In , a constitutional amendment made Napoleon first consul for life. Two years later, in , he crowned himself emperor of France in a lavish ceremony at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In , Napoleon married Josephine de Beauharnais , a stylish widow six years his senior who had two teenage children. More than a decade later, in , after Napoleon had no offspring of his own with Josephine, he had their marriage annulled so he could find a new wife and produce an heir. In , he wed Marie Louise , the daughter of the emperor of Austria. In addition to his son with Marie Louise, Napoleon had several illegitimate children.
From to , France was engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, a series of major conflicts with various coalitions of European nations. However, in December of that same year, Napoleon achieved what is considered to be one of his greatest victories at the Battle of Austerlitz, in which his army defeated the Austrians and Russians.
The victory resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine. Beginning in , Napoleon sought to wage large-scale economic warfare against Britain with the establishment of the so-called Continental System of European port blockades against British trade. In , the French defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram, resulting in further gains for Napoleon. During these years, Napoleon reestablished a French aristocracy eliminated in the French Revolution and began handing out titles of nobility to his loyal friends and family as his empire continued to expand across much of western and central continental Europe.
In , Russia withdrew from the Continental System. In retaliation, Napoleon led a massive army into Russia in the summer of In September, both sides suffered heavy casualties in the indecisive Battle of Borodino. Retreating Russians set fires across the city in an effort to deprive enemy troops of supplies. After waiting a month for a surrender that never came, Napoleon, faced with the onset of the Russian winter, was forced to order his starving, exhausted army out of Moscow.
During the disastrous retreat, his army suffered continual harassment from a suddenly aggressive and merciless Russian army. At the same time as the catastrophic Russian invasion, French forces were engaged in the Peninsular War , which resulted in the Spanish and Portuguese, with assistance from the British, driving the French from the Iberian Peninsula. Napoleon then retreated to France, and in March coalition forces captured Paris.
Napoleon Bonaparte | eHISTORY
On April 6, , Napoleon, then in his mids, was forced to abdicate the throne. With the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he was exiled to Elba, a Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy. He was given sovereignty over the small island, while his wife and son went to Austria. On February 26, , after less than a year in exile, Napoleon escaped Elba and sailed to the French mainland with a group of more than 1, supporters. On March 20, he returned to Paris, where he was welcomed by cheering crowds.
Napoleon raised a new army and planned to strike preemptively, defeating the allied forces one by one before they could launch a united attack against him. The resulting Law of 20 May never applied to colonies like Guadeloupe or Guyane , even though rogue generals and other officials used the pretext of peace as an opportunity to reinstate slavery in some of these places. The Law of 20 May officially restored the slave trade to the Caribbean colonies, not slavery itself. Napoleon sent an expedition under General Leclerc to reassert control over Sainte-Domingue.
Although the French managed to capture Toussaint Louverture, the expedition failed when high rates of disease crippled the French army. The peace with Britain proved to be uneasy and controversial. Neither of these territories were covered by Amiens, but they inflamed tensions significantly. During the Consulate, Napoleon faced several royalist and Jacobin assassination plots , including the Conspiration des poignards Dagger plot in October and the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise also known as the Infernal Machine two months later. On the advice of Talleyrand, Napoleon ordered the kidnapping of the Duke of Enghien , violating the sovereignty of Baden.
The Duke was quickly executed after a secret military trial, even though he had not been involved in the plot. To expand his power, Napoleon used these assassination plots to justify the creation of an imperial system based on the Roman model. He believed that a Bourbon restoration would be more difficult if his family's succession was entrenched in the constitution.
Napoleon's coronation took place on 2 December Two separate crowns were brought for the ceremony: a golden laurel wreath recalling the Roman Empire and a replica of Charlemagne's crown. He created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from among his top generals to secure the allegiance of the army on 18 May , the official start of the Empire. By April , Britain had also signed an alliance with Russia. He intended to use this invasion force to strike at England.
They never invaded, but Napoleon's troops received careful and invaluable training for future military operations. At the start, this French army had about , men organized into seven corps , which were large field units that contained 36—40 cannons each and were capable of independent action until other corps could come to the rescue. On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22, organized into two cuirassier divisions , four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons, and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces.
Napoleon knew that the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy in a head-to-head battle, so he planned to lure it away from the English Channel through diversionary tactics. In the face of this attack, it was hoped, the British would weaken their defense of the Western Approaches by sending ships to the Caribbean, allowing a combined Franco-Spanish fleet to take control of the channel long enough for French armies to cross and invade. By August , Napoleon had realised that the strategic situation had changed fundamentally.
Facing a potential invasion from his continental enemies, he decided to strike first and turned his army's sights from the English Channel to the Rhine. His basic objective was to destroy the isolated Austrian armies in Southern Germany before their Russian allies could arrive. Austrian commander Karl Mack had gathered the greater part of the Austrian army at the fortress of Ulm in Swabia. The Ulm Maneuver completely surprised General Mack, who belatedly understood that his army had been cut off. After some minor engagements that culminated in the Battle of Ulm , Mack finally surrendered after realising that there was no way to break out of the French encirclement.
For just 2, French casualties, Napoleon had managed to capture a total of 60, Austrian soldiers through his army's rapid marching. The Ulm Campaign is generally regarded as a strategic masterpiece and was influential in the development of the Schlieffen Plan in the late 19th century. After Trafalgar, Britain had total domination of the seas for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars. The fall of Vienna provided the French a huge bounty as they captured , muskets, cannons, and the intact bridges across the Danube.
Napoleon sent his army north in pursuit of the Allies, but then ordered his forces to retreat so that he could feign a grave weakness. Desperate to lure the Allies into battle, Napoleon gave every indication in the days preceding the engagement that the French army was in a pitiful state, even abandoning the dominant Pratzen Heights near the village of Austerlitz. At the Battle of Austerlitz , in Moravia on 2 December, he deployed the French army below the Pratzen Heights and deliberately weakened his right flank, enticing the Allies to launch a major assault there in the hopes of rolling up the whole French line.
Meanwhile, the heavy Allied deployment against the French right flank weakened their center on the Pratzen Heights, which was viciously attacked by the IV Corps of Marshal Soult. With the Allied center demolished, the French swept through both enemy flanks and sent the Allies fleeing chaotically, capturing thousands of prisoners in the process. The battle is often seen as a tactical masterpiece because of the near-perfect execution of a calibrated but dangerous plan—of the same stature as Cannae , the celebrated triumph by Hannibal some 2, years before.
The Allied disaster at Austerlitz significantly shook the faith of Emperor Francis in the British-led war effort. France and Austria agreed to an armistice immediately and the Treaty of Pressburg followed shortly after on 26 December. It also imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on the defeated Habsburgs and allowed the fleeing Russian troops free passage through hostile territories and back to their home soil. Napoleon went on to say, "The battle of Austerlitz is the finest of all I have fought".
Napoleon continued to entertain a grand scheme to establish a French presence in the Middle East in order to put pressure on Britain and Russia, and perhaps form an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. He also opted for an alliance with France, calling France "our sincere and natural ally". It collapsed in , when France and Russia themselves formed an unexpected alliance. After Austerlitz, Napoleon established the Confederation of the Rhine in A collection of German states intended to serve as a buffer zone between France and Central Europe, the creation of the Confederation spelled the end of the Holy Roman Empire and significantly alarmed the Prussians.
The brazen reorganization of German territory by the French risked threatening Prussian influence in the region, if not eliminating it outright. War fever in Berlin rose steadily throughout the summer of The initial military maneuvers began in September Napoleon invaded Prussia with , troops, rapidly marching on the right bank of the River Saale. As in previous campaigns, his fundamental objective was to destroy one opponent before reinforcements from another could tip the balance of the war.
Upon learning the whereabouts of the Prussian army, the French swung westwards and crossed the Saale with overwhelming force. At the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt , fought on 14 October, the French convincingly defeated the Prussians and inflicted heavy casualties. With several major commanders dead or incapacitated, the Prussian king proved incapable of effectively commanding the army, which began to quickly disintegrate. In a vaunted pursuit that epitomized the "peak of Napoleonic warfare", according to historian Richard Brooks,  the French managed to capture , soldiers, over 2, cannons and hundreds of ammunition wagons, all in a single month.
Historian David Chandler wrote of the Prussian forces: "Never has the morale of any army been more completely shattered". Following his triumph, Napoleon imposed the first elements of the Continental System through the Berlin Decree issued in November The Continental System, which prohibited European nations from trading with Britain, was widely violated throughout his reign. On 14 June Napoleon obtained an overwhelming victory over the Russians at the Battle of Friedland , wiping out the majority of the Russian army in a very bloody struggle. The scale of their defeat convinced the Russians to make peace with the French.
On 19 June, Czar Alexander sent an envoy to seek an armistice with Napoleon. The latter assured the envoy that the Vistula River represented the natural borders between French and Russian influence in Europe. On that basis, the two emperors began peace negotiations at the town of Tilsit after meeting on an iconic raft on the River Niemen. The very first thing Alexander said to Napoleon was probably well-calibrated: "I hate the English as much as you do".
Alexander faced pressure from his brother, Duke Constantine , to make peace with Napoleon. Given the victory he had just achieved, the French emperor offered the Russians relatively lenient terms—demanding that Russia join the Continental System, withdraw its forces from Wallachia and Moldavia , and hand over the Ionian Islands to France.
Prussia's humiliating treatment at Tilsit caused a deep and bitter antagonism which festered as the Napoleonic era progressed. Moreover, Alexander's pretensions at friendship with Napoleon led the latter to seriously misjudge the true intentions of his Russian counterpart, who would violate numerous provisions of the treaty in the next few years. Despite these problems, the Treaties of Tilsit at last gave Napoleon a respite from war and allowed him to return to France, which he had not seen in over days.
The settlements at Tilsit gave Napoleon time to organize his empire. One of his major objectives became enforcing the Continental System against the British. He decided to focus his attention on the Kingdom of Portugal , which consistently violated his trade prohibitions. After defeat in the War of the Oranges in , Portugal adopted a double-sided policy. At first, John VI agreed to close his ports to British trade. The situation changed dramatically after the Franco-Spanish defeat at Trafalgar; John grew bolder and officially resumed diplomatic and trade relations with Britain.
Unhappy with this change of policy by the Portuguese government, Napoleon negotiated a secret treaty with Charles IV of Spain and sent an army to invade Portugal. Throughout the winter of , French agents became increasingly involved in Spanish internal affairs, attempting to incite discord between members of the Spanish royal family. On 16 February , secret French machinations finally materialized when Napoleon announced that he would intervene to mediate between the rival political factions in the country.
Marshal Murat led , troops into Spain.
The French arrived in Madrid on 24 March,  where wild riots against the occupation erupted just a few weeks later. Napoleon appointed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte , as the new King of Spain in the summer of The appointment enraged a heavily religious and conservative Spanish population. Resistance to French aggression soon spread throughout Spain. Before going to Iberia, Napoleon decided to address several lingering issues with the Russians. At the Congress of Erfurt in October , Napoleon hoped to keep Russia on his side during the upcoming struggle in Spain and during any potential conflict against Austria.
The two sides reached an agreement, the Erfurt Convention, that called upon Britain to cease its war against France, that recognized the Russian conquest of Finland from Sweden , and that affirmed Russian support for France in a possible war against Austria "to the best of its ability". Napoleon then returned to France and prepared for war. After clearing the last Spanish force guarding the capital at Somosierra , Napoleon entered Madrid on 4 December with 80, troops. The British were swiftly driven to the coast, and they withdrew from Spain entirely after a last stand at the Battle of Corunna in January Napoleon would end up leaving Iberia in order to deal with the Austrians in Central Europe, but the Peninsular War continued on long after his absence.
He never returned to Spain after the campaign. Several months after Corunna, the British sent another army to the peninsula under the future Duke of Wellington. The war then settled into a complex and asymmetric strategic deadlock where all sides struggled to gain the upper hand. The highlight of the conflict became the brutal guerrilla warfare that engulfed much of the Spanish countryside.
Both sides committed the worst atrocities of the Napoleonic Wars during this phase of the conflict.
The vicious guerrilla fighting in Spain, largely absent from the French campaigns in Central Europe, severely disrupted the French lines of supply and communication. Although France maintained roughly , troops in Iberia during the Peninsular War, the vast majority were tied down to garrison duty and to intelligence operations. After the invasion of Russia in , the number of French troops in Spain vastly declined as Napoleon needed reinforcements to conserve his strategic position in Europe.
By , after scores of battles and sieges throughout Iberia, the Allies had managed to push the French out of the peninsula. The impact of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and ousting of the Spanish Bourbon monarchy in favor of his brother Joseph had an enormous impact on the Spanish empire. In Spanish America many local elites formed juntas and set up mechanisms to rule in the name of Ferdinand VII of Spain , whom they considered the legitimate Spanish monarch. The outbreak of the Spanish American wars of independence in most of the empire was a result of Napoleon's destabilizing actions in Spain and led to the rise of strongmen in the wake of these wars.
After four years on the sidelines, Austria sought another war with France to avenge its recent defeats. Austria could not count on Russian support because the latter was at war with Britain , Sweden , and the Ottoman Empire in Frederick William of Prussia initially promised to help the Austrians, but reneged before conflict began. In the early morning of 10 April, leading elements of the Austrian army crossed the Inn River and invaded Bavaria.
The early Austrian attack surprised the French; Napoleon himself was still in Paris when he heard about the invasion. In response, Napoleon came up with a plan to cut off the Austrians in the celebrated Landshut Maneuver. On 13 May, Vienna fell for the second time in four years, although the war continued since most of the Austrian army had survived the initial engagements in Southern Germany. By 17 May, the main Austrian army under Charles had arrived on the Marchfeld. Charles kept the bulk of his troops several miles away from the river bank in hopes of concentrating them at the point where Napoleon decided to cross.
The Austrians enjoyed a comfortable numerical superiority over the French throughout the battle. On the first day, Charles disposed of , soldiers against only 31, commanded by Napoleon. The battle was characterized by a vicious back-and-forth struggle for the two villages of Aspern and Essling, the focal points of the French bridgehead.
By the end of the fighting, the French had lost Aspern but still controlled Essling. A sustained Austrian artillery bombardment eventually convinced Napoleon to withdraw his forces back onto Lobau Island. Both sides inflicted about 23, casualties on each other. After the setback at Aspern-Essling, Napoleon took more than six weeks in planning and preparing for contingencies before he made another attempt at crossing the Danube.
Napoleon finished off the battle with a concentrated central thrust that punctured a hole in the Austrian army and forced Charles to retreat. Austrian losses were very heavy, reaching well over 40, casualties. In the Kingdom of Holland , the British launched the Walcheren Campaign to open up a second front in the war and to relieve the pressure on the Austrians. The British army only landed at Walcheren on 30 July, by which point the Austrians had already been defeated. The Walcheren Campaign was characterized by little fighting but heavy casualties thanks to the popularly dubbed " Walcheren Fever ".
Over British troops were lost in a bungled campaign, and the rest withdrew in December Emperor Francis wanted to wait and see how the British performed in their theater before entering into negotiations with Napoleon. Once it became apparent that the British were going nowhere, the Austrians agreed to peace talks. Metternich and Archduke Charles had the preservation of the Habsburg Empire as their fundamental goal, and to this end they succeeded by making Napoleon seek more modest goals in return for promises of friendship between the two powers.
Napoleon turned his focus to domestic affairs after the war. Hoping to cement the recent alliance with Austria through a family connection, Napoleon married the Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma , daughter of Francis II , who was 18 years old at the time. On 20 March , Marie Louise gave birth to a baby boy, whom Napoleon made heir apparent and bestowed the title of King of Rome.
His son never actually ruled the empire, but historians still refer to him as Napoleon II. The leaders had a friendly personal relationship after their first meeting at Tilsit in By , advisers to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire and the recapture of Poland. In an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, Napoleon termed the war the Second Polish War —the First Polish War had been the Bar Confederation uprising by Polish nobles against Russia in Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of Poland to be joined with the Duchy of Warsaw and an independent Poland created.
This was rejected by Napoleon, who stated he had promised his ally Austria this would not happen. Napoleon refused to manumit the Russian serfs because of concerns this might provoke a reaction in his army's rear. The serfs later committed atrocities against French soldiers during France's retreat. The Russians avoided Napoleon's objective of a decisive engagement and instead retreated deeper into Russia. A brief attempt at resistance was made at Smolensk in August; the Russians were defeated in a series of battles, and Napoleon resumed his advance.
The Russians again avoided battle, although in a few cases this was only achieved because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity arose. Owing to the Russian army's scorched earth tactics, the French found it increasingly difficult to forage food for themselves and their horses. The Russians eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September: the Battle of Borodino resulted in approximately 44, Russian and 35, French dead, wounded or captured, and may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history up to that point in time.
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". The Russian army withdrew and retreated past Moscow. Napoleon entered the city, assuming its fall would end the war and Alexander would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city's governor Feodor Rostopchin , rather than capitulation, Moscow was burned. After five weeks, Napoleon and his army left.
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In early November Napoleon got concerned about loss of control back in France after the Malet coup of After the Battle of Berezina Napoleon managed to escape but had to abandon much of the remaining artillery and baggage train. On 5 December, shortly before arriving in Vilnius, Napoleon left the army in a sledge.
The French suffered in the course of a ruinous retreat, including from the harshness of the Russian Winter. There was a lull in fighting over the winter of —13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was able to field , troops. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig.
This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90, casualties in total. The Allies offered peace terms in the Frankfurt proposals in November Napoleon would remain as Emperor of France, but it would be reduced to its "natural frontiers".
That meant that France could retain control of Belgium, Savoy and the Rhineland the west bank of the Rhine River , while giving up control of all the rest, including all of Spain and the Netherlands, and most of Italy and Germany. Metternich told Napoleon these were the best terms the Allies were likely to offer; after further victories, the terms would be harsher and harsher. Metternich's motivation was to maintain France as a balance against Russian threats, while ending the highly destabilizing series of wars.
Napoleon, expecting to win the war, delayed too long and lost this opportunity; by December the Allies had withdrawn the offer. When his back was to the wall in he tried to reopen peace negotiations on the basis of accepting the Frankfurt proposals. The Allies now had new, harsher terms that included the retreat of France to its boundaries, which meant the loss of Belgium.
Napoleon would remain Emperor, however he rejected the term. The British wanted Napoleon permanently removed, and they prevailed, but Napoleon adamantly refused. Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70, soldiers and little cavalry; he faced more than three times as many Allied troops. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days' Campaign , though these were not significant enough to turn the tide. The leaders of Paris surrendered to the Coalition in March Long docile to Napoleon, under Talleyrand's prodding it had turned against him.
Napoleon had advanced as far as Fontainebleau when he learned that Paris was lost. When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his senior officers and marshals mutinied. On 4 April, led by Ney , they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. While the ordinary soldiers and regimental officers wanted to fight on, without any senior officers or marshals any prospective invasion of Paris would have been impossible.
Bowing to the inevitable, on 4 April Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son, with Marie Louise as regent. However, the Allies refused to accept this under prodding from Alexander, who feared that Napoleon might find an excuse to retake the throne. The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.
Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain the title of Emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried after nearly being captured by the Russians during the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, however, and he survived to be exiled, while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. A few months into his exile, Napoleon learned that his ex-wife Josephine had died in France.
He was devastated by the news, locking himself in his room and refusing to leave for two days. Separated from his wife and son, who had returned to Austria, cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean,  Napoleon escaped from Elba, in the brig Inconstant on 26 February with men.
The 5th Regiment was sent to intercept him and made contact just south of Grenoble on 7 March Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot range, shouted to the soldiers, "Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish". The two then marched together towards Paris with a growing army. On 13 March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw. Four days later, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia each pledged to put , men into the field to end his rule.
Napoleon Bonaparte: The Little Corporal who built an Empire
Napoleon arrived in Paris on 20 March and governed for a period now called the Hundred Days. By the start of June the armed forces available to him had reached ,, and he decided to go on the offensive to attempt to drive a wedge between the oncoming British and Prussian armies. Wellington's army withstood repeated attacks by the French and drove them from the field while the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank.
Napoleon returned to Paris and found that both the legislature and the people had turned against him. Realizing his position was untenable, he abdicated on 22 June in favour of his son. When Napoleon heard that Prussian troops had orders to capture him dead or alive, he fled to Rochefort , considering an escape to the United States. British ships were blocking every port. They also took the precaution of sending a garrison of soldiers to uninhabited Ascension Island , which lay between St. Helena and Europe. Napoleon was moved to Longwood House on Saint Helena in December ; it had fallen into disrepair, and the location was damp, windswept and unhealthy.
Napoleon often complained of the living conditions in letters to the governor and his custodian, Hudson Lowe ,  while his attendants complained of "colds, catarrhs , damp floors and poor provisions. With a small cadre of followers, Napoleon dictated his memoirs and grumbled about conditions.
Lowe cut Napoleon's expenditure, ruled that no gifts were allowed if they mentioned his imperial status, and made his supporters sign a guarantee they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely. While in exile, Napoleon wrote a book about Julius Caesar , one of his great heroes. There were rumours of plots and even of his escape, but in reality no serious attempts were made. Napoleon's personal physician, Barry O'Meara , warned London that his declining state of health was mainly caused by the harsh treatment.
Napoleon confined himself for months on end in his damp and wretched habitation of Longwood. In February , Napoleon's health began to deteriorate rapidly, and he reconciled with the Catholic Church. Napoleon's original death mask was created around 6 May, although it is not clear which doctor created it.
On 15 December , a state funeral was held. In , Napoleon's remains were entombed in a porphyry stone sarcophagus in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides. The cause of his death has been debated. Antommarchi did not sign the official report. In , the diaries of Napoleon's valet, Louis Marchand, were published.
His description of Napoleon in the months before his death led Sten Forshufvud in a paper in Nature to put forward other causes for his death, including deliberate arsenic poisoning. Forshufvud, in a book with Ben Weider , noted that Napoleon's body was found to be well preserved when moved in Arsenic is a strong preservative, and therefore this supported the poisoning hypothesis. Forshufvud and Weider observed that Napoleon had attempted to quench abnormal thirst by drinking large amounts of orgeat syrup that contained cyanide compounds in the almonds used for flavouring.
They maintained that the potassium tartrate used in his treatment prevented his stomach from expelling these compounds and that his thirst was a symptom of the poison. Their hypothesis was that the calomel given to Napoleon became an overdose, which killed him and left extensive tissue damage behind.
There have been modern studies that have supported the original autopsy finding. All samples had high levels of arsenic, approximately times higher than the current average. According to these researchers, Napoleon's body was already heavily contaminated with arsenic as a boy, and the high arsenic concentration in his hair was not caused by intentional poisoning; people were constantly exposed to arsenic from glues and dyes throughout their lives. Napoleon's baptism took place in Ajaccio on 21 July He was piously raised as a Catholic but he never developed much faith.
Exhibition at a Glance
Napoleon's deity was an absent and distant God. However he had a keen appreciation of the power of organised religion in social and political affairs, and paid a great deal of attention to bending it to his purposes. He noted the influence of Catholicism's rituals and splendors. Cardinal Fesch performed the wedding. During his brother's rule in Spain , he abolished the Spanish Inquisition in Napoleon was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, but later reconciled with the Church before his death in It solidified the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and brought back most of its civil status.
The hostility of devout Catholics against the state had now largely been resolved. It did not restore the vast church lands and endowments that had been seized during the revolution and sold off. As a part of the Concordat, he presented another set of laws called the Organic Articles. While the Concordat restored much power to the papacy , the balance of church—state relations had tilted firmly in Napoleon's favour.
He selected the bishops and supervised church finances. Napoleon and the pope both found the Concordat useful. Similar arrangements were made with the Church in territories controlled by Napoleon, especially Italy and Germany. Napoleon said in April , "Skillful conquerors have not got entangled with priests.
They can both contain them and use them". French children were issued a catechism that taught them to love and respect Napoleon.
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The Pope was only released in when the Allies invaded France. In January , Napoleon personally forced the Pope to sign a humiliating "Concordat of Fontainebleau". Napoleon emancipated Jews , as well as Protestants in Catholic countries and Catholics in Protestant countries, from laws which restricted them to ghettos , and he expanded their rights to property, worship, and careers. Despite the anti-semitic reaction to Napoleon's policies from foreign governments and within France, he believed emancipation would benefit France by attracting Jews to the country given the restrictions they faced elsewhere.
In an Assembly of Jewish notables was gathered by Napoleon to discuss 12 questions broadly dealing with the relations between Jews, Christians and other issues dealing with the Jewish ability to integrate into the general French society. Later, after the questions were answered in a satisfactory way according to the Emperor, a " great Sanhedrin " was brought together to transform the answers into decisions that would form the basis of the future status of the Jews in France and the rest of the Empire Napoleon was building.
He stated, "I will never accept any proposals that will obligate the Jewish people to leave France, because to me the Jews are the same as any other citizen in our country. It takes weakness to chase them out of the country, but it takes strength to assimilate them". One year after the final meeting of the Sanhedrin, on 17 March , Napoleon placed the Jews on probation.
Several new laws restricting the citizenship the Jews had been offered 17 years previously were instituted at that time. However, despite pressure from leaders of a number of Christian communities to refrain from granting Jews emancipation, within one year of the issue of the new restrictions, they were once again lifted in response to the appeal of Jews from all over France. Historians emphasize the strength of the ambition that took Napoleon from an obscure village to command of most of Europe.
During his early schooling years he would be harshly bullied by classmates for his Corsican identity and control of the French language. To withstand the stress he became domineering, eventually developing an inferiority complex. George F. He could rapidly dictate a series of complex commands to his subordinates, keeping in mind where major units were expected to be at each future point, and like a chess master, "seeing" the best plays moves ahead. Napoleon maintained strict, efficient work habits, prioritizing what needed to be done. He cheated at cards, but repaid the losses; he had to win at everything he attempted.
Unlike many generals, Napoleon did not examine history to ask what Hannibal or Alexander or anyone else did in a similar situation. Critics said he won many battles simply because of luck; Napoleon responded, "Give me lucky generals", arguing that "luck" comes to leaders who recognize opportunity, and seize it.
In terms of influence on events, it was more than Napoleon's personality that took effect. He reorganized France itself to supply the men and money needed for wars. At the Battle of Auerstadt in , King Frederick William III of Prussia outnumbered the French by 63, to 27,; however, when he was told, mistakenly, that Napoleon was in command, he ordered a hasty retreat that turned into a rout. Napoleon has become a worldwide cultural icon who symbolises military genius and political power. Martin van Creveld described him as "the most competent human being who ever lived".
He has been portrayed in hundreds of films and discussed in hundreds of thousands of books and articles. When met in person, many of his contemporaries were surprised by his apparently unremarkable physical appearance in contrast to his significant deeds and reputation, especially in his youth, when he was consistently described as small and thin. Joseph Farington, who observed Napoleon personally in , commented that "Samuel Rogers stood a little way from me and Denis Davydov met him personally and considered him remarkably average in appearance: "His face was slightly swarthy, with regular features.
His nose was not very large, but straight, with a slight, hardly noticeable bend. The hair on his head was dark reddish-blond; his eyebrows and eyelashes were much darker than the colour of his hair, and his blue eyes, set off by the almost black lashes, gave him a most pleasing expression The man I saw was of short stature, just over five feet tall, rather heavy although he was only 37 years old. During the Napoleonic Wars he was taken seriously by the British press as a dangerous tyrant , poised to invade.
Napoleon was mocked in British newspapers as a short tempered small man and he was nicknamed "Little Boney in a strong fit". Helena a British island , since he would have most likely been measured with an English yardstick rather than a yardstick of the Old French Regime. He also habitually wore usually on Sundays the blue uniform of a colonel of the Imperial Guard Foot Grenadiers blue with white facings and red cuffs.
This was in contrast to the complex uniforms with many decorations of his marshals and those around him. In his later years he gained quite a bit of weight and had a complexion considered pale or sallow, something contemporaries took note of. Novelist Paul de Kock, who saw him in on the balcony of the Tuileries, called Napoleon "yellow, obese, and bloated". He is fat, rather what we call pot-bellied, and although his leg is well shaped, it is rather clumsy He is very sallow, with light grey eyes, and rather thin, greasy-looking brown hair, and altogether a very nasty, priestlike-looking fellow.
He is often portrayed wearing a large bicorne hat with a hand-in-waistcoat gesture—a reference to the painting produced in by Jacques-Louis David. Napoleon instituted various reforms, such as higher education, a tax code , road and sewer systems, and established the Banque de France , the first central bank in French history.
He negotiated the Concordat of with the Catholic Church, which sought to reconcile the mostly Catholic population to his regime. It was presented alongside the Organic Articles , which regulated public worship in France. In May , he instituted the Legion of Honour , a substitute for the old royalist decorations and orders of chivalry , to encourage civilian and military achievements; the order is still the highest decoration in France.
Napoleon participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. The development of the code was a fundamental change in the nature of the civil law legal system with its stress on clearly written and accessible law. Other codes " Les cinq codes " were commissioned by Napoleon to codify criminal and commerce law; a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted rules of due process. The Napoleonic code was adopted throughout much of Continental Europe, though only in the lands he conquered, and remained in force after Napoleon's defeat.
Napoleon said: "My true glory is not to have won forty battles Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. Dieter Langewiesche described the code as a "revolutionary project" which spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by the extension of the right to own property and an acceleration towards the end of feudalism. Napoleon reorganised what had been the Holy Roman Empire, made up of more than a thousand entities, [ quantify ] into a more streamlined forty-state Confederation of the Rhine ; this helped promote the German Confederation and the unification of Germany in The movement toward national unification in Italy was similarly precipitated by Napoleonic rule.
Napoleon implemented a wide array of liberal reforms in France and across Continental Europe, especially in Italy and Germany, as summarized by British historian Andrew Roberts :. The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire.
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