Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Corsica, near France in 1769. He served in the French military on the side of the commoners during the French Revolution. Loved unconditionally by his people, like a phoenix, he rose amidst victory and defeat, till the time of his death in 1821. A common man who felt strongly about the resurgence of French glory, Napoleon is remembered even today for the establishment of the Grande Armee and institutionalizing the Legion of Honor.
Napoleon Bonaparte is still remembered in France for the establishment of the Code of Napoleon, prefectship in general administration, and the judicial foundation in the country. He was the second of seven children, and was born in the town of Ajaccio, Corsica. The family relocated when the island was transferred to France. Also known as Napoleone di Buonaparte, he came from a family of minor Italian nobility. Their relocation to mainland France in the 16th century exposed Napoleon to the turbulent French politics at an early age.
His father, Carlo Buonaparte, was an attorney and Corsica's representative at the court of Louis XVI. His mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino, was a firm disciplinarian. He was baptized just before his second birthday. He studied French at a religious school and military tactics in the Brienne-le-Château Military Academy. He used to be derided by other students for his Corsican accent. He was good in mathematics and social sciences. In 1784, he attended the École Militaire, Paris. On graduating the following year, he was made second lieutenant in the La Fère artillery regiment. He opposed the Corsican royalists, nationalists, and revolutionaries.
Rise in the Military
Under the command of the Jacobin faction, Napoleon rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and led volunteers. He was a trained artillery officer. He rose to fame as he led the commoners in a series of successful campaigns against the First and Second French Coalitions.
In recognition of his victory over the republican government and British troops in Toulon in 1793, he was promoted to the post of Brigadier General. Subsequently, he earned the command of artillery arm of the Army of Italy under the French command. His military exploits earned him the command over improvised forces, garnered to protect the Convention held in the Tuileries Palace. He defeated Royalist insurrection, and was promoted to Commander of the Interior. In a clever political move, he broke his earlier engagement to Désirée Clary, and married Joséphine de Beauharnais in 1796. Two days after his marriage to Josephine, Bonaparte took command of the Army of Italy and led a successful invasion of Italy.
Military Victories and Tactics
Thereafter, via the Battle of Lodi and Battle of the Bridge of Arcole, he proved the effectiveness of his 'envelopment' strategy, that involved taking up central position and attacking two opposing and cooperating forces at the hinge, simultaneously. His military tactics enabled the French army to celebrate victory in 67 actions and more than 15 pitched battles. With victories like these, he became very influential in French politics. The coup d'état and Treaty of Campo Formio made him a hero in France. Although unsuccessful, he led the French army against the British forces in Egypt, in the famous Battle of the Nile. The tactics of fiscal destruction of the enemy, and its isolation on land en route a sea-extensive trade route, was tried out for the first time. Napoleon met his match in Admiral Nelson in the Battle of the Nile.
Becoming The Emperor
On his return to France, he capitalized on Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès' support, and planned a coup to overthrow the then reigning constitutional government. Bonaparte successfully gained control and declared himself First Consul. His immediate investment of military might for territorial expansion led to a number of battles across Europe. He institutionalized higher education, tax codes, a central bank called Banque de France, Légion d'Honneur, and the Code Civil or Napoleonic code. He crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I in 1804, at Notre Dame de Paris. In 1810, he married for the second time. He espoused Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, Austria, arresting thirteen cardinals for not attending the ceremony, confining the Pope for 5 years, and totally defying the rules of Catholicism, with regards to marriage and annulment of the institution.
His struggle for supremacy through the Wars of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Coalition and the Peninsular War culminated with the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Defeated by the Duke of Wellington, he was imprisoned and exiled to Saint Helena, an island in the Atlantic Ocean. The strategic location of St. Helena was chosen to ensure that Bonaparte had no way of escape. In 1821, he succumbed to deteriorating health following the development of stomach cancer, and was buried below a nameless epitaph in the Valley of the Willows, St. Helena.