Napoleone Buonaparte, (born Assumption, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica; died May 5, 1821, on the island of St. Helena), the overall who became Emperor of the French and conqueror of Europe, is one among the foremost outstanding figures within the history of France and Europe, and one among the simplest known and most passionately admired or criticized in world history. He was the thing of both a black and a golden legend during his lifetime, and he became universally known for his military and political genius, but also for his very authoritarian personal power regime, and for his incessant and sometimes costly campaigns, which led to serious final defeats in Russia and at Waterloo, and in his death in exile in St. Helena at the hands of English.
General of the French Revolution at the age of 26, he accumulated spectacular victories in Italy and during the Egyptian campaign, and then returned to power through the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire year VIII of November 9, 1799.
He ruled France from the end of 1799; he was first First Consul from November 10, 1799, to May 18, 1804, then Emperor of the French, under the name of Napoleon I, from May 18, 1804, to April 11, 1814, then from March 20 to June 22, 1815. He deeply reorganized and reformed the state and society; many of his institutions still exist today. He brought the national territory to its maximum extension with nearly 130 departments, transforming Rome, Hamburg, or Amsterdam into chief towns of French departments. He was also president of the Italian Republic from 1802 to 1805, the king of Italy from March 17, 1805, to April 11, 1814, but he was also the mediator of the Swiss Confederation from 1803 to 1813 and was also the protector of the Rhine Federation from 1806 to 1813. He conquered and ruled most of continental Europe and placed members of his family on the thrones of several European kingdoms: Joseph on that of Naples and then Spain, Jerome on that of Westphalia, Louis on that of Holland and his brother-in-law Joachim Murat in Naples. He also created a Grand Duchy of Warsaw, without daring to formally restore Polish independence, and subjected defeated powers such as Prussia and Austria to his influence.
Napoleon tried to put an end to the series of wars that the European monarchies had been waging against France since 1792. He led the men of the Grand Army, including his loyal “grunts,” from the Nile and Andalusia to the city of Moscow. As British historian Eric Hobsbawm notes, no army had gone so far since the Vikings or the Mongols. Despite numerous initial victories against various coalitions mounted and financed by Great Britain (which became the United Kingdom in 1801), the imperial epic came to an end in 1815 with the defeat at Waterloo.
Few men were able to evoke as many contradictory feelings as Napoleon.. within the words of historian Steven Englund: “the tone (…) best suited to talk of Napoleon would be (…) admiration is close to the astonishment and a refusal that is always close to sadness. “
A whole romantic tradition made Napoleon the archetype of the great man called to change the world. Élie Faure, in his book Napoleon, which inspired Abel Gance, compared him to a prophet of modern times. Other authors such as Victor Hugo made the defeated man of Saint Helena the modern Prometheus. The shadow of “Napoleon the Great” hovers over many works by Balzac, Stendhal, Musset, but also by Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and many others.