Napoleon Bonaparte at a glance 1769: August 15, Born Napoleone

Napoleon Bonaparte at a glance
1769: August 15, Born Napoleone di Buonaparte on the formerly Italian island of Corsica the year before it was
transferred to French control. His father was an attorney who was chosen to be the Corsican representative in Louis
XVI’s court. The family changed their names to sound more French: Napoleon Bonaparte.
1779: Age 9, Napoleon entered the Royal Military Academy due to his father’s connections. He had to learn French, and
eventually went on to a French Military High School to study artillery & graduated at age 16 as a Lieutenant in artillery.
1789: Age 20, Joined the Army of the Revolutionary Government of France. He supported the Jacobins and was promoted to
Lieutenant Colonel.
1792: Age 23, Promoted to Captain. While in Paris Napoleon witnessed the Storming of Tuileres Palace & the
dethroning of Louis XVI.
1793: Age 24, Fought against Royalists during the Reign of Terror in SW France. Defeated the British in battle.
Promoted to Brigadier General. Became a close friend of Robespierre’s brother. Briefly imprisoned after the fall of
1795: Age 26, Royalists attacked the National Convention because they were excluded from the new government
“The Directory.” Napoleon, who saw the Swiss Guard get slaughtered at Tuileres in 1792, defended them with “a
whiff of grapeshot” (1400 Royalists were killed) which brought him instant fame & wealth . Promoted to Commander
of the Interior.
1796: Age 27, Napoleon married Josephine de Beauharnais. She had been dating a member of the Directory, and was 6 years older
than Napoleon. The Directory appointed Napoleon to lead the French Army against Austria & Sardinia (in Italy). Napoleon defeated the
Papal States as well but refused to dethrone the Pope (as ordered by the Directory). Napoleon was very successful and became well
known through French newspapers.
1797: Age 28, Napoleon led his army into Austria, forcing Austria to sign a peace treaty. Then he led his army to
Venice (independent for 1100 years) and made the submit to French power. Napoleon’s popularity in France continued
to grow. In Mid-year elections, many royalists were elected to the Directory. Napoleon helped the former members of
the Directory stage a Coup d’état to take back power, but they were totally dependent on him to keep power. Napoleon
was much more popular than the Directory.
1798: Age 29, Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign to seize the Suez Canal & hurt British Trade began, but was mostly a
failure. A British fleet captured/ destroyed almost all French ships in the Battle of the Nile. In Egypt, Napoleon faced
many revolts from native Egyptians as well. When his army weakened due to Bubonic Plague he was forced to return
to France. His only success was finding the Rosetta Stone & advancing Egyptology.
1799: Age 30, Napoleon returned to France to find that France was bankrupt, the Directory was hugely unpopular. And due to fear of
Napoleon’s growing popularity the Directory ordered his assassination. Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, one of the Directors (and author of
What is the Third Estate) asked Napoleon to help him stage a Coup d’état. Nov. 9, Napoleon took over France & was named Provisional
Consul. Dec. 24, France adopted “The Constitution of Year VIII” and Napoleon was named First Consul. This was the first Constitution
since the Revolution began that did NOT have a Declaration of the Rights of Man. Napoleon held a plebiscite to maintain the appearance
of democracy, and the constitution was ratified with overwhelming support. Napoleon moved into the Palace Tuileres
1801: Age, 31. Napoleon signed the Concordat with Pope Pius VII. Made the Catholic Church the majority religion in France, but not the
official religion. Religious toleration was extended to Protestants & Jews. The French Government would nominate Bishops, but the
Pope could fire them. The government still paid the salaries of clergy, and made clergy swear an oath of loyalty to the state. The
Church had to give up its right to lands confiscated after 1790.
Napoleon Bonaparte at a glance
1802: Age 32, Napoleon created the Legion of Honor, to encourage civilian & military achievements (it is still the highest
award given in France today). The Constitution of year X was adopted. Napoleon was named First Consul for Life.
Napoleon re-established slavery in the French colonies to improve the French economy. In Saint Dominique (Haiti), a
successful slave rebellion had taken place & Napoleon was forced to send troops to bring the island back under French
control which proved to be much more difficult than he imagined. The leader of the rebellion Toussaint L’Overture was
arrested & brought to France, where he later died.
1803: Age 33, Realizing that he could not defend French holdings in the Americas, and needing money, Napoleon sold the
Louisiana Purchase (828,800 sq. miles of North American land) to the Americans for 3 cents/acre.
1804: Age 34, A third assassination attempt by the former royal family of France was uncovered. Napoleon decided he
needed a hereditary heir to take over his throne so it would be harder for the Bourbon family to take back France. He
threatened to divorce Josephine if she could not produce an heir. The Napoleonic Code was put into effect based on
French & Roman laws. Created one centralized law code & administration for France that matched the principals of
the Revolution. This law code was eventually adopted by Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and parts of
Germany. After the Napoleonic Wars, it stayed highly influential. Napoleon & Josephine were named Emperor &
Empress of France by Pope Pius VII; Napoleon crowned himself.
1805: Age 35, Napoleon was named King of Italy. Britain, Austria, and Russia created a coalition against Napoleon. In
July, Napoleon’s naval fleet was badly beaten at Trafalgar ending his hopes of ever invading Britain. He turned his
army towards Austria instead. By December, he had defeated Austria & Russia in the battle of Austerlitz. Napoleon
was named “protector” of the New Confederation of the Rhine. The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon to
mark the victory.
1806: Age 36, a new coalition was formed against Napoleon. In October Napoleon defeated Prussia.
1807: Age 37, Napoleon and Czar Alexander I signed a peace treaty dividing Europe between them. Napoleon took most
of Prussia & put puppet rulers on the thrones of the German states. In December Napoleon created the Continental
System, a boycott of British goods by all of Europe to promote self-sufficiency & to hurt Britain. It didn’t work, as
merchants smuggled British goods in anyway. When Portugal refused to participate he invaded with Spain’s support.
1808: Age 38, Napoleon invaded Spain too. He put his brother on the throne of Spain. The Peninsular War began with an
uprising in Madrid. For the next 6 years the Spanish & French fought a bloody war over control of Spain.
1809: Age 39, In April Austria & France were at war again, but Austria was again, defeated. Napoleon annexed the Papal
States when the Pope would not boycott British goods. The Pope was arrested & held prisoner for 5 years.
1810: Age 40, In January, Napoleon & Josephine divorced when it was clear she would not have any more children. His
divorce put further strains on his relationship with the Church. In March, Napoleon married Marie Louise, an Austria
Habsburg (the grand-daughter of Marie Antoinette’s brother). She was 18 years old. Napoleon saw this as a chance to
legitimize his royal line by introducing Habsburg blood.
1811: Age 41, Marie Louise gave birth to Napoleon II (who died childless at age 21 of Tuberculosis). Russia began trading with England.
1812: Age 42, Napoleon learned of Russian plans to invade France & launched a pre-emptive strike with an army of half a million men.
Napoleon expected to earn the loyalty of Polish nationals by promising them independence & Russian serfs by promising them freedom,
but it didn’t work. Russia practiced a scorched earth policy of retreating deeper into the Empire while burning everything they passed.
This left the French without shelter or supplies. Before reaching Moscow he faced off against Russian troops in the Battle of Borodino
Napoleon Bonaparte at a glance
with terrible results. When Napoleon got to Moscow he realized it had been evacuated and burned down so that he could not take the
capital. In November he began his retreat. He returned to France with 40,000 of his original half a million soldiers.
1813: Age 43, Napoleon tried to rebuild his army by drafting 350,000 men into the French army. Prussia, Austria, Sweden, Russia,
England, Spain, and Portugal formed an alliance against him. France began losing battles due to its inexperienced troops and the large
forces against them.
1814: Age 44, Paris was captured by coalition forces. Napoleon was forced to abdicate & was exiled to the Mediterranean island of
Elba. Napoleon tried to commit suicide but vomited up the poison. Marie Louise & his son moved back to Austria. In May, Josephine
died from an illness.
1815: Age 45, in February Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in the south of France. Louis XVIII, the
restored Bourbon king, fled Paris when he heard. Napoleon ruled France again for 100 Days and raised
an army of 200,000. In June, the coalition forces challenged him at Waterloo in Belgium, and Napoleon
was defeated again. In August, Napoleon was sent to St. Helena, a small volcanic island in the Atlantic
that was damp & windy all the time. His supporters were exiled with him.
1821: Age 51, in May Napoleon died either of Arsenic Poisoning or stomach cancer. Napoleon’s last words
were “France, Army, the Head of Army, Josephine.” Napoleon’s remains were brought back to France in
1840 by French King Louis Philippe who held a State funeral for him.
The Legacy of Napoleon
- In 17 years of warfare, over 6 million Europeans were killed. France was left bankrupt and lost its overseas colonies.
The Napoleonic Code was adopted through much of Europe. It ended Feudalism for good & set up a strong middle class. In
France, Noble privilege was ended.
While Conservatism returned to Europe with the Congress of Vienna (with rightful monarchs restored to their thrones,
alliances created to suppress liberalism, & a balance of power created across Europe), in 1848 Revolutions erupted across
Europe against monarchies & to gain liberal freedoms & democratic forms of government. This included a revolution in
France where Napoleon’s nephew was named Emperor Napoleon III and restored the Republic.
Napoleon opened public schools across France for boys (and eventually girls).