Napoleon Bonaparte


Was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and again in 1815. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars.

On 15 May 1779, in fact, Napoleon transferred to the Brienne military school, a place where, at the expense of the king, the sons of noble families were prepared. Following the recommendations of Count Marbeuf, he accepted to remain there for five years. In September 1784, the 15 years old Napoleonwas admitted to the military school in Paris. After only a year, he already acquired the rank of artillery lieutenant. Great political and social upheavals were awaitingto start in Europe and the young Napoleon was perhaps quite far from believing that he would have been the principal architect of a new France.

On 2 March 1796 he was appointed Commander of the army of Italy and after defeating the Piemontese and Austrians, he imposed peace following the Treaty of Campo Formio of 1797, laying in this way the foundations for what would later become the Kingdom of Italy.After this remarkable test, he embarks in the Campaign of Egypt, apparently to strike the eastern interests of the British. In reality, he was sent by the French Directory, which considered him too dangerous at home. Once landed in Alexandria,he defeats the Mamluks and the English fleet of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Meanwhile, the situation in France deteriorates, disorder and confusion reached the supreme reign, not to mention that Austria was collecting numerous victories. Determined to return and entrusting the command of his troops to general Jean-Baptiste Kleber, he embarks for France, contrary to the orders given from Paris. On 9 October 1799 he arrives in Saint Raphael, and between 9 and 10 November (18 October of the so-called revolutionary calendar), he overthrows the Directory following a coup, taking in this way the almost absolute power. On 24 December he launches the establishment of the Consulate, to which he is appointed as First Consul.

Napoleon became thus Head of State and of the Armyand with an incredible capacity of work, an admirable intelligence, and an extraordinary creative imagination, he reforms the administration and justice in a record time. Yet, once victorious against the Austrian coalition, he imposes a peace treaty with the English in 1801 and signs the Concordat with Pope Pius VII which puts the French Church at the service of the regime. Then, after discovering a monarchist plot and preventing it from happening, he proclaims himself Emperor of France in 1804 under the name of Napoleon the 1st and a year later, King of Italy.

In 1812, sensing the hostility coming fromTsar Alexander 1st, the Great Army of Napoleon invaded Russia.The Russians eventually offered a battle outside Moscow on 7 September: the Battle of Borodino, which 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.”

Ousted from the throne and alone, he was forced into exile. From May 1814 to March 1815, during his enforced stay on Elba, the ghostly ruler of the island on which he will restore a pale imitation of his former courtyard, Napoleon will see the Austrians, Prussians, British and Russians divided, during the Congress of Vienna in 1815, over what was his Great Empire.Escaping from the English surveillance, however, Napoleon was able to return to France in March 1815 where, supported by the Liberals, he will know a second but brief reign known as the “Kingdom of the Hundred Days”. The new and recaptured glory will not last long. Soon,his shooting illusions will be deletedby the disaster following the battle of Waterloo, again against the English. History repeats itself and Napoleon had to relinquish again his role as Emperor on 22 June 1815.

By now in the hands of the British, they assign him a comatose jail on the distant island of Saint Helena, where before shutting his eyes on 5 May 1821, he often used to evokethe nostalgia of his native island, Corsica. He confided his regrets to a few people who had remained nearby.These were mainly the factthat he neglected his land, being too busy with wars and businesses. On 5 May 1821, what was undoubtedly the greatest general and leader after Caesar, died alone and abandoned in Longwood, on the island of Saint Helena, under the supervision of the British.

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