After having travelled around the world retracing the paths of the two great conquerors Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, Le Petit Futé proposes to highlight another great man full of ambitions: Napoleon Bonaparte. An important figure in the History of France, the first emperor of the country, the man from Corsica succeeded in extending his empire over most of continental Europe. For fifteen years, this forerunner of the European Union and military genius travelled the continent with his soldiers to establish his supremacy in memorable battles. Until some of them sounded the end of a journey and an era that is still being studied and fascinates history lovers
From his youth to coming to power
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769 in Ajaccio. The Corsican city does not fail to pay homage to him and today visitors can go to the house where Napoleon was born, now the National Museum which evokes the memory of the emperor and his family, go and see his statue on the Place Foch, go to the cathedral where he was baptized or go to the Casone cave, where the young man retired to read and think about his future
At the age of 9, Napoleon left his noble family, arrived on the continent and spent five years at the military academy in Brienne. He said he was unloved by his comrades and devoted his free time to reading and writing. In 1784, after successfully passing his exams, he entered the Military Academy of Paris and the artillery branch. During the French Revolution, he rallied to the cause of the Jacobins. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1793 after having distinguished himself during the recapture of Toulon against the British. He then left for the Italian campaign, which resulted in a victory against Piedmont and Austria. During the Egyptian campaign in 1798, Napoleon left France with a fleet of 300 ships in order to counter the British who were passing through this territory to reach the East Indies and make their trade flourish. In Egypt, Napoleon's troops defeated Alexandria, participated in the famous Battle of the Pyramids against the Mamelukes, but eventually failed. General Bonaparte nevertheless came out of this expedition, which also marked the birth of Egyptology after having brought back the Rosetta Stone, whose hieroglyphs were deciphered by the French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion in 1822
Back in France, Napoleon's strategist is seen as the one who can avoid the return of the Ancien Régime and install the desire for change of the Revolution. The coup d'état of 18 and 19 brumaire 1799 sounded the arrival of the Consulate. Bonaparte, the first consul, dominated the executive and was appointed consul for life in 1802. On 18 May 1804, Napoleon was crowned Emperor at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral by Pope Pius VII
The Napoleonic Wars
Once in power, Napoleon decided to seek peace with his main enemy, England. The Grande Armée (the name of the French army) was preparing to cross the Channel, but with its fleet and its coalition with Russia and the Kingdom of Naples, England forced Napoleon to revise his plans. A defeat illustrated by the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. If England is queen on sea, on land, it is Napoleon who wins. The Emperor had to face the Third Coalition, made up of England, the Russian Empire, the Archduchy of Austria and Sweden. As Bavaria was invaded by the Austrians, he turned away from his British objectives and sent the Grande Armée to Eastern Europe, the new theatre of operations. Victory followed for the troops led by the Emperor with the Battle of Ulm, then the mythical Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805, where Russian and Austrian troops were crushed. In 1806, Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine and proclaimed himself protector of the small non-prussian states of Germany. This was not to the liking of the Prussian military, but also to that of his lifelong enemies, England and Russia, joined by Saxony and Sweden. After receiving an ultimatum to leave Germany, Napoleon pulverized the Prussian army in battles such as Jena and Auerstadt. He won as far as Poland, where he created the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807. In the same year, at the battle of Friedland, it was the Russian army that was destroyed, marking the end of the Fourth Coalition War. After two years of war, France and Russia became allies with the signing of the Treaties of Tilsit on 7 July. A peace treaty with Prussia followed two days later. At this time, England, always an enemy, found itself alone against France. Napoleon, with his army and his military skills, found himself well established in Europe.
Major defeats and the fall of the Napoleonic Empire
While the Napoleonic Empire dominated continental Europe, it experienced its darkest episodes from 1812 onwards. In Spain, the situation was very tense with the war for independence and the Russians began to make their voices heard vis-à-vis Poland. Napoleon then decided to go to Russia with 700,000 soldiers. When they arrived in Moscow, the 500,000-strong army of Tsar Alexander I refused to surrender. Napoleon finally ordered his troops to leave Russia, but General Mikhail Kutuzov took advantage of this to attack the Great Army from all sides. This Russian campaign resulted in the loss of 200,000 soldiers. In 1813, another great battle in Leipzig ended in a bitter defeat.
France was eventually invaded by the Coalition and after resisting well, it abdicated because of the large number of invaders on the territory. Napoleon was then exiled to the island of Elba. He does not want to admit defeat and wants to regain control of the situation. But faced with a new coalition, the country and the emperor were to suffer their most famous defeat in 1815, at Waterloo. After resurfacing for about a hundred days, Napoleon abdicated on 22 June and was exiled this time to St. Helena, where he died on 5 May 1821. This was the end of the Napoleonic Empire, which in the space of five years went from a peak to a fall
Despite this fall, Napoleon Bonaparte left a mark of the utmost importance on French society by modernising the administration and creating certain institutions. He also created the Bank of France and the Civil Code and made a name for himself in the field of architecture and town planning