Napoleon Bonaparte - A little bit of French History


France is such an amazing diverse country with such a rich history, we thought it would be great to tell the story of one of France's most famous people - Napoleon. He influenced much of France's great culture well beyond the military. We love France.


Who is Napoleon Bonaparte? 

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica, into an ordinary family: neither rich nor famous. However, in a few years, he becomes one of the greatest conquerors in history. His victories, like that of the Battle of Austerlitz, are legendary. So is his army, which numbers up to 1 million men. He was a man of tradition and loved his French heritage.


His career:

At age 9, he entered military school. At 24, he is a general… at 35, he is crowned emperor. And he reigns over Europe! Napoleon also transformed France into a modern country, after taking power by force. He created French high schools, French universities and support for the French traditional artisans.

Above all, he wrote the civil code, a huge book which established identical rules of life for all French people. Moreover, it was he who transformed the Louvre into a magnificent museum and had the Arc de Triomphe built in Paris. Thousands of books and hundreds of films celebrate Napoleon Bonaparte in this way. A man who owes his success to his intelligence. And above all, hours of hard work!

But, we must not forget that Napoleon governed in a tyrannical way. His battles left hundreds of thousands dead. And he restored slavery. This is why this man, famous throughout the world, is also much criticised today.


Napoleon’s wars:

Napoleon is convinced that the only way to obtain a lasting peace is to first put the English out of the equation. He hatches a plan with Admiral Latouche Tréville to invade England. 

In August 1805, Admiral de Villeneuve and his Franco-Spanish fleet were surprised by the English off the coast of Spain. 

They are annihilated by English ships at Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. To the east, Austria approaches Russia. It is joined by Sweden and Naples, thus giving birth to a third coalition against Napoleon. The Emperor abandons his ambitions of invading Great Britain and leaves with the Grande Armée for Austria. 

He won a great victory against Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. Following this dazzling triumph, the Tribunate (assembly created in 1800 to discuss laws) submitted a proposal to the Emperor for the latter is now called "The Great". Napoleon then accepts and becomes Napoleon the Great. 

In 1806, Napoleon, after defeating the Prussian armies, had Tsar Alexander Ist sign the Treaty of Tilsit, in which they decided to share between them the European countries.

On July 5 and 6, 1809, Napoleon won the Battle of Wagram. He then signed an armistice with Austria. Napoleon's Empire is at its peak. It covers 750,000 km². On a personal level, the Emperor Napoleon I divorced Josephine, married 13 years earlier, for reasons of State (she did not give him a descendant). 

On April 2, 1810, he married Marie-Louise, 18, daughter of the Austrian Emperor Francis I and grand-niece of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Napoleon Ist saw in this remarriage an ardent necessity: to obtain the heir that Josephine, the first empress, had not given him and to unite his dynasty with the reigning families of Europe.

In August 1811, Tsar Alexander I, violating the Treaty of Tilsit, allowed English ships to enter his ports. Faced with this attitude, Napoleon considered war inevitable and marched on Russia in 1812. His troops, made up of French, Italians, Austrians and Germans, numbered nearly 700,000 men. They won many victories and entered Moscow on September 14. The Russians set fire to the city to dislodge their occupants. The harsh winter hurts the soldiers and prevents them from pursuing the armies of the tsar. The Grande Armée, retreating through isolated regions, fell victim to the cold.

Five weeks after leaving Moscow, the Napoleonic troops, harassed by Marshal Kutuzov's Cossacks, found themselves facing a major obstacle: the Berezina River. The only bridge allowing the crossing was destroyed by the Russians. The Grande Armée built makeshift works and 500,000 men succeeded in escaping the enemy. But the troops are already decimated by cold and hunger. 300,000 soldiers out of 700,000 will return to France. The retreat turns into a rout. It is from this event that the expression "C'est la Bérézina!" comes from., a french expression that means: total failure.

With the Grande Armée almost completely annihilated, Napoleon's enemies knew that the Eagle was in a weak position. They form a sixth coalition.

After several battles against the Russian-Prussian armies, Napoleon Ist was defeated in Leipzig on October 19, 1813 during the Battle of the Nations. He retreats to France. Great Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria allied in 1814 and their united armies invaded France. Napoleon, at the head of a young and inexperienced army, won a few victories but could not prevent the allies from entering Paris on March 31. He was forced to abdicate on April 6 at Fontainebleau. He attempts to kill himself with poison but survives. He was sent into exile on the island of Elba with some of his followers. King Louis XVIII is installed by the Allies on the throne of France.

Napoleon escaped from the island of Elba to reach France in March 1815. The army supposed to arrest him fell under the command of its former sovereign. Napoleon then goes up to Paris with about 1,100 men. Louis XVIII had already fled the capital, so Napolean seized power without any violence and moved to the Tuileries Palace on March 18, 1815. This was the beginning of the "Hundred Days" period (March 20 - June 22). 1815). The European powers declare Napoleon "outlaw" and once again form a coalition. The emperor decides to attack first and has about 125,000 men. The enemy troops, twice superior to the Napoleonic army, crush Napoleon at Waterloo on June 18, 1815. He must abdicate for the second time.

The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was then exiled to Île Sainte-Hélène, an English island. It was there that he wrote his memoirs, the Memorial of Sainte-Hélène. He lived there for six years before dying on May 5, 1821, of a stomach cancer.

In his will drawn up in 1821, Napoleon declared: "I want my ashes to remain on the banks of the Seine in the midst of these French people whom I have loved so much".

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