Peoples and Nations

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Famous for being a Emperor of France

Born - 15th August 1769, Ajaccio, Corsica
Parents - Carlo Buonaparte, Letizia Ramolino
Siblings - Joseph, Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline, Jerome
Married - 1. Josephine de Beauharnais
2. Marie Louise of Austria
Children - Marriage 1 - None
Marriage 2 - Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles
Died - 5th May 1821 St Helena aged 51 probably from stomach cancer

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on 15th August 1769. At the age of ten he was sent to military school in mainland France. After leaving school he rose rapidly through the army ranks and by 1796 had become commander of the French army in Italy.

Napoleon led a successful campaign in Italy defeating the Austrians and forcing a peace negotiation which gave France control of much of northern Italy as well as the low countries.

In 1798 Napoleon attacked and conquered Egypt. His motivation for the conquest was to weaken Britain by disrupting trade routes to India. However, the British counter attacked and destroyed the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile. Political problems forced Napoleon to return to France where in 1799 he became first consul.

In 1800 Napoleon once again led French troops into Italy. Their mission was to remove Austrian forces that had returned to Italy while Napoleon was in Egypt. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo. The resulting peace treaty gave France control of much of Europe and in December 1804 Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France.

In 1805 Britain, Russia and Austria formed a coalition against France. Later that year the British navy defeated the French navy at the battle of Trafalgar. The loss of the French fleet at Trafalgar put an end to Napoleon's plans to invade Britain and so he turned his attention to Russia.

Napoleon defeated Russian and Austrian forces at Austerlitz in the Autumn of 1805 taking Austria out of the war. Napoleon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to commemorate this victory.

Napoleon's next move was to try to subjugate Britain by preventing trade with Portugal. In 1807 French troops were sent through Spain (France's ally) to Portugal. During this campaign Napoleon attempted to gain the abdication of the Spanish King Charles IV in favour of Napoleon's brother Joseph. Spain reacted violently and the uprisings allowed the British led by the Duke of Wellington to land in Portugal. The Peninsula war continued for five years and was a huge drain on French resources.

Despite the continuing Peninsular war, in 1812 Napoleon decided to invade Russia. Although the French saw a number of initial successes that forced the Russians to retreat, the Russians adopted a 'scorched earth' policy which made it impossible for food to be locally sourced. Napoleon believed that when the French reached Moscow Tsar Alexander III would sue for peace, however, the Tsar ordered the city to be burned rather than fall to the French. Napoleon continued to hope for a peace settlement and delayed leaving Moscow. By the time he realised that peace would not be forthcoming the Russian winter had set in causing huge losses to the French army as it retreated to France.

In 1813 a new coalition formed against Napoleon was successful in defeating the Emperor at the Battle of Leipzig, the largest battle fought in Europe prior to the First World War. The French were then pushed back and after Paris was captured in March 1814 Napoleon abdicated and was sent to exile on the Island of Elba. Louis XVIII was installed as King of France.

On 26th February 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba, raised an army and marched on Paris. In June he decided to launch an offensive against the British and Prussian forces who had sworn to defeat him. The ensuing Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815 saw a resounding defeat of Napoleon. He was captured and again exiled, this time to the Island of Saint Helena. He died on 5th May 1821.