Napoléon 1er (1769 – 1821)
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© RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Fontainebleau) / Gérard Blot
Coronation of Napoleon and Empress
Coronation of Napoleon and Empress. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski
Napoléon 1er and Marie-Louise
Napoléon 1er and Marie-Louise. © RMN-Grand Palais / Agence Bulloz
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz. © RMN-Grand Palais / Agence Bulloz
Napoleon's farewells. © RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Fontainebleau) / Gérard Blot
Napoleon Bonaparte was born to an old Tuscan noble family in Ajaccio on 15 August 1769, shortly after Genoa ceded the island to France. After attending the military colleges of Brienne in Paris, he became famous in the Revolutionary armies. Imprisoned after 9 Thermidor, he was recalled by Barras to quell the Royalist insurrection of 13 Vendémiaire, year IV (5 October 1795). Then appointed General-in-Chief of the Italian army, he covered himself with glory in Arcole and Rivoli and imposed the Peace of Campo Formio (1797). He then went on an expedition to Egypt against the English.
His return made him instrumental in the coup d'état of 18 and 19 brumaire, year VIII (9-10 November 1799). He put in place the Consulate and began to equip France with its modern institutions: Civil Code, Bank of France, prefects, secondary schools, Legion of Honour; he also signed the Concordat with Pius VII. Elected consul for life in 1802, Napoleon I was crowned Emperor of the French by the Pope in Notre-Dame on 2 December 1804. From 1804 to 1809, the Bulletins of the Great Army reported his exploits in Europe (Austerlitz, 1805; Eylau and Friedland, 1807; Wagram, 1809). But these victories could not contain the patriotic movement causing unrest in the people of Europe. Five years later, the allies - Russians, Austrians and Prussians - entered Paris (April 1814).
Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba. After a triumphant return to France, he was defeated at Waterloo (18 June 1815). The Memorial in Saint-Helena, the island to which he was deported and where he died on 5 May 1821, completed his legend.