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Napoleon I


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Emperor of the French (1804–14). Born in Ajaccio, he was a Corsican of Italian descent. By the age of 26 he was a general, and placed in supreme command of the campaign against Sardinia and Austria in Italy (1796–97). This provided him with some of the most spectacular victories of his military career and resulted in the creation of the French-controlled Cisalpine Republic in northern Italy. In 1798 he led an army to Egypt, intending to create a French empire overseas and to threaten the British overland route to India. Nelson, by destroying the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile (1798), prevented this plan. Bonaparte returned to France (1799) and, joining a conspiracy with Emmanuel Sièyes (1748–1836), overthrew the Directory and dissolved the First Republic. Elected First Consul for ten years, he became the supreme ruler of France. During the next four years he began his reorganization of the French legal system (see Code Napoléon), and education.

In 1804 Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French, and embarked on a series of campaigns known as the Napoleonic Wars.

His ill-fated invasion of Russia (1812), and the set-backs of the Peninsular War (1807–14) all contributed to Napoleon's decline. Following his defeat in the battle of Leipzig and the proclamation by Talleyrand of the deposition of the emperor, he abdicated in 1814. After a brief exile on Elba he returned, but defeat at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) ended his rule after only a Hundred Days. He spent the rest of his life in exile on St Helena. In 1796 he married Josephine de Beauharnais, whose failure to give him a son led to their divorce. In 1810 Napoleon married the Austrian princess Marie-Louise. Their only child, Joseph-François-Charles, crowned as the Roi de Rome, died aged 21.

Subjects: Literature

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