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Overview - Napoleon Bonaparte
Born Napoleone Buonaparte in 1769 to Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer, and Marie Letizia Ramolino. Changed name to Bonaparte in 1796. He attended military schools in Brienne and Paris. Second lieutenant of artillery. He took some part in French revolutionary action in Paris, Corsica, and Marseilles in 1792. His name is first mentioned in connection with a successful artillery action that led to the capture of Toulon in 1793. General of brigade in 1793. A Jacobin, he was imprisoned briefly after the downfall of Robespierre in 1794. Placed in defence of the Tuileries, he treated the mob to a "whiff of grapeshot". By 1795, Commander of the Army of the Interior. Married Josephine de Bauharnais in 1796. He fought the very successful Italian campaign and secured the favourable treaty of Campo Formio in 1797 from Austria. 1798 finds him conducting a campaign in Egypt and Syria. His success was made impossible by Nelson’s victory in the battle of the Nile in which the French fleet was destroyed. Napoleon abandoned his army and hastened to Paris where, helped by Sieyès and his brother Lucien, he overthrew the Directory on 9 November 1799 and set up the Consulate with himself as first consul. He defeated the continental powers of the Second Coalition and made peace with them at Luneville in 1801. This was followed in 1802 by the peace with England at Amiens. He now turned his attention to internal affairs in France, constructing many public works, codifying the laws, stabilising finances, reconstructing the educational system, and making peace with the papacy. He attempted several colonial ventures by securing Louisiana from Spain and conquering Haiti. When he failed in the latter attempt, he sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803. He was crowned Emperor on 2 December of 1804, and assumed the title of king of Italy in 1805.

A third coalition was formed against him. He contemplated the invasion of England, but gave up the project after Nelson defeated and destroyed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. Instead he turned against Austria, and at Austerlitz crushed the armies of Austria and Russia. By the treaty of Pressburg he forced the coalition to dissolve. On 6 August 1806, he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. He made his brothers Joseph and Louis the kings of Naples and Holland respectively. A fourth coalition (England, Sweden, Prussia, and Russia) was now formed to oppose him. He crushed the Prussians at Jena and Auerstädt and occupied Berlin. He defeated the Russians at Friedland and concluded the Treaty of Tilsit with the Tsar and the King of Prussia, ending the coalition. He began a commercial war against England (Continental System) with the Berlin Decree of 1806. To enforce the Continental System his armies invaded Portugal and Spain. The royal family of Portugal fled to Brazil. The king of Spain was deposed in 1808 and his brother Joseph was made king (brother-in-law Murat succeeded Joseph as king of Naples). However, the Spaniards resisted this move vigorously, thus starting the Peninsular War (1808-14). A fifth coalition (England and Austria) was formed in 1809. Napoleon defeated the Austrians under Archduke Charles Louis at Wagram (1809) and forced upon Austria the humiliating Treaty of Schönbrunn. He created the Kingdom of Westphalia for his brother Jerome. He enlarged France by annexing Holland, the Papal States, etc.

Napoleon divorced Josephine in 1809, and married Archduchesss Maria Louisa of Austria in 1810. They had one son, Napoleon II.

Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 with a great army. He entered Moscow on 14 September, but the city caught fire and Napoleon was forced to retreat. In retreat his army suffered terribly. A sixth coalition attacked him in 1813 and, after defeating him at Leipzig forced him to retreat to France. After a brilliant but futile defensive campaign, he was forced to abdicate on 11 April in 1814 and was exiled to Elba. He returned from Elba and entered Paris on 20 March 1815. Now began a period known as the Hundred Days. This ended with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo on 18 June. Napoleon abdicated a second time and surrendered to the British on board the Bellerophon. He was taken to St. Helena as a prisoner until his death on 5 May 1821. His remains were removed in 1840 to the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.

Contributed by Gifford, Katya
15 January 2003


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