192 Facts About Napoleon


Napoleon was the de facto leader of the French Republic as First Consul from 1799 to 1804, then Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again in 1815.


Napoleon initiated many liberal reforms that have persisted in society, and is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history.


Napoleon was born on the island of Corsica, not long after its annexation by France, to a native family descending from minor Italian nobility.


Napoleon supported the French Revolution in 1789 while serving in the French army, and tried to spread its ideals to his native Corsica.


Napoleon rose rapidly in the Army after he saved the governing French Directory by firing on royalist insurgents.


Napoleon shattered this coalition with victories in the Ulm campaign, and at the Battle of Austerlitz, which led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.


Napoleon defeated Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, marched the Grande Armee into Eastern Europe, and defeated the Russians in June 1807 at Friedland, forcing the defeated nations of the Fourth Coalition to accept the Treaties of Tilsit.


Two years later, the Austrians challenged the French again during the War of the Fifth Coalition, but Napoleon solidified his grip over Europe after triumphing at the Battle of Wagram.


Napoleon launched an invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812.


Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, between Corsica and Italy.


Napoleon escaped in February 1815 and took control of France.


Napoleon had an extensive impact on the modern world, bringing liberal reforms to the lands he conquered, especially the regions of the Low Countries, Switzerland and parts of modern Italy and Germany.


Napoleon implemented many liberal policies in France and Western Europe.


Napoleon was the fourth child and third son of the family.


Napoleon had an elder brother, Joseph, and younger siblings Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline, and Jerome.


Napoleon was born in the same year that the Republic of Genoa ceded the region of Corsica to France.


Napoleon's parents joined the Corsican resistance and fought against the French to maintain independence, even when Maria was pregnant with him.


Napoleon's father Carlo was an attorney who had supported and actively collaborated with patriot Pasquale Paoli during the Corsican war of independence against France; after the Corsican defeat at Ponte Novu in 1769 and Paoli's exile in Britain, Carlo began working for the new French government and went on to be named representative of the island to the court of Louis XVI in 1777.


The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, whose firm discipline restrained a rambunctious child.


Napoleon began learning French in school at around age 10.


Napoleon was routinely bullied by his peers for his accent, birthplace, short stature, mannerisms and inability to speak French quickly.


In early adulthood, Napoleon briefly intended to become a writer; he authored a history of Corsica and a romantic novella.


On completion of his studies at Brienne in 1784, Napoleon was admitted to the Ecole Militaire in Paris.


Napoleon trained to become an artillery officer and, when his father's death reduced his income, was forced to complete the two-year course in one year.


Napoleon was the first Corsican to graduate from the Ecole Militaire.


Napoleon served in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.


Napoleon asked for leave to join his mentor Pasquale Paoli, when Paoli was allowed to return to Corsica by the National Assembly.


Napoleon spent the early years of the Revolution in Corsica, fighting in a complex three-way struggle among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists.


Napoleon came to embrace the ideals of the Revolution, becoming a supporter of the Jacobins and joining the pro-French Corsican Republicans who opposed Paoli's policy and his aspirations of secession.


Napoleon's family did not drop the name Buonaparte until 1796.


Napoleon adopted a plan to capture a hill where republican guns could dominate the city's harbour and force the British to evacuate.


Napoleon devised plans for attacking the Kingdom of Sardinia as part of France's campaign against the First Coalition.


Napoleon was released within two weeks and due to his technical skills, was asked to draw up plans to attack Italian positions in the context of France's war with Austria.


Napoleon took part in an expedition to take back Corsica from the British, but the French were repulsed by the British Royal Navy.


Napoleon was moved to the Bureau of Topography of the Committee of Public Safety.


Napoleon sought unsuccessfully to be transferred to Constantinople in order to offer his services to the Sultan.


Napoleon faced a difficult financial situation and reduced career prospects.


Napoleon had seen the massacre of the King's Swiss Guard there three years earlier and realized that artillery would be the key to its defence.


Murat married one of Napoleon's sisters, becoming his brother-in-law; he served under Napoleon as one of his generals.


Napoleon immediately went on the offensive, hoping to defeat the forces of Kingdom of Sardinia before their Austrian allies could intervene.


The Austrians launched a series of offensives against the French to break the siege, but Napoleon defeated every relief effort, scoring victories at the battles of Castiglione, Bassano, Arcole, and Rivoli.


Napoleon authorized the French to loot treasures such as the Horses of Saint Mark.


Napoleon studied their strategy and combined it with his own.


Napoleon founded two newspapers: one for the troops in his army and another for circulation in France.


Napoleon's forces confiscated more than 300 priceless paintings and sculptures.


Napoleon decided on a military expedition to seize Egypt and thereby undermine Britain's access to its trade interests in India.


Napoleon assured the Directory that "as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he will establish relations with the Indian princes and, together with them, attack the English in their possessions".


Napoleon fought the Battle of Shubra Khit against the Mamluks, Egypt's ruling military caste.


Napoleon's army had succeeded in a temporary increase of French power in Egypt, though it faced repeated uprisings.


Napoleon learned that France had suffered a series of defeats in the War of the Second Coalition.


Napoleon became "first consul" for ten years, with two consuls appointed by him who had consultative voices only.


Napoleon established a political system that historian Martyn Lyons called "dictatorship by plebiscite".


Worried by the democratic forces unleashed by the Revolution, but unwilling to ignore them entirely, Napoleon resorted to regular electoral consultations with the French people on his road to imperial power.


Napoleon drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul, taking up residence at the Tuileries.


General Melas had a numerical advantage, fielding about 30,000 Austrian soldiers while Napoleon commanded 24,000 French troops.


Napoleon constantly rode out among the troops urging them to stand and fight.


The brief peace in Europe allowed Napoleon to focus on French colonies abroad.


Napoleon saw a chance to reestablish control over the colony when he signed the Treaty of Amiens.


Aware of the expenses required to fund his wars in Europe, Napoleon made the decision to reinstate slavery in all French Caribbean colonies.


Napoleon sent an expedition under his brother-in-law General Leclerc to reassert control over Saint-Domingue.


In May 1803, Napoleon acknowledged defeat, and the last 8,000 French troops left the island and the slaves proclaimed an independent republic that they called Haiti in 1804.


The dispute culminated in a declaration of war by Britain in May 1803; Napoleon responded by reassembling the invasion camp at Boulogne and declaring that every British male between eighteen and sixty years old in France and its dependencies to be arrested as a prisoner of war.


Napoleon believed that a Bourbon restoration would be more difficult if his family's succession was entrenched in the constitution.


Napoleon entered the ceremony wearing the laurel wreath and kept it on his head throughout the proceedings since the laurel wreath symbolized victory, peace and civic virtue.


Napoleon was then crowned King of Italy, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, at the Cathedral of Milan on 26 May 1805.


Napoleon created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from among his top generals to secure the allegiance of the army on 18 May 1804, the official start of the Empire.


Napoleon intended to use this invasion force to strike at England.


The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon later called La Grande Armee.


On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons, and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces.


Napoleon knew that the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy in a head-to-head battle, so he planned to lure it away from the English Channel through diversionary tactics.


Napoleon swung his forces to the southeast and the Grande Armee performed an elaborate wheeling movement that outflanked the Austrian positions.


Napoleon sent his army north in pursuit of the Allies but then ordered his forces to retreat so that he could feign a grave weakness.


Desperate to lure the Allies into battle, Napoleon gave every indication in the days preceding the engagement that the French army was in a pitiful state, even abandoning the dominant Pratzen Heights, a sloping hill near the village of Austerlitz.


Napoleon went on to say, "The battle of Austerlitz is the finest of all I have fought".


Vincent Cronin disagrees, stating that Napoleon was not overly ambitious for himself, "he embodied the ambitions of thirty million Frenchmen".


Napoleon continued to entertain a grand scheme to establish a French presence in the Middle East in order to put pressure on Britain and Russia, and perhaps form an alliance with the Ottoman Empire.


Napoleon opted for an alliance with France, calling France "our sincere and natural ally".


The very first thing Alexander said to Napoleon was probably well-calibrated: "I hate the English as much as you do".


Napoleon decided to focus his attention on the Kingdom of Portugal, which consistently violated his trade prohibitions.


Unhappy with this change of policy by the Portuguese government, Napoleon negotiated a secret treaty with Charles IV of Spain and sent an army to invade Portugal.


On 16 February 1808, secret French machinations finally materialized when Napoleon announced that he would intervene to mediate between the rival political factions in the country.


Napoleon appointed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as the new King of Spain in the summer of 1808.


At the Congress of Erfurt in October 1808, Napoleon hoped to keep Russia on his side during the upcoming struggle in Spain and during any potential conflict against Austria.


Napoleon then unleashed his soldiers against Moore and the British forces.


The outbreak of the Spanish American wars of independence in most of the empire was a result of Napoleon's destabilizing actions in Spain and led to the rise of strongmen in the wake of these wars.


The early Austrian attack surprised the French; Napoleon himself was still in Paris when he heard about the invasion.


Napoleon finished off the battle with a concentrated central thrust that punctured a hole in the Austrian army and forced Charles to retreat.


Metternich and Archduke Charles had the preservation of the Habsburg Empire as their fundamental goal, and to this end, they succeeded by making Napoleon seek more modest goals in return for promises of friendship between the two powers.


Napoleon turned his focus to domestic affairs after the war.


Empress Josephine had still not given birth to a child from Napoleon, who became worried about the future of his empire following his death.


Desperate for a legitimate heir, Napoleon divorced Josephine on 10 January 1810 and started looking for a new wife.


On 20 March 1811, Marie Louise gave birth to a baby boy, whom Napoleon made heir apparent and bestowed the title of King of Rome.


On receipt of intelligence reports on Russia's war preparations, Napoleon expanded his Grande Armee to more than 450,000 men.


Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the Russian heartland and prepared for an offensive campaign; on 24 June 1812 the invasion commenced.


Napoleon refused to manumit the Russian serfs because of concerns this might provoke a reaction in his army's rear.


The Russians again avoided battle, although in a few cases this was only achieved because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity arose.


Napoleon entered the city, assuming its fall would end the war and Alexander would negotiate peace.


In early November Napoleon became concerned about the loss of control back in France after the Malet coup of 1812.


Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813.


Napoleon would remain as Emperor of the French, but it would be reduced to its "natural frontiers".


Metternich told Napoleon these were the best terms the Allies were likely to offer; after further victories, the terms would be harsher and harsher.


The Allies now had new, harsher terms that included the retreat of France to its 1791 boundaries, which meant the loss of Belgium, but Napoleon would remain Emperor.


The British wanted Napoleon permanently removed, and they prevailed, though Napoleon adamantly refused.


Napoleon withdrew into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and little cavalry; he faced more than three times as many Allied troops.


Napoleon launched a series of victories in the Six Days' Campaign.


Napoleon had advanced as far as Fontainebleau when he learned that Paris had fallen.


When Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, Ney replied the army would follow its generals.


However, the Allies refused to accept this under prodding from Alexander, who feared that Napoleon might find an excuse to retake the throne.


Napoleon was then forced to announce his unconditional abdication only two days later.


The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to make in the interests of France.


Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried after nearly being captured by the Russians during the retreat from Moscow.


Napoleon was conveyed to the island on HMS Undaunted by Captain Thomas Ussher, and he arrived at Portoferraio on 30 May 1814.


Napoleon was devastated by the news, locking himself in his room and refusing to leave for two days.


Napoleon's forces fought two Coalition armies, commanded by the British Duke of Wellington and the Prussian Prince Blucher, at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815.


Napoleon returned to Paris and found that both the legislature and the people had turned against him.


Napoleon left Paris three days later and settled at Josephine's former palace in Malmaison.


When Napoleon heard that Prussian troops had orders to capture him dead or alive, he fled to Rochefort, considering an escape to the United States.


Napoleon arrived at Jamestown, Saint Helena in October 1815 on board the HMS Northumberland.


Napoleon stayed for two months at Briars pavilion before he was moved to Longwood House, a large wooden bungalow on Saint Helena, in December 1815.


Lowe cut Napoleon's expenditure, ruled that no gifts were allowed if they mentioned his imperial status, and made his supporters sign a guarantee they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely.


Napoleon studied English under the tutelage of Count Emmanuel de Las Cases with the main aim of being able to read English newspapers and books, as access to French newspapers and books was heavily restricted to him on Saint Helena.


Las Cases compiled the book The Memorial of Saint Helena about his time on the island with Napoleon; reflecting Napoleon's self-depictions, it depicts him as a liberal, visionary ruler for European unification, deposed by reactionary elements of the Ancien Regime.


However, Arnold argues that, while Napoleon played cards in exile, the notion that he played numerous patience games is "based on a misunderstanding".


For English poet Lord Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely, and flawed genius.


In February 1821, Napoleon's health began to deteriorate rapidly, and he reconciled with the Catholic Church.


Napoleon died on 5 May 1821 at Longwood House at age 51, after making his last confession, Extreme Unction and Viaticum in the presence of Father Ange Vignali from his deathbed.


In 1840, Louis Philippe I obtained permission from the British government to return Napoleon's remains to France.


Napoleon's casket was opened to confirm that it still contained the former emperor.


In 1861, Napoleon's remains were entombed in a sarcophagus of red quartzite from Russia in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides.


Napoleon's father had died of stomach cancer, although this was apparently unknown at the time of the autopsy.


Furthermore, in a 1978 book with Ben Weider, Forshufvud noted that Napoleon's body was found to be well preserved when moved in 1840.


Forshufvud and Weider observed that Napoleon had attempted to quench abnormal thirst by drinking large amounts of orgeat syrup that contained cyanide compounds in the almonds used for flavouring.


Napoleon was raised as a Catholic but never developed much faith, though he recalled the day of his First Communion in the Catholic Church to be the happiest day of his life.


Napoleon had a civil marriage with Josephine de Beauharnais, without religious ceremony.


Napoleon was crowned Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame de Paris in a ceremony presided over by Pope Pius VII.


On 1 April 1810, Napoleon married the Austrian princess Marie Louise in a Catholic ceremony.


Napoleon was excommunicated by the Pope through the bull Quum memoranda in 1809, but later reconciled with the Catholic Church before his death in 1821.


In January 1813, Napoleon personally forced the Pope to sign a humiliating "Concordat of Fontainebleau" which was later repudiated by the Pontiff.


Napoleon emancipated Jews, as well as Protestants in Catholic countries and Catholics in Protestant countries, from laws which restricted them to ghettos, and he expanded their rights to property, worship, and careers.


In 1806 an assembly of Jewish notables was gathered by Napoleon to discuss 12 questions broadly dealing with the relations between Jews and Christians, as well as other issues dealing with the Jewish ability to integrate into French society.


Napoleon was seen as so favourable to the Jews that the Russian Orthodox Church formally condemned him as "Antichrist and the Enemy of God".


One year after the final meeting of the Sanhedrin, on 17 March 1808, Napoleon placed the Jews on probation.


Napoleon understood military technology, but was not an innovator in that regard.


Napoleon was an innovator in using the financial, bureaucratic, and diplomatic resources of France.


Napoleon maintained strict, efficient work habits, prioritizing what needed to be done.


Napoleon cheated at cards, but repaid the losses; he had to win at everything he attempted.


Unlike many generals, Napoleon did not examine history to ask what Hannibal or Alexander or anyone else did in a similar situation.


Critics said he won many battles simply because of luck; Napoleon responded, "Give me lucky generals", arguing that "luck" comes to leaders who recognize opportunity, and seize it.


Napoleon reorganized France itself to supply the men and money needed for wars.


Napoleon has been portrayed in hundreds of films and discussed in hundreds of thousands of books and articles.


Napoleon's nose was not very large, but straight, with a slight, hardly noticeable bend.


Napoleon surrounded himself with tall bodyguards and was affectionately nicknamed le petit caporal, reflecting his reported camaraderie with his soldiers rather than his height.


When he became First Consul and later Emperor, Napoleon eschewed his general's uniform and habitually wore the green colonel uniform of a colonel of the Chasseur a Cheval of the Imperial Guard, the regiment that served as his personal escort many times, with a large bicorne.


Napoleon habitually wore the blue uniform of a colonel of the Imperial Guard Foot Grenadiers.


Napoleon wore his Legion d'honneur star, medal and ribbon, and the Order of the Iron Crown decorations, white French-style culottes and white stockings.


Napoleon is very sallow, with light grey eyes, and rather thin, greasy-looking brown hair, and altogether a very nasty, priestlike-looking fellow.


The stock character of Napoleon is a comically short "petty tyrant" and this has become a cliche in popular culture.


In 1908 Alfred Adler, a psychologist, cited Napoleon to describe an inferiority complex in which short people adopt an over-aggressive behaviour to compensate for lack of height; this inspired the term Napoleon complex.


Napoleon instituted various reforms, such as higher education, a tax code, road and sewer systems, and established the Banque de France, the first central bank in French history.


Napoleon negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, which sought to reconcile the mostly Catholic population to his regime.


Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire prior to German Unification later in the 19th century.


Napoleon participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts.


Napoleon reorganized what had been the Holy Roman Empire, made up of about three hundred Kleinstaaterei, into a more streamlined forty-state Confederation of the Rhine; this helped promote the German Confederation and the unification of Germany in 1871.


Napoleon directly overthrew remnants of feudalism in much of western Continental Europe.


Napoleon liberalized property laws, ended seigneurial dues, abolished the guild of merchants and craftsmen to facilitate entrepreneurship, legalized divorce, closed the Jewish ghettos and made Jews equal to everyone else.


Napoleon continued the policy, which emerged from the Revolution, of promotion based primarily on merit.


Napoleon was regarded by the influential military theorist Carl von Clausewitz as a genius in the operational art of war, and historians rank him as a great military commander.


Napoleon synthesized the best academic elements from the Ancien Regime, The Enlightenment, and the Revolution, with the aim of establishing a stable, well-educated and prosperous society.


Napoleon left some primary education in the hands of religious orders, but he offered public support to secondary education.


Napoleon founded a number of state secondary schools designed to produce a standardized education that was uniform across France.


Napoleon gave special attention to the advanced centers, such as the Ecole Polytechnique, that provided both military expertise and state-of-the-art research in science.


Napoleon made some of the first efforts at establishing a system of secular and public education.


Napoleon was considered a tyrant and usurper by his opponents at the time and ever since.


Napoleon was compared to Adolf Hitler by the historian Pieter Geyl in 1947, and Claude Ribbe in 2005.


Many historians have blamed Napoleon's poor planning, but Russian scholars instead emphasize the Russian response, noting the notorious winter weather was just as hard on the defenders.


The propagandistic rhetoric changed in relation to events and to the atmosphere of Napoleon's reign, focusing first on his role as a general in the army and identification as a soldier, and moving to his role as emperor and a civil leader.


Specifically targeting his civilian audience, Napoleon fostered a relationship with the contemporary art community, taking an active role in commissioning and controlling different forms of art production to suit his propaganda goals.


Napoleon Crossing the Alps, romantic version by Jacques-Louis David in 1805.


Napoleon was responsible for spreading the values of the French Revolution to other countries, especially in legal reform.


Napoleon had an influence on the establishment of modern Germany.


Napoleon caused the end of the Holy Roman Empire and helped create middle sized states such as Bavaria and Wurttemberg along the great powers Prussia and Austria.


Napoleon indirectly began the process of Latin American independence when he invaded Spain in 1808.


Napoleon married Josephine in 1796, when he was 26; she was a 32-year-old widow whose first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, had been executed during the Reign of Terror.


Napoleon called her "Josephine" instead, and she went by this name henceforth.


Napoleon formally adopted her son Eugene and second cousin Stephanie and arranged dynastic marriages for them.


Napoleon learnt of that affair and a letter he wrote about it was intercepted by the British and published widely, to embarrass Napoleon.


Napoleon had his own affairs too: during the Egyptian campaign he took Pauline Bellisle Foures, the wife of a junior officer, as his mistress.


Napoleon chose divorce so he could remarry in search of an heir.


Napoleon's great-aunt had been executed in France, while Napoleon had fought numerous campaigns against Austria all throughout his military career.


Napoleon became Napoleon II in 1814 and reigned for only two weeks.


Napoleon was awarded the title of the Duke of Reichstadt in 1818 and died of tuberculosis aged 21, with no children.


Napoleon acknowledged one illegitimate son: Charles Leon by Eleonore Denuelle de La Plaigne.