Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution, and the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from November 11 1799 to May 18 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des Français) and King of Italy under the name Napoleon I from May 18 1804 to April 6 1814, and again briefly from March 20 to June 22 1815.
Napoleon is considered to have been a military genius, and is known for commanding many successful campaigns, although also for some spectacular failures.
Over the course of little more than a decade, he acquired control of most or all of the western and central mainland of Europe by conquest or alliance until his defeat at the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in October 1813, which led to his abdication several months later. He staged a comeback known as the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours), but was defeated decisively at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium on June 18 1815, followed shortly afterwards by his capture by the British and his exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he died.
Aside from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code, and is considered to have been one of the "enlightened monarchs". Napoleon appointed several members of the Bonaparte family as monarchs. Although they did not survive his downfall, a nephew, Napoleon III, ruled France later in the century.
Family and ChildhoodHe was born Napoleone Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione) in the city of Ajaccio on Corsica.
His family was of minor Corsican nobility. His father, Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, 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. Ahead of her time, she had her 8 children bathe every other day—at a time when even those in the upper classes took a bath perhaps once a month. Her firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious boy, nicknamed Rabullione (the "meddler" or "disrupter").
At age 10, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes, on May 15, 1779. He had to learn to speak French before entering the school. He spoke French with a marked Italian accent throughout his life, and was a poor speller. He earned high marks in mathematics and geography, and passable grades in other subjects. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the course of study in one year while most other cadets required two. Although he had earlier sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire. Upon graduation in September, 1785, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant of artillery, 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 played out among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction, and gained the position of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family were forced to flee to France in June 1793.
He soon was appointed as artillery commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen in revolt against the Terror and was occupied by British troops. He formulated a successful plan for assaulting the British positions, leading to the recapture of the city and a 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. As a result, he was briefly imprisoned following the fall of the elder Robespierre in 1794, but was released within two weeks.
The Victorious General
The "Whiff of Grapeshot"
In 1795, Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries organized an armed protest against the National Convention on October 3. 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 would later become his brother-in-law) and used them the following day to repel the attackers. He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a "whiff of grapeshot." This triumph gained him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory, particularly that of its leading member, [[Paul Fran%E7ois Jean Nicolas Barras|Barras]]. Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras' former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he married in 1796.
The Italian Campaign of 1796–97
Just days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French "Army of Italy" and led 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 the ordinary soldiers. He drove the Austrian forces out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States, but ignored the Directory's order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. In early 1797, he 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 over 1,000 years of independence. Later in 1797, Bonaparte organized many of the French-dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.
Bonaparte was a brilliant military strategist, able to absorb the substantial body of military knowledge of his time and to apply it to the real-world circumstances of his era. Though he was known for his creative use of artillery in a mobile role, he owed much of his great success not to innovation, but rather to his encyclopedic knowledge and superior application of conventional military thought; as he put it himself, "I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning." An artillery officer by training, he devised new tactics and employed his artillery as a mobile force to support infantry attacks, and benefited from France's technological advantage in this branch of arms. He was an aggressive commander who enjoyed the loyalty of highly motivated soldiers. Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign show that he used the world's first telecommunications system, the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception, using spies to gather information about opposing forces while seeking to conceal his own deployments, and often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy.
While campaigning in Italy, 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, entitled 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 (not without justification on both counts). Bonaparte soon 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's "sword" to stay there. 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.
The Egyptian Expedition of 1798–99
In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed an expedition to colonize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to 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.
An unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of a large group of scientists along with the invading force: among the other discoveries that resulted, the Rosetta Stone was found. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered by some an indication of Bonaparte's devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others 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.
Bonaparte's expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June 9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding (temporarily) pursuit by the Royal Navy. Although Bonaparte had massive success against the native Mamluk army in the battle of the pyramids (his 25,000 man strong invading force defeated a 100,000 man army), his fleet was largely destroyed by Nelson at The Battle of the Nile, so that Bonaparte became land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated nationalist uprisings.
In early 1799 he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria, now modern Israel, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease and poor supplies. He was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was forced to retreat to Egypt in May. On July 25, he defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.
Ruler of France
The Coup of 18 Brumaire
While in Egypt, Bonaparte had kept a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly. On August 23, he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of a temporary departure of blockading British ships.
Although he was later accused by political opponents of abandoning his troops, his departure actually had been authorized 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 arrived back in Paris in October, the military situation had improved thanks to several French victories. The Republic, however, was bankrupt, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was no more popular than ever.
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 November 9, or 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 outmaneuvered 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 made him First Consul for life.
The First Consul
- Main article: French Consulate
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, however, participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to deal with criminal and commerce law; in 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which laid precise rules of operations for courts and, though it may seem somewhat biased in favor of the prosecution by today's standards, sought to preserve personal freedoms and remedy the abuses commonplace in the European courts of the day. Although Bonaparte was an authoritarian ruler, the same was true of all the European monarchs of the time, with the sole exception of Britain. Bonaparte sought to restore law and order after the excesses of the Revolution, and reform the administration of the State.
An Interlude of Peace
In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had re-conquered 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). Although the campaign began badly, the Austrians were 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; the British also committed themselves to sign a peace treaty and finally signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, under which Malta was to be handed over to France.
The peace between France and Britain was uneasy at best. The "legitimate" 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 and Egypt 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 Santo Domingo and establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L'Ouverture. Recognizing that the French possessions on the mainland of North America would now be indefensible, and facing imminent war with Britain, he sold them to the United States—the Louisiana Purchase—for less than three cents per acre ($7.40/km²). The dispute over Malta provided the pretext for Britain to declare war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.
Emperor of the French
Main article: First French Empire In January 1804, Bonaparte's police uncovered an assassination plot against him, supposedly sponsored by the Bourbons. In retaliation, Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Duc d'Enghien, in a violation of the sovereignty of Baden. After a hurried secret trial, the Duke was executed on 21 March. Bonaparte then used this incident to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France, with himself as Emperor, on the theory that a Bourbon restoration would be impossible once the Bonapartist succession was entrenched in the constitution.
Napoleon crowned himself Emperor on 2 December 1804 (illustration, right) at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Claims that he seized the crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII during the ceremony in order to avoid subjecting himself to the authority of the pontiff are apocryphal; in fact, the coronation procedure had been agreed upon in advance. After the Imperial regalia had been blessed by the Pope, Napoleon crowned himself before crowning his wife Joséphine as Empress. Then at Milan's cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.
By 1805 the Third Coalition against Napoleon had formed in Europe. A plan by the French, along with the Spanish, to defeat the Royal Navy failed dramatically at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), and Britain gained lasting control of the seas. Napoleon then finally abandoned all hope of invading Britain, and turned his attention once again to his Continental rivals. He secured a major victory against Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (2 December), forcing Austria yet again to sue for peace; and, in the following year, humbled Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806). Napoleon marched on through Poland but was attacked by the Russians at the bloody battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a major victory at Friedland he signed a treaty at Tilsit in East Prussia with the Russian tsar Alexander I, 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 part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw with the Saxonian King as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813 he also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg and Cleves for his brother Louis Bonaparte
The Peninsular War and the War of the Fifth Coalition
Since he failed at conquering the British militarily, he decided to try to conquer them economically, by banning all merchandise and ships from continental Europe. Napoleon attempted to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the "Continental System". The English economy did suffer to an extent from this - but no more so than the French Empire's economy and neither nation was in a position to challenge the other.
Portugal did not comply with this Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon sought Spain's support in an invasion of Portugal. When Spain refused Napoleon sent forces into Spain as well. After mixed results were encountered by his generals Napoleon himself intervened and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then defeated a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast and ignoble withdrawal from Iberia (in which its commander, Sir John Moore, was killed). He installed the King of Naples, his brother Joseph Bonaparte, as king of Spain (making one of his marshals and brother-in-law, Joachim Murat King of Naples).
The Spanish, inspired by nationalist and Catholic opposition to the French, rose in revolt. However at this time Austria broke its alliance with France without warning and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. A bloody draw at Aspern-Essling (May 21-22, 1809) near Vienna was the closest Napoleon ever came to a defeat in a battle with more or less equal numbers on each side. After both sides had licked their wounds for two months the principal French and Austrian armies engaged again near Vienna resulting in a French victory at Battle of Wagram (6 July).
Following this a new peace was signed between Austria and France and in the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie-Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.
Invasion of Russia
Main article: Napoleon's 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. Despite being an avid admirer of Napoleon since first meeting him in 1807, Alexander had been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break off the alliance with France, as they considered it an insult to Russian pride.
The first signs that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing of the application of the Continental System in Russia. This enraged Napoleon, who it seems had genuinely liked Alexander since their meeting and thus felt betrayed. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested that a vast revolution was brewing across Germany and that the time was right for an invasion of the French Empire (and the recapture of Poland).
Large numbers of troops were deployed to the Polish borders (reaching over 300,000 out of the total Russian army strength of 410,000). However Napoleon anticipated this and after the initial reports of Russian war preparations he began expanding his Grande Armée to a massive force of over 600,000 men (despite already having over 300,000 men deployed in Iberia). Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared his forces for an offensive campaign.
Victor Hugo would write in his poem, "Russia 1812" (1873):
- The snow fell, and its power was multiplied.
- For the First time the Eagle bowed its head - dark days!
- Slowly the Emperor returned - behind him Moscow!
- Its onion domes still burned.
Napoleon, in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists, termed the war the "Second Polish War" (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria). Polish nationalists wanted all of Russian Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created. For political reasons this was unlikely to happen (principally because 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 were unable to successfully defeat Napoleon's huge, well-organized army and retreated instead. A brief attempt at resistance was offered at Smolensk (August 16-17), 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 Grand Armée, although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity presented itself.
Criticized over his tentative strategy of continual retreat, Barclay was replaced by Kutuzov. Realising the reality of the situation, Kutuzov continued Barclay's strategy. Kutuzov also soon came under criticism for this and finally offered battle. It appeared both Barclay and Kutuzov had been correct in their assessments of the situation for, outside Moscow on 7 September, the Russian army was defeated 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).
The Russians retreated and Napoleon was able to enter Moscow, assuming that Alexander I would negotiate peace. Moscow began to burn in accordance with orders of the city's military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin. Within the month, fearing loss of control 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. In total French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand civilian deaths.
The War of the Sixth Coalition (the Battle of Nations, the Invasion of France)
Napoleon was determined not to lose hold of Germany and there was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses of around half a million soldiers each. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to Germany 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 soon rejoined the Coalition that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and soon inflicted a series of defeats on the Allies culminating in the Battle of Dresden on August 26-27, 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000). It appeared the Napoleon of old was back and that the Coalition might be forced to conclude a peace treaty if this run continued.
However, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was caught by a force twice its size at the Battle of Nations (October 16-19) at Leipzig. Some of the German states switched sides in the midst of the battle, further undermining the French position. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost both sides a combined total of over 120,000 casualties.
After this Napoléon withdrew in an orderly fashion back into France, but his army was now reduced to less than 100,000 against more than half a million Allied troops. Although some historians consider the defensive campaigns of late 1813 and early 1814 to be among Napoleon's most brilliant, the French were now surrounded (with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the Coalition forces moving in from Germany) and vastly outnumbered. The French armies could only delay, not prevent, inevitable defeat.
Exile in Elba, return and Waterloo
Paris was occupied on March 31 1814. His marshals asked Napoléon to abdicate, and he did so on 6 April in favour of his son. The Allies, however, demanded unconditional surrender and Napoléon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled the Corsican to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean 20 km off the coast of Italy. They let him keep the title of "Emperor" but restricted his empire to that tiny island.
Napoléon tried to poison himself and failed; on the voyage to Elba he was almost assassinated. In France, the royalists had taken over and restored King Louis XVIII to power. On Elba, Napoléon became concerned about his wife and, more especially, his son, in the hands of the Austrians. The French government refused to pay the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and he heard rumours that he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic. Napoléon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the mainland on 1 March 1815. When he returned to the mainland, King Louis XVIII sent the Fifth Regiment to meet him at Grenoble. Napoléon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse, and confidently walked up to the line of soldiers. When he was within earshot of the men, he threw open his coat and 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 erupted into shouts of "Vive L'Empereur!" The soldiers sent to stop the former emperor instead joined the ranks behind him and marched with Napoléon 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.
Exile in Saint Helena and death
Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea) from 15 October 1815. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers, he dictated his memoirs and criticized his captors. In the last half of April 1821, he wrote out his own will and several codicils (a total of 40-odd pages). When he died, on 5 May 1821, his last words were: "France, the Army, head of the Army, Joséphine."
In 1955 the diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoléon's valet, appeared in print. He describes Napoléon in the months leading up to his death, and led many, most notably Sten Forshufvud and Ben Weider, to conclude that he had been killed by arsenic poisoning. Arsenic was at the time sometimes used as a poison as it was undetectable when administered over a long period of time. 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 thirty-eight 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. There, it could have reacted with calomel- and mercury-based compounds—common medicines at the time—and thus been the immediate cause of his death.
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. Arsenic was also used in some wallpaper, as a green pigment, and even in some patent medicines, and the group suggested that the most likely source in this case was a hair tonic. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, arsenic was also a widely used, but ineffective, treatment for syphilis. (This has led to speculation that Napoléon might have suffered from that disease.) Controversy remains as the Science et Vie analysis has not addressed all points of the arsenic poisoning theory.
In May, 2005 a team of Swiss physicians claimed that the reason for Napoleon's death was stomach cancer (which was also the cause of his father's death). From a multitude of forensic reports they derive that Napoleon at his death weighed approx. 76 kg (168 lb) while a year earlier he weighed approx. 91 kg (200 lb). Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon's personal physician, had given stomach cancer as a reason for Napoleon's death in his death certificate.
Marriages and children
Napoleon was twice married:
- Firstly, on March 9, 1796 to Joséphine de Beauharnais. He later crowned her as Empress Joséphine. She produced no heirs for him, leading to a divorce.
- Secondly, on March 11, 1810 (by proxy) to Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, who became his second empress. They had one child.
He acknowledged at least two illegitimate children, both of whom had descendants:
- Charles, Count Léon, (1806 - 1881), son by Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne (1787 - 1868).
- Alexandre Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski, (May 4, 1810 - October 27, 1868), son of Marie, Countess Walewski (1789 - 1817).
Other information points to his having had further illegitimate children:
- Émilie Louise Marie Françoise Joséphine Pellapra, daughter by Françoise-Marie LeRoy.
- Karl Eugin von Mühlfeld, son by Victoria Kraus.
- Hélène Napoleone Bonaparte, daughter by Countess Montholon.
- Barthélemy St Hilaire (August 19, 1805 - November 24, 1895) whose mother remains unknown.
Napoléon had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but when he died in 1821 he was buried on Saint Helena. This final wish was not executed until 1840, when his remains were taken to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and entombed in Les Invalides, Paris. Upon opening the tomb, they found that Napoleon's body was completely preserved, as if he had died yesterday. This may have been due to arsenic poisoning. (See Above) Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date.
Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other states were forced to follow.
In France, Napoleon is also seen as having preserved the Revolution by creating and perpetuating its myth. He ended the lawlessness and disorder spawned by the Revolution; in modern terms, he was a "law and order" ruler. Furthermore, the Napoleonic Wars also exported the Revolution to the rest of Europe, and it is believed that the movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably in Italy and Germany, were rooted in and precipitated—if not caused—by the Napoleonic rule of those areas.
In Britain he is remembered as a despot, the prototypical dictator, on which Hitler modelled himself. This difference in Anglo-French perception reflects a deeper divide in outlook. He is remembered in song (e.g. 'Boney was a warrior') and poem, and as the grand enemy threatening the gates.
The Code Napoléon was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained after Napoleon's defeat. Professor Dieter Langewiesche of the University of Tübingen describes 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 Second Reich in 1871.
Misconceptions About Napoleon's Height
Contrary to popular belief, Napoleon was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in English feet, or 1.69 meters, making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 1800s. In addition to this miscalculation, his nickname le petit caporal adds to the confusion, as non-francophones mistakenly take petit as meaning "small"; in fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers.
- Napoleonic Code
- Napoleonic Era
- Napoleonic medal
- Napoleonic Wars
- Marshal of France, for a list of Napoleon's Marshals
- Napoleon and the Jews
- Napoleon in popular culture (esp. as a by-word for mental ill health)
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- Full texts of
- "The Strange Story of Napoleon's Wallpaper" - discussing the possibility of arsenic poisoning
- Napoleon - Portraits and Paintings
- PBS Napoleon - Detailed biography of Napoleon
| Preceded by:|
College of 5 directors:
| Head of State of France|
| Succeeded by:|
(King of France)
| Provisional Consul|
(November 11 - December 12, 1799)
| First Consul|
(December 12, 1799 - May 18, 1804)
| Emperor of the French|
(May 18, 1804 - April 6, 1814)
| Preceded by:|
(King of France)
| Head of State of France|
(Emperor of the French)
(March 20 - June 22, 1815)
| Succeeded by:|
Napoleon II of France
(Emperor of the French)
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