Trained as an artillery officer, he joined as second lieutenant in La F�re artillery regiment in 1785. Serving at the Revolution in Corsica, he was promoted to the rank of a captain in the regular army in 1792.
In 1793, following a split with Paoli, the nationalist Corsican leader, he along with his family, shifted base to France. There he joined his regiment at Nice. It was his pro-republican pamphlet, Le souper de Beaucaire that earned him the admiration and support of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre.
At the age of 24, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and was put in charge of the artillery of France’s Army of Italy. Adhering to his plans, the French army slowly and steadily captured the north, east and west coast in the Battle of Saorgio.
The fall of the Jacobins led to the rise of Maximilien de Robespierre, thus initiating the dictatorship of the Committee of Public Safety. In 1795, the Directory took over the control of the country.
Bonaparte who had supported the Directory all through came under their good books and was named Commander of the Army of the Interior. Additionally, he was made trusted advisor to the Directory on military matters.
In 1796, he took over the working of the Army of Italy and transformed the once underfed-disgruntled army into a strong military force that helped expand the French empire by winning numerous battles
Post the great victory over Austria, he moved over to Middle East, occupying Egypt. Meanwhile, he also weakened the British Empire by upsetting their trade route with India.
Just as much his image was enhanced in his initial accomplishments, the battle of Nile tarnished it all as Admiral Horatio nelson crushed his army. Also, the same resulted in the crushing defeat of France against the coalition formed by Britain, Austria, Russia and Turkey.
Returning to France, he made plans with Emmanuel Sieyes that would allow them to retain their topmost position in the government. He formed a new constitution which created position of the first consul.
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In 1800, he became the first consul of the French administration and brought about reforms in various sectors including economy, legal system and education. He made Roman Catholicism the state religion and introduced the Napoleonic Code.
He was involved in the creation of Bank of France and supervised the centralisation of the government. Such was the escalating popularity of this French military and political leader that he was elected consul for life in 1802 and in 1804 made the Emperor of France.
Meanwhile, the negotiated peace lasted for about three years after which France was at war with Britain, Russia and Austria. While it lost to British at Trafalgar, the French army registered a victory against both Austria and Russia at Austerlitz.
In 1810, defeat of his army resulted in the fall of his empire. The country was in bad shape as both the country’s military budget and military officials were devastated. The news spread like wildfire and with increasing international pressure and lack of resources, he surrendered to the allied force in 1814.
Despite being exiled to Elba, he did not lose his will power and soon escaped to Paris, where after a short stay, he returned to power. Though he did manage to make a magnificent comeback at Belgium where he defeated the Prussians, at Waterloo, he suffered a blow once again with a defeat against the British.
In 1815, he resigned from the powerful position that he held. Though he did make an offer that his son, Napolean II to be named the emperor, the coalition declined the same.
The British government, for the fear of his return, sent him to a remote island of St. Helena in the southern Atlantic. Though he was free to do what he pleased, the routine life did not get very well with this military leader.
He served as the first Consul of France and was later became the Emperor of France. During his time, he brought about major reforms in the country, such as introduction of higher education, establishment centralized government, foundation of Bank of France, tax code, road and sewer systems. He reworked the laws of France which is why his civil code was known as Napoleonic Code
The royal decoration Legion of Honor was instituted by him to honour people with civilian and military achievements. Till date, it serves as the highest decoration of France.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Jos�phine de Beauharnais, widow of General Alexandre de Beauharnais in 1796. She had two children from her previous marriage. The union did not last long and the couple separated in 1810.
He then tied the knot with Marie-Louise, daughter of the emperor of Austria, who bore him a son, Napolean II.
His health started deteriorating during his last days, which was caused by the damp and wretched living conditions.
He finally succumbed to the rapidly failing health on February 5, 1821. An autopsy later on confirmed that he was suffering from stomach cancer. He was initially cremated at St Helena after which he was transported to Paris, where a state funeral was held. His remains were entombed in a porphyry sarcophagus in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides