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Napoleon Crossing the Alps painted by Jacques-Louis David. The horse in the painting is believed to be Marengo (Napoleon I's famous war horse). Wikimedia Commons

By- Khushi Bisht

Napoleon Bonaparte or Napoleon I was a French general and emperor who occupied half of Europe during the early nineteenth century. In addition to controlling Europe, he subjugated lands in the West Indies, Africa, and North Africa.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea on August 15, 1769. Not long before his birth, the island of Corsica was vanquished by the French powers, making Napoleon and his family subjects of King Louis XV or Louis the Beloved.

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Napoleon Bonaparte in Tuileries on August 10th, 1792. Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon enrolled in a military school in France when he was nine years old. He thrived in his subjects, and at the age of 16, he was promoted to the second lieutenant in the French army’s artillery regiment. He was appointed head commander of the French military at the age of 26 and gained a large fortune in the years that followed.

Napoleon was a pivotal figure during the French Revolution (1789–99). The monarchy was abolished at the end of the French revolution with Louis the XVI’s beheading, and the nation was declared a republic. France was plunged into turmoil and terror after the abolition of the monarchy and nobility. The New Republic was threatened by neighboring nations, while within France, distrust between various groups resulted in bloodshed. Many civilians were killed during this time of chaos and violence.

Portrait of Napoleon as King of Italy. Wikimedia Commons

In the middle of all of this turmoil, a strong figure rose to lead France, and he was Napoleon Bonaparte. He rose to prominence during this turbulent timespan and achieved his first big victory, by crushing the Royalist armies backed by the British Royal navy. He started his military invasion with his newly acquired authority and influence from the French government. Napoleon began by beating the Austrian armies, and by 1799, he had conquered extensive new territories in Europe for France.

He then turned his attention to Egypt, where he intended to seize the power of the Mediterranean Region and destabilize British control over India. Napoleon was deposing in undermining the existing government and establishing The Consulate (Le Consulat), regarding himself as the first consul.

The Progress of Emperor Napoleon. Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon focused his attention on supremacy once more after winning total control over Eastern Europe. However, following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he was banished to Saint Helena, a lonely island in the South Atlantic Ocean. On May 5, 1821, at the age of 51, Napoleon succumbed to cancer. His body was initially buried at Saint Helena island, but it was eventually relocated to France, where it is still resting today.

Napoleon, however, had to put in a lot of effort to rise from poverty to becoming one of the world’s powerful leaders. Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Hannibal, and Alexandra the Great have also been used to equate Napoleon. His enormous popularity was aided by his strong personality, as well as clever tactics that allowed him to make the correct impact and accomplish his targets.

The Battle of Waterloo, June 18th, 1815. Depicting Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. The defeat of the French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte. The last major battle of the Napoleonic wars. Wikimedia Commons

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As the first consul, he brought a slew of significant advancements to France, some of which are still in use today. He constructed city roads and sewerage, as well as a lycée-based scheme of state-funded secondary education. He founded the Bank of France to provide a sole currency and boost the empire’s security. In both the French government and the military, he instituted meritocracy, in which citizens were upgraded based on their abilities instead of their family’s history and background.

Since Napoleon’s demise, historians have debated whether he did more good or bad. But, irrespective of one’s opinion of him, he has long captivated people’s minds. For over 200 years, he has influenced performers, artists, authors, etc. Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant military leader. He participated in over 70 wars, changing the way the French military performed and transforming France into Europe’s most powerful military force. His soldiers were motivated by his courage and determination, and their successes brought prestige and fame to France.

Napoleon Bonaparte was the first ruler to succeed in establishing an empire in Europe and beyond. Although Bonaparte’s vision of vanquishing Europe was never realized, he undeniably left an indelible mark on the continent, for the greater good or much worse.



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