Napoleon I Bonaparte

BORN 15 Aug 1769, Ajaccio, Corse-du-Sud - DIED 5 May 1821, Longwood, St. Helena: Longwood House
BIRTH NAME Bonaparte, Napoléon (Buonaparte, Napoleone)
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Dôme des Invalides

Napoleon Buonaparte was born into a noble family on Corsica. His father Carlo Buonaparte was a lawyer. He was admitted to the military academy in Brienne in 1779, but he was able to spend much of his time on Corsica. He supported the Corsican rebel Pasquale Paoli, but later they became opponents and when the civil war broke out in 1793 the Buonapartes fled to France, where they called themselves Bonaparte.

During the French Revolution he distinguished himself by chasing the English from Toulon. He became a favourite of Robespierre, was arrested for treason, released and then became a favourite of Barras. In 1795 he defended the government against anti-revolutionary troops and he was rewarded by Barras with a high military position. In 1796 he married Joséphine de Beauharnais, the widow of Alexandre the Beauharnais, who had been executed because of his military failure.

A few days after his marriage he was put in command of the troops that fought the Austrians in Italy. The Austrian army was considered to be stronger, but Bonaparte won many battles and entered Milan on May 15th. He returned to Paris as a celebrity. In 1798 he left for Egypt, but after a change of government in France in 1799 he left his troops and returned to France, where he took part in a coup in November 1799.

He became a member of the Consulate and by February 1800 he was First Consul and had effectively seized power in France. After the battle of Marengo he was able to turn his attention to internal matters and he reformed the legal system as well as the economy. In 1802 he was elected Consul for life with three million votes against a few thousand. On December 2, 1804 he crowned himself as the emperor of France. Early in 1805 he was offered the Italian crown and he was crowned as king of Italy on May 26th, 1805.

The other European countries distrusted his ambitions and many years of war followed. In 1805 he entered Vienna with his troops and on February 12th, 1805 he won a battle against Alexander I of Russia and Franz I of Austria. Later that month the king of Naples was disposed. In 1806 he fought Prussia, defeating Hohenlohe near Jena on October 14th, 1806.

He had no children with Joséphine, although he treated her son Eugène and daughter Hortense from her first marriage as his own children. When he was in Poland he heard on December 31th, 1806 that his mistress Eléonore Denuelle had bore him a son and thus found out that he was able to have children himself. In 1807 he defeated the Prussian and Russian armies. The kingdom of Westfalen and the Duchy of Warsaw were created. He intervened in Spain as well, but the Spanish didn´t to accept his brother Joseph as their new king and started a guerilla against the French troops.

Napoleon wanted a heir for his throne and in 1809 he divorced Joséphine to marry Marie Louise of Austria in 1810. In the same year Maria Walewska, who had become his mistress in 1807 to help her country Poland, bore him a son, Alexandre Walewski.

Things in Spain didn't go well, but disaster struck after he declared war on Russia. With an enormous army he went to Russia, but there they found that all local resources were destroyed before they could get to them and even Moscow was set on fire. Winter came and the French army was forced to retreat. Most of the soldiers and their followers died and only a small part of the army was able to return to France.

Napoleon returned to Paris on December 19th, 1812. A few months later Prussia declared war. He was able to bring a new army together, but the French were massively defeated near Leipzig on October 16, 1813. Although he managed to win a battle against Blücher's troops early in 1813, his troops were defeated again near Laon on March 9, 1814. The allied troops marched up to Paris and Napoleon was forced to abdicate. He was given Elba and was allowed to keep the title of emperor. He wished Marie-Louise to follow him, but Metternich wanted a divorce and Marie-Louise was already involved in an affair with Count Neipperg.

In Februay 1815 he left Elba and returned to France. His friends thought it was suicide, but after he had set foot on French ground regiments of the French army took his side at Grenoble and then Lyon. On March 20th 1815 he reached Paris, a few hours after Louis XVIII had fled to Gent in Belgium and he regained power. The allied nations immediately decided they couldn't allow this and prepared for another battle. Napoleon was narrowly defeated by Wellinton and Blücher at Waterloo near Brussels on June 18th, 1815. This time his enemies took no risk and sent him as a prisoner to St. Helena. There he died after six years and he was buried on the island. In 1840 the ship the Belle Poule was sent to St. Helena to return his body to Paris. There it was placed in the Dôme des Invalides.

• Son: Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt
• Wife: Beauharnais, Joséphine de (1796-1809, Paris: Mairie of the 2nd Arrondissement) (divorce or separation)
• Wife: Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma (1810-1821, Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine)

Related persons
• corresponded with Ali Pasha
• has a connection with Barras, Paul, vicomte de
• was sculpted by Barye, Antoine Louis
• adopted Beauharnais, Eugène Rose de, Duke of Leuchtenberg
• adopted Beauharnais, Hortense de
• employed Bernard, Simon
• met Berry, Mary
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• admired Bigottini, Émilie
• is brother/sister of Bonaparte, Élisa
• has a connection with Cambacérès, Jean Jacques Régis de, duc de Parma
• employed Caulaincourt, Armand Augustin Louis de, Duc de Vicenza
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• employed David, Jacques-Louis
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• employed Denon, Vivant
• was the lover of Denuelle, Eléonore
• was the lover of Duchesnois, Joséphine
• was painted by Eastlake, Charles Lock
• was the lover of Fourès, Pauline
• admired Franul von Weißenthurn, Johanna
• was the lover of George, Marguerite Joséphine
• was painted by Gérard, François
• was painted by Giordano-Clerc, Sofia
• was painted by Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, Anne Louis
• met Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
• met Grétry, André Ernest Modeste
• was painted by Gros, Antoine-Jean
• visited Helvétius, Anne-Catherine
• was admired by Hobhouse, John Cam, Lord Broughton
• met Hogendorp, Carel, Graaf van
• was painted by Ingres, Jean Auguste Dominique
• was a friend of Isabey, Jean Baptiste
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• was written about by Junot, Laure, Duchesse d'Abrantès
• has a connection with Kielmansegg, Auguste Charlotte, Gräfin von
• employed La Bédoyère, Charles, Comte de
• was a friend of Lannes, Jean, Duc de Montebello
• was written about by Las Cases, Emanuel Augustin Dieudonné, marquis de
• was supported by Lebrun, Charles François, 1st Duc de Piacenza
• was supported by Lefebvre, François Joseph, Duc de Dantzig
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• was admired by Mars, Anne Françoise Hippolyte Boutet Monvel
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21/9/1795Engagement of Napoleon Bonaparte and Désirée Clary. Napoleon's brother Joseph Married Julie Clary on 01/08/1794 and Napoleon was engaged to her sister Désirée. She moved to Genoa with her family to escape the French revolution and after Napoleon met Joséphine de Beauharnais he decided to end the engagement. 
5/10/1795Napoleon Bonaparte suppresses the uprising in Paris. The people had risen against the new constitution. Barras appointed Bonaparte as commander of the troops in Paris. With the uses of canons Napoleon managed to prevent that the people stormed the Tuileries. The National Convention honoured him as their saviour. 
9/2/1796The engagement of Napoleon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais is made public [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
2/3/1796Napoleon is appointed Command in chief of the Army of Italy by the Directoire. The directoire was dominated by Paul Barras at that time. [Barras, Paul, vicomte de]
9/3/1796Napoleon Bonaparte marries Joséphine de Beauharnais  [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
10/4/1796Start of Napoleon's successful campaign in Italy. He would defeat the Austrians several times, conquer Lombardia and force several favourable treaties in Italian states. 
10/5/1796Napoleon I defeats the Austrians at Lodi. After that he surrounded Milan. 
15/5/1796Napoleon I enters Milan 
19/6/1796Napoleon I enters Bologna 
5/8/1796Battle of Castiglione: Napoleon defeats Wurmser 
8/9/1796First Battle of Balsano: Napoleon defeats Wurmser. This was the last battle of Napoleon before he would be defeated for the first time during the Second Battle of Bassano. 
6/11/1796Second Battle of Bassano: Napoleon is defeated by József Alvinczi. It was the first tactical defeat for Napoleon. 
2/2/1797Mantua surrenders to Napoleon 
4/5/1798Napoleon leaves Paris for the Middle East. His wife Joséphine accompanied him. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
9/5/1798Napoleon embarks on the admiral's ship L'Orient. He embarked for Egypt. His wife Joséphine cried all the way to Toulon because she didn't want to go and finally Bonaparte decided to leave her in France. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
0/9/1798Napoleon sees Pauline Fourès and is impressed. He gave order to find out who she was and managed to make her his mistress. For this purpose he sent her husband to Paris without her. The affair comes at a good moment because his prestige has suffered from the infidelity of his own wife Joséphine. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de][Fourès, Pauline]
9/11/1799Coup d'État by Napoleon I. He brought down the directoire government and became First Consul himself. 
14/7/1800La Grassini sings at the Église des Invalides. She was the lover of Napoleon and he had arranged her performance. 
26/5/1805Napoleon crowned to King of Italy at the Duomo di Milano. The archbishop Giovanni Battista Caprara blessed the Iron Crown of Lombardy before Napoleon placed it on his own head. 
2/12/1805Battle of Austerlitz. also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors. Napoleon beats Alexander I of Russia and Franz I of Austria. the battle was fought near the town of Austerlitz. Napoleon's win ended the War of the Third Coalition and resulted in the Treaty of Pressburg. [Lannes, Jean, Duc de Montebello]
27/12/1805Napoleon declares the king of Naples to be deposed. At Schönbrunn he signed a decret that stated "The Bourbon dynasty in Naples had ceased to reign". 
0/4/1806A Dutch delegation talks to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. The delegation was led by admiral Ver Huell and was instructed to aks Napoleon to maintain the Batavian Republic. But Napoleon wanted to make his brother Louis king of Holland. He refused to meet the delegation and ordered them to negotiate with his unwilling brother. The negotiations succeeded after Ver Huell, the leader of the delegation and a supporter of Napoleon, mediated succesfully. On 5 May 1806 Napoleon appointed his brother King of Holland. [Ver Huell, Carel Hendrik]
20/11/1806Napoleon receives Johannes von Müller for an audience. Müller had been a proponent of military action against France, but he accepted the German defeat in 1806. On Napoleon's instigation Von Müller became Minister of State of the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1807. 
31/12/1806Napoleon hears of the birth of his son, Léon Denuelle. He was in Pulstick in Poland when he heard that his mistress Eléonore Denuelle had given birth to a son on 13 Dec. He was full of joy because now he realised that he was able to have children. [Denuelle, Eléonore]
6/7/1807Queen Luise of Prussia meets Napoleon in Tilsit. Their meeting took place at the house of Justice Commisioner Ernst Ludwig Siehr in Tilsit, where Napoleon lived during the peace negotiations. Luise had expected to meet a monster but she met a highly intelligent man who chatted pleasantly. She asked him for a measured approach to the peace terms and he answered her vaguely. After he asked her how the Prussians could be so careless as to attack him she answered "The frame of Frederick the Great deceived us about our means". The interview ended former mutual insults but she did not obtain any consessions from Napoleon. [Luise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, königin von Preussen]
21/11/1807Napoleon arrives in Milan. On the following day he was present at a Te Deum in the Duomo in Milan, later reviewing troops and visiting the Princess Augusta de Bavière, Vicereine of Italy and wife of Eugène.  
4/1/1808David presents to Napoleon the final version of his painting of Napoleon's coronation. Napoleon was very pleased with the result. [David, Jacques-Louis]
2/10/1808Goethe on audience with Napoleon at the palace in Erfurt. It was the first meeting between the two and Christoph Wieland was with him. Talleyrand, Berthier and Savary were there as well. When he was first invited in 1806 Goethe had excused himself for health reasons and during Napoleon's second visit to Weimar, Goethe was in Karlsbad. Napoleon spoke to Goethe about "Die Leiden des jüngen Wethers" and Goethe observed that the emperor knew it very well. [Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von][Wieland, Christoph Martin]
6/10/1808Goethe meets Napoleon during the Court Ball in Weimar. It was their second meeting, after Napoleon had received him and Wieland in Erfurt four days before. Wieland was also there on this occasion. Napoleon invited Goethe to come to Paris to write a Caesar tragedy. In his opinion there was no good work yet on this subject. On 14 Oct 1808 Goethe received the Légion d'Honneur. [Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von][Wieland, Christoph Martin]
17/4/1809Napoleon suddeny appears at Donauworth. He came to take command of the army and he led an advancd to Landshut. 
13/5/1809French troops enter Vienna. They were under command of general Oudinot who would soon be promoted to marshall. It was the second time that French troops entered Vienna, Napoleon himself had been there in 1805. 
30/11/1809Napoleon tells Joséphine that he wants to divorce her. She had been unable to provide him with a son. After he told her she fainted and was carried to her chambers by Napoleon and Bausset. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
15/12/1809Napoleon divorces Joséphine de Beauharnais. On this date they both agreed to the dissolve their civil marriage. They signed the declaration in Napoleon's chambers at the Palais des Tuileries. Madame Mère, Louis, Jerome, Murat, Eugène, Julie, Hortense, Catherine, Pauline and Caroline were all present. The Roman Catholic marriage was annulled on 9 Jan 1810. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
7/2/1810Marriage contract between Napoleon and Marie Louise signed in Paris [Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma]
27/2/1810Napoleon informs the Senate that he will marry Marie Louise of Austria [Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma]
11/3/1810Marriage ceremony Marie Louise in Vienna. Napoleon was not in Vienna and was represented by Archduke Karl. [Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma]
16/3/1810Louis Napoleon gives up Dutch territories to France. His brother Napoleon forced him to give up Brabant, Zeeland, the Land van Maas en Waal and the city of Mijmegen to France. 
25/5/1810Napoleon is crowned King of Italy in Milan 
10/7/1810The Kingdom of Holland becomes part of France immediately by an imperial decree [Beauharnais, Hortense de]
5/11/1810Louis Napoleon Bonaparte is baptised at the Palace of Fontainebleau. Napoleon I served as his godfather and empress Marie Louise as his godmother. His father, who lived separated from his mother Hortense, stayed away. [Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma][Napoleon III Bonaparte]
7/9/1812Battle of Borodino: Napoleon defeats Kutusov. The armies consisted both of circa 130,000 men. The French army was slightly larger. Kutusov was assisted by Prince Pyotr Bagration and Barclay de Tolly. Napoleon brought Eugène de Beauharnais, Ney and Davout. The battle was intense and pieces of land changed hands several times. Eugène de Beauharnais managed to occupy Borodino. The French lost 30,000 men and the Russians probably even more. But the French victory wasn't decisive because the French failed to destroy the Russian army. [Beauharnais, Eugène Rose de, Duke of Leuchtenberg][Davout, Louis-Nicholas, Duke of Auerstädt][Murat, Joachim, king of Naples][Ney, Michel, Duc d’Elchingen, Prince de la Moskowa]
15/12/1812Napoleon passes through Weimar on his way back from Russia. It happened during the night and he sent his greetings to Goethe. [Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von]
20/5/1813Battle of Bautzen: Napoleon defeats Russia and Prussia. A Prusso-russian army was driven back by Napoleon but it escapted destruction. The battle took place from 20 to 21 May. It was not the decisive victory that Napoleon had hoped for. His friend General Geraud Duroc was wounded mortually on the day after the battle. [Ney, Michel, Duc d’Elchingen, Prince de la Moskowa]
1/2/1814The Bourbons promise liberal policies in a proclamation. Louis XVIII and Charles X were still in England. But Napoleon's regime was close to collapsing and they tried to win the support of the French people. [Charles X, King of France]
0/4/1814Metternich asks for a separation of Napoleon I and Marie Louise. He wanted to separate her from Napoleon who was banished to Elba, She was offered Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla by the Congress of Vienna. [Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma]
6/4/1814Napoleon abdicates at Fontainebleau. He received Elba as kingdom. On the same day it was determined that 'Louis de France, frère du dernier roi' would receive the throne of France. 
16/4/1814The Treaty of Fontainebleau is ratified. Napoleon was sent to Elba with a substantial pension and the throne of France would be returned to Louis XVIII. 
25/4/1814Napoleon is almost lynched at Orgon. He was on his way to Elba with a small escort and when he passed the village of Orgon near Avonon the crowds pressed against the windows of his carriage and abused him. He promptly used the Austrian commissioner's cloak to avoid recognition. When he returned to France in the spring of 1815 he avoided the Provence on his way to Paris. 
3/5/1814Napoleon embarks at Elba. He thought the island was a bit small. His wish that Marie-Louise would join him wasn't fulfilled and she would enter into an affair with count Neipperg later that year. He was visited by Maria Walewska and their son Alexandre. [Walewska, Maria ]
24/9/1814Marie Louise and Count Neipperg become lovers. Count Adam Albert von Neipperg accompanied Marie Louise on a journey to Aix-les-Bains when Napoloen was at Elba. Forced by bad weather they had to spend the night at the inn "Die Goldene Sonne" at Küssnacht and during the night they became lovers. It is believed that Marie Louise had been after him for a while and Neipperg didn't resist. [Marie Louise, Empress of France, Duchess of Parma][Neipperg, Adam Albert, Count von]
29/3/1815Wellngton leaves the Congress of Vienna. During the Congress, Napoleon had returned to France. Napoleon promised a liberal rule and promised not to be a danger to Europe. But the Congress decided that he should be removed from power again. Wellington left for Brussels to take command of the allied army. [Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of]
11/5/1815Napoleon appoints Marshall Soult chief of staff. Sould had resigned as Minister of War under the Bourbons after Napoleon returned to France and declared himself a Bonapartist. 
30/7/1815Napoleon is told that he will be banished to St. Helena. Admiral Keith told him this. Everybody had expected that the former emperor would be treated with respect so this came as a surprise. 
25/7/1818Napoleon's physician O'Meara leaves St. Helena. He had become physician to Napoleon shortly after the Battle of Waterloo. After a conflict with Hudson Lowe he was forced to leave the island. 
17/2/1852President Louis Napoleon declares August 15 a national day for France. It was the birthday of Napoleon I and it became the only national day off in France. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
2/4/1861Napoleon I's remains are transferred to the crypt at the Dôme des Invalides in Paris. Before that he was buried at the chapel of Saint-Jérôme at Les Invalides after his remains were returned from St. Helena in 1840. Napoleon III and empress Eugénie looked over the balcony from above. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
15/5/1865Inauguration of the statue of Napoleon I in Ajaccio. Prince Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte gave a careless speech that was censured afterwards by Napoleon III on 23 May 1865. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]


The statue of Napoleon that was finished by Canova in 1806. In 1816 it became the property of the Duke of Wellington and it can still be found at Apsley House, Wellington's home in London.
Picture by Androom (24 Mar 1996)


The stone near Jena where Napoleon stood at the time of the battle against the Prussians in 1806.
Picture by Androom (06 Feb 2005)


Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb at the Dôme des Invalides, Paris.
Picture by Androom (17 Nov 2006)


Plaque at a house in Nice that was visited by Napoleon in 1796.
Picture by Androom (29 Nov 2008)


"Napoleon Bonaparte, Premier Consul".


The house in Wittenberg where Napoleon I (1806 and 1813), Maxim Gorky (1903), Friedrich Schiller (1804) and Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar (1828) stayed.
Picture by Androom (25 Aug 2013)


Metternich, Staatsman und Kavalier, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, München, 1978
• Breton, Guy, Histoires d'Amour de L'Histoire de France 7, Presses Pocket, Paris, 1965
Die Grosse Dynastien, Südwest Verlag, München, 1978
• Vincent, Benjamin, Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, and Universal Information, Ward, Lock & Co, London, 1906
• Longford, Elizabeth, Wellington, The Years of the Sword, World Books, London, 1971
• Orlandi, Enzo en Mario Rivoire (ed.), Onsterfelijke Vrouwen (deel 1), Spaarnestad, Haarlem, 1969
Point de Vue (Images du Monde), Point de Vue, Créteil
• Schiel, Irmgard, Marie-Louise, Une Habsbourg pour Napoléon, Duculot, Paris, 1992
• Vanoyeke, Violaine, Les Bonaparte, Criterion, Paris, 1991
Voor en na Waterloo, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1963
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Napoleon - Wikipedia - Le site d'histoire de la Fondation Napoléon
Johannes von Müller – Wikipedia
Luise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz – Wikipedia
Battle of Austerlitz - Wikipedia
Battle of Bassano - Wikipedia
Battle of Bautzen (1813) - Wikipedia
Bologna - Wikipedia
Giovanni Battista Caprara - Wikipedia
Napoleon III - Wikipedia
Second Battle of Bassano - Wikipedia
War of the Fifth Coalition - Wikipedia
Battaglia di Castiglione (1796) - Wikipedia
When Napoleon Courted Désirée Clary -
Final burial of the mortal remains of Emperor Napoleon I at the Eglise des Invalides, 2 April 1861 -
"Divorce": Josephine signs the declaration of annulment -

Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt

Published: 25 Feb 2007
Last update: 31 Jan 2024