Napoleon I Bonaparte

BORN 15 Aug 1769, Ajaccio, Corsica - DIED 5 May 1821, St. Helena
REAL 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, allthough 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. Allthough 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)
• Wife: Marie Louise d'Autriche, Impératrice des français (1810-1821, Saint-Cloud)

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• adopted Beauharnais, Eugène Rose de, Duke of Leuchtenberg
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• was painted by Gros, Antoine-Jean
• visited Helvétius, Anne-Catherine
• was painted by Ingres, Jean Auguste Dominique
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• has grave monument designed by Visconti, Ludovico Tullio Gioacchino
• was defeated by Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of

1796/2/9: The engagement of Napoleon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais is made public
1796/3/9: Napoleon Bonaparte marries Joséphine de Beauharnais
1798/5/4: Napoleon leaves Paris for the Middle East
His wife Joséphine accompanied him.
1798/5/9: Napoleon 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.
1798/9/0: Napoleon 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.
1806/12/31: Napoleon 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.
1808/10/2: Goethe on audience with Napoleon at the palace in Erfurt
It was the first meeting between the two and 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.
1808/10/6: Goethe meets Napoleon during the Court Ball in Weimar
It was their second meeting, after Napoleon had received him in Erfurt four days before. 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.
1809/12/14: Napoleon divorces Joséphine de Beauharnais
On this date they both agreed to the annulment of their civil marriage. The Roman Catholic marriage was annulled on 9 Jan 1810.
1812/12/15: Napoleon passes through Weimar on his way back from Russia
It happened during the night and he sent his greetings to Goethe.

A Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon - Wikipedia
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909


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 (1809) and Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar (1828) stayed.
Picture by Androom (25 Aug 2013)


Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt

Published: 25 Feb 2007
Last update: 25 Oct 2015