Napoléon Bonaparte, born as Napoleone Buonaparte on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, was one of the most significant French statesmen of the modern age. He rose as a general in the army during the French Revolution before he assumed power in France through a coup and finally appointed himself to the role of emperor. His actions had a lasting influence not only on France, but all of Europe.
Bonaparte began his military career at the age of 16 and quickly proved to be very talented. His career was given a boost during and after the French Revolution. In March 1796, Bonaparte assumed the supreme commanded in the war against Italy and succeeded in winning it. The Italian Buonaparte was changed to the French Bonaparte during this period. In 1798, Bonaparte set off on an Egyptian campaign that was intended to cut the English off from India. Many scientists also participated in the expedition, which made such discoveries as Rosetta Stone. Even though the mission failed in 1799, Bonaparte enjoyed great popularity in Paris.
On November 9, 1799, Bonaparte succeeded in the Coup of 18 Brumaire VIII, through which a Consulate Constitution with three consuls was established. The 30-year-old Bonaparte quickly set himself up as the de facto sole ruler. He declared that the Revolution had ended and implemented reforms, some of which had a strong lasting effect. These included the centralization of the administration, the development of the transportation infrastructure, and the 1804 enactment of the Code Civil body of law, which is known as the Code Napoleon and is still significant in many countries to this day. Bonaparte also ensured that there was foreign-policy peace for a brief period.
After Bonaparte had himself declared as the consul for life in 1802, he crowned himself as the emperor on 12/2/1804. With this action, he also signaled his claim to the future shaping of Europe. The reactions by the other European rulers were negative, and they entered into alliances against France. The so-called Napoleonic Wars (1804-12) followed. In 1805, Austria was conquered at the Battle of Austerlitz and had severe peace conditions dictated to it (Peace of Pressburg, 1805). In the German lands, 16 states formed an alliance in 1806 called the Rhine Confederation that included Württemberg and Baden, the existence of which is largely due to Bonaparte. They committed themselves to the military support of France and withdrawal from the Holy Roman Empire. As a result, Emperor Francis II abdicated his imperial crown; this meant the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
After the battle of Jena and Auerstedt in October 1806, Prussia also suffered a devastating defeat and was subjected to a severe peace treaty (Peace of Tilsit, 1807). The French troops only reached their limits against Russia.
Bonaparte was at the zenith of his power during this period and attempted to secure it through the politics of marriage. His regime became increasingly despotic, and his imperial approach asserted itself throughout Europe. Almost all of continental Europe was under the direct or indirect control of France. Bonaparte imposed a Europe-wide trade boycott against English, the so-called Continental System.
In 1812, there is an unsuccessful war against Russia in which Bonaparte‘s Grande Armée – until that time the largest army with 675,000 men but only 12,000 returned home - failed because the tactic of the lightning campaigns could not be implemented in the endless expanses of Russia. The European states took advantage of France‘s weakness and conducted wars of independence. The final defeat of the French occurred in 1813 at the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig. On April 2, 1814, the French Senate deposed Emperor Napoléon. Bonaparte was sent into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba.
In March 1815, Bonaparte returned to the continent and established his 100 Day rule. Austria, Russia, England, and Prussia decided upon military interventions at the Vienna Congress. After some initial successes, Bonaparte was defeated in June 1815 by the Allied Army near the Belgian Waterloo. Bonaparte was banned to the British island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. Napoléon Bonaparte died there on May 5, 1821.
Twenty years after his death, his corpse was exhumed on October 15, 1840 and brought back to France. He was laid in state in a fivefold sarcophagus at the dome of Les Invalides.