death: 05 MAY 1821
birth: 15 AUG 1769 v. 6.40
| Died on 05 May 1821.
Born on 15 August 1769:
Napoléon Bonaparte, former French ruler who once ruled an empire that stretched across Europe, dies as a British prisoner on the island of Saint Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
He was born in Corsica (sold in 1768 by the Genoese to France which occupied it in 1769 defeating independentist Paoli) on 15 August 1769 as Napoleone Buonaparte, the fourth, and second surviving, child of Carlo Buonaparte [29 Mar 1746 – 24 Feb 1785], a lawyer, and his wife, Letizia Ramolino [24 Aug 1750 – 02 Feb 1836]. His father's family, of ancient Tuscan nobility, had emigrated to Corsica in the 16th century.
Carlo Buonaparte had married the beautiful and strong-willed Letizia when she was only 14 years old; they eventually had eight children to bring up in very difficult times. The French occupation of their native country was resisted by a number of Corsicans led by Pasquale Paoli [26 Apr 1725 – 05 Feb 1807]. Carlo Buonaparte joined Paoli's party, but when Paoli had to flee a few weeks before Napoléone's birth, Buonaparte came to terms with the French. Winning the protection of the governor of Corsica, he was appointed assessor for the judicial district of Ajaccio in 1771. In 1778 he obtained the admission of his two eldest sons, Giuseppe Buonaparte [07 Jan 1768 – 28 Jul 1844] and Napoléone, to the Collège d'Autun. Napoléon from the age of nine was educated in France as Frenchmen were. But he shared neither the traditions nor the prejudices of his new country: remaining a Corsican in temperament. First and foremost, through both his education and his reading, he was a man of the 18th century.
Napoléon was educated at three schools: briefly at Autun, for five years at the military college of Brienne, and finally for one year at the military academy in Paris. It was during Napoléon's year in Paris that his improvident father died of a stomach cancer, leaving his family in straitened circumstances. Napoléon, although not the eldest son, assumed the position of head of the family before he was 16. In September 1785 he graduated from the military academy, ranking 42nd in a class of 58. He was made second lieutenant of artillery in the regiment of La Fère, a kind of training school for young artillery officers. Garrisoned at Valence, Napoléon continued his education, reading much, in particular works on strategy and tactics. He also wrote Lettres sur la Corse, in which he reveals his feeling for his native island. He went back to Corsica in September 1786 and did not rejoin his regiment until June 1788. By that time the agitation that was to culminate in the French Revolution had already begun. A reader of Voltaire and of Rousseau, Napoléon believed that a political change was imperative, but as a career officer he seems not to have seen any need for radical social reforms.
When in 1789 the National Assembly, which had convened to establish a constitutional monarchy, allowed Paoli to return to Corsica, Napoléon asked for leave and in September joined Paoli's group. But Paoli had no sympathy for the young man, whose father had deserted his cause and whom he considered to be a foreigner. Disappointed, Napoléon returned to France; and in April 1791 he was appointed first lieutenant to the 4th regiment of artillery, garrisoned at Valence. He at once joined the Jacobin club, a debating society initially favouring a constitutional monarchy, and soon became its president, making speeches against nobles, monks, and bishops. In September 1791 he got leave to go back to Corsica again for three months. Elected lieutenant colonel in the national guard, he soon fell out with Paoli, its commander in chief. When he failed to return to France, he was listed as a deserter in January 1792. But in April France declared war against Austria and his offense was forgiven.
Apparently through patronage, Napoléon was promoted to the rank of captain but did not rejoin his regiment. Instead he returned to Corsica in October 1792, where Paoli was exercising dictatorial powers and preparing to separate Corsica from France. Napoléon, however, joined the Corsican Jacobins, who opposed Paoli's policy. When civil war broke out in Corsica in April 1793, Paoli had the Buonaparte family condemned to “perpetual execration and infamy,” whereupon they all fled to France.
Napoléon Bonaparte, as he may henceforth be called (though the family did not drop the spelling Buonaparte until after 1796), rejoined his regiment at Nice in June 1793. In his Souper de Beaucaire, written at this time, he argued vigorously for united action by all republicans rallied round the Jacobins, who were becoming progressively more radical, and the National Convention, the revolutionary assembly that in the preceding fall had abolished the monarchy. At the end of August 1793, the National Convention's troops had taken Marseille but were halted before Toulon, where the royalists had called in British forces. With the commander of the National Convention's artillery wounded, Bonaparte got the post through the commissioner to the army, Antoine Saliceti, who was a Corsican deputy and a friend of Napoléon's family. Bonaparte was promoted to major in September and adjutant general in October. He received a bayonet wound on 16 December, but on the next day the British troops, harassed by his artillery, evacuated Toulon. On 22 December Bonaparte, aged 24, was promoted to brigadier general in recognition of his decisive part in the capture of the town.
Augustin de Robespierre, the commissioner to the army, wrote to his brother Maximilien, by then virtual head of the government and one of the leading figures of the Reign of Terror, praising the “transcendent merit” of the young republican officer. In February 1794 Bonaparte was appointed commandant of the artillery in the French Army of Italy. Robespierre fell from power in Paris on 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794). When the news reached Nice, Bonaparte, regarded as a protégé of Robespierre, was arrested on a charge of conspiracy and treason. He was freed in September but was not restored to his command. Thefollowing March he refused an offer to command the artillery in the Army of the West, which was fighting the counter-revolution in the Vendée. The post seemed to hold no future for him, and he went to Paris to justify himself. Life was difficult on half pay, especially as he was carrying on an affair with Désirée Clary, daughter of a rich Marseille businessman and sister of Julie, the bride of his elder brother, Joseph. Despite his efforts in Paris, Napoléon was unable to obtain a satisfactory command because he was feared for his intense ambition and for his relations with the “Montagnards,” the more radical members of the National Convention. He then considered offering his services to the sultan of Turkey.
Bonaparte was still in Paris in May 1795 when the National Convention, on the eve of its dispersal, submitted the new constitution of the year III of the First Republic to a referendum, together with decrees according to which two-thirds of the members of the National Convention were to be reelected to the new legislative assemblies. The royalists, hoping that they would soon be able to restore the monarchy, instigated a revolt in Paris to prevent these measures from being put into effect. Vicomte Paul de Barras, who had been entrusted with dictatorial powers by the National Convention, was unwilling to rely on the commander of the troops of the interior; instead, knowing of Bonaparte's services at Toulon, he appointed him second in command. Thus, it was Napoléon who shot down the columns of rebels marching against the National Convention (13 Vendémiaire an IV; 05 October 1795), thereby saving the National Convention and the republic.
Bonaparte became commander of the army of the interior and, consequently, was henceforth aware of every political development in France. He also became the respected adviser on military matters to the new government, the Directory. Lastly, he came to know an attractive Creole, Joséphine Tascher de La Pagerie [23 Jun 1763 – 29 May 1814], the widow of general. Alexandre de Beauharnais [28 May 1760 – 23 Jun 1794 guillotined during the Reign of Terror], a woman of many love affairs, and the mother of two children, Eugène de Beauharnais and Hortense de Beauharnais, who married Louis Bonaparte and became the queen of Holland and the mother of Napoleon III [20 Apr 1808 – 09 Jan 1873].
From every point of view, a new life was opening for Bonaparte. Having proved his loyalty to the Directory by dissolving a communist group led by François Babeuf [23 Nov 1760 – 27 May 1797] and an Italian, Filippo Buonarroti [11 Nov 1761 – 17 Sep 1837], whom Bonaparte had known in Corsica, Bonaparte was appointed commander in chief of the Army of Italy in March 1796. He had been trying to obtain that post for several weeks so that he could personally conduct part of the plan of campaign adopted by the Directory on his advice. He married Joséphine on 09 March 1796 and left for the army two days later. Arriving at his headquarters in Nice, Bonaparte found that his army, which on paper consistedof 43'000 men, numbered scarcely 30'000 ill-fed, ill-paid, and ill-equipped men. On 28 (27?) March 1796, he made his first proclamation to his troops:
Soldats vous êtes nus, mal nourris ; le Gouvernement vous doit beaucoup, il ne peut rien vous donner. Votre patience, le courage que vous montrez au milieu de ces rochers, sont admirables ; mais ils ne vous procurent aucune gloire, aucun éclat ne rejaillit sur vous. Je veux vous conduire dans les plaines les plus fertiles du monde. De riches provinces, de grandes villes seront en votre pouvoir ; vous y trouverez honneur, gloire et richesses. Soldats d'Italie, manqueriez-vous de courage ou de constance?
He took the offensive on 12 April 1796 and successively defeated and separated the Austrian and the Sardinian armies and then marched on Turin. King Victor Amadeus III [26 Jun 1726 – 16 Oct 1796] of Sardinia asked for an armistice; and, at the peace treaty in Paris on 15 May 1796, Nice and Savoy, occupied by the French since 1792, were annexed to France. Bonaparte continued the war against the Austrians and occupied Milan but was held up at Mantua. While his army was besieging this great fortress, he signed armistices with the duke of Parma, the duke of Modena, and finally with Pope Pius VI [25 Dec 1717 – 29 Aug 1799].
At the same time, he took an interest in the political organization of Italy. A plan for its “republicanization” by a group of Italian “patriots” led by Buonarroti had to be shelved when Buonarroti was arrested for complicity in Babeuf's conspiracy against the Directory. Thereafter, Bonaparte, without discarding the Italian patriots altogether, restricted their freedom of action. He set up a republican regime in Lombardy but kept a close watch on its leaders, and in October 1796 he created the Cisalpine Republic by merging Modena and Reggio nell'Emilia with the papal states of Bologna and Ferrara occupied by the French Army. Finally he sent an expedition to recover Corsica, which the British had evacuated.
Austrian armies advanced four times from the Alps to relieve Mantua but were defeated each time by Bonaparte. After the last Austrian defeat, at Rivoli on 14 January 1797 by general André Masséna [06 May 1758 – 04 Apr 1758], Mantua capitulated. Next, Bonaparte marched on Vienna. He was about 100 kilometers from that capital when the Austrians sued for an armistice. By the preliminaries of peace, Austria cededthe southern Netherlands to France and recognized the Lombard republic but received in exchange some territory belonging to the old Republic of Venice, which was partitioned between Austria, France, and Lombardy. Bonaparte then consolidated and reorganized the north Italian republics and encouraged Jacobin (radical republican) propaganda in Venetia. Some Italian patriots hoped that these developments would soon lead to the formation of a single and indivisible “Italian Republic” modeled on the French.
Meanwhile, Bonaparte grew uneasy at the successes of the royalists in the French elections in the spring of 1797 and advised the Directory to oppose them, if necessary, by force. In Julyit attempted a coup d'état against the royalists and failed; thereupon Bonaparte sent Gen. Pierre Augereau to Paris, along with several officers and men. Augereau's successful coup d'état of 18 Fructidor (04 September 1797) eliminated the royalists' friends from the government and legislative councils and also enhanced Bonaparte's prestige. Thus, Bonaparte could conclude the Treaty of Campo Formio with Austria as he thought best. The Directory was displeased, however, because the Treaty had ceded Venice to the Austrians and did not secure the left bank of the Rhine for France. On the other hand, it raised Bonaparte's popularity to its peak, for he had gained victory for France after five years of waron the Continent.
Only the war at sea, against the British, continued. The directors, who wanted to launch an invasion of the British Isles, appointed Bonaparte to command the army assembled for this purpose along the English Channel. After a rapid inspection in February 1798, he announced that the operation could not be undertaken until France had command of the sea. Instead, hesuggested that France strike at the sources of Great Britain's wealth by occupying Egypt and threatening the route to India. This proposal, seconded by Talleyrand, the foreign minister, was accepted by the directors, who were glad to get rid of their ambitious young general.
The expedition, thanks to some fortunate coincidences, was at first a great success: Malta, the great fortress of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, was occupied on 10 June 1798, Alexandria taken by storm on 01 July 1798, and all the delta of the Nile rapidly overrun. On 01 August 1798, however, the French squadron at anchor in Abu Qir Bay was completely destroyed by the fleet of Adm. Horatio Nelson [29 Sep 1758 – 21 Oct 1805] in the Battle of the Nile, so that Napoléon found himself confined to the land that he had conquered. He proceeded to introduce Western political institutions, administration, and technical skills in Egypt; but Turkey, nominally suzerain over Egypt, declared war on France in September. To prevent a Turkish invasion of Egypt and also perhaps to attempt a return to France by way of Anatolia, Bonaparte marched into Syria in February 1799. His progress northward was halted at Acre, where the British withstood a siege, and in May Bonaparte began a disastrous retreat to Egypt.
The Battle of the Nile showed Europe that Bonaparte was not invincible, and Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Turkey formed a new coalition against France. The French armies in Italywere defeated in the spring of 1799 and had to abandon the greater part of the peninsula. These defeats led to disturbances in France itself. The coup d'etat of 30 Prairial (18 June 1799) expelled the men of moderate views from the Directory and brought into it men who were considered Jacobins. Yet the situation remained confused, and one of the new directors, Emmanuel Sieyès, was convinced that only military dictatorship could prevent a restoration of the monarchy: “I am looking for a sabre,” he said. Bonaparte did not take long to make up his mind. He would leave his army and return to France—in order to save the republic, of course, but also to take advantage of the new circumstances and to seize power. The Directory had, in fact, ordered his return, but he had not received the order, so that it was actually in disregard of his instructions that he left Egypt with a few companions on 22 August 1799. Their two frigates surprisingly escaped interception by the British, and Bonaparte arrived in Paris on 14 October 1799.
By this time French victories in Switzerland and Holland had averted the danger of invasion,and the counter-revolutionary risings within France had more or less failed. A coup d'état could therefore no longer be justified by any need to save the republic. Sieyès, however, had not given up his project, and now he had his “sabre.” From the end of October he and Bonaparte were in league together planning the coup, and on 18–19 Brumaire, An VIII (09-10 November 1799), it was carried out: the directors were forced to resign, the members of the legislative councils were dispersed, and a new government, the Consulate, was set up. The three consuls were Bonaparte and two of the directors who had resigned, Sieyès [03 May 1748 – 20 Jun 1836] and Pierre-Roger Ducos [1747-1816]. But it was Bonaparte who was henceforth the master of France.
Bonaparte, now 30 years old, was thin and short and wore his hair cut close, le petit tondu as he was called. Not much was known about his personality, but people had confidence in a man who had always been victorious (the Nile and Acre were forgotten) and who had managed to negotiate the brilliant Treaty of Campo Formio. He was expected to bring back peace, to end disorder, and to consolidate the political and social “conquests” of the Revolution. He was indeed exceptionally intelligent, prompt to make decisions, and indefatigably hardworking, but also insatiably ambitious. He seemed to be the man of the Revolution because it was due to the Revolution that he had climbed at so early an age to the highest place in the state. He was not to forget it: but more than a man of the Revolution, he was a man of the 18th century, the most enlightened of the enlightened despots, a true son of Voltaire. He did not believe in the sovereignty of the people, in the popular will, or in parliamentary debate. Yet he put his confidence more in reasoning than in reason and may be said to have preferred “men of talent”—mathematicians, jurists, and statesmen, for instance, however cynical or mercenary they might be—to “technicians” in the true sense of the word. He believed that an enlightened and firm will could do anything if it had the support of bayonets; he despised and feared the masses; and, as for public opinion, he considered that he could mold and direct it as he pleased. He has been called the most “civilian” of generals, but essentially he never ceased to be a soldier.
Bonaparte imposed a military dictatorship on France, but its true character was at first disguised by the Constitution of An VIII (4 Nivôse; 25 December 1799), drawn up by Sieyès. This constitution did not guarantee the “rights of man” or make any mention of “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” but it did reassure the partisans of the Revolution by proclaiming the irrevocability of the sale of national property and by upholding the legislation against the émigrés. It gave immense powers to the first consul, leaving only a nominal role to his two colleagues. The first consul, Bonaparte, was to appoint ministers, generals, civil servants, magistrates, and the members of the Council of State and even was to have an overwhelming influence in the choice of members for the three legislative assemblies, though their members were theoretically to be chosen by universal suffrage. Submitted to a plebiscite, the constitution won by an overwhelming majority in February 1800.
The Consulate's work of administrative reform, undertaken at Bonaparte's instigation, was to be more lasting than the constitution and so more important for France. At the head of thegovernment was the Council of State, created by the first consul and often effectively presided over by him; it was to play an important part both as the source of the new legislation and as an administrative tribunal. At the head of the administration of the départements were the prefects, who carried on the tradition of the intendants of the ancien régime, supervising the application of the laws and acting as the instruments of centralization. The judicial system was profoundly changed: whereas from the beginning of the Revolution judges had been elected, henceforth they were to be nominated by the government, their independence assured by their irremovability from office. The police organization was greatly strengthened. The financial administration was considerably improved: instead of the municipalities, special officials were entrusted with the collectingof direct taxes; the franc was stabilized; and the Banque de France, owned partly by shareholders and partly by the state, was created. Education was transformed into a major public service; secondary education was given a semi-military organization, and the university faculties were re-established. Primary education, however, was still neglected.
Bonaparte shared Voltaire's belief that the people needed a religion. Personally, he was indifferent to religion: in Egypt he had said that he wanted to become a Muslim. Yet he considered that religious peace had to be restored to France. As early as 1796, when he was concluding the armistice in Italy with Pope Pius VI, he had tried to persuade the Pope to retract his briefs against the French priests who had accepted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which in practice nationalized the church. Pius VII, who succeeded Pius VI in March 1800, was more accommodating than his predecessor, and ten months after negotiations were opened with him a concordat was signed reconciling the church and the Revolution. The Pope recognized the French Republic and called for the resignation of all former bishops; new prelates were to be designated by the First Consul and instituted by the Pope; and the sale of the property of the clergy was officially recognized by Rome. The concordat, in fact, admitted freedom of worship and the lay character of the state.
The codification of the civil law, first undertaken in 1790, was at last completed under the Consulate. Le Code civil des Français promulgated on 21 March 1804, and later known as the Code Napoléon, gave permanent form to the great gains of the Revolution: individual liberty, freedom of work, freedom of conscience, the lay character of the state, and equality before the law; but, at the same time, it protected landed property, gave greater liberty to employers, and showed little concern for employees. It maintained divorce but granted only limited legal rights to women.
The army received the most careful attention. The First Consul retained in outline the system instituted by the Revolution: recruitment by forced conscription but with the possibility of replacement by substitutes; the mixing of the conscripts with old soldiers; and the eligibility of all for promotion to the highest ranks. Nevertheless, the creation of the Academy of Saint-Cyr to produce infantry officers made it easier for the sons of bourgeois families to pursue a military career. Moreover, the École Polytechnique, founded by the National Convention, was militarized in order to provide officers for the artillery and engineers. Yet Bonaparte was not concerned about introducing new technical inventions into his army. He put his trust in the “legs of his soldiers”: his basic strategic idea was a fast-moving army.
The First Consul spent the winter and spring of 1799–1800 reorganizing the army and preparing for an attack on Austria alone, Russia having withdrawn from the anti-French coalition. With his usual quick assessment of the situation, he saw the strategic importance of the Swiss Confederation, from which he would be free to outflank the Austrian armies either in Germany or in Italy as he might see fit. His past successes made him choose Italy. Taking his army across the Great St. Bernard Pass before the snow had melted, he appeared unexpectedly behind the Austrian army besieging Genoa. The Battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800 gave the French command of the Po Valley as far as the Adige; and in December another French army defeated the Austrians in Germany. Austria was forced to sign the Treaty of Lunéville of February 1801, whereby France's right to the natural frontiers that Julius Caesar [13 Jul 100 – 15 Mar 44bc] had given to Gaul, namely, the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, was recognized.
Great Britain alone remained at war with France, but it soon tired of the struggle. Preliminaries of peace, concluded in London in October 1801, put an end to hostilities, and peace was signed at Amiens on 27 March 1802.
General peace was re-established in Europe. The first Consul's prestige increased still more; and his friends—at his suggestion—proposed that a “token of national gratitude” should be offered to him. In May 1802 it was decided that the French people should vote in referendum on the following question: “Shall Napoléon Bonaparte be consul for life?” In August an overwhelming vote granted him the prolongation of his consulate as well as the right to designate his successor.
Bonaparte's conception of international peace differed from that of the British, for whom the Treaty of Amiens represented an absolute limit beyond which they were under no circumstances prepared to go. The British even hoped to take back some of the concessions they had been forced to make. For Bonaparte, on the other hand, the Treaty of Amiens markedthe starting point for a new French ascendancy. He was, first of all, intent on reserving half of Europe as a market for France without lowering customs duties—to the indignation of British merchants. To revive France's expansion overseas, he also intended to recover San Domingo (now Hispaniola, which had rebelled), to occupy Louisiana (ceded to France by Spain in 1800), perhaps to reconquer Egypt, and at any rate to extend French influence in the Mediterranean and in the Indian Ocean. Finally, on the Continent of Europe, he advanced beyond France's natural frontiers: incorporating Piedmont into France; imposing a more democratic, decentralized government on the Swiss Confederation; and in Germany compensating the princes dispossessed of territory on the Rhine under the Treaty of Lunéville with shares of the secularized ecclesiastical states.
Great Britain was alarmed by this expansion of France in peacetime and found it scarcely tolerable that one state should command the coastline of the Continent from Genoa to Antwerp. The immediate occasion of Franco-British rupture, however, was the problem of Malta. According to the Treaty of Amiens, the British, who had taken the island on the collapse of the French occupation, should have restored it to the Knights Hospitallers; but theBritish, on the pretext that the French had not yet evacuated certain Neapolitan ports, refused to leave the island. Franco-British relations became strained, and in May 1803 the British declared war.
The peace settlement had brought about the life consulate; the return of war was to stimulate the formation of the empire. The British government, which would have been glad to see Bonaparte deposed or removed by assassination, renewed its subsidies to the French royalists, who resumed their agitation and plotting. When a British-financed assassination plot was uncovered in 1804, Bonaparte decided to react vigorously enough to deter his opponents from any more such attempts. The police believed that the real head of the conspiracy was the Duc d'Enghien [02 Aug 1772 – 21 Mar 1804], a scion of the royal house of Bourbon, who was residing in Germany, a few kilometers across the frontier. Accordingly, with the agreement of Talleyrand [27 Feb 1754 – 17 May 1838] and the police chief Joseph Fouché [21 May 1758 – 25 Dec 1820], the Duc was kidnapped on neutral soil and brought to Vincennes, where he was tried and shot. This action provoked a resurgence of opposition among the old aristocracy but enhanced the influence of Fouché.
In the hope of consolidating his own position, Fouché now suggested to Bonaparte that the best way to discourage conspiracy would be to transform the life consulate into a hereditary empire, which, because of the fact that there would be an heir, would remove all hope of changing the regime by assassination. Bonaparte readily accepted the suggestion, and on 28 May 1804, the empire was proclaimed.
Though there was little change in the organization of the government of France, Napoléon as emperor revived a number of institutions similar to those of the ancien régime. In the first place, he wanted to be consecrated by the pope himself, so that his coronation should be even more impressive than that of the kings of France. Pius VII agreed to come to Paris, and the ceremony, which seemed equally outrageous to royalists and to the old soldiers of the Revolution, took place in Notre-Dame on 02 December 1804. At the last moment, the Emperor took the crown from the Pope and set it on his own head himself.
The imperial regime also instituted its symbols and titles. Princely titles were brought back for the members of Napoléon's family in 1804, and an imperial nobility was created in 1808. As opposition was still lively, Napoléon intensified his propaganda and imposed an increasingly strict censorship on the press. A dictatorial regime allowed him to carry on his wars for years without worrying about French public opinion. Having been president of the Italian Republic (as the Cisalpine Republic was renamed) since January 1802, Napoléon in March 1805 was proclaimed king of Italy and crowned in Milan in May.
From 1803 to 1805 Napoléon had only the British to fight; and again France could hope for victory only by landing an army in the British Isles, whereas the British could defeat Napoléon only by forming a continental coalition against him. Napoléon began to prepare an invasion again, this time with greater conviction and on a larger scale. He gathered nearly 2000 ships between Brest and Antwerp and concentrated his Grande Armée in the camp at Boulogne (1803). Even so, the problem was the same as in 1798: to cross the Channel, the French had to have control of the sea.
Still far inferior to the British Navy, the French fleet needed the help of the Spanish; and even then the two fleets together could not hope to defeat more than one of the British squadrons. Spain was induced to declare war on Great Britain in December 1804, and it was decided that French and Spanish squadrons massed in the Antilles should lure a British squadron into these waters and defeat it, thus making the balance roughly equal between the Franco-Spanish navy and the British. A battle in the entrance to the Channel could then befought with some chance of success.
The plan failed. The French squadron from the Mediterranean, under Adm. Pierre de Villeneuve [31 Dec 1763 – 22 Apr 1806], found itself alone at the appointed meeting place in the Antilles. Pursued by Nelson and not daring to attack him, it turned back toward Europe and took refuge in Cádiz in July 1805; there the British blockaded it. Accused of cowardice by the angry Napoléon, Villeneuve resolved to run the blockade, with the support of a Spanish squadron; but on 21 October 1805, he was attacked by Nelson off Cape Trafalgar. Nelson was killed in the battle, but the Franco-Spanish fleet was totally destroyed. The British had won a decisive victory, which eliminated the danger of invasion and gave them freedom of movement at sea. They had also succeeded in organizing a new anti-French coalition consisting of Austria, Russia, Sweden, and Naples. On 24 July 1805, three months before Trafalgar, Napoléon had ordered the Grande Armée from Boulogne to the Danube (thus ruling out an invasion of England even if the French had won at Trafalgar). In the week preceding Trafalgar, the GrandeArmée won an outstanding victory over the Austrians at Ulm, and on 13 November 1805 Napoléonentered Vienna. On 02 December 1805, in his greatest victory he defeated the combined Austrian and Russian armies in the Battle of Austerlitz. By the Treaty of Pressburg, Austria renounced all influence in Italy and ceded Venetia and Dalmatia to Napoléon, as well as extensive territory in Germany to his protégés Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden. The French then proceeded to dethrone the Bourbons in the kingdom of Naples, which was bestowed on Napoléon's brother Joseph. In July 1806 the Confederation of the Rhine was founded—soon to embrace all western Germany in a union under French protection.
In September 1806 Prussia entered the war against France, and on 14 October 1806 the Prussian armies were defeated at Jena and at Auerstädt. The Russians put up a better resistance at Eylau in February 1807 but were routed at Friedland in June. In Warsaw Napoléon fell in love with Countess Marie Walewska, a Polish patriot who hoped that Napoléon would resurrect her country. Napoléon had a son by her.
The Russian emperor Alexander I [23 Dec 1777 – 01 Dec 1825] could have continued the struggle, but he was tired of the alliance with the British. He met Napoléon at Tilsit, in northern Prussia near the Russian frontier. There, on a raft anchored in the middle of the Niemen River, they signed treaties that created the Grand Duchy of Warsaw from the Polish provinces detached from Prussia and, in effect, divided control of Europe between the emperors, Napoléon taking the west and Alexander the east. Alexander even made a vague promise of a land attack against the British possessions in India.
As Napoléon could no longer think of invading England, he tried to induce capitulation by stifling the British economy. By closing all of Europe to British merchandise, he hoped to bring about a revolt of the British unemployed that could force the government to sue for peace. He forbade all trade with the British Isles, ordered the confiscation of all goods coming from English factories or from the British colonies, and condemned as fair prize not only every Britishship but also every ship that had touched the coasts of England or its colonies.
For the blockade to succeed, it had to be enforced rigorously throughout Europe. But from the beginning, England's old ally Portugal showed itself reluctant to comply, for the blockade wouldmean its commercial ruin. Napoléon decided to break down Portuguese opposition by force. Charles IV of Spain let the French troops cross his kingdom, and they occupied Lisbon; but the prolonged presence of Napoléon's soldiers in the north of Spain led to insurrection. When Charles IV [11 Nov 1748 – 20 Jan 1819] abdicated in favor of his son Ferdinand VII [14 Oct 1784 – 29 Sep 1833], Napoléon, seeing the opportunity to rid Europe of its last Bourbon rulers, summoned the Spanish royal family to Bayonne in April 1808 and obtained the abdication of both Charles and Ferdinand; they were interned in Talleyrand's château. After the bloody suppression of an uprising in Madrid, insurrection spread across the whole country, for the Spaniards would not accept Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples, as their new king.
The subsequent defeat of Napoléon's forces in Spain and Portugal were sensational blows to his prestige. Soon the Iberian Peninsula, up in arms, became a bridgehead on the Continent for the British. Under the energetic Arthur Wellesley (later 1st duke of Wellington) [01 May 1769 – 14 Sep 1852], in command from 1809, the Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese forces were to achieve decisive successes.
At the Congress of Erfurt (September – October 1808), a conference with Alexander I, Napoléon assembled a great concourse of princes to impress the Russian emperor in an attempt to extract promises of help. Whether impressed or not, Alexander would make no definite commitment. Alexander's refusal, furthermore, was partly prompted by Talleyrand, who had become dismayed by Napoléon's policies and was already negotiating with the Russian emperor behind his master's back.
By early 1809, however, with most of the Grande Armée thrown into Spain, Napoléon seemed on the point of overcoming the revolt. Then, in April, Austria launched an attack in Bavaria in the hope of rousing all Germany against the French. Napoléon once again defeated the Habsburgs (06 July 1809) and by the Treaty of Schönbrunn (14 October 1809) obtained the Illyrian Provinces, thus rounding out the continental system.
In 1810 Napoléon's fortunes were at their zenith, despite some failures in Spain and Portugal. He considered himself the heir of Charlemagne [02 Apr 742 – 28 Jan 814]. He repudiated Joséphine, who had not given him a child, so that he could marry Marie-Louise [12 Dec 1791 – 17 Dec 1847], daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I. The birth of a son, the king of Rome Napoléon-François-Charles-Joseph Bonaparte [20 Mar 1811 – 22 Jul 1842] seemed to assure the future of his empire, now at its greatest extent, including not only the Illyrian Provinces but also Etruria (Tuscany), some of the Papal States, Holland, and the German states bordering the North Sea. The empire was surrounded by a ring of vassal states ruled over by the Emperor's relatives: the Kingdom of Westphalia by his youngest brother Jérôme Bonaparte [15 Nov 1784 – 24 Jun 1860]; the Kingdom of Spain by his brother Joseph Bonaparte; the Kingdom of Italy with Eugène de Beauharnais [03 Sep 1781 – 21 Feb 1824], Joséphine's son, as viceroy; the Kingdom of Naples by maréchal Joachim Murat [25 Mar 1767 – 13 Oct 1815], husband of Napoléon's youngest sister, Caroline Bonaparte [25 Mar 1782 – 18 May 1839]; and the Principality of Lucca and Piombino by Félix Bacciochi, another brother-in-law. Finally, other territories were closely bound to the empire by treaties: the Swiss Confederation (of which Napoléon was the mediator), the Confederation of the Rhine, and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Even Austria seemed bound to France by Napoléon's marriage to Marie-Louise.
The political map of Europe, which had been so complicated before 1796, was now greatly simplified. Yet the frontiers did not coincide either with geographical features or with “nationalities.” Whatever he may later have said, Napoléon, while he was in power, was not interested in realizing either German or Italian unity. Yet by reducing the number of states, by pushing the frontiers about, by amalgamating populations, and by propagating institutionslike those that the Revolution and nationalism had created in France, he prepared the ground for German and Italian unification. National feeling in Europe, stirred by French ideas and by contact with Frenchmen, in turn gave rise to the first resistance against French domination. From 1809 onward Spanish guerrillas, supported by British troops, were harassing the French, and the national Cortes, convened at Cádiz by the insurrectionaries, in 1812 promulgated a constitution inspired by the ideas of the French Revolution of 1789 and by British institutions.
Since the Congress of Erfurt, the Russian emperor had shown himself less and less inclined to deal with Napoléon as a trusted partner. In the spring of 1812, therefore, Napoléon massed his forces in Poland to intimidate Alexander. After some last attempts at agreement, in late June his Grande Armée, about 600'000 men, including contingents extorted from Prussia and from Austria, began to cross the Niemen River. The Russians retreated, adopting a “scorched earth” policy. Napoléon's army did not reach the approaches to Moscow until the beginning of September. The Russian commander in chief, Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov [16 Sep 1745 – 28 Apr 1813], engaged it at Borodino on 07 September 1812. The fight was savage, bloody, and indecisive, but a week later Napoléon entered Moscow, which the Russians had abandoned. On that same day, a huge fire broke out, destroying the greater part of the town. Moreover, Alexander unexpectedly refused to treat with Napoléon. Withdrawal was necessary, and the premature onset of winter made it disastrous. After the difficult crossing of the Berezina River in November, fewer than 10'000 men fit for combat remained with Napoléon's main force.
This catastrophe heartened all the peoples of Europe to defy Napoléon. In Germany the news unleashed an outbreak of anti-French demonstrations. The Prussian contingents deserted the Grande Armée in December and turned against the French. The Austrians also withdrew their troops and adopted an increasingly hostile attitude, and in Italy the people began to turn their backs on Napoléon.
Even in France, signs of discontent with the regime were becoming more frequent. In Paris a malcontent general nearly succeeded in carrying out a coup d'etat after announcing, on 23 October 1812, that Napoléon had died in Russia. This incident was a major factor in Napoléon's decision to hasten back to France ahead of the Grande Armée. Arriving in Paris on 18 December 1812, he proceeded to stiffen the dictatorship, to raise money by various expedients, and to levy new troops.
Thus, in 1813 the forces arrayed against France were no longer armies of mercenaries but were those of nations fighting for their freedom as the French had fought for theirs in 1792 and 1793; and the French themselves, for all their courage, had lost their former enthusiasm. The Emperor's ideal of conquest was no longer that of the nation.
In May 1813 Napoléon won some successes against the Russians and Prussians at the battles of Lützen and Bautzen, but his decimated army needed reinforcements. The armed mediation of Austria induced Napoléon to agree to an armistice, during which a congress was held at Prague. There, Austria proposed very favourable conditions: the French Empire was to return to its natural limits; the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and the Confederation of the Rhine were to be dissolved; and Prussia was to return to its frontiers of 1805. Napoléon made the mistake of hesitating too long. The congress closed on 10 August 1813 before his reply arrived, and Austria declared war.
The French were even worse off than in the spring. The allies were gaining new troops every day, as one German contingent after another left Napoléon to go over to the other side. The greatest debacle since Napoléon came to power was the Battle of Leipzig, or “Battle of the Nations” (16-19 October 1813), in which the Grande Armée was torn to shreds. That defeat degenerated fast into collapse. The French armies in Spain, forced to retreat, had been defeated in June; and by October the British were attacking their defenses north of the Pyrenees. In Italy the Austrians took the offensive, crossed the Adige River, and occupied Romagna. Murat, now openly a traitor to the Emperor who had made him king of Naples, entered into negotiations with the Viennese court. The Dutch and the Belgians demonstrated against Napoléon.
In January 1814 France was being attacked on all its frontiers. The allies cleverly announced that they were fighting not against the French people but against Napoléon alone, since in November 1813 he had rejected the terms offered by the Austrian foreign minister Metternich, which would have preserved the natural frontiers of France. The extraordinary strategic feats achieved by the Emperor during the first three months of 1814 with the army of young conscripts were not enough; he could neither defeat the allies, with their overwhelming numerical superiority, nor arouse the majority of French people from their resentful torpor. The Legislative Assembly and the Senate, formerly so docile, were now asking for peace and for civiland political liberties.
By the Treaty of Chaumont of March 1814, Austria, Russia, Prussia, and Great Britain bound themselves together for 20 years, undertook not to negotiate separately, and promised to continue the struggle until Napoléon was overthrown. When the allied armies arrived before Paris on 30 March 1814, Napoléon had moved east to attack their rear guard. The Parisian authorities, no longer overawed by the Emperor, lost no time in treating with the allies. As president of the provisional government, Talleyrand proclaimed the deposition of the Emperor and, without consulting the French people, began to negotiate with Louis XVIII [17 Nov 1755 – 16 Sep 1824], the brother of the executed Louis XVI [23 Aug 1754 – 21 Jan 1793]. Napoléon had only reached Fontainebleau when he heard that Paris had capitulated. Persuaded that further resistance was useless, he finally abdicated on 06 April 1814.
By the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the allies granted him the island of Elba as a sovereign principality with an annual income of 2'000'000 francs to be provided by France and a guard of 400 volunteers; also, he retained the title of emperor. After unsuccessfully trying to poison himself, Napoléon spoke his farewell to his “Old Guard,” and after a hazardous journey, during which he narrowly escaped assassination, he arrived at Elba on 04 May 1814.
“I want from now on to live like a justice of the peace,” Napoléon declared on his little island. But a man of such energy and imagination could hardly be expected to resign himself to defeat at the age of 45. In France, moreover, the Bourbon Restoration was soon exposed to criticism. Though in 1814 the majority of the French people were tired of the Emperor, they had expressed no wish for the return of the Bourbons. They were strongly attached to the essential achievements of the Revolution, and Louis XVIII had come back “in the baggage train of the foreigners” with the last surviving émigrés who had “learnt nothing and forgotten nothing” and whose influence seemed to threaten most of the Revolution's achievements. The apathy of April 1814 quickly gave way to mistrust. Old hatreds were revived, resistance organized, and conspiracies formed. From Elba, Napoléon kept a close watch on the Continent. He knew that some of the diplomats at Vienna, where a congress was deciding the fate of Europe, considered Elba, between Corsica and Italy, too close to France and to Italy and wanted to banish him to a distant island in the Atlantic. Also, he accused Austria of preventing Marie Louise and his son from coming to join him (in fact, she had taken a lover and had no intention of going to live with her husband). Finally, the French government refused to pay Napoléon's allowance so that he was in danger of being reduced to penury. All these considerations drove Napoléon to action. Decisive as ever, he returned to France like a thunderbolt. On March 1, 1815, he landed at Cannes with a detachment of his guard. As he crossed the Alps, the republican peasants rallied round him, and near Grenoble he won over the soldiers dispatched to arrest him. On March 20 he was in Paris. Napoléon was brought back to power as the embodiment of the spirit of the Revolution rather than as the emperor who had fallen a year before. To rally the mass of Frenchmen to his cause he should have allied himself with the Jacobins; but this he dared not do. Unable to escape from the bourgeoisie whose predominance he himself had assured and who feared above all else a revival of the socialist experiments of 1793 and 1794, he could only set up a political regime scarcely distinguishable from that of Louis XVIII. Enthusiasm ebbed fast, and the Napoléonic adventure seemed a dead end. To oppose the allied troops massing on the frontiers, Napoléon mustered an army with which he marched into Belgium and defeated the Prussians at Ligny on June 16, 1815. Two days later, at Waterloo, he met the British under Wellington, the victor of the Peninsular War. A savage battle followed. Napoléon was in sight of victory when the Prussians under Gebhard Blücher arrived to reinforce the British, and soon, despite the heroism of the Old Guard, Napoléon was overthrown. Back in Paris, Parliament forced Napoléon to abdicate; he did so, in favour of his son, on June 22, 1815. On July 3 he was at Rochefort, intending to take ship for the United States, but a British squadron prevented any French vessel from leaving the port. Napoléon then decided to appeal to the British government for protection. His request granted, he boarded the “Bellerophon” on July 15. The allies were agreed on one point: Napoléon was not to go back to Elba. Nor did they like the idea of his going off to America. It would have suited them if he had fallen a victim to the “White Terror” of the returned counter-revolutionaries or if Louis XVIII hadhad him summarily tried and executed. Great Britain had no choice but to send him to detention in a far-off island. The British government announced that the island of Saint Helena in the southern Atlantic had been chosen for his residence; because of its remote position Napoléon would enjoy much greater freedom than would be possible elsewhere. Napoléon protested eloquently: “I appeal to history!” Exile on Saint Helena On October 15, 1815, Napoléon disembarked in Saint Helena with those followers who were voluntarily accompanying him into exile: Gen. Henri-Gratien Bertrand, grand marshal of the palace, and his wife; the comte Charles de Montholon, aide-de-camp, and his wife; Gen. GaspardGourgaud; Emmanuel Las Cases, the former chamberlain; and several servants. After a short stay at the house of a wealthy English merchant, they moved to Longwood, originally built for the lieutenant governor. Napoléon settled down to a life of routine. He got up late, breakfasting about 10 AM, but seldomwent out. He was free to go anywhere on the island so long as he was accompanied by an English officer, but he soon refused to comply with this condition and so shut himself up in the grounds of Longwood. He wrote and talked much. At first Las Cases acted as his secretary, compiling what was later to be the Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (first published in 1823). From 7 to 8 PM Napoléon had dinner, after which a part of the evening was spent in reading aloud—Napoléon liked to hear the classics. Then they played cards. About midnight Napoléon went to bed. Some of his time was devoted to learning English, and he eventually began reading English newspapers; but he also had a large number of French books sent from Europe, which he read attentively and annotated. Saint Helena has a healthful climate, and Napoléon's food was good, carefully prepared, and plentiful. His inactivity undoubtedly contributed to the deterioration of his health. The man who for 20 years had played so great a role in the world and who had marched north, south, east,and west across Europe could hardly be expected to endure the monotony of existence on a little island, aggravated by a self-imposed life of a recluse. He had also more intimate reasons for unhappiness: Marie-Louise sent no word to him, and he may have learned of her liaison with the Austrian officer appointed to watch over her, Graf Adam von Neipperg (whom she eventually married in secret without waiting for Napoléon's death); nor did he have any news of his son, the former king of Rome, who was now living in Vienna with the title of duke of Reichstadt. Finally, though the severity of Sir Hudson Lowe has been much exaggerated, it is certain that this “jailer,” who arrived as governor of Saint Helena in April 1816, did nothing to make Napoléon's life easier. Napoléon from the start disliked him as the former commander of the Corsican rangers, a band of volunteers largely composed of enemies of the Bonaparte family. Always anxious to carry out his instructions exactly, Lowe came into conflict with Las Cases. He saw Las Cases as Napoléon's confidant and had him arrested and expelled. Thenceforward, relations between the governor and Napoléon were limited strictly to those stipulated by the regulations.
Napoléon showed the first signs of illness at the end of 1817; stomach cancer it has long been believed. The Irish doctor Barry O'Meara, having asked in vain for a change in the conditions under which Napoléon lived, was dismissed; so also was his successor John Stokoe, who was likewise thought to be well-disposed toward Napoléon. The undistinguished Corsican doctor who took their place, Francesco Antommarchi, prescribed a treatment that could do nothing to cure his patient. It is uncertain, however, whether Napoléon's “disease” was curable at all, even by 20th-century methods. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, where it was interred in the Hotel des Invalides. Tests showing high level of arsenic in his hair are adduced to boster the theory that Napoléon was slowly poisened starting in 1816 by the Count of Montholon, acting on behalf of the French and British regimes who wanted to make sure that Napoléon would not make another come-back.
From the beginning of 1821, the illness became rapidly worse. From March, Napoléon was confined to bed. In April he dictated his last will:
I wish my ashes to rest on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of that French people which I have loved so much. . . . I die before my time, killed by the English oligarchy and its hired assassins.
On 05 May he spoke a few coherent phrases: “My God . . . The French nation . . . my son . . . head of the army. . . . ” He died at 17:49 on that day, not yet 52 years old. The stone covering his tomb bore no name, only the words “Ci-Gît”.
Napoléon's fall had set loose a torrent of hostile books designed to sully his reputation. One of the least violent of these was the pamphlet De Buonaparte, des Bourbons, et de la nécessité de se rallier à nos princes légitimes (1814) by François de Chateaubriand [04 Sep 1768 – 04 Jul 1848], a well-known writer of royalist sympathies. But this anti-Napoléonic literature soon died down, while the task of defending Napoléon was taken up. Lord Byron had published his “Ode to Napoléon Buonaparte” as early as 1814; the German poet Heinrich Heine wrote his ballad “Die Grenadiere”; and in 1817 the French novelist “Stendhal” [23 Jan 1783 – 23 Mar 1842] began his biography Vie de Napoléon. At the same time, the Emperor's most faithful supporters were working toward his rehabilitation, talking about him, and distributing reminders of him, including engravings. They idealized his life (“What a novel my life is!” he himself had said) and began to create the Napoléonic legend.
As soon as the Emperor was dead, the legend grew rapidly. Memoirs, notes, and narratives by those who had followed him into exile contributed substantially to it. In 1822 Dr. O'Meara, in London, had his Napoléon in Exile, or a Voice from Saint Helena published; in 1823 the publication of the Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de France sous Napoléon, écrits à Sainte-Hélène sous sa dictée by Montholon and Gourgaud, began; Las Cases, in his famous Mémorial, presented the Emperor as a republican opposed to war who had fought only when Europe forced him to fight in defense of freedom; and in 1825 Antommarchi published his Derniers moments de Napoléon. Thereafter the number of works in Napoléon's honor increased continually; among them were Victor Hugo's “Ode à la Colonne,” the 28 volumes of the Victoires et conquêtes des Français, and Life of Napoléon Buonaparte, Emperor of the French by Sir Walter Scott. Neither police action nor prosecutions could prevent books, pictures, andobjects evoking the imperial saga from multiplying in France.
After the July Revolution of 1830, which created the bourgeois monarchy under Louis-Philippe, thousands of tricolour flags appeared in windows, and the government had not only to tolerate the growth of the legend but even to promote it. In 1833 the statue of Napoléon was put back on the top of the column in the Place Vendôme in Paris; and in 1840 the King's son François, prince de Joinville, was sent in a warship to fetch the Emperor's remains from Saint Helena to the banks of the Seine in accordance with his last wishes. A magnificent funeral was held in Paris in December 1840, and Napoléon's body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe in the Place de l'Étoile to entombment under the dome of the Invalides.
Napoléon's nephew Louis-Napoléon [20 Apr 1808 – 09 Jan 1873] exploited the legend in order to seize power in France. Though his attempts at Strasbourg in 1836 and at Boulogne in 1840 were failures, it was chiefly because of the growth of the legend that he won election to the presidency of the Second Republic with an overwhelming majority in 1848 and was able to carry out the coup d'état of December 1851 and make himself emperor in 1852.
The disastrous end of the Second Empire in 1870 damaged the Napoléonic legend and gave rise to a new anti-Napoléonic literature, best represented by Origines de la France contemporaine (1876–1894) by Hippolyte Taine [21 Apr 1828 – 05 Mar 1893]. World Wars I and II, however, together with the experience of the 20th-century dictatorships, made it possible to judge Napoléon more fairly. Any comparison with Stalin [21 Dec 1879 – 05 Mar 1953] or Hitler [20 Apr 1889 – 30 Apr 1945] , for instance, can only be to Napoléon's advantage. He was tolerant, he released the Jews from the ghettoes, and he showed respect for human life. Brought up on the rationalist Encyclopédie and on the writings of the Philosophes of the Enlightenment, he remained above all a man of the 18th century, the last of the “enlightened despots.” One of the gravest accusations made against Napoléon is that he was the “Corsican ogre” who sacrificed millions of men to his ambition. Precise calculations show that the Napoléonic Wars of 1800–1815 cost France itself about 500'000 men; i.e., about one-sixtieth of the population. The loss of these young men, furthermore, seems to have had a notably adverse effect on the birth rate.
The social structure of France changed little under the First Empire. It remained roughly what the Revolution had made it: a great mass of peasants comprising three-quarters of the population—about half of them working owners of their farms or sharecroppers and the other half with too little land for their own subsistence and hiring themselves out as labourers. Industry, stimulated by the war and the blockade of English goods, made remarkable progress in northern and eastern France, whence exports could be sent to central Europe; but it declined in the south and west because of the closing of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The great migrations from rural areas toward industry in the towns began only after 1815. The nobility would probably have declined more swiftly if Napoléon had not restored it; but it could never recover its former privileges.
Above all, Napoléon left durable institutions, the “granite masses” on which modern France has been built up: the administrative system of the prefects, the Code Napoléon, the judicial system, the Banque de France and the country's financial organization, the universities, and the military academies. Napoléon changed the history of France and of the world.
Napoléon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoléon returned home from a campaign in Egypt to take over the reigns of French government and to save his nation.
After becoming first consul in February of 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoléonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804, was crowned emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. By 1807, he controlled an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.
Beginning in 1812, Napoléon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814.
Exiled to the island of Elba, he escaped to France in early 1815, and raised a new Grand Army that enjoyed temporary success before its crushing defeat at Waterloo against an allied force under Wellington.
Napoléon was subsequently exiled to the island of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa. Six years later he died, of stomach cancer it has long been believed, and in 1840, his body was returned to Paris, where it was interred in the Hotel des Invalides. However tests showing high level of arsenic in his hair are adduced to boster the theory that Napoléon was slowly poisened starting in 1816 by the Count of Montholon, acting on behalf of the French and British regimes who wanted to make sure that Napoléon would not make another come-back.
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