.
20th April: Battle of Diersham.
10th March – 6th April: Army of Italy engaged in operations against Archduke Charles
4th September: Coup d’etat of 18 Fructidor.
17th October: Treaty of Campo Formio with Austria ends war in Italy.
19th May: Napoleon sails from Toulon to invade Egypt.
12th June: Napoleon occupies Malta.
21st July: Battle of the Pyramids.
1st August: Battle of the Nile; Nelson destroys French fleet supporting Napoleon.
21ts October: Cairo revolt suppressed.
29th December: Second Coalition formed.
5th Feburary: Napoleon invades Syria (modern Isreal/Palestine)
1st March: Russia declares war on France.
17th March: Napoleons seige of Acre begins.
5th April-15th August: Austrians and Russians retake Italy and Switzerland.
16th April: Battle of Mount Tabor; Turkish army attempting to relieve Acre is defeated.
10th May: Napoleons final assault on Acre repulsed.
20th May: Unsuccessful seige of Acre ends.
25th July: Battle of Aboukir.
22nd August: Napoleon leaves Egypt, and evading British fleet sails for France.
25th-30th September: Massena defeats Russians near Zurich.
9th October: Naploeon lands in France.
9th November: Napoleon’s coup of 18 Brumaire establishes the Consulate.
10th November: Napoleon becomes First Consul.
20th March: Battle of Heliopolis
18th April: Massena besieged in Genoa.
3rd May: Moreau victor in Battle of Stockach.
15th-21st May: Army of Reserve crosses the Alps.
9th June: Battle of Montebello.
14th June: Battle of Marengo.
19th June: Battle of Hochstadt.
5th September: French forced to surrender Malta.
5th December: Battle of Hohenlinden.
9th February: Napoleon signs the Treaty of Luneville with Austria.
20th-21st March: Night or Second Battle of Aboukir, also known as Battle of Alexandria.
21st March: French forces in Egypt capitulate.
23rd March: Tsar Paul murdered; Alexander succeeds.
2nd April: British attack Copenhagen. Nelson’s famous ‘blind eye’.
15th July: Napoleon signs Concordat with the Pope.
27th March: Treaty of Amiens signed with Great Britain.
2nd August: Napoleon made Consul for life.
15th October: France invades Switzerland.
30th April: Napoleon sells Louisiana to United States.
18th May: Britain declares war.
1st June: Napoleon begins to prepare invasion of Britain. French take Hanover.
21st March: Duc d’Enghien murdered. Promulgation of the Civil code.
18th May: Napoleon proclaimed Emperor
19th May: Marshalate created.
2ndDecember: Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor.
14th December: Spain declares war on Britain.
11th April: Britain and Russia ally (beginning of 3rd Coalition).
26th May: Napoleon crowned King of Italy.
9th August: Austria joins 3rd Coalition.
20th October: Battle of Ulm
21st October: Battle of Trafalgar.
15th November: Napoleon enters Vienna.
2nd December: Battle of Austerlitz.
26th December: Treaty of Pressburg between Austria and France.
1st April: Joseph Bonaparte becomes King of Naples.
20th June: Louis Bonaparte becomes King of Holland.
12th July: Confederation of the Rhine established.
6th October: Fourth Coalition (Russia, Prussia, Britain, and Sweden) formed.
14th October: Battle of Jena. Battle of Auerstadt.
26th October: Napoleon enters Berlin.
21st November: Berlin degree begins the Continental System, which attempts to reduce Britain by blockade.
16th December: French enter Warsaw.
8th February: Battle of Eylau.
18th March: Seige of Danzig begins.
27th May: Danzig falls.
14th June: Battle of Friedland.
7th July: Treaty of Tilsit between France, Prussia and Russia.
19th July: Grand Duchy of Warsaw instituted.
2nd-7th September: British attack Copenhagen destroying the Danish fleet.
27th October: Treaty of Fontainebleu; France and Spain agree to attack Portugal.
30th November: Junot occupies Lisbon.
2nd May: Murat suppresses Madrid uprising.
6th June: Joseph Bonaparte proclaimed King of Spain.
14th July: Battle of Medina del Rio Seco.
22nd July: Battle of Bailen. Significantly damages French military reputation.
21st August: Battle of Vimerio. Wellington defeats French forces in Portugal.
5th November: Napoleon assumes command in Spain.
4th December: Napoleon enters Madrid.
16th January: Battle of Corunna.
17th January: Napoleon returns to France.
9th April: Austrians invade Bavaria.
19th April: Battle of Teugn-Hausen (a.k.a Thann, Teugn or Tengen).
20th April: Battle of Abensburg.
21st April: Battle of Landshut.
22nd April: Battle of Eckmuhl (or Eggmuhl).
12th May: Battle of Oporto.
21st-22nd May: Battle of Essling.
6th July: Battle of Wagram.
28th-29th July: Battle of Talavera.
14th October: Treaty of Schonbrunn between Austria and France.
15th December: Napoleon divorces Joesphine.
22nd April: Napoleon marries Marie-Louise of Austria.
9th July: Messena takes Cuidad Rodrigo.
27th September: Battle of Bussaco.
10th October: Wellington retires behind Lines of Torres Verdes.
5th March: Messena begins withdrawal from Portugal.
20th March: Marie-Louise bears Napoleon a son, who is given the title ‘King of Rome’.
3rd-5th May: Battle of Fuentes de Onoro.
15th May: Battle of Albuera.
23rd December: Napoleon begins preparations to invade Russia.
19th January: Wellington captures Ciudad Rodrigo.
6th April: Wellington captures Badajoz.
20th June: Sixth Coalition formed.
24th June: Napoleon invades Russia.
22nd July: Battle of Salamanca.
17th-19th August: Battle of Smolensk.
7th September: Battle of Borodino.
14th September: Napoleon enters Moscow.
19th October: Napoleon leaves Moscow.
21st October: Wellington repulsed at Burgos.
24th-25th October: Battle of Maloyaroslaverts.
26th-28th November: Battle of the Beresina.
30th December: Yorck signs Convention of Tauroggen by which his Prussian Corps defects from the French Grande Armee.
4th March: Russians enter Berlin.
16th March: Prussia declares war on France.
2nd May: Battle of lutzen. (Gross-Gorshcen).
20th-21st May: Battle of Bautzen.
23rd May: Wellington advances into Spain.
4th June: Armistice of Pleichwitz begins.
12th June: French evacuate Madrid.
21st June: Battle of Vitoria.
12th August: Austria declares war on France.
17th August: Armistice of Pleichwitz ends.
23rd August: Battle of Grossbeeren.
26th August: Battle of Katzbach.
26th-27th August: Battle of Dresden.
30th August: Battle of kulm.
6th September: Battle of Dennewitz.
3rd October: Battle of Wartenburg.
16th-19th October: Battle of leipzig.
30th October: Battle of Hanau.
10th November: Battle of Nivelle.
29th January: Battle of Brienne.
1st February: Battle of La Rothierre.
10th February: Battle of Champaubert.
11th February: Battle of Montmirail.
14th February: Battle of Vauchamps.
9th March: Battle of Laon.
20th-21st March: Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube.
30th March: Allies enter Paris.
6th April: Napoleon abdicates.
10th April: Battle of Toulouse. Wellington defeats Soult.
26th February: Napoleon escapes Elba.
1st March: Napoleon lands in France.
20th March: Napoleon enters Paris.
15th June: Napoleon crosses into Belgium.
16th June: Battle of Ligny. Battle of Quartre Bras.
18th June: Battle of Waterloo. Battle of Wavre.
22nd June: Napoleon abidicates.
Famous Quotes by Napoleon
“Death is nothing; but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.”
“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”
“I saw the crown of France laying on the ground, so I picked it up with my sword.”
“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon.”
“He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.”
“Victory belongs to the most persevering.”
“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
“If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.”
“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Sourced from Wikipedia and Google