Council of One

July 10, 2007 § Leave a comment

The Big Three of the Napoleonic Wars: Nap, Nel and Well, Part Three

Napoleon I of France
15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821

Napoleon Bonaparte First Consul
1802
Antoine-Jean Gros
Musée Nationale de la Légion d’Honneur, Paris

Napoleon Bonaparte was born to a minor Corsican noble family – the Buonapartes – in 1769, not long after the island became the property of France. Following a childhood spent in military academies, Napoleon distinguished himself in the army of revolutionary France, particularly during the campaigns of 1796. Napoleon was a master politician and despite British military defeat in Egypt in 1798, by February 1800 he was established as the First Consul of France. In 1804 he crowned himself Emperor of France and set out to conquer Europe.

Despite devastating naval defeat again by the British at Trafalgar (1805), for the next eight years Napoleon dominated Europe, fighting and defeating a range of alliances involving combinations of Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia. Napoleon’s power began to mislead him however and in 1812 he made a tragically ill judged attempt to invade Russia. The majority of a 400 000 man army was lost in Russia, Britain had fought its way to France through Spain and in 1814 Paris surrendered to allied forces and Napoleon was sent into exile on the Island of Elba.

Napoleon had one final adventure in 1815. In less than one hundred days he had secretly returned to France, attracted vast support and reclaimed his Imperial throne, had re-emerged on the European scene with his army, and was finally defeated by the Duke of Wellington and General Blücher at Waterloo, and was then exiled even further from Europe. Napoleon Bonaparte spent the six final years of his life on the rocky island of St Helena, and despite modern theories citing a poisoning death, Napoleon died of stomach cancer in 1821. He was a masterful soldier, a highly skilled tactician and a superb administrator, and one of the most celebrated, and debated, personages in history.

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