Napoleon Bonaparte

Who would have ever predicted that by the “1800’s a young lieutenant, who was barely French, would be master of France”? Napoleon Bonaparte was a military genius who won many wars and battles for France. Napoleon Bonaparte had a huge impact on all of France and numerous other countries around Europe. He had many great accomplishments, two of which were his positions as First Consul and Emperor.

Napoleon was a military genius, known for all of his many successes on the battlefield. He began his career in the military as an artillery officer (Weidhorn 16). In 1793, Napoleon received the title of Lieutenant colonel. He felt that his ability needed to tested, and he proved himself well in a battle against the British Napoleon received the position of commander of all troops in Paris (Weidhorn 21-24). In response to his victories as the commander, he was then given the title of “commander in chief of the Army of the Interior” (Wiedhorn26). Napoleon began piling up victories left and right. He won six battles against Austria, including the battle of Lodi in 1796 and the battle of Ravoli in 1797 (Weidhorn).

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Napoleon became the first consul when the consulate was established in the year of 1799. “Napoleon made a point of ruling as a civilian, but he was more authoritarian than Louis XVI” (Columbia). He did many things while he was consul, one of which was establishing the Bank of France. With the Concordat of 1801, the result was peace with the Roman Catholic Church. The Concordat reestablished status and church unity, as long as in return the church had to give the civil authorities stricter submission. The next thing Napoleon did was he ended the second coalition. This accomplishment happened through the treaty of Luneville in 1801 with Austria and the treaty of Amiens in 1802 with Great Britain. Because of this, “France became paramount on the continent”(Columbia). Napoleon eventually managed to monopolize all of the power of the first consul. He made himself in charge of the appointments of top posts such as the legislative and the executive posts as well as the judicial and the civil service posts. In the year of 1802, Napoleon made himself first consul for life. By doing this, he made himself able to choose his own successor (Weidhorn 65).

On December 2, 1804 after coronation ceremonies in Notre Dame, Napoleon became the emperor of France (Herold 128). In violation to the constitution, Napoleon proclaimed himself as emperor. After doing this, Napoleon declared himself hereditary emperor to avoid any attempts on his life by assassins. His logic behind this was that, if he were to be assassinated, another Bonaparte would inherit the throne (Weidhorn 66). In 1804, Napoleon created the Marshals of the Empire. Of these Marshals, there were 4 princes, 30 dukes, 388 counts, and 1090 barons (Maurois 76). In 1805 Napoleon proclaimed himself as King of Italy, and the annexed Genoa to France (Columbia).

On April 11, 1805, England, Russia and Austria formed the third coalition (Maurois 146). Napoleon responded to this by defeating the Austrians at Ulm. He then occupied Vienna. On December 2, 1805 at Austerlitz, Napoleon defeated Russia and Austria. This is said to be his most brilliant victory (Columbia). On December 26, in this same year, Napoleon made the Treaty of Pressburg, which forced Austria to leave the coalition (Herold 145).

In late 1806, the Holy Roman Empire dissolved, and Prussia entered the coalition. On October 14, 1806, they were thoroughly defeated. British sea power grew stronger so Napoleon decided to use economic warfare against them. On February 8, 1807, the battle of Eylau took place. Russia lost this battle, and was therefore forced to leave the coalition on June 14. In July 1807, King Frederick William III of Prussia lost half of his territories. As well as that, Napoleon made him a slave of France. All that was done through the Treaty of Tilsit.

At this point Britain remains the only country left in the coalition. Napoleon is the master of the continent, and Europe’s map was completely rearranged. Around the years of 1806-1807, Napoleon was putting his family and friends in power. He made them kings of places such as Naples, Holland, Westphalia, Spain, and Sweden. On July 6, 1809, Napoleon goes to battle with Austria Wagram. Austria loses, but not by much. June 10, 1809 Rome and the Papal States are annexed into France. Pope VII excommunicated himself. Napoleon had him imprisoned. After this, another concordat was signed.

On December 16, 1809, Napoleon had his marriage to Josephine annulled because she was unable to bear him children. On April 10, 1810, he got married to Marie Louise a princess of Austria. On March 20, 1811 she gave birth to their son, the “heir to the empire Napoleon had conquered and created” also considered the King of Rome.

In 1811 Napoleon began to let up his guard in a sense, and “he seemed to lack the will and courage to act”. In July of 1812, the French were defeated severely at Salmanca. They were then beat in 1813 at Vitoria and in1814 at Toulouse. The French went on to get victories in 1814, but the enemies still advanced. The Czar and King of Prussia entered Paris with their forces combined. On April 1, 1814, Talleyrand came in and formed a provisionary government. The next day the Senate proclaimed the Emperor’s downfall. Napoleon abdicated himself and left for Elba.

In 1814 Napoleon heard that “Republicans and Bonapartists are conspiring against Louis XVIII” . Napoleon then made a decision to go to France and to return to power. On March 20, He arrives in Paris, to find Louis XVIII has fled. After the battle of Waterloo Napoleon was again forced to abdicate.

Napoleon Bonaparte did a lot for France. The French made many sacrifices for him, but in most ways, it was not worth it. Although the French traditions were not completely broken by him, they were damaged. Napoleon created a dictatorial authority that brought the revolution “sharply to order” (Herold 7). Before Napoleon’s time, France had never experienced such great levels of glory and power. It was not until Napoleon’s successes began running out that France began to experience trouble. Other countries were becoming great, while in the end France remained “somewhat shrunken on the map, at the crucial center of aroused nationalism and international rivalries” (Herold 10). After nearly twenty years of war, he left France with losses of over a million lives, and millions in property. France had large bills for reparations, and several provinces under enemy control (Herold 392). Through all of this, Napoleon’s ideas were proven premature. Who would have predicted that by the “1800’s a young lieutenant, who was barely French, would be master of France” (Maurois 5)?


  1. Herold, J. Christopher. The Age of Napoleon. New York: American Heritage Publishing CO., INC., 1963.
  2. Maurois, Andre. Napoleon and His World. New York, NewYork: The Viking Publishing Press, 1964.
  3. Weidhorn, Manfred. Napoleon. New York, New York: Antheneum Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986.


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