Napoleon I of France

Napoleon I of France - Stories


Napoleone Buonaparte

    Born in Corsica and trained in mainland France as an artillery officer, he first rose to prominence as a general of the French Revolution, leading several successful campaigns against the First Coalition and the Second Coalition.

    At the turn of the nineteenth century, in less than a decade, the armies of France under his command fought almost every major European power and acquired control of most of continental Europe either by force of arms, highlighted through battles such as Austerlitz and Friedland, or by alliance systems. He went on to appoint several members of his family and close friends as monarchs and important government figures of French-dominated states. A disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes.

    The campaign left his Grande Armée decimated and it never regained its previous strength. In October 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig and then invaded France. Napoleon was forced to abdicate in April of the following year and was exiled to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he escaped to France and regained control of the government.

    This second period of Napoleonic rule, now known as the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours), ended quickly with his defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. Napoleon spent the remaining six years of his life under British supervision on the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon developed relatively few military innovations, apart from the placement of artillery into batteries and replacing the division with army corps as the standard all-arms unit. Rather, he drew his best tactics from a variety of sources, as well as the French army, modernized and reformed, to score several major victories. His campaigns are studied at military academies all over the world and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest commanders ever to have lived.

    Aside from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code (Code Napoléon), which laid the bureaucratic foundations for the modern French state.

    Early Life

    He was born Napoleone Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione) in the town of Ajaccio on Corsica, France, on 15 August 1769, one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte. Napoleon was ethnically Corsican of ancient Italian heritage. He wrote to Pasquale di Paoli (leader of a Corsican revolt against the French) in 1789: "I was born when my country was dying. Thirty thousand Frenchmen disgorged upon our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in a sea of blood; such was the hateful spectacle that offended my infant eyes." This heritage earned Napoleon popularity among Italians during his Italian campaigns.

    The family, formerly known as Buonaparte, were minor Italian nobility coming from Tuscan stock of Lombard origin set in Lunigiana. The family moved to Florence and later broke into two branches; the original one, Buonaparte-Sarzana, were compelled to leave Florence, coming to Corsica in the 16th century when the island was a possession of the Republic of Genoa.

    His father Carlo Buonaparte born 1746 in the Republic of Genoa; an attorney, he 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. Her firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious Napoleon, nicknamed Rabullione (the "meddler" or "disrupter").

    Napoleon was a younger brother of Joseph Bonaparte. He was an older brother of Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte, Pauline Bonaparte, Caroline Bonaparte and Jérôme Bonaparte.

    Napoleon's noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. On 15 May 1779, at age nine, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes. He had to learn French before entering the school, but he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life and never learned to spell properly. It was here that Bonaparte first met the Champagne maker Jean-Remy Moët. The friendship of these two men would have lasting impact on the history of the Champagne region and on the beverage itself Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the two-year course of study in only one year. An examiner judged him as "very applied [to the study of] abstract sciences, little curious as to the others; [having] a thorough knowledge of mathematics and geography[.]"Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire.

    Early Military Career

      Upon graduation in September 1785, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment 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 playing out between royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction and gained the rank 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 the French mainland in June 1793.

      Through the help of fellow Corsican Saliceti, Napoleon was appointed as artillery commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen in revolt against the republican government and was occupied by British troops. He formulated a successful plan: he placed guns at Point l'Eguillete, threatening the British ships in the harbour, forcing them to evacuate. A successful assault, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led 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 in the Chateau d'Antibes on 6 August 1794 following the fall of the elder Robespierre, but was released within two weeks.

      13 VendAmiaire

        13 Vendémiaire (5 October 1795) is the name given to a battle between the French Revolutionary troops and Royalist forces in the streets of Paris. The battle was largely responsible for the rapid advancement of Republican General Napoleon Bonaparte's career.

        A whiff of grapeshot

        At around this time, the young Général Napoleon Bonaparte, intrigued by the commotion, arrived at the Convention to find out what was happening. He was quickly ordered to join Barras' forces mustering for the defence of the Republic. Bonaparte accepted, but only on the condition that he was granted complete freedom of movement.

        At 1am on 13 vendémaire (5 October), Bonaparte quickly overrode Barras, who was more than happy to let the young General do as he wished. Bonaparte now ordered Joachim Murat, a sous-lieutenant in the 21ére Regiment d'Chasseurs â Cheval, to ride for the plain of Sablons and to return with the 40 cannon which Menou mentioned were located there. Murat's squadron retrieved the cannon barely before the Royalists arrived. Bonaparte personally organised the arrangement of these cannon, placing them in commanding areas, with good fields of fire.

        At 5am, a probing attack by the royalist forces was easily repulsed. At around 10 am, the major Royalist assault began. Despite being outnumbered at around 6 to 1, the Republican forces held their perimeter, the cannons firing grapeshot into the massed royalist forces. The 'patriot battalions', supporting the artillery, also ruthlessly cut down the advancing Royalist ranks. Bonaparte commanded from the front throughout the two-hour engagement, and survived unscathed despite having his horse shot out from under him. The devastating effect of the Grapeshot and the volleys from the patriot forces caused the Royalist attack to waver. At this point Bonaparte ordered a counterattack led by Murat's squadron of Chasseurs. At the close of the battle, around three-hundred royalists lay dead on the streets of Paris. It must be pointed out that it was not Napoleon who uttered the the (in)famous, proverbial "whiff of grapeshot." It was rather Thomas Carlyle who later came up with this devastatingly witty pun, in describing the events of 13 vendémaire.

        Italian campaign of 1796~97

          Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French "Army of Italy" on 27 March 1796, leading 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 his soldiers, many of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States. Because Pope Pius VI had protested the execution of Louis XVI, France retaliated by annexing two small papal territories. Bonaparte ignored the Directorys order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. It was not until the next year that General Berthier captured Rome and took Pius VI prisoner on 20 February. The pope died of illness while in captivity. In early 1797, Bonaparte 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.

          His remarkable series of military triumphs were a result of his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his infantry. As he described it: "I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning." Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign depict his use of the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception and had an uncanny sense of knowing when to strike. He often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments. In this campaign, often considered his greatest, Napoleon's army captured 160,000 prisoners, 2,000 cannons, and 170 standards. A year of campaigning had witnessed major breaks with the traditional norms of 18th century warfare and marked a new era in military history.

          While campaigning in Italy, General 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. Bonaparte 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 military command 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.

          Egyptian Expedition of 1798~99

            In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed a military expedition to seize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to the British Raj. 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 assigned to the French expeditionary force: among their discoveries was the finding of the Rosetta Stone. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered by some an indication of Bonaparte's devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others as 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 9 June and then landed successfully at Alexandria on 1 July, temporarily eluding pursuit by the British Royal Navy.

            After landing on the coast of Egypt, he fought the Battle of the Pyramids against the Mamelukes, an old power in the Middle East, approximately 4 miles from the pyramids. Bonaparte's forces were greatly outnumbered by the Mamelukes cavalry, 20,000 to 60,000, but Bonaparte formed hollow squares, keeping cannons and supplies safely on the inside. In all, only 300 French were killed, as opposed to approximately 6,000 Egyptians.

            While the battle on land was a resounding French victory, the British Royal Navy managed to compensate at sea. The ships that had landed Bonaparte and his army sailed back to France, but a fleet of ships of the line that had come with them remained to support the army along the coast. On 1 August the British fleet under Horatio Nelson fought the French in the Battle of the Nile capturing or destroying all but two French vessels. With Bonaparte land-bound, his goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated uprisings.

            In early 1799, he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria, now modern Israel and Syria, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease, mostly bubonic plague, and poor supplies. Napoleon led 13,000 French soldiers to the conquest of the coastal towns of El Arish, Gaza, Jaffa, and Haifa.

            The storming of Jaffa was particularly brutal. Although the French took control of the city within a few hours after the attack began, the French soldiers bayoneted approximately 2,000 Turkish soldiers who were trying to surrender. The soldiers' ferocity then turned to the inhabitants of the town. Men, women, and children were robbed and murdered for three days, and the massacre ended with even more bloodshed, as Napoleon ordered that 3,000 additional Turkish prisoners be executed.

            After his army was weakened by the plague, Napoleon was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was forced to return to Egypt in May. In order to speed up the retreat, Bonaparte took the controversial step of killing prisoners and plague-stricken men along the way. His supporters have argued that this decision was necessary given the continuing harassment of stragglers by Ottoman forces. Back in Egypt, on 25 July, Bonaparte defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.

            With the Egyptian campaign stagnating, and political instability developing back home, Bonaparte left Egypt for France in August, 1799, leaving his army under General Kléber


            Coup d'Atat of 18 Brumaire

              While in Egypt, Bonaparte tried to keep a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly. On 23 August 1799, he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading French coastal ports.

              Although he was later accused of abandoning his troops, his departure had been ordered 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 returned to Paris in October, the military situation had improved due to several French victories. The Republic was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was unpopular with the French public more than ever.

              Bonaparte was approached by one of the Directors, Sieyès, seeking his support for a coup to overthrow the constitution. The plot included Bonapart's brother Lucien, then serving as speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, and Talleyrand. On 9 November (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 outmanoeuvred 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 declared him First Consul for life.

              First Consul

                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 Régi 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 codify criminal and commerce law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although contemporary standards may consider these procedures as favouring the prosecution, when enacted they sought to preserve personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts.

                In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered 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). While the campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually 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.

                Interlude of Peace

                  The British signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, which set terms for peace, including the withdrawal of British troops from several colonial territories recently occupied. The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The 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 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 Haiti and establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. 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 ended up with Britain declaring war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.

                  Emperor of the French

                    In January 1804, Bonaparte's police uncovered an assassination plot against him, ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbons. In retaliation, Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Du 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 at Notre Dame de Paris. 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 (the moment depicted in David's famous painting, illustrated above). Then at Milan's cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

                    Coalitions Against Napoleon

                      In 1805 Britain convinced Austria and Russia to join a Third Coalition against Napoleon. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and therefore tried to lure the British fleet away from the English Channel so that, in theory at least, a Spanish and French fleet could take control of the Channel long enough for French armies to cross to England. However, with Austria and Russia preparing an invasion of France and its allies, he had to change his plans and turn his attention to the continent. The newly formed Grande Armee secretly marched to Germany. On 20 October 1805, it surprised the Austrians at Ulm. The next day, however, with the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), the Royal Navy gained lasting control of the seas. A few weeks later, Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (a decisive victory he would be the most proud of in his military career) on  December—the first anniversary of his coronation—forcing Austria yet again to sue for peace.

                      The Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806). He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland, and was involved at the bloody stalemate of the Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a decisive victory at Friedland, he signed a treaty at Tilsit in East Prussia with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, 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-controlled part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw, with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813, Napoleon also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.

                      In addition to military endeavours against Britain, Napoleon also waged economic war, attempting to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the "Continental System". Although this action hurt the British economy, it also damaged the French economy and was not a decisive factor.

                      Portugal did not comply with the Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon sought Spain's support for an invasion of Portugal. When Spain refused, Napoleon invaded Spain as well, replacing Charles IV with his brother Joseph, placing brother-in-law Joachim Murat in Joseph's stead at Naples. This led to unexpected resistance, however, from the Spanish army and civilians. Following a French retreat from much of the country, Napoleon himself took command and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then outmaneuvered a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast. Napoleon was soon forced to leave the country when war with Austria threatened, before France had fully subdued the Spanish population. The costly and often brutal Peninsular War continued, forcing Napoleon to commit several hundred thousand of his finest troops to battle Spanish guerrillas as well as British forces commanded by the Duke of Wellington. French control over Iberia deteriorated in 1812 and collapsed the following year, when Joseph abdicated his throne. The last French troops were driven from the peninsula in 1814.

                      In 1809, Austria abruptly broke its alliance with France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. After achieving early successes, the French faced difficulties crossing the Danube and then suffered a defeat at Aspern-Essling (21–22 May 1809) near Vienna. The Austrians, however, failed to capitalise on the situation and allowed Napoleon's forces to regroup. The Austrians were defeated once again at Wagram (6 July, and a new peace was signed between Austria and France. In the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.

                      The other member of the coalition was Britain. Along with efforts in the Iberian peninsular, the British planned to open another front in mainland Europe. However, by the time the British landed at Walcheren, Austria had already sued for peace. The expedition was a disaster and was characterized by little fighting but many casualties nevertheless, thanks to the popularly dubbed "Walcheren Fever".

                      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. Although Alexander and Napoleon had a friendly personal relationship since their first meeting in 1807, Alexander had been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break off the alliance with France. Had Russia withdrawn without France doing anything the other countries would have followed suit and revolted against Napoleon. Thus it was necessary to show that France would respond.

                        The first sign that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing of the application of the Continental System in Russia, angering Napoleon. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested the possibility of 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). After receiving the initial reports of Russian war preparations, Napoleon began expanding his Grande Armée to a massive force of over 450,000–600,000 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.

                        On 22 June 1812, Napoleon's invasion of Russia commenced. In an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, Napoleon termed the war the "Second Polish War" (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria). Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, although this was rejected by Napoleon, who feared 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 ingeniously avoided a decisive engagement which Napoleon longed for, preferring to retreat ever deeper into the heart of Russia. A brief attempt at resistance was offered at Smolensk (16–17 August), 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 Grande Armée, although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity presented itself. When the army progressed further, serious problems in foraging surfaced, aggravated by the scorched earth tactics of the Russian army.Along with the hunger, the French also had to face the harsh Russian winter. One American study concluded that the winter only had a major effect once Napoleon was in full retreat. "However, in regard to the claims of "General Winter," the main body of Napoleon's Grande Armée diminished by half during the first eight weeks of his invasion before the major battle of the campaign. This decrease was partly due to garrisoning supply centres, but disease, desertions, and casualties sustained in various minor actions caused thousands of losses. At Borodino on 7 September 1812 - the only major engagement fought in Russia - Napoleon could muster no more than 135,000 troops, and he lost at least 30,000 of them to gain a narrow and Pyrrhic victory almost 600 miles deep in hostile territory. The sequels were his uncontested and self-defeating occupation of Moscow and his humiliating retreat, which began on 19 October, before the first severe frosts later that month and the first snow on 5 November."

                        Criticized over his tentative strategy of continual retreat, Barclay was replaced by Kutuzov, although he continued Barclay's strategy. Kutuzov eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September. Losses were nearly even for both armies, with slightly more casualties on the Russian side, 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). Although Napoleon was far from defeated, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle the French hoped would be decisive. After the battle, the Russian army withdrew and retreated past Moscow.

                        The Russians retreated and Napoleon was able to enter Moscow, assuming that the fall of Moscow would end the war and that Alexander I would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city's military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, fearing loss of control back 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. The strategy employed by Barclay and Kutuzov had worn down the invaders and maintained the Tzar's domination over the Russian people. In total, French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand civilian deaths.

                        War of the Sixth Coalition

                          There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to the German states 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 26–27 August 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000).

                          Despite these initial successes, however, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the Battle of Nations (16–19 October) 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 Napoleon 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. The French were now surrounded (with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the Coalition forces moving in from the German states) and vastly outnumbered. The French armies could only delay an inevitable defeat.

                          Exile, Return and Waterloo

                            Paris was occupied on 31 March 1814. At the urging of his marshals, Napoleon abdicated on 6 April in favor of his son. The Allies, however, demanded unconditional surrender and Napoleon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean 20 km off the coast of Italy.

                            In France, the royalists had taken over and restored Louis XVIII to power. Separated from his wife and son (who had come under Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours that he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic, Napoleon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the mainland on 1 March 1815. Louis XVIII sent the 5th Regiment of the Line, led by Marshal Ney who had formerly served under Napoleon in Russia, to meet him at Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within earshot of Ney's forces, 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 shouted "Vive L'Empereur!" and marched with Napoleon 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.

                            Napoleon was finally defeated by the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at Waterloo in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815.

                            Off the port of Rochefort, after unsuccessfully attempting to escape to the United States Napoléon made his formal surrender while on board HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815


                            Exile and Death on Saint Helena

                              Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea in the South Atlantic Ocean) from 15 October 1815. He lived in Longwood House. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers, he dictated his memoirs, and criticized his captors. There were several plots to rescue Napoleon from captivity, including one from Brazil and another from Texas, where some four hundred exiled soldiers from the Grand Army dreamed of a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America. There was even a plan to rescue him using a submarine.

                              Despite his complaints and his petulance, Napoleon was not too badly treated by the British, and was more or less free to live his life in the manner of an English country gentleman in quite comfortable surroundings. When he was a boy, William Makepeace Thackery, the writer, stopped at St. Helena on a voyage from India. His servant took him to Longwood "We saw a man walking...'That is he', said the black servant, 'That is Bonaparte, he eats three sheep every day, and all the children he can lay his hands on.' " Napoleon received many visitors, to the anger and consternation of the French minister Richelieu, "this devil of a man exercises an astonishing seduction on all those who approach him."

                              In a uniquely British way, Napoleon was transformed in the public mind from a monster to a hero, no doubt a direct expression of discontent at the reactionary post-war government of Lord Liverpool. In 1818 The Times, which Napoleon received in exile, in reporting a false rumour of his escape, said that this had been greeted by spontaneous illuminations in London. There was some sympathy for him also in the political opposition in Parliament. Lord Holland, the nephew of Charles James Fox, the former Whig leader, sent over 1000 books and pamphlets to Longwood, as well as jam and other comforts. Holland also accused the government of attempting to kill the Emperor by a proceess of slow assassination. Napoleon knew of this, and based his hopes for release on the possibility of Holland becoming Prime Minister, Richelieu's greatest fear.

                              Napoleon also enjoyed the support of Admiral Lord Cochrane, one of the greatest sailors of the age, closely involved in Chile and Brazil's struggle for independence. It was his expressed aim to make him Emperor of a unified South American state, a scheme that was frustrated by Napoleon's death in 1821. For Lord Byron, amongst others, Napoleon was the very epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely and flawed genius. At quite the other extreme, the news that Napoleon had taken up gardening at Longwood appealed to more domestic British sensibilities, which had the effect of humanising him still further.

                              The controversy concerning Napoleon's personal religious faith leaves some to believe that he was a Christian, at least at the end of his life Others come to the opposite conclusion, pointing out that Napoleon did not attend Mass, and generally embraced the rational humanism of the revolutionary period. Not long after Napoleon’s death, in a third lecture before Oxford University, Henry Parry Liddon asserted that Napoleon, while in exile on St. Helena, compared himself unfavorably to Jesus Christ. According to Liddon, Napoleon pointed out to Count Montholon that while he and other such as "Alexander, Caesar [and] Charlemagne" founded vast empires, their achievements relied on force, while Jesus "founded his empire on love." After further discourse about the wonders of Christ and his legacy, Napoleon then reputedly said, "This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ."  Whether Napoleon in fact said this, however, is a matter of some dispute; the conversation is not mentioned in modern biographies of the emperor. An earlier quotation from Napoleon suggests there had been a time he may have also been an admirer of Islam:

                              I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Qur'an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness.

                              Napoleon's seeming embrace of both Christianity and Islam illustrates his openness to ideas, and perhaps his desire to leave those around him guessing at what his true beliefs were.

                              Napoleon had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but was buried on Saint Helena, in the "valley of the willows". In 1840, his remains were taken to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and were to be entombed in a porphyry sarcophagus at Les Invalides, Paris. However, Egyptian porphyry (used for the tombs of Roman emperors) was unavailable, so red quartzite was obtained - but from Russian Finland, eliciting protests from those who still remembered the Russians as enemies. Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date. A replica of his simple Saint Helena tomb is also to be found at Les Invalides.

                              Cause of death:

                              The cause of Napoleon's death has been disputed on a number of occasions. Francesco Antommarchi the physician chosen by Napoleon's family and the leader of the post mortem examination, gave stomach cancer as a reason for Napoleon's death on his death certificate. In the later half of the twentieth century, a different theory arose conjecturing that Napoleon was the victim of arsenic poisoning.

                              <a name="Arsenic_poisoning_theory"></a>

                              In 1955, the diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoleon's valet, appeared in print. His description of Napoleon in the months leading up to his death, 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. Arsenic was also used as a stomach tonic, in some wallpaper, as a green pigment, and even in some patent medicines. As Napoleon's body was found to be remarkably well-preserved when it was moved in 1840, it gives support to the arsenic theory, as arsenic is a strong preservative. 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.

                              The medical regime imposed on Napoleon by his doctors included treatment with antimony potassium tartrate, regular enemas and a 600 milligram dose of mercuric chloride to purge his intestines in the days immediately prior to his death. A group of researchers from the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Department speculate that this treatment may have led to Napoleon's death by causing a serious potassium deficiency.

                              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. The group suggested that the most likely source in this case was a hair tonic. However the group does not address the arsenic absorption patterns revealed by the analysis commissioned by Forshufvud.

                              It has also been discovered that the form of wallpaper used in Napoléon's house contained a high level of arsenic which, when made in a compound with copper, was used by British textile makers to make the greens present in the wallpaper. It has been said that the adhesive, which in the cooler environment of Brittan was innocuous, grew mold and turned the copper-arsenic compound into a deadly gas in the warm and humid climate of St. Helena

                              Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, arsenic was also a widely used treatment for syphilis This has led to speculation that Napoleon might have suffered from that disease.

                              Stomach cancer 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), confirming the autopsy result reported by Antommarchi. A team of physicians from the University of Monterspertoli led by Professor Biondi recently confirmed this.

                              In October 2005, a document was unearthed in Scotland that presented an account of the autopsy, which again seems to confirm Antommarchi's conclusion. More recent analysis of the etiology and pathogenesis of Napoleon's illness also suggests that Napoleon's illness was a sporadic gastric carcinoma of advanced stage. The original post-mortem examination carried out by Francesco Antommarchi concluded Napoleon died of stomach cancer without knowing Napoleon’s father had died of stomach cancer. An extensive 2007 study found no evidence of arsenic poisoning in the organs, such as hem­or­rhag­ing in the lin­ing in­side the heart, and also concluded that stomach cancer was the cause of death


                                The frigate Belle-Poule brings back the remains of Napoléon to France

                                Marriages and Children

                                  Napoleon was married twice:

                                  • 9 March 1796 to Joséphine de Beauharnais. He formally adopted her son Eugène and cousin Stéphanie after assuming the throne to arrange "dynastic" marriages for them. He had her daughter Hortense marry his brother, Louis. Though Napoleon and Joséphine's marriage was unconventional, and both were known to have many affairs, they were ultimately devoted to each other and when Joséphine agreed to divorce so he could remarry in the hopes of producing an heir, it was devastating for both. It was also the first under the Napoleonic Code. Napoleon's letters to Joséphine are romantic and interesting. They are available in the original French on the French wikisource site.
                                  • 11 March 1810 by proxy to Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, then in a ceremony on 1 April. They remained married until his death, although she did not join him in his exile.
                                    • Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832, King of Rome. Known as Napoleon II malthough he never ruled. Was later known as the Duke of Reichstadt. He had no issue.

                                  Acknowledged two illegitimate children, both of whom had issue:

                                  • Charles, Count Léon, (1806 – 1881), by Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne (1787 – 1868).
                                  • Alexandre Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski, (4 May 1810 – 27 October 1868), by Marie, Countess Walewski (1789 – 1817).

                                  May have had further illegitimate offspring:

                                  • Émilie Louise Marie Françoise Joséphine Pellapra by Françoise-Marie LeRoy.
                                  • Karl Eugin von Mühlfeld, by Victoria Kraus.
                                  • Hélène Napoleone Bonaparte, by Countess Montholon.
                                  • Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire (19 August 1805 – 24 November 1895) whose mother remains unknown.


                                    Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other states eventually followed. He did not introduce many new concepts into the French military system, borrowing mostly from previous theorists and the implementations of preceding French governments, but he did expand or develop much of what was already in place. Corps replaced divisions as the largest army units, artillery was integrated into reserve batteries, the staff system became more fluid, and cavalry once again became a crucial formation in French military doctrine.

                                    Napoleon's biggest influence in the military sphere was in the conduct of warfare. Weapons and technology remained largely static through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, but 18th century operational strategy underwent massive restructuring. Sieges became infrequent to the point of near-irrelevance, a new emphasis towards the destruction, not just outmaneuvering, of enemy armies emerged. Invasions of enemy territory occurred over broader fronts, thus introducing a plethora of strategic opportunities that made wars costlier and, just as importantly, more decisive (this strategy has since become known as Napoleonic warfare, though he himself did not give it this name). Defeat for a European power now meant much more than losing isolated enclaves; near-Carthaginian peaces intertwined whole national efforts, sociopolitical, economic, and militaristic, into gargantuan collisions that severely upset international conventions as understood at the time. It can be argued that Napoleon's initial success sowed the seeds for his downfall. Not used to such catastrophic defeats in the rigid power system of 18th century Europe, many nations found existence under the French yoke difficult, sparking revolts, wars, and general instability that plagued the continent until 1815.

                                    In France, Napoleon is seen by some as having ended lawlessness and disorder, and the wars he fought as having served to export the Revolution to the rest of Europe. The movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably in Italy and Germany, may have been precipitated by the Napoleonic rule of those areas.

                                    The Napoleonic Code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained in force after Napoleon's defeat. Napoleon himself once said: "My true glory is not to have won 40 battles... Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories... But what nothing will destroy, what will live forever, is my Civil Code." 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 German Empire in 1871.

                                    Critics of Napoleon argue that his true legacy was a loss of status for France and many needless deaths:

                                    After all, the military record is unquestioned—17 years of wars, perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas colonies lost. And it was all such a great waste, for when the self-proclaimed tête d'armée was done, France's "losses were permanent" and she "began to slip from her position as the leading power in Europe to second-class status—that was Bonaparte's true legacy

                                    Napoleon is sometimes alleged to have been in many ways the direct inspiration for later autocrats: he never flinched when facing the prospect of war and destruction for thousands, friend or foe, and turned his search of undisputed rule into a continuous cycle of conflict throughout Europe, ignoring treaties and conventions alike. Even if other European powers continually offered Napoleon terms that would have restored France's borders to situations only dreamt by the Bourbon kings, he always refused compromise, and only accepted surrender. But Napoleon was in many ways closer to historical figures like Alexander or Caesar, and it is one of the reasons for the vivacity and strength of his legacy.

                                    Living at the tail end of the Enlightenment era, Napoleon also became notorious for his effort to suppress the slave revolt in Haiti and his 1801 decision to re-establish slavery in France after it was banned following the revolution.

                                    Nevertheless, many in the international community still admire the many accomplishments of the emperor as evidenced by the International Napoleonic Congress held in Dinard, France in July 2005 that included participation by members of the French and American military, French politicians, scholars from as far away as Israel and Russia, and a parade recreating the Grand Army.

                                    Napoleon was hated by his many enemies, but respected by them at the same time. Wellington, when asked who he thought was the greatest general of the day, answered: "In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon."


                                      Tomb of Napoleon I, located in the Church of the Dome at Les Invalides

                                      Josaphine de Beauharnais

                                        Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, to a slave-owning family that owned a sugar plantation.

                                        She was a daughter of Joseph-Gaspard de Tascher, chevalier, seigneur de la Pagerie, lieutenant of infantry of the navy, and his wife, the former Rose-Claire des Vergers de Sanois, whose maternal grandfather was English. The family struggled financially when hurricanes destroyed their estate in 1766. Edmée, Joséphine's paternal aunt, had been the mistress of François, vicomte de Beauharnais, a French aristocrat. When Francois' health began to fail, Edmée arranged the advantageous marriage of her niece Catherine-Désirée to François' son, Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais. This marriage would be highly beneficial for the Tascher family, because it would keep the de Beauharnais money in their hands. However, 12-year-old Catherine died on October 16, 1777, before even leaving Martinique for France.

                                        In service to their aunt Edmée's goals, Catherine was replaced by her older sister Joséphine. In October 1779, Joséphine went to Europe with her father. She married Alexandre on December 13, 1779, in Noisy-le-Grand. Although their marriage was not extremely happy, they had two children: a son, Eugène de Beauharnais (1781–1824), and a daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783–1837), who married Napoleon's brother Louis Bonaparte in 1802.

                                        On March 2, 1794, during the Reign of Terror, the Committee of General Security ordered the arrest of her husband. He was jailed in the Carmes prison. Considering Joséphine as too close to the counter-revolutionary financial circles, the Committee ordered her arrest on April 19, 1794. A warrant of arrest was issued against her on 2 Floréal, year II (April 21, 1794), and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until 10 Thermidor, year II (July 28, 1794). She was freed thanks to the trial of Robespierre. Her husband, accused of having poorly defended Mainz in 1793, and considered an aristocratic "suspect", was sentenced to death. He was guillotined on July 23, 1794, one year after the Siege of Mainz, together with his brother Augustin, on the Place de la Révolution (today's Place de la Concorde) in Paris. On July 27, 1794 (9 Thermidor), Tallien arranged the liberation of Thérèse Cabarrus, and soon after that of Joséphine. In June 1795, thanks to a new law, she was allowed to recover the possessions of Alexandre. As a widow, Joséphine de Beauharnais reportedly was mistress to several leading political figures, reportedly including Paul François Jean Nicolas Barras.

                                        She met General Napoleon Bonaparte, who was six years younger than she, in 1795, when their romance began. He wrote in a letter to her in December "I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses." Joséphine was a renowned spendthrift and Barras may have encouraged the relationship with Napoleon in order to get her off his hands. In January 1796, Napoleon proposed to her and they married on March 9, 1796. Until meeting Napoleon, she had always been Rose. Instead of calling her this name, which he apparently disliked, he called her 'Joséphine,' which she adopted from then on.

                                        Soon after the wedding, Napoleon left to lead the French army in Italy, but sent her many intensely romantic love letters. Many of his letters are still intact today, while very few of hers have been found; it is not known whether this is due to their having been lost or to their initial scarcity. Joséphine, less in love than Napoleon, is rumoured to have begun an affair with high society playboy Hippolyte Charles in 1796. There is no way of knowing whether or not this is the case, but regardless of the truth of the matter, the rumours so infuriated and hurt Napoleon that his love changed[citation needed] entirely. Around this time he took as his own mistress Pauline Bellisle Foures, the wife of a junior officer who became known as "Napoleon's Cleopatra", the affair having begun during the Egyptian campaign of 1798.

                                        The relationship between Joséphine and Napoleon was never the same[citation needed] after her affair. His letters became less loving. No subsequent lovers of Joséphine are recorded, but Napoleon continued to take on mistresses. In 1804 he said "power is my mistress.

                                        Shortly before their coronation, there was an incident at the Château de Saint-Cloud that nearly sundered the marriage between the two. Josephine caught Napoleon in the bedroom of her lady-in-waiting, Elisabeth de Vaudey, and Napoleon threatened to divorce her as she had not produced an heir. This was impossible for Joséphine, who was infertile, due either to the stresses of her imprisonment during the Terror triggering menopause or to injuries she suffered in a fall from a collapsing balcony in 1799. Eventually, however, through the efforts of Joséphine's daughter Hortense, the two were reconciled and Napoleon and Joséphine were crowned Emperor and Empress of the French in 1804 in the Notre-Dame cathedral.

                                        When it was clear they were not fertile, she agreed to be divorced so he could remarry in the hopes of having an heir to succeed him. The divorce took place on 10 January 1810.

                                        On 11 March 1810, Napoleon married Marie Louise of Austria by proxy; the formal ceremony took place at the Louvre on 1 April. They had one child, Napoleon II of France, who was born in 1811.

                                        After her divorce, she lived at the Château de Malmaison, near Paris. She remained on good terms with Napoleon, who once said that the only thing to come between them was her debts.

                                        When she died in 1814, she was buried not far from Malmaison, at the St. Pierre and St. Paul church in Rueil. Her daughter Hortense is interred near her.

                                        Napoleon claimed to a friend, whilst in exile on Saint Helena, that "I was really in love with Josephine, but I did not respect her." Despite their numerous affairs, eventual divorce, and Napoleon's remarrying, the Emperor's last words on the Island of St. Helena were "France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Josephine."


                                          Statue of Napoléon in Les Invalides, eyes on the French flag

                                          French Monarchy Bonaparte Dynasty

                                            Reign20 March 1804 – 6 April 1814
                                            1 March 1815 – 22 June 1815Coronation2 December 1804Full nameNapoléon BonaparteTitlesKing of Italy
                                            Mediator of the Swiss Confederation
                                            Protector of the Confederation of the RhineBorn15 August 1769(1769-08-15)Ajaccio, Corsica Died5 May 1821 (aged 51)Saint Helena BuriedLes Invalides, Paris PredecessorLouis XVISuccessorLouis XVIIIConsortJoséphine de Beauharnais
                                            Marie Louise of AustriaIssueNapoleon IIRoyal HouseBonaparteFatherCarlo BuonaparteMother

                                            Letizia Ramolino

                                            Children   Napoleon II_Siblings_   Napoleone   Maria Anna   Joseph, King of Spain   Lucien, Prince of Canino   Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany   Louis, King of Holland   Pauline, Princess of Guastalla   Caroline, Queen of Naples   Jérôme, King of Westphalia_Nephews and nieces_   Princess Julie   Princess Zénaïde   Princess Charlotte   Prince Charles   Prince Louis   Prince Pierre   Prince Napoleon Charles   Prince Napoleon Louis   Napoleon III   Prince Jérôme   Prince Napoleon Joseph   Princess Mathilde_Grandnephews and -nieces_   Prince Joseph   Prince Lucien-Louis   Prince Roland   Princess Jeanne   Prince Charles   Prince Jerome   Napoleon (V) Victor_Great Grandnephews and -nieces_   Princess Marie   Princess Marie Clotilde   Napoleon (VI) Louis_Great Great Grandnephews and -nieces_   Napoleon (VII) Charles   Princess Catherine   Princess Laure   Prince Jerome_Great Great Great Grandnephews and -nieces_   Princess Caroline   Prince Jean-Christophe


                                            Napoleon was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, on August 15th 1769 to Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer and political opportunist, and his wife, Marie-Letizia Bonaparte.

                                            The Buonaparte's were a wealthy family from the Corsican nobility, although when compared to the great aristocracies of France Napoleon's kin were poor and pretentious. A combination of Carlo's social climbing, Letizia's adultery with the Comte de Marbeuf - Corsica's French military governor - and Napoleon's own ability enabled him to enter the military academy at Brienne in 1779.

                                            Carlo Maria Buonaparte

                                            Born: 29th March 1746 in Ajaccio, Corsica
                                            Married: 2nd June 1764 in Ajaccio, Corsica
                                            Died: 24th February 1785 in Montpellier, France

                                            A political opportunist, social climber and probable hedonist, Carlo Buonaparte's place in history was assured by one of his children: Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France.

                                            Born of Italian heritage in Ajaccio, Corsica, Carlo initially followed family tradition by studying to be a lawyer; however, he left his course at Pisa University part-way through to marry Marie-Letizia Romalino. Carlo was 18, Letizia 14, and both were members of the Ajaccio nobility, a position of relative unimportance. Romantic authors often suggest that this was a marriage of passion and elopement, but the facts suggest a sound marriage of economic convenience, especially as their fathers had already died.

                                            Carlo worked as a solicitor for most of his life, but in the period after his marriage he worked as a secretary and assistant to Pasquale Paoli, the Corsican revolutionary leader. Paoli sent Carlo to negotiate with the Pope in 1766 - Paoli planned an invasion of Capria, a papal gift to Corsica's current rulers, Genoa - and Carlo appears to have enjoyed life in Rome - and life with other women - until being forced, for reasons unknown, back to Corsica in 1768. Political upheaval followed as France gained ownership of Corsica, a new struggle which ended with the Paolista's heavy defeat at Ponte Novo on May 8th 1769. Many of Paoli's supporters had to flee, including Carlo Buonaparte and family; students of Napoleon may wish to note that Letizia was several months pregnant with the future emperor at this time.

                                            Carlo soon proved himself to be an opportunist - critics may prefer turncoat - by embracing the new French government as Paoli was forced abroad. Modest success followed: Carlo was made 'Assessor of the Royal Jurisdiction of Ajaccio' in 1771 - the same year as he obtained French confirmation of his 'noble' status - and later, deputy of the Estates-General of Corsica. Throughout the 1770's attempted to better himself through legal means, making numerous claims on land and money, but his success was limited and the drain on his family's funds great. Indeed, his combination of official duties and legal appeals to French authorities frequently kept Carlo overseas, whether at Versailles or elsewhere. Regrettably for the Buonapartes, Carlo was free with his money at the best of times and trips to the ostentatious capital of France ate away at his finances; a fondness for gambling exacerbated matters. As he noted in an account book "In Paris I received 4,000 francs from the King and a fee of 1,000 crowns from the government, but I came back without a penny." (Napoleon, McLynn 1998, pg. 21)

                                            By 1782 Carlo had seven surviving children, but he was growing weak. Over the next few years - which proved less litigious than before - Carlo began to suffer constant pain and he traveled to Paris, Montpellier and other towns to find medical help. They could do nothing for what historians are sure was stomach cancer and Carlo Buonaparte died on February 24th, 1785. He left his family virtually penniless.

                                            Marie-Letizia Bonaparte (née Ramolino and Buonaparte**)**
                                            Madame Mére de Sa Majesté l'Empereur (1804 - 1815
                                            Born: 24th August 1750 in Ajaccio, Corsica.
                                            Married: 2nd June 1764 in Ajaccio, Corsica
                                            Died: 2nd February 1836 in Rome, Italy.

                                            Born in the middle of the eighteenth century, August 1750, Marie-Letizia was a member of the Ramolinos, a low ranking noble family of Italian descent whose elders had lived around Corsica - and in Letizia's case, Ajaccio - for several centuries. Letizia's father died when she was five and her mother Angela remarried a few years later to François Fesch, a captain from the Ajaccio garrison which Letizia's father had once commanded. Throughout this period Letizia received no education beyond the domestic.

                                            The next phase of Letizia's life began on June 2nd 1764 when she married Carlo Buonaparte, the son of a local family with similar social rank and Italian descent; Carlo was eighteen, Letizia fourteen. Although some myths claim otherwise, the couple certainly didn't elope on a lovesick whim and, although some of the Ramolinos objected, neither family was overtly against the marriage; indeed, most historians agree that the match was a sound, largely economic, agreement which left the couple financially secure, although far from rich. Letizia soon bore two children, one before the end of 1765 and another under ten months later, but neither lived for long. Her next child was born on July 7th 1768, and this son survived: he was named Joseph. Overall, Letizia gave birth to thirteen children, but only eight of those made it past infancy.

                                            One source of family income was Carlo's work for Pasquale Paoli, a Corsican patriot and revolutionary leader. When French armies landed in Corsica during 1768 Paoli's forces fought an, initially successful, war against them and, in early 1769, Letizia accompanied Carlo to the front line - at her own behest - despite her fourth pregnancy. However, the Corsican forces were crushed at the battle of Ponte Novo and Letizia was forced to flee back to Ajaccio through mountains. The incident is worth noting, for shortly after her return Letizia gave birth to her second surviving son, Napoleon; his embryonic presence at the battle remains part of his legend.

                                            Letizia remained in Ajaccio for the next decade, bearing six more children who survived into adulthood - Lucien in 1775, Elisa in 1777, Louis in 1778, Pauline in 1780, Caroline in 1782 and finally Jerome in 1784. Much of Letizia's time was spent caring for those children who remained at home - Joseph and Napoleon departed for schooling in France during 1779 - and organising the Casa Buonaparte, her home. By all accounts Letizia was a stern mother prepared to whip her offspring, but she was also caring and ran her household to the benefit of all.

                                            During the late 1770's Letizia began an affair with the Comte de Marbeuf, Corsica's French military governor and a friend of Carlos. Although there is no direct evidence, and despite the attempts of some historians to argue otherwise, the circumstances make it quite clear that Letizia and Marbeuf were lovers at some point during the period 1776 to 1784, when the latter married an eighteen year girl and began to distance himself from the, now 34 year old, Letizia. Marbeuf may have fathered one of the Buonaparte children, but commentators who claim he was Napoleon's father are without any foundation.

                                            Carlo died on February 24th 1785. For the next few years Letizia managed to keep her family together, despite numerous sons and daughters scattered across France in education and training, by running a thrifty household and persuading notoriously ungenerous relatives to part with money. This was the start of a series of financial troughs and peaks for Letizia: in 1791 she inherited large sums from Archdeacon Lucien, a man who had lived on the floor above her in the Casa Buonaparte. This windfall enabled her to relax her grip on household tasks and enjoy herself, but it also enabled her son Napoleon to enjoy quick promotion and enter into the turmoil of Corsican politics. After turning against Paoli Napoleon suffered defeat, forcing his family to flee for the French mainland in 1793. By the end of that year Letizia was lodged in two small rooms at Marseilles, relying on a soup kitchen for food.

                                            Having plunged his family into poverty, Napoleon soon saved them from it: heroic success in Paris brought him promotion to the Army of the Interior and considerable wealth, 60,000 francs of which went to Letizia, enabling her to move into one of Marseilles' best homes. From then until 1814 Letizia received ever greater riches from her son, especially after his triumphant Italian campaign of 1796-7. This lined the elder Bonaparte brothers' pockets with considerable riches and caused the Paolista's to be expelled from Corsica; Letizia was thus able to return to the Casa Bonaparte, which she renovated with a massive compensatory grant from the French government.

                                            Now a woman of great wealth and considerable esteem, Letizia still attempted to control her children, remaining able to praise and chastise them even as they became kings, princes and emperors. Indeed, Letizia was keen that each should benefit equally from the Bonaparte's success, and each time he bestowed an award on one sibling Letizia urged him to restore the equilibrium with awards to the others. Letizia did more than simply organise her family, for she acted as unofficial governor of Corsica - commentators have suggested that nothing major occurred without her approval - and oversaw the Imperial Charities.

                                            However, Napoleon's fame and wealth was no guarantee of his mother's favour. Immediately after his imperial accession Napoleon granted titles to his family, including that of 'Prince of the Empire' for Joseph and Louis. However, Letizia was so chagrined at hers - 'Madame Mère de Sa Majesté l'Empereur' (or 'Madame Mère', 'Madam Mother') - that she boycotted the coronation. The title may well have been a deliberate slight from son to mother over family arguments and the Emperor tried to make amends a year later, in 1805, by giving Letizia a country home with over 200 courtiers, high-ranking servants and vast sums of money.

                                            This episode reveals another side of Letizia: she was certainly careful with her own money, but willing to spend that of her children and patrons. Unimpressed with the first property - a wing of the Grand Trianon - she had Napoleon move her into a large seventeenth century chateau, despite complaining at the opulence of it all. Letizia was exhibiting more than an innate miserlyness, or using the lessons learnt from coping with her free-spending husband, for she was preparing for the potential collapse of Napoleon's empire: '"My son has a fine position, said Letizia, 'but it may not continue for ever. Who knows whether all these kings won't say day come to me begging for bread?'" (Napoleon's Family, Seward, pg 103.)

                                            Circumstances did indeed change. In 1814 Napoleon's enemies seized Paris, forcing him into abdication and exile on Elba; as the Empire fell, so his siblings fell with him, losing their thrones, titles and parts of their wealth. Nevertheless, the conditions of Napoleon's abdication guaranteed Madame Mère 300,000 francs a year; throughout the crises Letizia acted with stoicism and gentle bravery, never rushing from her enemies and marshalling her errant children as best she could. She initially traveled to Italy with her half brother Fesch, the latter gaining an audience with Pope Pius VII during which the pair were granted refuge in Rome. Letizia also exhibited her head for sensible finances by liquidating her French property before it was taken from her.

                                            Still showing parental concern, Letizia traveled to stay with Napoleon before urging him to embark on the adventure which became the Hundred Days, a period when Napoleon regained the Imperial Crown, hurriedly re-organised France and fought the most famous battle in European History, Waterloo. Of course, he was defeated and exiled to distant St. Helena. Having traveled back to France with her son Letizia was soon thrown out; she accepted the protection of the Pope and Rome remained her home.

                                            Her son may have fallen from power, but Letizia and Fesch had invested considerable sums during the days of Empire, leaving them wealthy and ensconced in luxury: she brought the Palazza Rinuccini in 1818 and installed within it a large number of staff. Letizia also remained active in her family's affairs, interviewing, hiring and shipping staff out to Napoleon and writing letters to secure his release. Nevertheless, her life now became tinged with tragedy as several of her children died young: Elisa in 1820, Napoleon in 1821 and Pauline in 1825. After Elisa's death Letizia only ever wore black, and she became increasingly devout. Having lost all her teeth earlier in life Madame Mere now lost her sight, living many of her final years blind.

                                            Letizia Bonaparte died, still under the protection of the Pope, in Rome on February 2nd 1836. An often dominant mother, Madame Mère was a pragmatic and careful woman who combined an ability to enjoy luxury without guilt, but to also plan ahead and live without exorbitance. She remained Corsican in thought and word, preferring to speak Italian instead of French, a language which, despite almost two decades living in the country, she spoke poorly and could not write. Despite the hatred and bitterness aimed at her son Letizia remained a surprisingly popular figure, probably because she lacked the eccentricities and ambitions of her children. In 1851 Letizia's body was returned and buried in her native Ajaccio.