Who Was Napoleon Bonaparte and What Made Him so Famous?
Napoleon Bonaparte, was a French soldier and statesman, and Emperor of France (1804-1805). Born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio, island of Corsica, he became an artillery officer, and put down a rising against the National Convention in Paris in 1795. In the Italian campaign of 1796-1797 he defeated the Austrians, but his Egyptian expedition ended when his fleet was destroyed by Nelson (1798).
Napoleon returned to Paris in 1799. The political climate in France was changing. The current government, called the Directory, was losing power. Together with his allies, including his brother Lucien, Napoleon overthrew the French government in 1799 and formed a new government called the Consulate. Napoleon became First Consul, later having himself created Emperor. Napoleon’s greatest achievement in France was the codification of laws, known as the Code Napoleon, which is still the basis of French law.
Napoleon also helped to improve the French economy by building new roads and encouraging business. He reestablished the Catholic Church as the official state religion, but at the same time allowed for freedom of religion to those who weren’t Catholic. Napoleon also set up non-religious schools, so anyone could get an education. Napoleon’s power and control continued to grow with his reforms.
In 1804, he was crowned the first Emperor France. At the coronation, he did not allow the Pope to place the crown on his head, but instead crowned himself.
During the years from 1800 to 1808 he won a series of brilliant military victories which made France supreme in Europe, though his invasion of Russia in 1812 was a disaster. He was forced to abdicate in 1814, and was exiled to Elba. However, he escaped, returned to France and re assumed power. He was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815. He was exiled by the British to Saint Helena where he died. Napoleon died after six years of exile on Saint Helena on May 5, 1821. It is likely that he died from stomach cancer. His remains were moved to France in 1840 to Les Invalides in Paris.
Interesting Facts about Napoleon
*Napoleon is famous for being fairly short, probably 5 feet 6 inches tall. However, he would have been average height during the time period that he lived.
*Today, when someone seems to be overcompensating for being short they are said to have a “Napoleon complex.”
*His birth name was Napoleone di Buonaparte. He changed the name to be more French when he moved to mainland France.
*Napoleon has been described as being able to be caring and friendly one moment, then he could snap in an instant, becoming cold and rash. It is these erratic personas that make Napoleon’s personality unique.
*He married his first wife, Josephine, in 1796. He and Empress Josephine had an unstable relationship of adultery, but they still loved each other. She became the first Empress of France, but he divorced her in 1810 and married Marie-Louise of Austria.
*The famous composer Beethoven was going to dedicate his 3rd Symphony to Napoleon, but changed his mind after Napoleon crowned himself emperor.
*He wrote a romance novel called Clisson et Eugenie.