Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was and still is one of France’s most revered heroes. Though born a Corsican in 1769, he journeyed to France for schooling at the age of nine. After an interesting and quiet childhood Napoleon joined the French artillery at the age of sixteen. Through hard work, bravery, political connections and being born during a turbulent time, Napoleon rose to the rank of General. In 1799 he was elected France’s First Consul For Life, later he proclaimed himself France’s Emperor. Napoleon reformed much of European law and spread the idea of republicanism throughout much of Europe.

His ideas continue to be incorporated into Switzerland’s law. Napoleon also reformed schools and strengthened Paris’ reputation as one of the cultural capitals of the world. Napoleon’s life was not without setbacks. In 1814 he was exiled to the island of Elba, by British Allies. He was also exiled to St. Helena after losing battles at Waterloo, Wavre, Ligny and Quatre Bras. He lived in confinement surrounded by British Guards until he died on May 5, 1821. Napoleon 3 Napoleon “Rabulione”

Napoleone di Bounaparte, who was also known as the “little Corsican”, was born to Carlo Maria and Letzia Maria Ramolino di Bounaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica on August 15, 1769. His family had moved there from Italy in the 16th century. Napoleon was the second of eight living children. He was named after an Egyptian religious figure. He and his older brother Giuseppe were allowed to wrestle, draw on the walls and play games in an undecorated room in the house. Napoleon also received a nickname as a child, Rabulione, which means “he who meddles in everything”(Bloom 2001). Napoleon was a very small, hot tempered youth.

Though small, he would often beat up his older brother when fighting. He hade a very large ego and was very conscientious. As a child his mother often had him follow his father to the local tavern because his father liked to gamble and was not very lucky. He would have to run back and give reports to his mother. Napoleon formed many routines as a child that he continued throughout his life. Firstly, he bathed daily, as Emperor he bathed for an hour each morning before getting dressed. Secondly, he was very generous. He bestowed many awards, honors and titles as Emperor. Napoleon 4

Napoleon started school at the age of five. He was enrolled in a school, run by a nun in 1774. He liked to hold the hand of a classmate named Giacominetta while taking walks. Other classmates would make fun of him and Napoleon would chase the bully and fight him (Bloom 2001). Napoleon was very serious about his school work and he loved arithmetic. His love of mathematics caused him to become an artillery officer in the French Army for the angles of trajectory, weight of shot, and amount of powder used to acquire certain distances required a complete understanding of mathematics.

In 1778 His father decided to send the two oldest sons to school, Giuseppe was sent to become a priest and Napoleon was sent to become a soldier because he was rambunctious and loved history and math. For four months Napoleon spent most of his time trying to master French and understand what he was being taught. He became proficient enough in French to speak and understand the basics of the language, but was unable to completely master the language even by the time of his death. At the Ecole Militaire, Napoleon was able to narrow his studies to a specific aspect of the military.

During his time here, he helped organize the defense of a town during a mock battle. He began to form his own ideas about warfare and read books about Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Frederick the Great. He completed the Napoleon 5 artillery course in only one year, even though it was the hardest course at the school. Ironically, he finished forty-second out of fifty-eight in his graduating class (Herold 1986). With this training, he was prepared to become a French artillery lieutenant and later become one of the greatest military heroes ever.

At the age of sixteen he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the French Army. He was assigned to an experimental artillery battery. Upon returning to France, he took part in the siege of Toulon and was one of the main contributors to the French strategy. His suggestions eventually led to the success of the siege. After the siege Napoleon was promoted to brigadier-general. He was soon promoted again and found himself in command of the Army of Italy at the age of twenty-six (Herold 1986). Between 1794 and 1797 Napoleon fought a series of campaigns in Italy.

He suffered many defeats and narrowly won several battles. Several important battles took place during this campaign including the three-day battle of Arcola, the battle for the bridge of Lodi, and the siege of Mantua. The siege of Mantua was very interesting in that napoleon called of the fighting on two occasions because he feared losing in an open field. In the end, the French captured the city after eight months. Once, Napoleon helped defend the Directory (the highest authority in the French government) from mobs.

He later used his political friends to become First Consul. Napoleon 6 He added the title “First Consul for Life”. He and two others acted as Presidents. After nearly four years as Consul he became Emperor. He was crowned in the Notre Dame in Paris on December 2, 1804 (Bloom 2001). He crowned his wife Josephine Empress. He also granted many titles to his family and other important people. Napoleon instituted many changes in France. He developed the Code Napoleon, a series of laws, which are to some extent still used today.

He reformed schools and built many more of them to educate the peasants of France. He reopened the churches that had been closed during the Revolution. He was overzealous and mismanaged his troops, which resulted in the Battle of France, a series of small battles that caused him to be removed from the throne and banished to Elba in 1814. In 1815, Napoleon returned to France and marched on Belgium, however, the British and Prussians beat him at Waterloo on June 18, 1815 causing his second exile to St. Helen. On the Island he was guarded night and day until his death on May 5, 1821.

He supposedly died of cancer, but there are rumors that he was poisoned. Napoleone di Bounaparte was one of the most influential figures in history. Because of his structured, intellectually stimulating youth Napoleon grew up to become one of the world’s greatest heroes. However, he was over ambitious which eventually caused the demise of his great empire. Though he died very shortly after Napoleon 7 being exiled, Napoleon’s ideas, legal code, and tactics on warfare keep his spirit alive throughout the world.


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