(Napoleon Bonaparte)


Charismatic, ambitious, and brilliant, Napoleon Bonaparte is widely recognized as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. His passion and drive to rule led him to become Emperor of the French after the French Revolution, and nearly to conquer all of Europe. His family shared in his rise to power, and also in his legacy; his nephew became Napoleon III of France.

Born in Corsica, Napoleon sympathized with the Corsican nationalists, who had been conquered by France shortly before Napoleon’s birth. Although he studied in France and received his first commission in the French Army, Napoleon never gave up the idea of a liberated Corsica. Despite these sympathies, Napoleon served with distinction during the French Revolution, attracting the attention of Barras, Robespierre, and Talleyrand. A piece of brilliant political maneuvering put Napoleon’s allies in control of the French government after the coup of 18 Fructidor. Five years later, Napoleon got himself named First Consul for life; two years after that, he crowned himself Emperor of France.

Napoleon’s downfall was ultimately his arrogance, which caused him to overreach himself. Two notable examples of this are the Continental System, by which he attempted to block all trade with Britain, and the invasion of Russia in 1812, in which the French army was demolished. Napoleon is also supposed to have said of the Peninsular War involving France, Spain, and Britain; "That unfortunate war destroyed me....All the circumstances of my disasters are bound up in that fatal knot." In the end, it was Napoleon’s oldest nemesis, Great Britain, who defeated him at the battle of Waterloo, and exiled him for the final time to the island of St Helena, where the great general would finally die in 1821, at the age of 52.

Key events during the life of Napoleon Bonaparte:

Born in Corsica to minor noble family, second of eight children.
Napoleon's father named Corsican representative to the court of Louis XVI.
Enrolled in a religious school in Autun to learn French. In May, admitted to the military academy at Brienne-le-Château.
Admitted to the École Militaire in Paris. Death of Napoleon's father. He completes the course in one year rather than two; first Corsican to graduate from that establishment.
Graduated from École Militaire. Commissioned a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment.
Takes nearly two years leave-of-absence from the French army in Paris and Corsica.
Promoted to captain in French regular army despite obvious Corsican nationalist loyalties.
The Bonaparte family leaves Corsica for the mainland because of conflict with nationalist Corsican leader Pasquale Paoli.
Publishes Le souper de Beaucaire, which brings him to the attention of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of Revolutionary leader Maximilan Robespierre.
Appointed artillery commander of Republic forces at the Siege of Toulon. Promoted to Brigadier-General at age 24, appointed commander of artillery in France's Army of Italy.
Devises strategy for attacking Sardinia; Battle of Saorgio
Placed under house arrest after Thermidorian Reaction for association with the Robespierres. Acquitted and released after two weeks.
Engaged to Désirée Clary, whose older sister was married to his brother Joseph.
Assigned to the Army of the West, which was engaged in the War of the Vendee. Pleaded poor health to avoid posting.
October, appointed by Paul Barras to defend the National Convention in the Tuileries Palace against the Paris mob.
Breaks off engagement with Désirée Clary to marry Josephine de Beauharnais.
Two days after marriage, leaves France to take command of Army of Italy, leads successful invasion of Italy.
Invades Austria, forces them into Treaty of Leoben.
Coup of 18 Fructidor leaves Barras and Republican allies in control.
Treaty of Campo Formio, returns to France and meets Talleyrand.
Egyptian Campaign. Elected to French Academy of Sciences in May.
Returns to France. Coup of 18th Brumaire, appointed First Consul.
France reaffirms Italian and Austrian possessions; Battle of Marengo, Treaty of Luneville.
Named First Consul for life, peace with Britain only lasts a year.
Sells the Louisiana Purchase to the United States of America for $15 million.
Execution of Duc d'Enghien, on false charges of conspiracy to assassination.
Crowns himself Emperor Napoleon I of France, with Josephine as Empress.
Crowned King of Italy.
Britain, Russia, Austria form Third Coalition against France.
Battle of Trafalgar; Britain gains naval supremacy. Battle of Austerlitz; Napoleon crushes the Third Coalition.
Ottoman Emperor formally recognizes Napoleon as Emperor of the French, and enters into an alliance with France.
Fourth Coalition assembled.
Treaties of Tilsit; Alexander I of Russia meets Napoleon, they divide Europe between them. Prussia stripped of half her territory. Napoleon attempts to enforce the Continental System.
Spain rejects the Continental System. Beginning of the Peninsular War. Joseph Bonaparte appointed King of Spain in place of Charles IV. Joachim Murat appointed King of Naples.
Austria breaks alliance with France. Austria defeated; Treaty of Schönbrunn.
Annexation of the Papal States for refusing to cooperate with the Continental System; Pope Pius VII excommunicates Napoleon.
Pope kidnapped by Napoleon's officers.
Divorces Josephine; marries Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria.
Frances invades Russia, with disastrous results. Napoleon deserts retreating army because of rumored coup attempt.
Sixth Coalition; Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Sweden. Battle of Dresden, Battle of Leipzig. Napoleon retreats to France.
France loses the Peninsular War.
Paris captured by the Coalition. Consulate votes to depose Napoleon.
Abdication, renounces all rights of his family and descendants to the French throne, exiled to Elba. Wife and son take refuge in Austria.
Escapes Elba in the Swiftsure on Feb. 26th.
Congress of Vienna declares Napoleon on outlaw on March 13th. Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia ally to bring him down.
June 18th, Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon defeated by allied forces under Wellington and Blucher.
Abdicates in favour of his son, flees Prussian forces, surrendurs to British captain Frederick Lewis Maitland.
Exiled to island of St. Helena.
May 5th, Death of Napoleon.
Louis Philippe I brings Napoleon's body to France, interrs it in Les Invalides with a great state funeral.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Marriage of Josephine and Bonaparte  in  Hortense  by  John S. C. Abbott
How Napoleon Crossed the Alps  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Picciola  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Russia During the Wars of Napoleon  in  The Story of Russia  by  Robert van Bergen
Waterloo  in  Stories from English History, Part Third  by  Alfred J. Church
Napoleon Bonaparte  in  Christian Persecutions  by  Asa Craig
Reign of Terror and Rise of Napoleon in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Fall of Germany  in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
The French Revolution  in  The Hanoverians  by  C. J. B. Gaskoin
Waterloo  in  The Hanoverians  by  C. J. B. Gaskoin
Napoleon Bonaparte  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
England and the French Revolution  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Napoleon Bonaparte  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Napoleon Is Banished to Elba  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Under the Heel of Napoleon  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Napoleon  in  Boy's Book of Famous Soldiers  by  J. Walker McSpadden
Burning of Moscow  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Napoleon's Return from Elba  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Fall of Napoleon's Empire  in  Nations of Europe and the Great War  by  Charles Morris
Retreat of Napoleon's Grand Army  in  Historical Tales: Russian  by  Charles Morris
Passage of the Beresina  in  Brave Men and Brave Deeds  by  M. B. Synge
Napoleon Bonaparte  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Second Charlemagne  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Eve of Waterloo  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Napolean Bonaparte Becomes Emperor of the French  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Waterloo  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Reconciliation between Napoleon and Josephine
 in Hortense

Joseph and Napoleon; Tour in Corsica.
 in Joseph Bonaparte

Napoleon at Fontainebleau, 1914
 in France: Peeps at History

Napoleon as Emperor
 in The Hanoverians

The removal of Napoleon's body to France
 in The Hanoverians

Napoleon on board the Bellerophon
 in  The Story of the English

Napoleon at school in Brienne
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Napoleon in Egypt
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Napoleon in Coronation Robes
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Napoleon at the battle of Jena
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Napoleon on board the Bellerophon
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Napoleon crowning his wife, Josephine
Napoleon crowning his wife, Josephine
 in Back Matter
Napoleon and the Sphinx
Napoleon and the Sphinx
 in Back Matter

Seizing a flag, he himself led his men across the bridge
 in The Story of France

Soldiers, this battle must be a thunderclap.'
 in The Story of France

Napoleon as a boy
 in The Story of Napoleon

The little Corsican
 in The Story of Napoleon

Napoleon and the Pope
 in The Story of Napoleon

 in The Story of Napoleon

Napoleon's return from Elba
 in Historical Tales: French

Napoleon receiving news of the breaking down of the bridge
 in Brave Men and Brave Deeds

Napoleon retreats from Moscow
 in The Struggle for Sea Power

Napoleon in his Imperial Robes
 in European Hero Stories

Napoleon's Return from Elba
 in European Hero Stories

Napoleon a the Battle of Waterloo
 in European Hero Stories

Napoleon Bonaparte.
 in Louise, Queen of Prussia

Short Biography
Robespierre Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Joseph Bonaparte Older brother of Napoleon who was crowned first, King of Naples, and then later, King of Spain.
Josephine Beauharnais Aristocratic wife of Napoloeon Bonaparte.
Eugene de Beauharnais Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Hortense Beauharnais Step-daughter, and sister-in-law of Napolean Bonaparte, and mother of Napoleon III of France.
Joachim Murat Leading general of Napoleonic Wars, brother-in-law of Napoleon. Appointed king of Naples after Joseph was installed as king of Spain.
Talleyrand Apostate bishop who organized Civil Constitution of Clergy. Stayed in favor during regime changes from the Estates General to the Restoration.
Toussaint L'Ouverture Former slave who became the leader of rebel slaves seeking to overthrow the French government in Haiti.
Pope Pius VII Pope during the reign of Napoleon and the early restoration period.
Alexander I Leader of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
Horatio Nelson Great Naval hero of his age; victor at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar.
Duke of Wellington Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Marie Louise of Austria Archduchess of Austria. Second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Louis XVIII French monarch restored to the throne after the collapse of Napoleon's empire. Brother of Louis XVI killed during revolution.
Louis Philippe French prince with liberal sympathies. Proclaimed king after abdication of Charles X.
Napoleon III Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.