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Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte

Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte

The flair and charisma exhibited by Napoleon Bonaparte occupies a vital place in the pages of history. The following lines are a biographical summary of this epic emperor.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Napoleon Bonaparte
August 15, 1769 - May 5, 1821

Emperor of the French
1804 - 1814, 1815

King of Italy
1805 - 1814

Napoleon Bonaparte was a relentless and power-hungry military commander, who led the French to innumerable victories during his reign. He was well-known for his prolific leadership qualities and masterly military tactics. He was known to have put in place various liberal reforms all over Europe, most importantly 'religious toleration' and 'abolition of feudalism'. His 'Napoleonic Code' in France also led to the creation of numerous laws in countries around the world. History is full of the 'Napoleonic Wars', in which he took over control of most of Europe as a result of many hard fought battles.

EARLY LIFE

One among seven children of Carlo Maria di Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino, Napoleon Bonaparte spent his childhood in Ajaccio, which was the capital of the island of Corsica, France. He was born on 15th August, 1769, and his parents were of Italian descent. Napoleon's mother, who was known for her dominant nature, was influential in curbing his mischievous ways. Napoleon received the sacrament of baptism on 21st July, 1771, prior to his second birthday. He was sent to a school in Autun, France, which was known for its religious upbringing. He spent his time there trying to master French. Later, in the month of May, the same year, he attended military school at Brienne-le-Château. Because of his Corsican origin, he had a distinctive accent, for which he was teased quite a bit by his fellow classmates. His teachers acknowledged his liking toward math, history, and geography.

After completing his studies at Brienne-le-Château, he went to an elite military academy called École Militaire, where he got trained to be an artillery officer. Due to his father's demise which resulted in the lack of funds, he had to complete a two-year course in just one year. After completing his graduation in September 1785, he was appointed Second Lieutenant in the La Fére regiment, which specialized in artillery. In the year 1789, after the French Revolution, he secured the position of Lieutenant Colonel, and rose to the rank of a Captain in the year 1792.

PERSONAL LIFE

Napoleon was raised as a Christian, but in his adult life, he was said to be a deist, never believing in the existence of a living God. He actually used religion as a prime element to create social order. Even his first marriage was a civil one, with no aspect of religion involved whatsoever.

Napoleon was not a big made man, but he had a great impact on everyone he met with his personality and intellectual powers. His memory was defined as 'photogenic', due to his ability to perfectly remember facts, people, events, numbers, military units, maps, and even statistics. He was known to quickly grasp all the aspects of a situation and immediately come up with the best solution. Due to this gift that he possessed, many had named him the 'chess master'.

In the year 1796, he got married to Joséphine de Beauharnais, who was a widow and six years his senior. But both had quite a few affairs while still married to each other. They did not have any children, which is one of the reasons why Napoleon decided to divorce her, so as to have an heir for himself. In 1810, he married Marie Louise, the Archduchess of Austria. They had one child, Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles, also later known as Napoleon II. Unfortunately, he died when he was just 21 years of age, without any heir, due to tuberculosis. It is believed that Napoleon had four other illegitimate children, out of which he acknowledged only one.

CONQUESTS

His prowess as a Captain came into prominence during the siege of 'Toulon', where he used tactics and military expertise to bombard territories occupied by the British troops, which forced them to evacuate. The assault by Napoleon on the naval troops forced the fleet of British ships to retreat. His actions earned him the position of 'Brigadier General.' Later, the 'Committee of Public Safety', who took note of his achievements, was instrumental in bestowing upon him the command of the entire French artillery wing, 'Army of Italy'.

His association with Augustin Robespierre resulted in him being arrested and imprisoned at Fort Carré, though he was released immediately. On his campaign in Italy, the 'Battle Of Lodi' was a fierce duel with the forces of Austria. Napoleon managed to drive them out of Lombardy. His campaign in Italy seized a formidable amount of artillery in the form of cannons. His army also captured prisoners in huge numbers. Napoleon's army, which was well equipped with artillery and manpower, won 18 battles. During the Italian campaign, he developed a keen interest in French politics. He started circulating two newspapers among the troops of his army, which he published. These newspapers also found themselves being widely circulated all over France.

In the year 1798, Napoleon, in the quest of power, set his sights on Egypt. In the battle fought against the 'Mamluks', Napoleon's army faced a shortage of manpower. The Mamluks, who were well equipped with a strong cavalry, fought valiantly. Napoleon tactically divided his troops in groups to face the brunt of the attack. On 1 August, a fleet of British ships attacked and destroyed a number of French ships in the 'Battle of the Nile'. Although he was dejected, he led his army to Damascus to gain control over other territories. The constant lack of supplies, along with bubonic plague, forced him to return to Egypt.

The 'Battle of Bordino', which was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in those days, claimed thirty-five thousand French and forty-four thousand Russian lives. The 'Battle of Waterloo' in 1815 was another historic battle fought by the French under Napoleon's leadership.

DOWNFALL

Besides his many victories, Napoleon also faced defeat on many occasions, due to varied reasons. By around 1811, there were tensions between allies Russia and France. Alexander was under pressure from the Russian nobility to break off the alliance. By 1812, Russia was preparing to invade the French Empire. To counter this threat, with an army of nearly half a million, Napoleon invaded Russia on June 23, 1812. The Russians retreated, and in the Battle of Borodino, thousands were killed on each side. Napoleon was victorious, but the retreating Russians burned down Moscow. But by this time, Napoleon was worried about his control back home in France, hence, he left to go back with his army. With everything burned down, coupled with the harsh Russian winter, his army was reduced to just around 40,000.

Around this time, the British and other coalition forces attacked from all sides. The French lost and Paris was overthrown in March 1814. By April that year, he was deposed from the throne. On April 11, 1814, the Act of Abdication of Napoleon was passed, and he was exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean. But ever there, he managed to create a small navy and army. He returned to briefly rule France again in 1815, but the allies defeated him in the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon's position in Paris was now under threat, and he abdicated in favor of his son. He then tried to flee, but was captured by the allies, and exiled to the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.

DEATH

The month of February, in the year 1821, saw Napoleon falling drastically ill. The British physicians that attended to him couldn't do much to save him. He died after confessing his sins to Father Ange Vignali. Francesco Antommarchi, the physician who performed the autopsy claimed the cause of death to be stomach cancer, although he didn't officially sign the report that stated the cause.

TITLES
  • Provisional Consul of France: Nov 11 - Dec 12, 1799
  • First Consul of France: Dec 12, 1799 - May 18, 1804
  • Emperor of the French: May 18, 1804 - Apr 11, 1814
  • King of Italy: Mar 17, 1805 - Apr 11, 1814
  • Co-Prince of Andorra: 1806 - Apr 11, 1814
  • Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine: July 12, 1806 - Oct 19, 1813
  • Emperor of the French: Mar 20 - Jun 22, 1815
A valiant administrator and a skillful tactician, Napoleon Bonaparte remains a true legend in the hearts of people.