Napoleon I


July 6, 2022

Napoléon Bonaparte (originally Napoleone di Buonaparte, 15 August 1769 Ajaccio, Corsica – 5 May 1821 Longwood, Saint Helena) was a French soldier and politician who ruled France autocratically after seizing power in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Napoleon ruled France as First Consul from 1799 and as Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 to 1814 and 1815. Napoleon's entire reign was marked by constant wars of aggression, and at his most extensive he ruled large parts of Western and Central Europe. At that time, his empire was the largest in Europe since the Roman Empire in terms of size, army and population. He was captured after the lost Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and exiled to the island of Saint Helena.

Youth and the beginning of a military career

Napoleon was born in the city of Ajaccio on the island of Corsica a year after the Republic of Genoa had sold Corsica to France in payment of a debt. His original name was Napoleone (Nabullione) Buonaparte, but he changed it to the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte in 1796. The name Nabullione had also belonged to his uncle and his brother who died in 1765. Napoleon's parents belonged to a low noble family. His father, the Italian-born lawyer Carlo Buonaparte, was appointed in 1778 to the court of Louis XVI, where he spent several years. Napoleon's mother Letizia Ramolino bathed her eight children every other day (normally the upper class didn't bathe except maybe once a month). Strict discipline prevailed in Napoleon's family, and young Napoleon often got his back. At the age of five, Napoleon began to be taught at a girls' school run by nuns, which was also open to boys. A few years later, the boy's upbringing was entrusted to Abbé Recco, who taught Napoleon to read and write Italian. Napoleon's mother gave birth to a total of thirteen children, five of whom died young. Eight survived to adulthood and all became high-ranking nobles. Napoleon became Emperor of France and King of Italy, his brother Joseph became King of Naples and later King of Spain, his sister Élisa Duchess of Tuscany, his brother Ludwig King of Holland, his sister Caroline Queen of Naples, his brother Jérôme King of Westphalia in northwestern Germany, his sister Pauline Prince and Duchess of Guastalla and his brother Lucien Canino and the Prince of Musignano. Napoleon adored his mother all his life. For his coronation, he painted a huge picture of his mother, although she did not even participate in the occasion. The father arranged for his son's education in France, and the young Napoleon was sent to the Brienne-le-Château military school in 1779. Napoleon was considered a country man and a curmudgeon; he didn't learn French until he was ten and spoke it like an Italian. He completed his first military studies at the boarding school in Brienne, which had just been established at the time and did not achieve much prestige. Several other children of the least privileged nobles studied at the school. However, Napoleon was the only Corsican student, which is why the other students considered him an uncivilized barbarian. Although Napoleon did not have a single good friend in Brienne, he still did well in his studies. Especially in mathematics, he was really good and was among the few students that the school introduced to outside guests. In this case, Napoleon was promised a brilliant career as a naval officer, but entry into the artillery was not ruled out either. Even though the school was a monastery school a few years earlier, not much was invested in religious education and the priests' sermons could last only a few minutes. Napoleon himself says that he lost his Christian faith when a school teacher said that Napoleon's admired warlord Julius Caesar was still burning in hell because he was not Christian