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Napoleon I

Napoleon I (1769–1821), general and emperor of France (1804–14). Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica, went to military schools in France, and became a lieutenant in the artillery (1785). He associated with Jacobins on the outbreak of the French Revolution, drove the British from Toulon (1793), and dispersed a royalist rebellion in Paris (Oct. 1795). He defeated the Austro-Sardinian armies in Italy (1796–97) and signed the treaty of Campo Formio, extending French territory. He then campaigned in Egypt and the Middle East, threatening Great Britain's position in India. Although he won land battles, the French fleet was destroyed in the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Returning to Paris Napoleon engineered the coup d'état of Nov. 9, 1799, establishing a Consulate with himself as first consul and dictator. He reorganized the government and established the Bank of France and the Code Napoléon, still the basis of French law.

The Treaty of Lunéville (1801) made peace with Austria; the Treaty of Amiens (1802) made peace with Britain. Napoleon became first consul for life (1802) and crowned himself emperor (1804). In the Napoleonic Wars he won victories over the European alliance at Austerlitz (1805), Jena (1806) and Friedland (1807), dissolving the Holy Roman Empire (1806), and becoming ruler of almost the whole continent. After Jena he inaugurated the Continental System whereby he hoped to keep European ports closed to British trade, but the battle of Trafalger (1805) established the dominance of Britain at sea.

In 1809 Napoleon divorced Joséphine de Beauharnais and married Marie Louise, who bore him an heir, Napoleon II. The Peninsular War revealed growing French weakness, and in 1812 Napoleon began his disastrous campaign against Russia. A new alliance of European nations defeated the French at Leipzig (1813); in 1814, after France was invaded, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba. In March 1815 he escaped, returned to France, and ruled for the Hundred Days, which ended in French defeat at Waterloo (1815). Napoleon was then exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.

See also: Napoleonic Wars.

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