.. restored, Bonaparte extended French influence into Holland (the Batavian Republic), Switzerland (the Helvetic Republic), and Savoy-Piedmont, which was annexed to France; he played the major role in the Imperial Recess (1803), by which the free cities and minor states of the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE were consolidated; and he attempted to extend the French colonial empire, principally by recovering Haiti (see LOUISIANA PURCHASE). As a result of these policies and his refusal to grant trade concessions to Britain, war was renewed in 1803. Bonaparte organized an army of 170,000 to invade Britain, but his complex strategy to draw the British fleets away from Britain failed. Meanwhile, Austria also prepared to resume war, forcing Bonaparte to abandon his invasion plans. Any hope of a future invasion was ended when the British admiral Nelson destroyed most of the Franco-Spanish fleet in the Battle of TRAFALGAR on Oct. 21, 1805. Emperor In February 1804 a British-financed plot to assassinate Bonaparte was uncovered by the former police minister Joseph FOUCHE (who recovered his job as a result of this discovery).
Of the leading conspirators, Jean Charles PICHEGRU died in prison, Jean Victor MOREAU fled the country, and Georges Cadoudal was executed. Another victim was the duc d’Enghien, a Bourban-Conde prince who was kidnapped from the German state of Baden and executed in France. In the wake of these events, which revived royalist hostility, the Senate petitioned Bonaparte to establish a hereditary dynasty. On Dec. 2, 1804, therefore, Napoleon crowned himself emperor in a ceremony presided over by Pope Pius VII.
Napoleon created a titled court that included many of his statesmen and generals as well as ex-royalists. Believing that family ties were more durable than treaties, in the next few years he placed members of his family on the thrones of several satellite states–Naples, Holland, Westphalia, and Spain–and married his relatives to some of the most distinguished families in Europe. Dynastic considerations also caused Bonaparte to divorce Josephine in 1809 because she had borne him no male heir. He then married (Apr. 2, 1810) Marie Louise, daughter of Austrian Emperor Francis I; within a year a son, the king of Rome, was born. In 1805, Britain organized the Third Coalition against France, but Napoleon’s new Grand Army swept through Germany into Austria destroying both Austrian and Russian armies at Ulm and AUSTERLITZ. Austria signed (Dec. 26, 1805) the Treaty of Pressburg, by which Venice and Dalmatia were annexed to Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy, and in 1806, Napoleon organized the Confederation of the Rhine, a grouping of German states under French protection.
Soon after, the Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved. Prussia helped organize the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon late in 1806, but its forces were destroyed by Napoleon in the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt (October 1806). After defeating the Russians at Eylau (Feb. 8, 1807) and Friedland (June 14, 1807), Napoleon forced the allies to sign (July 7-9, 1807) the Treaties of TILSIT, which resulted in the creation of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Westphalia. Dominant in Europe, Napoleon was obsessed with Britain’s defiance and role as the commercial “paymaster of Europe.” To subdue Britain, Napoleon committed his most serious blunders.
He imposed (1806) the CONTINENTAL SYSTEM, a blockade of British trade, on Europe to undermine the British economy. The refusal of Portugal to observe the blockade led to French intervention in Iberia and embroilment in the Peninsular War (see NAPOLEONIC WARS). While the Peninsular War raged, Austria mobilized and began the War of the Fifth Coalition. A series of hard-fought battles culminated in final French victory (July 5-6, 1809) at Wagram, and Austria lost Illyria and Galicia by the Treaty of Schonbrunn (Oct. 14, 1809).
Although French control in Iberia was eroding by 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia on June 23-24 of that year. One major reason for the attack was the Russian refusal to accept the Continental System. The Russian armies withdrew, drawing Napoleon deep into Russia. Napoleon defeated them at Borodino on Sept. 7, 1812, and a week later reached Moscow. There he waited in vain for Emperor ALEXANDER I’s surrender, while Russian arsonists set the city on fire.
With reinforced Russian armies attacking his outlying positions and signs of winter’s approach, Napoleon ordered a retreat in October. Despite the deprivations suffered by his troops, the miserable weather, and the pursuing Russian army, Napoleon held the nucleus of his army together and managed to escape Russian encirclement. After crossing the Berezina River he left his ravaged army and hurried back to Paris on learning of an abortive coup in Paris by the demented general Claude Malet. After Napoleon’s Russian debacle the Prussians deserted their alliance with the French, and in 1813 the Sixth Coalition was formed among Prussia, Russia, Britain, and Sweden (ruled by the erstwhile Napoleonic general Bernadotte, later to be King CHARLES XIV JOHN). Napoleon soon formed a new army and defeated the allies at Lutzen (May 2) and Bautzen (May 20-21).
After a short armistice, hostilities again began in August, when Austria joined the coalition. Although Napoleon was victorious (August 26-27) at Dresden, the French were outnumbered two to one and defeated in the so-called Battle of Nations at Leipzig on October 16-19. Withdrawing across the Rhine, Napoleon refused to surrender any conquered territory, convinced that such a concession would cost him his crown in France. In 1814, France was invaded, and Napoleon again demonstrated his military genius by defeating each enemy army as it advanced on Paris. Hopelessly outnumbered he attempted to negotiate, but the allies continued to advance and took Paris on March 31.
The Hundred Days On April 6, Napoleon abdicated in favor of his son. When the allies refused to accept this, he made his abdication unconditional on April 11. He then was exiled to the island of ELBA, where he was given sovereign power and introduced administrative, economic, and political reforms. Aware of France’s dissatisfaction over the restoration rule of the Bourbon dynasty, Napoleon decided to return to France in 1815. Landing at Cannes on March 1, he marched triumphantly through sympathetic areas of France and was greeted as the returning hero.
King LOUIS XVIII fled abroad, and Napoleon occupied Paris on March 20, beginning the period called the Hundred Days. Although Napoleon proclaimed peaceful intentions, the allies, who were meeting in Vienna (see VIENNA, CONGRESS OF), immediately outlawed him and prepared for war. Before massive Russian and Austrian forces could reach France, Napoleon resolved to separate and defeat the Prussian and Anglo-Dutch armies in what is now Belgium. Despite several initial victories he was defeated by the duke of WELLINGTON and Gebhard von BLUCHER at Waterloo (see WATERLOO, BATTLE OF) on June 18, 1815. Napoleon returned to Paris, where he abdicated for the second time on June 23. Fleeing to Aix, he surrendered to the captain of the British warship Bellerophon and was exiled to the island of SAINT HELENA.
Living with his secretary and a few loyal friends, he dictated his memoirs, laying the foundation of the Napoleonic legend. He died on May 5, 1821. The Napoleonic legend was embellished by his followers in the succeeding decades of turbulent French politics. It facilitated the rise of Napoleon’s nephew, who eventually founded a Second Empire as Napoleon III in 1852. Allowing for the exaggerations of the legend, there remains no question that Napoleon I was a military genius. Although his ambition to dominate Europe cost France hundreds of thousands of lives, he left to that country many of the institutions that form its modern basis.
His tomb in the Invalides in Paris is a national shrine.