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Napoleon Bonaparte (August 15, 1769 – May 5, 1821) was a general during the French Revolution, the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic, and Emperor of the French (Empereur des Français). He was also King of Italy, Mediator of the Swiss Confederation and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine.
He was born Napoleone di Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione) in the town of Ajaccio on Corsica, France, on 15 August 1769, one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. However, neither Napoleone nor his family used the nobiliary particle di. He later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte. Napoleon was ethnically Corsican of ancient Italian heritage. He wrote to Pasquale di Paoli (leader of a Corsican revolt against the French) in 1789: "I was born when my country was dying. Thirty thousand Frenchmen disgorged upon our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in a sea of blood; such was the hateful spectacle that offended my infant eyes." Napoleon's heritage earned him popularity among Italians during his Italian campaigns.
The family, formerly known as Buonaparte, were minor Italian nobility coming from Tuscan stock of Lombard origin set in Lunigiana. The family moved to Florence and later broke into two branches; the original one, Buonaparte-Sarzana, were compelled to leave Florence, coming to Corsica in the 16th century when the island was a possession of the Republic of Genoa.
His father Carlo Buonaparte was born 1746 in the Republic of Genoa; an attorney, he was named Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1778, where he remained for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino. Her firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious Napoleon, nicknamed Rabullione (the "meddler" or "disrupter").
Napoleon had an elder brother, Joseph. His younger siblings were Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline and Jerome.
Napoleon's noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. On 15 May 1779, at age nine, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes. He had to learn French before entering the school, but he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life and never learned to spell properly. It was here that Bonaparte first met the Champagne maker Jean-Remy Moët. The friendship of these two men would have lasting impact on the history of the Champagne region and on the beverage itself. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the two-year course of study in only one year. An examiner judged him as "very applied [to the study of] abstract sciences, little curious as to the others; [having] a thorough knowledge of mathematics and geography ..." Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire.
Early Military Career
Upon graduation in September 1785, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment and took up his new duties in January 1786 at the age of 16. Napoleon served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 (although he took nearly two years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period). He spent most of the next several years on Corsica, where a complex three-way struggle was playing out between royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction and gained the rank of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family fled to the French mainland in June 1793.
Through the help of fellow Corsican Saliceti, Napoleon was appointed artillery commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen in revolt against the republican government and was occupied by British troops. He placed guns at Point l'Eguillete, threatening the British ships in the harbour, forcing them to evacuate. An assault, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led to the recapture of the city and his promotion to brigadier-general. His actions brought him to the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, and he became a close associate of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. Following the fall of the elder Robespierre he was briefly imprisoned in the Chateau d'Antibes on 6 August 1794, but was released within two weeks.
In 1795, Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries organized an armed protest against the National Convention on 3 October. Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, who later became his brother-in-law. He used the artillery the following day to repel the attackers. He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a "whiff of grapeshot", although the fighting had been vicious throughout Paris. This triumph earned him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory, particularly that of its leader, Barras. Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras's former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he married on 9 March 1796. (He had been engaged for two years (1794-96) to Désirée Clary, later Queen of Sweden and Norway, but the engagement was broken off by the future emperor, in the face of her parents' opposition and their concern over his lack of fortune.)
Italian Campaign of 1796–97
Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French "Army of Italy" on 27 March 1796, leading it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Lodi, he gained the nickname of "the Little Corporal" (le petit caporal), a term reflecting his camaraderie with his soldiers, many of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States. Because Pope Pius VI had protested the execution of Louis XVI, France retaliated by annexing two small papal territories. Bonaparte ignored the Directory's order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. It was not until the next year that General Berthier captured Rome and took Pius VI prisoner on 20 February. The pope died of illness while in captivity. In early 1797, Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced that power to sue for peace. The resulting Treaty of Campo Formio gave France control of most of northern Italy, along with the Low Countries and Rhineland, but a secret clause promised Venice to Austria. Bonaparte then marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending more than 1,000 years of independence. Later in 1797, Bonaparte organized many of the French-dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.
His remarkable series of military triumphs were a result of his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his infantry. As he described it: "I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning." Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign depict his use of the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception and had an uncanny sense of when to strike. He often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments. In this campaign, often considered his greatest, Napoleon's army captured 160,000 prisoners, 2,000 cannons, and 170 standards. A year of campaigning had witnessed major breaks with the traditional norms of 18th century warfare and marked a new era in military history.
While campaigning in Italy, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as well. In May 1797 he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris, Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux. Elections in mid-1797 gave the royalist party increased power, alarming Barras and his allies on the Directory. The royalists, in turn, began attacking Bonaparte for looting Italy and overstepping his authority in dealings with the Austrians. Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d'etat and purge the royalists on 4 September (18 Fructidor). This left Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent on Bonaparte to maintain it. Bonaparte himself proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, then returned to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force in government, far more popular than any of the Directors.
Egyptian Expedition of 1798–99
n March 1798, Bonaparte proposed a military expedition to seize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to the British Raj (India). The Directory, although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from the center of power.
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 geodesers among them. One of their discoveries was the Rosetta Stone. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered by some an indication of Bonaparte's devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda, obfuscating the true imperialist motives of the invasion. In a largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations casting himself as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praising the precepts of Islam.
After landing on the coast of Egypt, he fought the Battle of the Pyramids against the Mamelukes, an old power in the Middle East, approximately four miles (6 km) from the pyramids. Bonaparte's forces were greatly outnumbered by the Mamelukes cavalry, 20,000 to 60,000, but Bonaparte formed hollow squares, keeping cannons and supplies safely on the inside. In all, 300 French and approximately 6,000 Egyptians were killed.
While the battle on land was a resounding French victory, the British Royal Navy managed to compensate at sea. The ships that had landed Bonaparte and his army sailed back to France, while a fleet of ships of the line remained to support the army along the coast. On 1 August the British fleet under Horatio Nelson fought the French in the Battle of the Nile, capturing or destroying all but two French vessels. With Bonaparte land-bound, his goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was frustrated, but his army succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated uprisings.
In early 1799, he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria, now modern Israel and Syria, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease—mostly bubonic plague—and poor supplies. Napoleon led 13,000 French soldiers to the conquest of the coastal towns of El Arish, Gaza, Jaffa, and Haifa.
The storming of Jaffa was particularly brutal. Although the French took control of the city within a few hours after the attack began, the French soldiers bayoneted approximately 2,000 Turkish soldiers who were trying to surrender. The soldiers' ferocity then turned to the inhabitants of the town. Men, women, and children were robbed and murdered for three days, and the massacre ended with even more bloodshed, as Napoleon ordered 3,000 more Turkish prisoners executed.
After his army was weakened by the plague, Napoleon was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and returned to Egypt in May. In order to speed up the retreat, Bonaparte took the controversial step of killing prisoners and plague-stricken men along the way. His supporters have argued that this decision was necessary given the continuing harassment of stragglers by Ottoman forces. Back in Egypt, on 25 July, Bonaparte defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.
With the Egyptian campaign stagnating, and political instability developing back home, Bonaparte left Egypt for France in August, 1799, leaving his army under General Kléber.
Ruler of France
While in Egypt, Bonaparte tried to keep a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly. On 23 August 1799, he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading French coastal ports.
Although he was later accused of abandoning his troops, his departure had been ordered by the Directory, which had suffered a series of military defeats to the forces of the Second Coalition and feared an invasion.
By the time he returned to Paris in October, the military situation had improved due to several French victories. The Republic was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was more unpopular than ever with the French public.
Bonaparte was approached by one of the Directors, Sieyès, seeking his support for a coup to overthrow the constitution. The plot included Bonaparte's brother Lucien (then serving as speaker of the Council of Five Hundred), Roger Ducos, another Director, and Talleyrand. On 9 November (18 Brumaire) and the following day, troops led by Bonaparte seized control and dispersed the legislative councils, leaving a rump to name Bonaparte, Sieyès, and Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government. Although Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmanoeuvred by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul. This made him the most powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which declared him First Consul for life.
Bonaparte instituted several lasting reforms, including centralized administration of the départements, higher education, a tax system, a central bank, law codes, and road and sewer systems. He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, seeking to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime. His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code or Civil Code, has importance to this day in many countries. The Code was prepared by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, who held the office Second Consul from 1799 to 1804; Bonaparte participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although by contemporary standards the code excessively favours the prosecution, when enacted it sought to protect personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts.
In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered during his absence in Egypt. He and his troops crossed the Alps in spring (although he actually rode a mule, not the white charger on which David famously depicted him). While the campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually routed in June at Marengo, leading to an armistice. Napoleon's brother Joseph, who was leading the peace negotiations in Lunéville, reported that due to British backing for Austria, Austria would not recognize France's newly gained territory. As negotiations became more and more fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result the Treaty of Lunéville was signed in February 1801, under which the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased.
Later this year, Bonaparte became President of the French Academy of Sciences and appointed Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre its Permanent Secretary.
Interlude of Peace
The British signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, which set terms for peace, including the withdrawal of British troops from several colonial territories recently occupied. The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The monarchies of Europe were reluctant to recognize a republic, fearing that the ideas of the revolution might be exported to them. In Britain, the brother of Louis XVI was welcomed as a state guest although officially Britain recognized France as a republic. Britain failed to evacuate Malta, as promised, and protested against France's annexation of Piedmont, and Napoleon's Act of Mediation in Switzerland (although neither of these areas was covered by the Treaty of Amiens).
In 1803 Bonaparte faced a major setback when an army he sent to reconquer Haiti and establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Facing imminent war with Britain, he recognized that French possessions on the mainland of North America would now be indefensible and sold them to the United States —the Louisiana Purchase—for less than three cents per acre ($7.40/km²). The dispute over Malta ended with Britain declaring war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.
Coalitions Against Napoleon
In 1805 Britain convinced Austria and Russia to join a Third Coalition against Napoleon. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and therefore tried to lure the British fleet away from the English Channel in hopes that a Spanish and French fleet could take control of the Channel long enough for French armies to cross to England. However, with Austria and Russia preparing an invasion of France and its allies, he had to change his plans and turn his attention to the continent. The newly formed Grande Armee secretly marched to Germany. On 20 October 1805, it surprised the Austrians at Ulm. The next day, however, with the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), the Royal Navy gained lasting control of the seas. A few weeks later, Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (a decisive victory for which he remained more proud than any other) on 2 December, the first anniversary of his coronation. Again Austria had to sue for peace.
The Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806). He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland, and was involved at the bloody stalemate of the Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a decisive victory at Friedland, he signed a treaty at Tilsit in East Prussia with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, dividing Europe between the two powers. He placed puppet rulers on the thrones of German states, including his brother Jerome as king of the new state of Westphalia. In the French-controlled part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw, with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813, Napoleon also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.
In addition to military endeavours against Britain, Napoleon also waged economic war, attempting to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the "Continental System". Although this action hurt the British economy, it also damaged the French economy and was not a decisive blow against the enemy.
Portugal did not comply with the Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon sought Spain's support for an invasion of Portugal. When Spain refused, Napoleon invaded Spain as well, replacing Charles IV with his brother Joseph, placing brother-in-law Joachim Murat in Joseph's stead at Naples. This led to unexpected resistance from the Spanish army and civilians. Following a French retreat from much of the country, Napoleon himself took command and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then outmaneuvered a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast. But before the Spanish population had been fully subdued, Austria again threatened war and Napoleon returned to France. The costly and often brutal Peninsular War continued, and Napoleon left several hundred thousand of his finest troops to battle Spanish guerrillas as well as British forces commanded by the Duke of Wellington. French control over Iberia deteriorated in 1812, and collapsed the following year when Joseph abdicated his throne. The last French troops were driven from the peninsula in 1814.
In 1809, Austria abruptly broke its alliance with France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. After achieving early successes, the French faced difficulties crossing the Danube and then suffered a defeat at Aspern-Essling (21–22 May 1809) near Vienna. The Austrians failed to capitalise on the situation and allowed Napoleon's forces to regroup. The Austrians were defeated once again at Wagram (6 July), and a new peace was signed between Austria and France. In the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.
The other member of the coalition was Britain. Along with efforts in the Iberian peninsular, the British planned to open another front in mainland Europe. However, by the time the British landed at Walcheren, Austria had already sued for peace. The expedition was a disaster and was characterized by little fighting but many casualties thanks to the popularly dubbed "Walcheren Fever".
Invasion of Russia
Although the Congress of Erfurt had sought to preserve the Russo-French alliance, by 1811 tensions were again increasing between the two nations. Although Alexander and Napoleon had a friendly personal relationship since their first meeting in 1807, Alexander had been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break off the alliance with France. In order to keep other countries from revolting against France, Napoleon decided to make an example of Russia.
The first sign that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing of the application of the Continental System in Russia, angering Napoleon. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire and the recapture of Poland.
Russia deployed large numbers of troops to the Polish borders, eventually placing more than 300,000 of its total army strength of 410,000 there. After receiving initial reports of Russia's war preparations, Napoleon began expanding his Grande Armée to more than 450,000-600,000 men (in addition to more than 300,000 men already deployed in Iberia). Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared for an offensive campaign.
On 22 June 1812, Napoleon's invasion of Russia commenced. In an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, Napoleon termed the war the "Second Polish War" (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria). Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, although this was rejected by Napoleon, who feared it would bring Prussia and Austria into the war against France. Napoleon also rejected requests to free the Russian serfs, fearing this might provoke a conservative reaction in his rear.
The Russians under Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly avoided a decisive engagement which Napoleon longed for, preferring to retreat ever deeper into the heart of Russia. A brief attempt at resistance was offered at Smolensk (16–17 August), but the Russians were defeated in a series of battles in the area and Napoleon resumed the advance. The Russians then repeatedly avoided battle with the Grande Armée, although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity arose. Thanks to the Russian army's scorched earth tactics, the Grande Armée had more and more trouble foraging food for its men and horses. Along with hunger, the French also suffered from the harsh Russian winter.
Barclay was criticized for his tentative strategy of continual retreat and was replaced by Kutuzov. However, Kutuzov continued Barclay's strategy. Kutuzov eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September. Losses were nearly even for both armies, with slightly more casualties on the Russian side, after what may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history: the Battle of Borodino (see article for comparisons to the first day of the Battle of the Somme). Although Napoleon was far from defeated, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle the French hoped would be decisive. After the battle, the Russian army withdrew and retreated past Moscow.
Napoleon then entered Moscow, assuming that the fall of Moscow would end the war and that Alexander I would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city's military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, fearing loss of control back in France, Napoleon left Moscow.
The French suffered greatly in the course of a ruinous retreat; the Army had begun as over 650,000 frontline troops, but in the end fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River (November 1812) to escape. The strategy employed by Barclay and Kutuzov had worn down the invaders and maintained the Tsar's domination over the Russian people. In total, French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand civilian deaths.
War of the Sixth Coalition
There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to the German states to rejoin the expanding force there — numbering 130,000 with the reinforcements from Poland. This force continued to expand, with Napoleon aiming for a force of 400,000 French troops supported by a quarter of a million German troops.
Heartened by Napoleon's losses in Russia, Prussia rejoined the Coalition that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Allies culminating in the Battle of Dresden on 26–27 August 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000).
Despite these initial successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the Battle of Nations (16–19 October) at Leipzig. Some of the German states switched sides in the midst of the battle to fight against France. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost both sides a total of more than 120,000 casualties.
After this Napoleon withdrew in an orderly fashion back into France, his army was now reduced to less than 100,000 against more than half a million Allied troops. The French were now surrounded (with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the Coalition forces moving in from the German states) and vastly outnumbered.
Return and Waterloo
Paris was occupied on 31 March 1814. At the urging of his marshals, Napoleon abdicated on 6 April in favor of his son. The Allies were not satisfied with this and demanded unconditional surrender. Napoleon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean 20 km off the coast of Italy.
In France, the royalists had taken over and restored Louis XVIII to power. Meanwhile Napoleon, separated from his wife and son (who had come under Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours that he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic, Napoleon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the French mainland on 1 March 1815. Louis XVIII sent the 5th Regiment of the Line, led by Marshal Ney who had formerly served under Napoleon in Russia, to meet him at Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within earshot of Ney's forces, shouted:
"Soldiers of the Fifth, you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor, he may do so now"
Following a brief silence, the soldiers shouted "Vive L'Empereur!" and marched with Napoleon to Paris. He arrived on 20 March, quickly raising a regular army of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000, and governed for a Hundred Days.
Napoleon was finally defeated by the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at The Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815. Off the port of Rochefort, after unsuccessfully attempting to escape to the United States, Napoléon made his formal surrender while on board HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815.
Exile and Passing
Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea in the South Atlantic Ocean) from 15 October 1815. He lived in Longwood House. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers, he dictated his memoirs, and criticized his captors. There were several plots to rescue Napoleon from captivity, including one from Brazil and another from Texas, where some four hundred exiled soldiers from the Grand Army dreamed of a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America. There was even a plan to rescue him using a submarine.
Despite his complaints and his petulance, Napoleon was not badly treated by the British, and was more or less free to live his life in the manner of an English country gentleman in quite comfortable surroundings. When he was a boy, the writer William Makepeace Thackery stopped at St. Helena on a voyage from India. His servant took him to Longwood, and he later wrote, "We saw a man walking...'That is he', said the black servant, 'That is Bonaparte, he eats three sheep every day, and all the children he can lay his hands on.' " Napoleon received many visitors, to the anger and consternation of the French minister Richelieu, who said, "this devil of a man exercises an astonishing seduction on all those who approach him."
Napoleon came to be transformed in the public mind from a monster to a hero, no doubt a direct expression of discontent at the reactionary post-war government of Lord Liverpool. In 1818 The Times, which Napoleon received in exile, in reporting a false rumour of his escape, said that this had been greeted by spontaneous illuminations in London. There was some sympathy for him also in the political opposition in Parliament. Lord Holland, the nephew of Charles James Fox, the former Whig leader, sent more than 1,000 books and pamphlets to Longwood, as well as jam and other comforts. Holland also accused the government of attempting to kill the Emperor by a process of slow assassination. Napoleon knew of this, and based his hopes for release on the possibility of Holland becoming Prime Minister, which was Richelieu's greatest fear.
Napoleon also enjoyed the support of Admiral Lord Cochrane, one of the greatest sailors of the age, closely involved in Chile and Brazil's struggle for independence. It was his expressed aim to make him Emperor of a unified South American state, a scheme that was frustrated by Napoleon's death in 1821. For Lord Byron, amongst others, Napoleon was the very epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely and flawed genius. At quite the other extreme, the news that Napoleon had taken up gardening at Longwood appealed to more domestic British sensibilities, which had the effect of humanising him still further.
The nature of Napoleon's personal religious faith has come to be a frequent topic of debate. Not long after Napoleon’s death, in a lecture before Oxford University, Henry Parry Liddon asserted that Napoleon, while in exile on St. Helena, compared himself unfavorably to Jesus Christ. According to Liddon's sources, Napoleon pointed out to Count Montholon that while he and others such as "Alexander The Great, Caesar and Charlemagne" founded vast empires, their achievements relied on force, while Jesus "founded his empire on love." After further discourse about the wonders of Christ and his legacy, Napoleon then reputedly said, "This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ."
Napoleon had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but was buried on Saint Helena, in the "valley of the willows". In 1840 his remains were taken to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and were to be entombed in a porphyry sarcophagus at Les Invalides, Paris. Egyptian porphyry (used for the tombs of Roman emperors) was unavailable, so red quartzite was obtained from Russian Finland, eliciting protests from those who still remembered the Russians as enemies. Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date. A replica of his simple Saint Helena tomb is also to be found at Les Invalides.
Relationship with the Jews
Napoleon is guilty for "emancipating" the Jews, abolishing ghettos in Italy and making them have the same legal rights as actual Frenchmen in France. His defenders claim he was just acting within the spirit of the liberal age, however, this is not stictly true, since these policies were widely controversial and were opposed by many prominent men such as Louis-Mathieu Molé, Jacques Claude Beugnot, Philippe Henri Ségur, Marquess of Ségur, Claude-Ambroise Régnier, Duke of Massa, François Christophe de Kellermann and Napoleon's uncle Cardinal Joseph Fesch, amongst others.
Cause of Death
The cause of Napoleon's death has been disputed on a number of occasions. Francesco Antommarchi, the physician chosen by Napoleon's family and the leader of the post mortem examination, gave stomach cancer as a reason for Napoleon's death on his death certificate. In the later half of the twentieth century, a different theory arose conjecturing that Napoleon was the victim of arsenic poisoning.
Arsenic Poisoning Theory
n 1955 the diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoleon's valet, appeared in print. His description of Napoleon in the months before his death led many, most notably Sten Forshufvud and Ben Weider, to conclude that he had been killed by arsenic poisoning. Arsenic was sometimes used as a poison because at that time it was undetectable when administered over a long period. As Napoleon's body was found to be remarkably well preserved when it was moved in 1840, it gives support to the arsenic theory, as arsenic is a strong preservative. In 2001, Pascal Kintz, of the Strasbourg Forensic Institute in France, added credence to this claim with a study of arsenic levels found in a lock of Napoleon's hair preserved after his death: they were seven to 38 times higher than normal.
Cutting up hairs into short segments and analysing each segment individually provides a histogram of arsenic concentration in the body. This analysis on hair from Napoléon suggests that large but non-lethal doses were absorbed at random intervals. The arsenic severely weakened Napoléon and remained in his system.
The medical regimen imposed on Napoleon by his doctors included treatment with antimony potassium tartrate, regular enemas and a 600 milligram dose of mercuric chloride to purge his intestines in the days immediately prior to his death. A group of researchers from the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Department speculate that this treatment may have led to Napoleon's death by causing a serious potassium deficiency.
More recent analysis on behalf of the magazine Science et Vie showed that similar concentrations of arsenic can be found in Napoleon's hair in samples taken from 1805, 1814 and 1821. The lead investigator, Ivan Ricordel (head of toxicology for the Paris Police), stated that if arsenic had been the cause, Napoléon would have died years earlier. The group suggested that the most likely source in this case was a hair tonic. However, the group does not address the arsenic absorption patterns revealed by the analysis commissioned by Forshufvud.
It has also been discovered that the form of wallpaper used in Napoléon's house contained a high level of arsenic which, when made in a compound with copper, was used by British textile makers to make the greens present in the wallpaper. It has been said that the adhesive, which in the cooler environment of Britain was innocuous, grew mold and turned the copper-arsenic compound into a deadly gas in the warm and humid climate of St. Helena.
Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, arsenic was also a widely used treatment for syphilis. This has led to speculation that Napoleon might have suffered from that disease.
Marriages and Children
Napoleon was married twice:
- 9 March 1796 to Joséphine de Beauharnais. He formally adopted her son Eugène and cousin Stéphanie after assuming the throne to arrange "dynastic" marriages for them. He had her daughter Hortense marry his brother, Louis. Napoleon and Joséphine's marriage was unconventional, and both were known to have many affairs. Joséphine agreed to divorce so he could remarry in the hopes of producing an heir. Napoleon's letters to Joséphine available in the original French on the French wikisource site.
- 11 March 1810 by proxy to Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, then in a ceremony on 1 April. They remained married until his death, although she did not join him in his exile.
- Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832), King of Rome. Known as Napoleon II although he never ruled. Was later known as the Duke of Reichstadt. He had no issue.
Acknowledged two illegitimate children, both of whom had issue:
- Charles, Count Léon, (1806 – 1881), by Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne (1787 – 1868).
- Alexandre Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski, (4 May 1810 – 27 October 1868), by Marie, Countess Walewski (1789 – 1817).
May have had further illegitimate offspring:
- Émilie Louise Marie Françoise Joséphine Pellapra, by Françoise-Marie LeRoy.
- Karl Eugin von Mühlfeld, by Victoria Kraus.
- Hélène Napoleone Bonaparte, by Countess Montholon.
- Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire (19 August 1805 – 24 November 1895) whose mother remains unknown.
Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other states eventually followed. He did not introduce many new concepts into the French military system, borrowing mostly from previous theorists and the implementations of preceding French governments, but he did expand or develop much of what was already in place. Corps replaced divisions as the largest army units, artillery was integrated into reserve batteries, the staff system became more fluid, and cavalry once again became a crucial formation in French military doctrine.
Napoleon's biggest influence in the military sphere was in the conduct of warfare. Weapons and technology remained largely static through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, but 18th century operational strategy underwent massive restructuring. Sieges became infrequent to the point of near-irrelevance, and a new emphasis towards the destruction, not just outmaneuvering, of enemy armies emerged. Invasions of enemy territory occurred over broader fronts, thus introducing a plethora of strategic opportunities that made wars costlier and, just as importantly, more decisive (this strategy has since become known as Napoleonic warfare, though he himself did not give it this name). Defeat for a European power now meant much more than losing isolated enclaves; near-Carthaginian peaces intertwined whole national efforts — sociopolitical, economic, and militaristic — into gargantuan collisions that severely upset international conventions. It can be argued that Napoleon's initial success sowed the seeds for his downfall. Not used to such catastrophic defeats in the rigid power system of 18th century Europe, many nations found life under the French yoke intolerable, sparking revolts, wars, and general instability that plagued the continent until 1815.
In France, Napoleon is seen by some as having ended lawlessness and disorder, and the wars he fought as having served to export the Revolution to the rest of Europe. The movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably in Italy and Germany, may have been precipitated by the Napoleonic rule of those areas.
The Napoleonic Code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained in force after Napoleon's defeat. Napoleon himself once said: "My true glory is not to have won 40 battles... Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. ... But what nothing will destroy, what will live forever, is my Civil Code." Professor Dieter Langewiesche of the University of Tübingen described the code as a "revolutionary project" which spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by expanding the right to own property and breaking the back of feudalism. Langewiesche also credits Napoleon with reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire, made up of more than 1,000 entities, into a more streamlined network of 40 states, providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.
Napoleon is sometimes alleged to have been in many ways the direct inspiration for later autocrats: he never flinched when facing the prospect of war and death for thousands, friend or foe, and turned his search of undisputed rule into a continuous cycle of conflict throughout Europe, ignoring treaties and conventions alike. Even if other European powers continually offered Napoleon terms that would have restored France's borders to situations only dreamt by the Bourbon kings, he always refused compromise, and only accepted surrender.
Living at the end of the Enlightenment, Napoleon also became notorious for his effort to suppress the slave revolt in Haiti and his 1801 decision to re-establish slavery in France after it was banned following the revolution.
Nevertheless, many in the international community still admire the many accomplishments of the emperor as evidenced by the International Napoleonic Congress held in Dinard, France in July 2005 that included participation by members of the French and American military, French politicians, scholars from as far away as Israel and Russia, and a parade recreating the Grand Army.
Napoleon was hated by his many enemies, but respected by them at the same time. Wellington, when asked who he thought was the greatest general of the day, answered: "In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon."
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