Napoleon Bonaparte

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Napoleon in his study with his hand in his waistcoat (painting by Jacques-Louis David , 1812)
Napoleon's signature

Napoleon Bonaparte , as Emperor Napoleon I ( French Napoléon Bonaparte or Napoléon I he ; * August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on Corsica as Napoleone Buonaparte ; † May 5, 1821 in Longwood House on St. Helena in the South Atlantic ), was a French General , revolutionary dictator and emperor of the French .

Coming from a Corsican family, Bonaparte rose in the army during the French Revolution . He proved to be a military talent of the first order. Especially the campaigns in Italy and Egypt made him popular. This enabled him to take power in France through the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII (November 9, 1799), initially as one of three consuls. From 1799 to 1804 as First Consul of the French Republic and then until 1814 and again in 1815 as Emperor of the French , he headed a dictatorial regime with plebiscitary elements.

Through various reforms  - such as that of the judiciary through the Civil Code or that of the administration - Napoleon shaped the state structures in France up to the present day and initiated the creation of modern civil law in occupied European states. In terms of foreign policy, supported by the army, he temporarily gained control over large parts of continental Europe . He was also King of Italy from 1805 and protector of the Rhine Confederation from 1806 to 1813 and appointed family members and confidants as monarchs in several other states. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire initiated by him in 1806, the state structure of Central Europe became a central issue in the 19th century. In the beginning he himself had spread the idea of the nation state outside of France, but the success of this idea made it difficult to maintain the Napoleonic order in Europe, especially in Spain, Germany and finally also in Russia.

The catastrophic outcome of the campaign against Russia from 1812 onwards shook his rule over large parts of Europe, led to the wars of liberation and ultimately to the overthrow of Napoleon. After a brief period of exile on Elba , he returned to power for a hundred days in 1815 . In the battle of Waterloo he was finally defeated and banished to the island of St. Helena until the end of his life .

Coat of arms of Napoleon I as Emperor of the French

Origin and childhood

Family tree (to expand)

Sebastiano Nicolo Buonaparte ⚭ Maria Anna Tusoli
Giuseppe Maria Paravisini ⚭ Anna Maria Salineri
Giovanni-Agostino Ramolino ⚭ Angela-Maria Peri
Giuseppe Pietrasanta ⚭ Maria-Giuseppe Malerba
Giuseppe Maria Buonaparte
Maria Saveria Paravisini
Giovanni Geronimo Ramolino
Angela Maria Pietrasanta Giuseppe Pietrasanta
Carlo Buonaparte
Laetitia Ramolino
(King of Naples, King of Spain)
(First Consul, Emperor of the French)
(French Minister of the Interior)
(King of Holland)
(King of Westphalia)
(Princess of Lucca and Piombino and Grand Duchess of Tuscany)
(Duchess of Guastalla)
(Grand Duchess of Berg, Queen of Naples)
Letizia Buonaparte , the Emperor's mother (oil painting by Robert Lefèvre from 1813)
Carlo Buonaparte , the father (painting by Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson , 1806)

Napoleon was as Napoleone Buonaparte (Corsican Nabulione ) in the Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica born, after a long war for independence from the Republic of Genoa from this in 1768 to France had been sold. He was the second son of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino , who had 13 children together, but only eight of them survived early childhood years. On July 21, 1771, Napoleon was baptized in the Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption cathedral . The family belonged to the Corsican aristocracy and had been on the island since the early 16th century. Their roots are in the Italian Tuscany . Napoleon's grandfather was the Corsican politician Giuseppe Maria Buonaparte ; his father Carlo was the secretary of Pascal Paoli , a Corsican revolutionary and resistance fighter, and had fought with him for the independence of Corsica. After initial success, the insurgents were crushed at the Battle of Pontenuovo and Paoli went into exile in Great Britain.

The complaints about the lost freedom and the victims were among the first formative influences of Napoleon's childhood, and Paoli remained his idol and role model until the 1790s. As a lawyer , Napoleon's father had worked on a Corsican constitution , but in 1769 he quickly bowed to French suzerainty. From then on he worked as a lawyer and judge as well as a winemaker and farmer on his property. His goodwill earned him the favor of the new French masters. In 1771 he became a salaried assessor in Ajaccio. In addition, he was an elected representative of the nobility in the Corsican state parliament and in Paris .

The children of the Buonapartes received their first, less demanding education in the city school of Ajaccio, later Napoleon and some of his siblings were instructed in writing and arithmetic by an Abbé . Napoleon is said to have distinguished himself especially in the latter. Due to the father's extensive library and his influence, his older sons became interested in history, literature and law at an early age.

Youth and military training

Due to his collaboration with the French, Carlo Buonaparte managed to receive royal scholarships for his sons Napoleon and Joseph from the Governor of Corsica, Count Louis Charles de Marbeuf . While the older son was to be prepared for the priestly profession, the younger was earmarked for a career in the military. In December 1778 both left the island together and first came to the Collège von Autun , mainly to learn the French language. The following year, Napoleon went to the military school of Brienne . Here the not very wealthy scholarship holder and the only Corsican was considered an outsider.

Napoleon at the age of 16 (chalk drawing by an unknown draftsman, 1785)

His academic performance varied; He developed a special talent in mathematics . His Latin remained so bad that he wasn't even tested in it. His spelling in French was poor, but his style had improved significantly through extensive reading. He was interested in the great heroes of history such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar .

After passing the exam without any problems, he was initially intended for a career in the navy , but not least because of his mother's objection. Instead, his mathematical knowledge predestined him for the artillery. In 1784 he was accepted into the École royale militaire in Paris, the most prestigious military school in the country. There he learned hydrostatics , differential and integral calculus in the artillery class . In addition, constitutional law and fortification were taught.

When his father died of stomach cancer on February 24, 1785, Napoleon took over the role of head of the family, which actually belonged to his older brother Joseph Bonaparte . In the same year Napoleon was able to prematurely end his training due to his good performance and received - barely 16 years old - his officer's license . He joined the La Fère regiment in Valence . There he took up his service as a Sous-lieutenant in January 1786 until he was transferred to Auxonne (near Dijon ) in June 1788 . To relieve his mother, he took his eleven-year-old brother Louis with him and took care of his upbringing.

In his free time he devoted himself to literature and writing. He read a lot during this time. Reading ranged from novels to textbooks, from ancient works such as those of Plato to modern works such as those by Voltaire , Corneille and Lavater or scientific works such as Rollin's Ancient History , Buffon's Histoire naturelle or Marigny's History of the Arabs . Napoleon read the Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe several times. He also studied a number of standard military works of the time. When he later became increasingly interested in politics, Jean-Jacques Rousseau became his great role model. A constitutional monarchy like that of Great Britain seemed exemplary to him. Guillaume Raynal was later also of importance .

The revolution and Corsican ambitions

Napoleone Buonaparte as Lieutenant Colonel of the Corsican National Guard (1792)

Napoleon expressly welcomed the French Revolution in the summer of 1789 , even though he condemned the riots and riots associated with it. He and his regiment swore allegiance to the new order at the end of August. However, he saw the revolution primarily as an opportunity for the liberation of Corsica. In September he took leave from the army and returned to Ajaccio. Together with his brother Joseph he developed extensive political activities there.

As a result of the revolution, the popular hero Pascal Paoli was able to return from exile. Napoleon glorified Paoli as his role model in a pamphlet, but he mistrusted the sons of Carlo Buonaparte, who had passed over to the French.

In 1791 Napoleon returned to his regiment and was promoted to lieutenant . After the attempted escape of Louis XVI. in June of that year Napoleon declared himself a Republican and joined the local Jacobin club . As a competition text for the Academy in Lyon , he submitted a typeface with strongly republican approaches. The stay with the troops was short and at the end of 1791 Napoleon was back in Corsica. There he succeeded in becoming leader of the National Guard against Paoli's will through election manipulation . As a result, it became clear that Napoleon used this position to expand his political influence over Paoli. After his troops became embroiled in bloody unrest, the unit was transferred to the interior of the island and Napoleon returned to France.

Because of numerous complaints from Corsica about the actions of Napoleon and the fact that his vacation was exceeded, he was discharged from the army in early 1792. When he then traveled to Paris to get his reinstatement, he was not only granted this, but due to a lack of officers, he was promoted to captaincy .

However, he soon returned to Corsica. From there he took part with his volunteer unit in the battle at La Maddalena , a military operation in northeastern Sardinia against the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont . The attempt to conquer an island belonging to Sardinia with his troops failed miserably because the crew of the ships mutinied. After the newly formed National Convention ordered the arrest of Paoli and Lucien Bonaparte boasted in a letter that the Buonaparte family was responsible, they had to flee the island in the face of the anger of the Paoli supporters. For the family this meant a life in exile in France and for Napoleon the end of his Corsican ambitions.

Soldier of the revolution

After the escape, Napoleon returned to his regiment stationed in southern France. In France, in the meantime, the Jacobins of Maximilien de Robespierre had taken power. If Napoleon had distanced himself from the Jacobins a year earlier, he now served the new leadership. In June 1793 he wrote a brochure in which he set out his political position. In the form of a fictional dialogue, this left no doubt about Bonaparte's approval of the regime. Robespierre's brother, Augustine , who was in the south as a representative of the convent, became aware of Napoleon and had his writing printed.

In addition, Napoleon was appointed commander of the artillery in the siege of the city ​​of Toulon , held by insurgent moderate revolutionaries and royalists . The insurgents were supported by the British fleet . Eliminating this potential bridgehead for the British Army was therefore of great importance.

On November 25, 1793, Napoleon presented his plan for the storming of the city to the commander, General Dugommier . This led to the conquest of Toulon on December 19. The success was the real beginning of Napoleon's rise. On December 22nd, at the age of just 24, he was promoted to Général de brigade in thanks . He was given command of the artillery of the Italian Army, which was set up in Nice . After the fall of the Jacobin rule, Napoleon was temporarily imprisoned as a party member of Robespierre, but was soon released again. His military career suffered a setback due to the political change and led to the loss of his command.

Napoleon now lived in Marseille with the rest of the Buonaparte family . His brother Joseph wooed Julie Clary and Napoleon fell in love with her sister Désirée Clary . Under the impression of this relationship, Bonaparte began to write the autobiographically tinged novel Clisson et Eugénie , which, however, did not get beyond the drafting stage. Désirée Clary married Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte in 1798 , who was appointed Maréchal d'Empire by Napoleon in 1804 . Bernadotte was elected Crown Prince of Sweden in 1810 and was crowned King of Sweden as Charles XIV John in 1818 .

To save his career, Napoleon traveled to Paris and tried to offer himself to the new rulers, the so-called Thermidorians around Paul de Barras . When a right-wing uprising broke out in Paris, Barras was appointed commander in chief of the Army of the Interior. Without any military knowledge of his own, he brought Bonaparte to his side. This let the rebels shoot together on October 5, 1795 with concentrated gunfire. In gratitude, he was promoted to general de division and a short time later appointed commander in chief inside.

Bonaparte got to know the new ruler Joséphine de Beauharnais in the private sphere . She was the divorcee of the executed Alexandre de Beauharnais and former lover of Barras. For Joséphine, who was older than Napoleon, the obvious rise of Napoleon on marriage seemed to be a way to finance her costly lifestyle. Napoleon, for his part, was certainly in love with Joséphine, but rational considerations also played a role in this connection. This further strengthened the connection to Barras and he found entry into Parisian society. Bonaparte broke off the relationship with Désirée Clary and married Joséphine on March 9, 1796.

The Italian campaign

Bonaparte on the Arcole Bridge (painting by Antoine-Jean Gros from 1801)

Just two days after his wedding, Napoleon left for Nice to take command of the Italian army. From that time on he called himself Bonaparte in French instead of the Italian Buonaparte.

The generals subordinate to him, such as Pierre-François-Charles Augereau or André Masséna , were initially skeptical of the director's favorite . But Bonaparte's energetic demeanor soon earned general respect. The French Italian army of around 40,000 men was poorly equipped and the soldiers had not received any pay for months. The morale of the troops was correspondingly bad. Napoleon, who was only supposed to distract the Austrians from the main theater of war in the north, quickly managed to arouse the enthusiasm of the army with various speeches. “I want to lead you to the most fertile levels in the world. Rich provinces, great cities will fall into your hands; there you will find honor, fame and fortune. ”To consolidate this enthusiasm, Bonaparte used modern-looking propaganda measures. With the Courier de l'Armée d'Italie , the army published its own newspaper, which, not least, was intended to put the general in a favorable light. Bonaparte stuck to systematic press work in the future.

In military terms, too, Italy became a prototype for future campaigns. The military credo of the trained artilleryman Napoleon was: “The systems of war are like sieges of fortresses. You have to focus your fire on one and the same point. After the breach is struck and the balance is disturbed, everything else comes naturally. ”Then he acted. Bonaparte concentrated his forces in one place and used this concentrated power. The prerequisite was that his units marched faster than those of the enemy. In this regard, the troops of the republic, who lived mainly from the marched area, were clearly superior to the troops of the Ancien Régime style with their large entourage . Another difference was that the generals of the revolutionary armies who waged a people's war were less considerate of casualties than the commanders of the old mercenary armies of the 18th century. Napoleon recognized better than other generals during a battle where he had to attack massively with his troops in order to achieve the decisive breakthrough.

During the Italian campaign, the French in northern Italy faced Austrian and Sardinian-Piedmontese troops totaling around 70,000 men. The conservative generals of the enemy, with their war techniques, which had long since become obsolete, were simply overrun by the French. Initially, the two armies of the enemy were separated in a series of battles. After King Viktor Amadeus III. of Sardinia after the defeat at Mondovì had asked for peace, Napoleon turned to the Austrians and defeated them on May 10, 1796 in the battle of Lodi .

Not only his soldiers cheered the general. The inhabitants of Milan also gave Bonaparte an enthusiastic welcome as an apparent liberator. The other Italian states tried to save the peace with money and the delivery of art treasures. After the Battle of Lodi, Napoleon's conviction began to grow that he would play a role not only as a military but also politically. In November 1796, Napoleon fought demonstratively in the front line at the Battle of Arcole and in this way increased his reputation among the public and among the soldiers even more.

The siege of the strategically important city of Mantua lasted six months. During this time, various relief armies were defeated by Bonaparte. After the surrender on February 2, 1797, the way over the Alpine passes was free. Austria, under the military leadership of Archduke Karl , had to accept the Peace of Campo Formio and suffer considerable losses of territory. In Italy, Bonaparte established subsidiary states of the French Republic with the Cisalpine Republic and the Ligurian Republic. The unauthorized behavior and growing popularity of Bonaparte increased the mistrust of the ruling Directory. But they could hardly do anything about the enthusiastic reception by the population after Bonaparte's return.

The expedition to Egypt

After returning from Italy, Napoleon feared that his fame would soon fade again and urged the Directory to reassign him to a new military command. When the initially planned invasion of Britain proved impracticable, the government approved the plan to conquer Egypt . The aim was to disrupt Britain's access to India . A transport fleet escorted by warships lifted anchor on May 19, 1798. In addition to 38,000 soldiers, there were also numerous scientists and artists on board who were supposed to research the country, its history and art monuments and to set up modern political and economic structures in Egypt. After the French occupied the island of Malta en route , the army landed in Egypt on July 1, 1798. On July 21st, the French expeditionary forces defeated a Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids and entered Cairo on July 23rd . There Napoleon received the news that his ships had been sunk near Abukir by a British fleet under Horatio Nelson . The Egyptian army was thus largely cut off from the motherland.

The Battle of the Pyramids (oil painting by Louis-François Lejeune , 1808)

With the help of the experts who traveled with him, Bonaparte began various reforms and founded the Institut d'Égypte , which became a nucleus of Egyptology . In the course of the expedition, among other things, the Rosette stone was found. A copy of this multilingual inscription enabled Jean-François Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphs in 1822 . Napoleon was not viewed by the Egyptians as a liberator, as in Italy, but as an infidel and foreign conqueror. An uprising in Cairo had to be suppressed by force. Since Egypt was officially part of the Ottoman Empire , it declared war on France. Napoleon then marched with part of his army towards the new opponents in the direction of Palestine . The conquest of Jaffa and Gaza succeeded, but the fortress in Acre was able to hold on. After the French army was decimated by the plague , Napoleon had to retreat to Egypt. There the French were able to defeat an Ottoman army again in the Battle of Abukir on July 25, 1799, but it was clear to Napoleon that the goals of the expedition could no longer be achieved. In addition, the foreign policy situation in Europe came to a head with the advance of Allied troops in the course of the Second Coalition War and the domestic political crisis in France. This caused Bonaparte to leave Egypt on August 23, 1799, leaving the expeditionary troops behind. With a lot of luck he sailed through the blockade of the Royal Navy and reached Ajaccio in Corsica on September 30th. He re-entered mainland France at Saint-Raphaël on October 9th. In France, the failure of the expedition hardly played a role; rather, Bonaparte was celebrated as a popular hero on his way to Paris. Many citizens hoped from him military successes, the restoration of peace in foreign policy and domestically, the overcoming of the ruined and corrupt Directory.

Coup of 18th Brumaire VIII

General Bonaparte before the Council of Five Hundred at Saint Cloud on November 10, 1799 (painting by François Bouchot from 1840)

As an existing government , the Directory had not only lost all trust among the population, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès and Roger Ducos also toyed with the idea of ​​a coup in the Directory itself, relying on the military aid of Napoleon. Napoleon could not become a member of the board of directors because the constitution required you to be at least 40 years old. On November 9th, 1799, the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII seemed to succeed through political manipulation. When the two chambers of parliament showed themselves unruly the next day and a confused speech by Napoleon made the situation even worse, the chambers were driven apart by Bonaparte's grenadiers. A rump parliament approved the plans to set up the consular constitution under the consuls Bonaparte, Sieyes and Ducos. As a result, Napoleon succeeded as the First Consul in pushing his co-conspirators into the political sideline and replacing them with the compliant Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès and Charles-François Lebrun . The thirty-year-old Bonaparte was the first consul to actually become the sole ruler.

Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul of the French Republic

The 2nd consulate: Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès , Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles-François Lebrun

According to the new constitution of December 24, 1799, the First Consul was elected for ten years and had far-reaching powers. So he had the right to initiate legislation, and he appointed the ministers and other high-ranking state officials. In contrast, the participation rights of the two chambers of parliament ( corps legislatif and tribunate ) were limited. Overall, the constitution legitimized a covert dictatorship of Bonaparte. A referendum, the results of which were embellished, resulted in the citizens' approval of the new constitution.

As a kind of government program, Bonaparte issued the slogan: “Citizens! The revolution has returned to the principles from which it started; it is over. ”This corresponded to the wish of the middle class in particular. They wanted to see the achievements of the revolution, such as the abolition of feudal privileges or equality of rights, preserved, but they also demanded protection from the activities of the radicals or unrest among the lower classes. The new ruler took this into account. Order was restored in some unrest areas. Napoleon had reforms carried out in various areas, some of which lasted well beyond his reign. These include the further centralization of administration, development of transport infrastructure, the consolidation of public finances, a currency reform, which had in the core and 1914 inventory, the creation of the Banque de France and finally in 1804 the adoption of the Code Civil Code , known as the Napoleonic Code known is. This is still important in many countries to this day and remained in force in some parts of Germany until 1900. In 1802, Bonaparte founded the Legion of Honor for special services .

Napoleon let the organized political opposition fight, at the same time he tried to integrate both the former supporters of the Jacobins and the royalists into the new state. In the case of the latter, the 1801 Concordat with Pope Pius VII played an important role. When, after an uncovered conspiracy surrounding Georges Cadoudal , Pichegru and General Moreau, Bonaparte kidnapped the Duke of Enghien , a member of the former royal family, in Germany and ordered him to be tried and shot in France, this meant a setback for the reconciliation process and solved it There were violent protests, especially abroad.

In terms of foreign policy, it was initially a matter of victoriously ending the second coalition war. Following the example of Hannibal , he and his army crossed the Alps. The victory in the Battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800 was mainly due to General Desaix , who fell in the battle. After the decisive victory of the troops led by General Jean-Victor Moreau in the Battle of Hohenlinden , peace was made with Austria on February 9, 1801 in Lunéville . Peace with Russia followed on October 8, 1801, and the Peace of Amiens ended the war with Great Britain on March 25, 1802. Overseas, Napoleon's abolition of the decrees against the Code Noir and slavery on Saint-Domingue that were passed on February 4, 1794 - but never implemented - led to new uprisings and finally to the declaration of independence on January 1, 1804 under a new name: Haiti . In 1803 Bonaparte sold Louisiana ( New France ) to the United States (→ Louisiana Purchase ). France thus withdrew entirely from the North American continent.

In 1805 Napoleon expressly decreed the further application of the Code Noir, so that it  was valid until the abolition of slavery in French colonies - if still in French possession - until 1848.

The domestic and foreign political successes made it possible for Bonaparte to be declared consul for life by the Senate - legitimized by a further referendum on August 2, 1802. 3 million French people who voted voted for a “yes”, 1600 for a “no”. The determination to be able to choose one's successor and the establishment of a regular court in the Tuileries were steps on the way to monarchy.

The time of peace did not last long. Napoleon's foreign policy with the annexation of Piedmont , Switzerland's close ties to France, the decree of a new constitution in Holland and ultimately the dispute over the status of the island of Malta led to Great Britain declaring war. In the first few years their effects were limited. While Great Britain was mainly waging a colonial and naval war, Bonaparte closed his sphere of influence to British goods and annexed Hanover . The plan to invade Britain was abandoned again in 1805.

Napoleon I - Emperor of the French

The rise of the empire and the reorganization of Europe

The Coronation at Notre Dame (1804)
(painting by Jacques-Louis David 1806–1807)

After Napoleon had been proposed to emperor by a referendum and the Senate, he crowned himself emperor on December 2, 1804 in the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral during the ceremony in the presence of Pius VII . While the acceptance of the imperial crown was intended to further increase his prestige internally, it was an attempt externally to legitimize his regime dynastically . At the same time, however, the imperial title signaled the claim to the future design of Europe. The title “Emperor of the French” meant that he ultimately saw himself as the emperor of a people and not of an empire. Napoleon saw himself as sovereign of the people and not, like all Roman emperors before, as an emperor crowned by God ( divine right ). On May 26, 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of the Lombards in Milan Cathedral .

Napoleon as King of Rome (portrait by Andrea Appiani , Army History Museum )

These coronations led to further conflicts in international relations. Tsar Alexander I entered into an alliance with Great Britain in April 1805. The aim was to bring France back to the borders of 1792. Austria, Sweden and Naples followed suit. Only Prussia did not participate in this third coalition . Conversely, the German states of Bavaria , Württemberg and Baden, strengthened after the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss , entered the war on Bonaparte's side. In accordance with his tried and tested tactics of separating the enemy armies from one another and defeating them one after the other, Napoleon initially turned against Austria. The first blow hit the Austrians with a lightning campaign in the battles of Elchingen and Ulm (September 25 to October 20, 1805), where General Karl Mack von Leiberich was forced to work with part of the army that was initially 70,000 strong. to surrender. The way to Vienna was now open to Napoleon : after minor battles along the Danube, his troops captured Vienna on November 13th without a fight .

Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz (painting by François Pascal Simon Gérard )

Subsequently, Napoleon lured the Russians and Austrians into the battle of Austerlitz , which he won on December 2, 1805, by cleverly pretending to be weak . Although the French fleet at Trafalgar was devastated by Nelson on October 21, 1805, Austerlitz meant the decision on the continent. On December 26, 1805, the Pressburg Peace Treaty was signed with Austria . The conditions were tough. The Habsburg Monarchy lost Tyrol and Vorarlberg to Bavaria and their last Italian possessions fell to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy . In gratitude for their support, the electors of Bavaria and Württemberg were made kings ( Kingdom of Bavaria , Kingdom of Württemberg ).

In order to ensure success, Napoleon pursued a targeted marriage policy with the younger members of his family and set siblings and followers as rulers of the dependent states. So in 1806 Joseph became King of Naples and in 1808 King of Spain, Louis became King of Holland in 1806 . His sister Elisa became Princess of Lucca and Piombino in 1805 , Grand Duchess of Tuscany in 1809 , Pauline was temporarily Duchess of Parma and also Duchess of Guastalla . As wife of Joachim Murat, Caroline Bonaparte became Grand Duchess von Berg in 1806 and Queen of Naples in 1808 . Jérôme became king of the newly created Kingdom of Westphalia in 1807 . Napoleon's adopted daughter Stéphanie de Beauharnais married Hereditary Prince Karl of Baden in 1806 and became Grand Duchess of Baden in 1811 . Only Napoleon's brother Lucien , with whom he had fallen out, went largely empty-handed.

Tribute to the Princes of the Rhine Confederation ( Charles Motte , colored lithograph)
The civil code in the Palatinate History Museum in Speyer

In Germany, the Rhine Confederation was founded on July 16, 1806, initially from 16 countries . Its members pledged to provide military support for France and to withdraw from the Holy Roman Empire . The protector of the federal government - as a protector in the political sense of the word or as a protecting power - was Napoleon. Thereupon Francis II laid down the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire. Already in 1808 almost all German states except Austria and Prussia belonged to the Rhine Confederation. A “Third Germany” without Austria and Prussia (the triad idea ) developed, so to speak . Extensive centralization of the state based on the French model - in Germany, which is often still organized as a "patchwork quilt" - began with the introduction of principles of the French Revolution, such as equality, property rights and the like (general fundamental rights), but also with the reform of the agricultural, educational , Economics, taxation and finance. In contrast to the comparable, more harmonious and internally practiced Prussian innovations, the French were increasingly perceived by the population as rigorous and imposed from the outside. The management system was often slow and was usually not completely adopted. It remained a torso like the entire Napoleonic-Rhine-Bund reform work. The constant recruitment of new soldiers, high taxes, the disadvantages of the continental blockade , repression measures by the police and the military, as well as the heavy bureaucratic access to practically every citizen led to resentment. After all, a reliable professional civil service was developed through educational reform , tax and financial reform brought about an upswing in trade and the strengthening of the commercial and financial bourgeoisie. Capital markets grew, as did the number of investors , who were now also given economic guarantees through the improved right to property. After Napoleon's abdication, these regions became centers of early German liberalism and early constitutionalism . Since the plan of 1806 to build a federation of states with joint constitutional organs also failed due to the resistance of the larger member states, the Rhine federation remained essentially just a military alliance of German states with France. Napoleon's main goal was to align the state structures to stabilize French rule over Europe. Power politics and military considerations took precedence over liberal reform ideas. The historian Rainer Wohlfeil notes that Napoleon had no real concept for the redesign of Europe; rather, for example, the Rhine Confederation policy was an expression of a “situation-dependent instinctive will to power”.

Napoleon, the Christian Churches and Judaism

Napoleon tried to keep the churches and faiths under control through readmission, equality and affiliation. Despite the fundamental separation of church and state , the Concordat with Pope Pius VII in 1801 brought a certain balance. Although Catholicism was no longer recognized as the state religion, it was recognized as the religion of the majority of the people. Napoleon retained the right to appoint a bishop, while the Pope had the right of ordination.

1791, the Jews of France had the status of a citizen ( citoyen ) get. This brought them civil rights for the first time in a European country. They lost their previous partial autonomy and had to do military service.

“Napoleon restores the cult of the Israelites” , May 30, 1806

With the introduction of consistory in 1808, Napoleon underpinned the administrative equality of Jews and enforced it in the conquered areas on the left bank of the Rhine, but met resistance on the right bank of the Rhine. Nevertheless, from 1800 to 1812 almost all German states followed the renewed demands of Christian Konrad Wilhelm von Dohm . The reforms introduced by Napoleon were initially welcomed by a large part of the Jewish community leaders, in the hope that in this way Judaism in France would receive a status similar to that of the Catholic Church in the Concordat of 1801 and the Protestants in the "organic articles" of 1802 would. Napoleon himself endeavored to have a means of controlling the Jewish community while at the same time integrating the Jews as citizens into his French society. The statutes of the consistory were put into effect by imperial decree on March 17, 1808. As a “Décret infame” (literally: “shameful decree”), with which Napoleonic France reintroduced discriminatory regulations for Jews in a step backwards compared to earlier emancipating laws, it was soon referred to by the Jews. His treatment of Jews, however, was classified as preferential treatment by the Russian Orthodox Church and he himself was classified as "Antichrist and enemy of God".

War against Prussia and Russia

In the meantime, relations between France and Prussia had deteriorated. After the latter had concluded a secret alliance with Russia, Napoleon was ultimately asked on August 26, 1806, among other things, to withdraw his troops behind the Rhine. Bonaparte viewed this as a declaration of war. After receiving the Prussian ultimatum on October 5 or 7 (in Bamberg or in the prince-bishop's residence in Würzburg ), in October 1806 his troops advanced from the Main through Thuringia to the Prussian capital Berlin . The Prussian army defeated in the battle of Jena and Auerstedt almost disbanded in the following weeks. As an imperial state domain, the Principality of Erfurt was directly subordinated to Napoleon, while the surrounding Thuringian states joined the Confederation of the Rhine. The French troops marched into Berlin.

Now the Russian army marched into East Prussia supported the Prussian troops that had escaped there. During the campaign, clear boundaries of the Napoleonic army became apparent for the first time. The country was too vast and the roads were too poor for troops to move quickly. The supply of the army was inadequate and the Russians under General Levin August von Bennigsen retreated further and further without allowing themselves to be put into battle. Napoleon spent the winter of 1806/1807 in Warsaw , where Polish patriots urged him to restore Poland. It was there that Bonaparte's long-term relationship with Countess Walewska began , with whom he fathered a child.

It was not until February 8, 1807 that the battle of Preussisch Eylau took place without a decision being made. On June 14, 1807, Bonaparte was able to beat Bennigsen decisively in the Battle of Friedland . On July 7th, France, Russia and Prussia signed the Treaty of Tilsit . The peace conditions for Prussia were catastrophic. All areas west of the Elbe were lost and became the basis for the new Kingdom of Westphalia . The territories annexed by Prussia during the partitions of Poland in 1793 and 1795 were elevated to the Duchy of Warsaw . Overall, Prussia lost about half of its previous territory, had to pay high contributions and was only allowed to maintain an army to a limited extent.

Almost all of continental Europe was now under Napoleon's direct or indirect control. With the continental blockade , Bonaparte imposed a Europe-wide trade boycott against Great Britain, which was still hostile .

The system on the defensive

Napoleon on horseback
( Simon Meister , 1832, oil on canvas, Städtisches Museum Simeonstift Trier )

In the years following the Peace of Tilsit, Napoleon was at the height of his power. In the interior of his domain, despotic tendencies intensified during this time . He tolerated criticism of his administration less and less. Because Foreign Minister Talleyrand objected to the expansion policy, he was dismissed in 1807. The censorship and harassment of the press have been tightened. The theater decree of 1807 restricted the scope of the Parisian theaters. The personality cult around the emperor grew, the aristocratization continued. In 1808 a new nobility was created by law. In addition, more and more aristocrats of the ancien régime played a role at court . In large parts of the population, which was still shaped by the revolution's ideal of equality, this development was viewed critically.

May 3, 1808 - shooting of Spanish insurgents (painting by Francisco de Goya from 1814)

In terms of foreign policy, the enforcement of the continental blockade against Great Britain was in the foreground. In Italy this was partly achieved by force. With the consent of the king ( Treaty of Fontainebleau (1807) ), a French army marched through Spain to occupy Portugal , which did not want to participate in the continental blockade . Napoleon took advantage of a dispute over the throne between the Spanish King Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII and in a political coup, supported by the French troops in the country, installed his brother Joseph as King of Spain. Immediately thereafter, a general national uprising broke out in Spain, forcing Joseph Bonaparte to flee Madrid. The Spaniards were supported by a British expeditionary force under Arthur Wellesley , who later became the Duke of Wellington. After the surrender of his general Junot , Napoleon had to intervene himself. After trying to persuade the European powers to stand still at the Erfurt Prince Congress in October 1808, Bonaparte moved into Spain with his best troops. Initially successful against regular soldiers, the Grande Armée was confronted with bitter guerrilla warfare . With no tangible success, Napoleon returned to France at the beginning of 1809. The guerrilla war in Spain remained an unsolved problem that tied strong troops and was costly.

Shortly after their return, the Austrian army marched into Bavaria under Karl von Österreich-Teschen . Austria relied on national slogans and met with approval in its own monarchy and in Germany. As a result, Andreas Hofer revolted against the Bavarian occupation troops in Tyrol . In northern Germany, Ferdinand von Schill or the black crowd tried to offer military resistance. Above all intellectuals such as Joseph Görres , Johann Gottlieb Fichte , Ernst Moritz Arndt and others began to attack French rule, sometimes with nationalistic tones. However, the Napoleonic system was still strong enough to continue to bind Prussia and the Princes of the Rhine Confederation. Therefore Austria was isolated from Napoleon on the continent.

Marie-Louise of Austria with her son (painting by the French painter Joseph-Boniface Franque )

Napoleon arrived in Donauwörth on April 16, 1809 . On May 21, 1809, his troops crossed the Danube southeast of Vienna. In the Battle of Aspern- Essling, the Austrians stopped the French advance. This battle became Napoleon's first defeat. In the battle of Wagram , however, he was ultimately able to defeat Archduke Karl. In the Treaty of Schönbrunn , Austria then had to forego Dalmatia , Central Croatia , the Carniola , the coastal region , Salzburg and the Innviertel , with which it lost around half of its hereditary lands and was almost displaced from the old Roman-German empire borders. The country had to join the anti-British continental blockade and reduce its army to 150,000 men. A military alliance between Austria and France was also concluded.

In the same year Napoleon divorced Joséphine because their marriage had remained childless. In the hope of recognition by the old dynasties and the consolidation of the alliance with Austria , Bonaparte married Marie-Louise of Austria in 1810 , the eldest daughter of the Austrian Emperor Franz I. The marriage resulted in the desired heir to the throne, Napoleon II, born in 1811 . Believing to have established a new dynasty, celebrations were arranged throughout the empire, some of which were to become part of a permanent Napoleonic festival calendar. The weakness of the newly established dynasty was made visible by the conspiracy of General Malet in 1812.

The Russian campaign

At the end of 1810, for economic reasons, Tsar Alexander I of Russia was no longer willing to take part in the continental blockade imposed on Great Britain by Napoleon. Since Napoleon saw this as the only weapon against Britain, the position of Russia and other factors caused relations between the two sides to cool. Bonaparte prepared for war with Russia in 1811 and the first half of 1812. The Confederation of the Rhine were obliged to increase their contingents, and Austria and Prussia also felt compelled to provide troops. Only Sweden stayed aside under the new Crown Prince and former French General Bernadotte and allied itself with Russia. In total, the Grande Armée is said to have been 590,000 strong during its deployment. Today, however, these numbers are considered exaggerated. In fact, there were no more than 450,000 men available for the invasion of Russia. Nevertheless, it was the largest army that had existed in Europe until then.

Napoleon in retreat (painting by Adolph Northen )

On June 24, 1812, Napoleon crossed the Memel . His plan for the campaign in Russia, known there as the Patriotic War , was to bring about a quick, spectacular decisive battle, as in previous lightning campaigns , which would soon end the war and initiate peace negotiations. But the Russian troops under the leadership of Barclay de Tolly retreated into the vastness of the country. The previous method of supplying the army with the produce of the country did not work because the Russians pursued a scorched earth policy . In addition, inadequate logistics, lice fever and unfavorable weather conditions meant that the troop strength was considerably reduced even without contact with the enemy. By August 17, 1812, when the troops reached Smolensk, they were only 160,000 strong. The Russians under Kutuzov stood for battle in front of Moscow . The Battle of Borodino was Napoleon not win, but she was ever to costliest conflict of the Napoleonic Wars: complaining about 45,000 dead or wounded on the Russian side and 28,000 were on the French side. It was not until the First World War that there were even higher numbers of victims in a single day.

Decreasing strength of the Napoleonic army, 1812/13. Beige: advancing eastwards. Black: retreat. Of the 422,000 people at Kaunas , 100,000 reach Moscow and ultimately 10,000 return. On the way back, the temperature drops to -30 ° Réaumur = -37.5 ° Celsius . Graphic by CF Minard , 1861.

With this Pyrrhic victory , Napoleon initially succeeded in taking Moscow without further struggle. After the invasion, the city was set on fire - presumably by the Russians themselves. The soldiers of the Grande Armée suffered from hunger, disease, snow and cold. The tsar refused to negotiate. On October 18, Napoleon gave the order to march. A lack of supplies, diseases and constant attacks by the Russian Cossacks hit the French troops hard. In the battle of the Berezina , Napoleon's grand army was finally crushed.

Only 18,000 Napoleonic soldiers crossed the Prussian border on the Memel in December 1812. The commander of the Prussian auxiliary corps, Yorck von Wartenburg , separated from the Grande Armée and signed an unauthorized armistice with the Tsar ( Convention of Tauroggen ). Napoleon had fled to Paris beforehand to raise a new army. While still a loss-making retreat of the imperial court had reported: "The health of his majesty has never been better." ( "La santé de Sa majesté n'a jamais été meilleure." 29 Bulletin of the Grande Armée v December 17, 1812.) .

The collapse

Napoleon's farewell to the Imperial Guard in Fontainebleau (painting by Antoine Alphonse Montfort)
Napoleon's first abdication on April 12, 1814. His signature on the document.

In Germany, Napoleon's defeat led to an upswing in the national movement. The pressure of public opinion led Bonaparte's previous allies to turn to the other side. King Friedrich Wilhelm III. concluded an alliance with Russia with the Treaty of Kalisch and called for a war of liberation . Initially, only a few German countries followed, and Austria initially stayed away from this alliance. Immediately after his return, Napoleon began to raise new soldiers. With a poorly trained army, which also lacked cavalry , Bonaparte marched to Germany. At first, Napoleon's military abilities were shown again. He won on May 2, 1813 at Großgörschen and on 20/21. May at Bautzen . The reorganized Prussian army had turned into a serious opponent who inflicted heavy losses on the French. Because of this, Bonaparte agreed to a truce.

The opponents used this to draw Austria on their side. At a peace congress in Prague , Napoleon was given an ultimatum that included the dissolution of the Rhine Confederation, the abandonment of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and the restoration of Prussia within the borders of 1806. Since this would in fact have meant giving up the French supremacy in Europe, Napoleon did not respond to it. Austria then declared war on France. Prussia, Russia and Austria signed the Teplitz alliance agreements . Since Sweden also took part in the coalition, all states in Europe that were not directly or indirectly controlled by Bonaparte were now against him. In the following campaign the allies played out their numerical superiority, avoided a decisive battle with the French main army as a result of the strategy of Trachenberg initially and inflicted considerable losses on the troops of the Napoleonic marshals. The freedom of movement of the main French army was increasingly restricted. The final defeat of the French came in 1813 in the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig . A few days earlier, Bavaria had passed over to Austria in the Treaty of Ried and declared war on France. In the days of Leipzig, the Princes of the Rhine Confederation changed sides, with the exception of the kings of Saxony and Westphalia. Napoleon withdrew behind the Rhine with the remnants of his army.

Napoleon Bonaparte as the playing top of the war opponents (caricature 1814)

On the Spanish front, Wellington advanced to the French border. In the interior of France, public opposition to the regime arose for the first time in a long time. When the legislature demanded civil liberties, Napoleon had it closed. The recruitment of new soldiers encountered considerable difficulties because of the waning support for Bonaparte, so that Napoleon could only oppose the Allied forces with an outnumbered and poorly trained army. Nevertheless, in the face of the imminent threat, Napoleon's fate as a general was shown once again. Despite clearly inferior forces, it was possible through skillful and fast-paced maneuvering to beat the numerically oppressive but separately marching enemies several times. These successes led him to reject another peace offer at the Châtillon congress . As a result, however, it was clear that he was no longer able to cope with the numerical superiority. Therefore, after the Battle of Paris on March 31, 1814 , the Allied troops took the capital. As a result, the emperor lost all support from the army, politics and even close followers. On April 2, 1814, the Senate pronounced the emperor's removal from office. On April 6, he abdicated in favor of his son. The Allies did not agree with this. They demanded that the emperor abdicate unconditionally and offered to sign the contract of April 11, 1814. Napoleon signed this offer on April 12th, after he was said to have attempted suicide on the night of April 12th to 13th . The island of Elba was assigned to him as his residence and only the imperial title was left.

Elba, Reign of the Hundred Days and Waterloo

Elba, Napoleon's Villa San Martino

The trip to the island of Elba lasted from April 25th to 27th, 1814. Since attacks on his person were feared, Napoleon wore the coat of the Russian general Shuvalov as a precautionary measure to disguise . He was now the ruler of a state with 10,000 inhabitants and an army of 1,000 men. Here he lived in the Palazzina dei Mulini in Portoferraio . Although he began extensive reform activities, which he, as the former ruler of Europe, could not fulfill. Through a network of agents he knew exactly that after the Restoration under Louis XVIII. there was widespread dissatisfaction. Encouraged by these reports, Napoleon returned to France on March 1, 1815. The soldiers of the 5th e régiment d'infanterie under the command of Marshal Michel Ney , who should have stopped him, ran over to him. On March 19, 1815, King Ludwig fled the Tuileries. Although the constitution of the empire was partially liberalized, approval of the restored Napoleonic regime remained limited.

Startled by the events in France, Austria, Russia, Great Britain and Prussia then decided to intervene militarily at the Congress of Vienna . On March 25, they renewed their 1814 alliance.

Despite all the difficulties, Napoleon managed to raise a well-equipped army of 125,000 experienced soldiers. He left a provisional government under Marshal Davout in Paris and marched against the Alliance. As usual, Bonaparte planned to beat the opponents one by one.

At first at Charleroi he succeeded in driving a wedge between the British army under Wellington and the Prussian troops under Blücher . On June 16, he defeated the allies in the Battle of Quatre-Bras and the Battle of Ligny , but not decisively.

On June 18, 1815, Napoleon attacked the Allied army in Wellington near the Belgian town of Waterloo . Wellington's Anglo-German units succeeded with difficulty in essentially maintaining their favorable position against all French attacks. The Prussian troops under Marshal Blücher had regrouped after their defeat at Ligny and arrived in time to decide the battle. Napoleon was defeated.

Napoleon aboard HMS Bellerophon (painting by Charles Lock Eastlake , 1815)

His defeat in this costly battle actually meant the end of the reign of the hundred days . On his return to Paris, Napoleon resigned on June 22, 1815 after losing all support from parliament and former followers. Neither the hope of emigration to America nor of political asylum in Great Britain was fulfilled; instead, Napoleon was banished to the isolated island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic by decision of the Allies. On July 15, the former emperor and his companions boarded the HMS Bellerophon , which was to take him to Plymouth . There he again boarded the HMS Northumberland with a course for St. Helena.

Exile, the end on St. Helena and burial

Napoleon's death mask by Francesco Antommarchi
Longwood House , Napoleon's exile residence from 1815 until his death in 1821
Frederick Marryat's sketch of Napoleon's corpse

On the tiny British island of St. Helena , Bonaparte and his few companions were assigned the governor's residence, Longwood House . According to Napoleon's will, the French maintained the illusion of an imperial court here. Napoleon wrote his memoirs here . Over time, his health deteriorated noticeably until he finally died on May 5, 1821 at 5:49 p.m. (local time). His body was autopsied that day. The English captain Frederick Marryat made a sketch of the body, which has been preserved and is on display in London's National Maritime Museum . The body was buried on May 9, 1821 in a fourfold coffin.

In the medical literature it is convincingly shown that Napoleon died of advanced gastric cancer with lymph node involvement. In all likelihood, the immediate cause of death was profuse gastric bleeding caused by the carcinoma . New research results also suggest that the malignant tumor was not, as previously assumed, of familial origin - the causes of death of other family members have not yet been clarified. Rather, the carcinoma developed on the basis of chronic gastritis (type B gastritis with HP infection ).

Other assumptions about the cause of death have been largely refuted. One of them is that Napoleon could have been gradually poisoned by arsenic , for example by General Charles-Tristan de Montholon or unintentionally by the arsenic-containing paint ( Schweinfurt green ) in his wallpaper. With absolute certainty, however, the exact causes of his death can no longer be clarified. An Italian research group came to the conclusion in 2008 that Napoleon was not poisoned with arsenic, at least not on purpose. A hair analysis revealed that similarly high levels of the toxic substance were present in the body in all phases of life considered.

Napoleon's Sarcophagus, Crypt of the Invalides , Paris

After his death, the Bonapartists campaigned for the Bonaparte family to claim the throne. So they contributed significantly to the rise of Napoleon III. at. Even after his overthrow in 1870, they exerted great influence on the army and civil servants. It was not until the 1880s that Bonapartism lost its importance.

Lock of hair from Napoleon in
Koenigswart Castle in Bohemia

Almost twenty years after his death, Napoleon's body was exhumed on October 15, 1840 . The remains of the frigate Belle Poule were brought back to France and transferred to the Paris Invalides . He has been buried there in a sarcophagus since December 15, 1840 .

Medal awards

Between April 5, 1805 and February 3, 1810 alone, Napoleon received a total of 14 decorations from European royal and princely houses.


From December 25, 1797 to April 10, 1815 he was a member of the Académie des sciences .

Relationships and offspring

Coat of arms of the Buonaparte

From his marriage to Joséphine

The marriage with Joséphine remained childless. Napoleon adopted the children from Joséphine's first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais : Eugène and Hortense , wife of his brother and mother of Napoleon III. Both adopted children have numerous offspring.

From the marriage with Marie-Luise

In 1811 his second wife Marie-Louise of Austria gave birth to the heir to the throne Napoleon II , who died childless in 1832.

Illegitimate children

In addition to his marriages, Napoleon had various lovers, with whom he also had children. During his marriage to Joséphine, he had two illegitimate children of mistresses . From the connection with Eleonore Denuelle de la Plaigne (1787–1868):

From a seven-year love affair with Countess Maria Walewska (1786–1817):

Both sons in turn had offspring.

Other children (according to more or less controversial sources):

Napoleon's other lovers included the actresses Marguerite-Joséphine Georges (1787–1867), called Georgina, and Catherine Josephine Duchesnois (1777–1835); Madame Duchâtel, wife of a senior councilor of state; Carlotta Gazzani, a Genoese dancer appointed by Napoleon to read Joséphine, and some of the wives of his officers.


It is reported that Napoleon was of little height have been. This was popularized by English propaganda , which Napoleon always portrayed as extremely small in her caricatures : in 1803, James Gillray drew him, for example, as Gulliver in the land of the giants , with George III. took over the role of King von Brobdingnag. Another example is the caricature The Plumpudding in Danger (“The Plumpudding in Danger”, see below) from 1805, which shows William Pitt and a very thin Napoleon dividing the globe. Gillray also gave the nickname "Little Boney" (roughly translated: "The little bony one"), which quickly spread widely.

Napoleon's height, handed down in French units of measurement by his valet Louis Constant Wairy, was cinq pieds deux pouces trois lignes ("five feet, two inches, three lines "). With this, Napoleon would have reached an average height of 1.68 m for men of his time. The different measurements may also be due to differences in the length of the foot : An English foot measures 30.48 cm and thus exactly two centimeters less than the French pied (32.48 cm) of the time, which makes a difference of ten centimeters at five feet. In addition, Napoleon's preference to surround himself with a tall entourage may have played a role. Compared to British aristocrats, he therefore appeared smaller, even if the majority of the population, inter alia, not as big as it is today due to poorer nutrition.

When he was measured in exile on St. Helena, he was 1.57 m tall, and the poet Denis Davydov described him as a man “short in stature, just over five feet tall, quite heavy, although only 37 years old”. According to contemporaries, he also gained a lot in weight towards the end of his reign. Nevertheless, his height corresponded roughly to that of Goethe and was slightly higher than that of Frederick the Great or Nicolas Sarkozy .

As a result, the Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler coined the term Napoleon Complex to describe the inferiority complex of short men and their overcompensation .


Museum reception

Bust of Napoleon in the National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence in Ajaccio
  • Longwood House , Napoleon's exile residence on the island of St. Helena , is now a museum maintained by the French state
  • Villa San Martino on Elba Island , Napoleon's summer residence during his first exile
  • Villa Mulini in Portoferraio on Elba Island , Napoleon's winter residence during his first exile
  • Napoleon Museum Thurgau at Arenenberg Castle in the municipality of Salenstein , Canton Thurgau , Switzerland
  • Malmaison Castle National Museum
  • Napoleon Museum in Rome , in the home of Napoleon's mother Laetitia Ramolino
  • Museum of Napoleon Souvenirs in the Prince's Palace of Monaco
  • In the Louvre in Paris , a work of fine art can be seen that shows Napoleon putting the crown on his wife Josephine. It was painted by his court painter Jacques-Louis David (see illustration above).
  • The “Napoleonica” area of the treasury in Vienna contains relics from the possessions of Napoleon and Empress Marie-Louise , in particular the cradle of little Napoleon Franz.
  • The so-called Napoleon Room in Schönbrunn Palace was probably used as a bedroom by Napoleon when he occupied Vienna in 1805 and 1809 and chose the palace as his headquarters.
  • In the permanent exhibition of the German Historical Museum (DHM) in the Berlin Zeughaus , French rule in the German states and the subsequent wars of liberation are the subject of discussion. In this part a bicorn hat worn by Napoleon is presented.
  • In the Army History Museum in Vienna, the coalition wars are documented in detail in a separate room (Room III - Room of the French Wars). There is a portrait of Napoleon himself that shows him as King of Italy and comes from his Milanese court painter Andrea Appiani . The coat that Napoleon wore from April 25 to 27, 1814 during his journey from Fontainebleau to exile on Elba is also on display. Another special piece is Napoleon's messenger bag with the inscription: Dépéches de sa Majesté Napoleon Empereur et Roi and Départ de Paris pour le Quartier Général (departure from Paris to the headquarters).


Feature films / TV productions

Since 1908, the figure of Napoleon has appeared in more than 300 feature films or TV productions. Along with Adolf Hitler, Napoleon is one of the historical personalities who can be seen most frequently in films (but often also in supporting roles), and was embodied by hundreds of actors.

Here is a list of works with Napoleon that are important in film history:

Napoleon was also portrayed by such well-known actors as Charles Vanel (1927–1929), Werner Krauss (1929 and 1935), Claude Rains (1936), Sacha Guitry / Jean-Louis Barrault (1942), Paul Dahlke (1949), James Mason (1953), René Deltgen (1957), Dennis Hopper (1957), Klaus Schwarzkopf (1968), Eli Wallach (1970), Stacy Keach (1973), Armand Assante (1987), David Suchet (2000) or Daniel Auteuil (2006 ).

Napoleon appears in numerous television films and series. The continuing interest in the character is evident from the fact that two or three TV productions are regularly made each year in which Napoleon can be seen. Occasionally he is also portrayed in a parodic way ( Monty Pythons Flying Circus , Saturday Night Live ).

Ridley Scott's critically acclaimed 1976 film The Duelists is set during the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon himself does not appear in it.

Star director Stanley Kubrick planned a large-scale Napoleon film in the late 1960s and put together extensive documentation on the subject for years. Funding for this film was not found, however, because the film studios - also because Waterloo flopped in 1970 - were of the opinion that costume films were out of fashion. Kubrick offered the title role to the Austrian actor Oskar Werner .

Kubrick later used some of the production designs for his historical epic Barry Lyndon (1975). Kubrick's brother-in-law and former producer Jan Harlan has put together all the documents and hopes that the Napoleon project can still be realized. In 2011, the German Taschen-Verlag published the more than 1000-page book Stanley Kubrick - Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made , which offers an overview of Kubrick's preparations for production and his enormous collection of materials.


  • Napoleon. 2 or 4 parts. 150 min., Director and screenplay: David Grubin. France / USA 2000.
  • Napoleon and the Germans. 4 pieces. 210 min. Book: Steffen Schneider, Director: Georg Schiemann, Elmar Bartlmae, Production: MDR, WDR. Germany 2006.
  • Austerlitz, Napoleon's long march to victory. 95 min., Director: Jean-François Delassus, production: Arte France. France 2006.
  • Napoleon - soldier and emperor. (= Warriors - the greatest warriors in history ). 59 min. United Kingdom 2007.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte's Russia Campaign. 2 parts. 103 min. Script and direction: Fabrice Houlier, Marc Eisenchteter. France 2013.
  • Waterloo - Napoleon's last battle. 80 min. Direction and screenplay: Valérie De Rath, production: Arte. Belgium 2014.
  • Napoleon - The real story. 3 parts. 135 min. Script: David Barrie. United Kingdom 2014.
  • Napoleon - Metternich: The beginning of the end. 90 min. Directors: Mathieu Schwartz, Christian Twente. Germany / France 2021.
  • Napoleon. Death has seven lives. 90 min. Director: Mathieu Schwartz. France 2021.


Napoleon - His life and time

The Napoleonic Wars

  • Michael Broers: The Napoleonic empire in Italy, 1796-1814. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2005, ISBN 1-4039-0565-7 .
  • Carl von Clausewitz : Left works by General Carl von Clausewitz on war and warfare. 10 vols. Dümmler, Berlin 1857 (contains the main military-philosophical work On War and various campaign studies on the Napoleonic Wars).
  • Eckart Kleßmann : Napoleon's Russian campaign in eyewitness reports. Dtv, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-02714-2 .
  • Eckart Kleßmann: Germany under Napoleon in eyewitness reports. Dtv, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-02715-0 .
  • Eckart Kleßmann: The Wars of Liberation in eyewitness reports. Dtv, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-423-00912-8 .
  • Anka Muhlstein: The Moscow Fire. Napoleon in Russia. Insel Taschenbuch 3468, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 2008, ISBN 978-3-458-35168-9 .
  • Rory Muir: Tactics and the experience of battle in the age of Napoleon. Yale University Press, New Haven 1998, ISBN 0-300-07385-2 .
  • Napoleon I .: Military writings. Verlag Damm, Dresden 1901 (Comment: Bernhard Boie ).
  • Stephen Pope: The Cassell dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. Cassell Books, London 1999, ISBN 0-304-35229-2 .
  • Gunther Rothenberg: The Napoleonic Wars. Brandenburger Verlagshaus, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89488-134-8 .
  • Thomas Schuler: Napoleon in Bavaria. The battle of Elchingen. The liberation of Munich. Konrad, Weißenhorn 2010, ISBN 978-3-87437-543-6 .
  • Detlef Wenzlik (Ed.): The Napoleonic Wars. 18 volumes. VRZ-Verlag, Hamburg 1999 ff. ISBN 3-931482-01-4 .
  • Franz Willbold: Napoleon's campaign around Ulm - The battle of Elchingen on October 14, 1805 with the siege and surrender of Ulm. Süddeutsche Verlags Gesellschaft, Ulm 1987. ISBN 978-3799580274 .
  • Adami Zamoysk: 1812 - Napoleon's campaign in Russia. Translated from the English by Ruth Keen and Erhard Stölting, CH Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3423348119 .

Napoleon and the women

  • Gertrude Aretz : The women around Napoleon. Scherz-Verlag, Bern 1947 (Repr.d. Edition Munich 1912).
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: love letters. Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-95757-610-1 .
  • Stefan Glasses: Women around Napoleon. Piper, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-492-23811-4 .
  • Franz Herre : Joséphine. Empress at Napoleon's side. Pustet, Regensburg 2003, ISBN 3-7917-1829-0 .
  • Franz Herre: Marie Louise. Napoleon was their fate. Lübbe-Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach 1998, ISBN 3-404-61419-4 .
  • Waltraud Maierhofer, Gertrud Roesch, Caroline Bland (eds.): Women Against Napoleon. Historical and Fictional Responses to His Rise and Legacy. Campus, Frankfurt 2007, ISBN 3-593-38414-0 .
  • Antoine-Philippe-Rodolphe d'Ornano (Comte): Marie Walewska. "L'épouse polonaise" de Napoléon. Hachette, Paris 1947.

Napoleon myth

Napoleon cartoons

Web links

Commons : Napoléon Bonaparte  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Napoleon Bonaparte  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. From 1796 Napoleone Buonaparte called himself Napoléon Bonaparte in French. Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, p. 35.
  2. Jürgen Osterhammel : The transformation of the world. A nineteenth century story. CH Beck, Munich 2010, p. 1066 f.
  3. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, pp. 12–15, August Fournier: Napoleon the I. A biography. 4th edition Vienna / Leipzig, 1922 pp. 1–6.
  4. ^ Franz Herre: Napoleon Bonaparte. A biography. Munich 2006, pp. 12-18, Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 16–22.
  5. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 23-29; Franz Herre: Napoleon Bonaparte. A biography. Munich 2006, pp. 21–32.
  6. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 29–35.
  7. Quoted from Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, p. 36.
  8. Quoted from Franz Herre: Napoleon Bonaparte. A biography. Munich 2006, p. 48.
  9. ^ Franz Herre: Napoleon Bonaparte. A biography. Munich 2006, pp. 45–56, Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 36–43.
  10. ^ Franz Herre: Napoleon Bonaparte. A biography. Munich 2006, pp. 57-64, Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 43–47.
  11. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 47–51.
  12. ^ Proclamation of the consuls on the end of the revolution of December 15, 1799
  13. Sala-Molins (2007), p. 17.
  14. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 51-65, pp. 68f.
  15. Oliver Class: If only our father could see us now: The imperial coronation of Napoleon I (= manuscripts for art history in the Werner publishing company 5). Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 1987, ISBN 978-3-88462-504-0 .
  16. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 65–76.
  17. Napoleon's reforms in the Rhine Confederation ( Memento from December 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  18. ^ Rainer Wohlfeil: Napoleonic model states. quoted from Fehrenbach, p. 219.
  19. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-499-50646-7 , pp. 51-58.
  20. Cronin 1994, p. 315.
  21. ^ Max Döllner : History of the development of the city of Neustadt an der Aisch until 1933. Ph. CW Schmidt, Neustadt ad Aisch 1950, p. 376 f.
  22. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, pp. 77–82, cf. also 1807 - Great power politics on the Memel ( Memento from January 6, 2013 in the web archive )
  23. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 93-106.
  24. Alwin Hanschmidt : "... also awakened to joy on the banks of the Ems ..." - Napoleon celebrations in Lingen, Meppen and Papenburg 1811, in: Emsländische Geschichte 19th published by the Study Society for Emsländische Regionalgeschichte, Haselünne 2011 ( ISBN 978- 3-9814041-3-5 ), pp. 278-305.
  25. “Yes, gentlemen, I am and will always be the master of the Baltic region. Indeed, the Tsar of Russia has not yet enforced my ordinances in his ports. But he'll be doing it for the next six months. Otherwise I'll declare war on him ”- The London Times, June 29, 1811
  26. ^ Adam Zamoyski: 1812: Napoleon's campaign in Russia. Munich 2012, pp. 166–169.
  27. Der Spiegel : March of the Maladen , July 27, 2009, accessed on July 17, 2019
  28. ^ Adam Zamoyski: 1812 - Napoleon's campaign in Russia. Munich 2012, pp. 325–326.
  29. ^ Treaty of Fontainebleau (French)
  30. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 117–125.
  31. This coat is now in the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, see Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (ed.): Das Heeresgeschichtliche Museum in Wien. Graz [u. a.] 2000, p. 32.
  32. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 126-134.
  33. Alessandro Lugli, Inti Zlobec, Gad Singer, Andrea Kopp Lugli, Luigi M Terracciano, Robert M Genta: Napoleon Bonaparte's gastric cancer: a clinicopathologic approach to staging, pathogenesis, and etiology. Lugli et al. Napoleon Bonaparte's gastric cancer: a clinicopathologic approach to staging, pathogenesis, and etiology. Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology 4, 52-57, Jan. 1, 2007
  34. John Emsley: Murderous Elements, Prominent Deaths. ISBN 3-527-31500-4 .
  35. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 141f.
  36. No poison attack on Napoleon , see also Hamburger Ärzteblatt “Napoleon's death sickness” ( Memento from May 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 509 kB)
  37. ^ Volker Ullrich: Napoleon. Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, pp. 135–143.
  38. See in detail Anne de Chefdebien: Le insignes des ordres de l'empereur, in: Jean Tulard (ed.): La Berline de Napoléon. Le Mystère de Butin de Waterloo, Paris 2012, pp. 164-257.
  39. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter B. Académie des sciences, accessed on September 22, 2019 (French).
  40. La famille Colonna-Walewski. Retrieved October 25, 2020 .
  41. Albine de Montholon: Souvenirs de Sainte-Hélène par la comtesse de Montholon, 1815-1816, 1901 edition, online on Wikisource , p. 234: Born in Longwood on St. Helena on June 18, 1816, married to Charles-Raoul vicomte du Couëdic de Kergoualer, and with Léonard-Léonce de Bonfils-La Blénie de Rochon, Count of Lapeyrouse, died in Marseille on June 29, 1895. Statements according to which she died in Brussels in 1819 or 1820 are based on confusion with her sister Marie-Caroline Julie-Élisabeth-Joséphine-Napoléone, born in Longwood on St. Helena on January 26, 1818, died in Brussels (ibid., P. 234)
  42. ^ "Napoléone Marie Hélène Charlotte de MONTHOLON-SÉMONVILLE" on geneanet org (accessed on October 10, 2020), therefore died on January 16, 1907 in Aix-en-Provence
  43. Werner Sabitzer: The "Napoléonide" digitized version (PDF; 422 kB)
  44. ^ Claudia Hattendorff: Napoleon I and the pictures or: How does political communication work in the field of the visual. In: Veit Velzke (ed.), Napoleon. Tricolor and imperial eagle over the Rhine and Weser. Böhlau, Cologne 2007, pp. 397-400.
  45. Felix Müller: Less than 1.70 meters? Little men and power. In: Die Welt from May 20, 2011 ( online , accessed October 31, 2013). Jean Tulard: Dictionnaire Napoléon. Vol. 2, Paris 1999, p. 380.
  46. ^ Owen Connelly (2006). Blundering to Glory: Napoleon's Military Campaigns. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 7. ISBN 978-0742553187 .
  47. Denis Davydov: In the Service of the Tsar Against Napoleon. The Memoirs of Denis Davydov, 1806-1814 . Translated by Gregory Troubetzkoy. Greenhill Books, 1999, p. 64.
  48. "He's fat and awkward." - The Bookman , Vol. 29, p. 304. Diary of Capt. Ross, commander of the Northumberland .
  49. Jens Dirksen, Westfälische Rundschau 08/2019,
  50. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymic plant names - extended edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .
  51. ^ Napoleon Museum - Arenenberg. Retrieved November 18, 2020 (Swiss Standard German).
  52. Website of the Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison & Bois-Préau (French)
  53. Website of the Museo Napoleonico (English)
  54. ^ Website of the Museum of Napoleon Souvenirs ( Memento from February 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  55. Permanent exhibition: French Revolution up to the Second German Empire. In: Retrieved May 21, 2021 .
  56. cocked hat worn by Napoleon I. In: Retrieved May 23, 2021 .
  57. Liselotte Popelka: Army History Museum Vienna. Graz [u. a.] 1988, p. 34.
  58. Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna. Graz [u. a.] 2000, p. 41.
  59. ^ Napoleon (2000). In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  60. Napoleon and the Germans. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  61. Napoleon and the Germans. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  62. ^ Austerlitz, Napoleon's Long March to Victory. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  63. Napoleon - Soldier and Emperor. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  64. ^ Napoleon (Heroes and Villains). In: Internet Movie Database. Accessed May 24, 2021 .
  65. ^ Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in Russia. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  66. Waterloo - Napoleon's Last Battle. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  67. Napoleon - The True Story. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  68. Napoleon - Metternich: The beginning of the end. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  69. Napoleon. Death has seven lives. In: Retrieved May 24, 2021 .
  70. Review: Heiner Wittmann , Patrice Gueniffey, Bonaparte - 1769-1802
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