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Napoleon Bonaparte

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Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

One of the most brilliant individuals in history, Napoleon Bonaparte was a masterful soldier, and a superb administrator. He was also utterly ruthless, a dictator and, later in his career, thought he could do no wrong. Not a Frenchman by birth, Napoleon Bonaparte was born at Ajaccio on Corsica only just sold to France by the Italian state of Genoa on August 15, 1769.He attended French at the school of Autun and later the military academy at Brienne. He never fully mastered French and his spelling left a lot to be desired. The revolutionary fever that was spreading when Bonaparte was a teenager allowed a talented individual the opportunity to rise far beyond what could have been achieved only a few years previously. His first real military opportunity came as a captain of artillery at the siege of Toulon, where he expertly seized crucial forts and was able to bombard the British naval and land forces, eventually forcing them to sail away. Now a brigadier-general, Bonaparte served in the army campaigning in Italy but found himself arrested and jailed for being an associate of the younger brother of Maximilien Robespierre .With no position for him after his release, Bonaparte thought about joining the Turkish army and even joining a naval expedition to Australia, but became involved with a member of the Directory, Paul Barras, who used the young man's zeal to put down a royalist mob in 1795 with the now legendary "whiff of grapeshot". With his loyalty and ruthlessness proven, the next year Bonaparte took up command of the Army of Italy and set off on a campaign that was to take him to absolute power in France and Europe. Initially treated with suspicion, and not a little contempt, by the older generals he superceded, Bonaparte won over his badly treated soldiers with promises of great things to come and a large helping of personal bravery. Like Caesar, he was not afraid to get into the thick of the fighting to inspire his men. In a series of battles that included such as Montenotte, Mondovi, Arcola and Rivoli, Bonaparte swept the board of ageing Austrian generals and established himself as one of the leading soldiers of his time. After masterminding the Peace of Campo Formio, Bonaparte returned to Paris where he took command of the Army of England, an imposing force neutered by England's wooden walls of its navy.Desperate to be both at Britain and pushing his own reputation, Bonaparte planned an expedition to Egypt to threaten his foe's trading routes. He sailed from Toulon in 1798 and, after capturing Malta, made it to Egypt in early July.

The campaign began brilliantly when he smashed the power of the ruling Mamelukes at the Battle of the Pyramids, but was crippled when Nelson's hound-pack fleet finally caught up with the French navy at Aboukir (Battle of the Nile) and sank all but four of the 17-ship force. Stranded and with suspect supply lines, Bonaparte moved into Syria and won the battle of Mt Tabor before being halted by fierce and stubborn resistance at Acre.

Realising the potential success of his campaign was now limited, if not impossible, Bonaparte decided to abandon his army and get back to the centre of power - Paris - and make sure his position had not been undermined. Popular with the people, Bonaparte found the loathed Directory very cool towards his surprise arrival and no doubt took pleasure in their discomfort when he, Abbe Sieyes and Roger Ducos seized power in the Coup de Brumaire, which saw them share power as equal consuls. Within months Bonaparte was First Consul and had eased his "equals" into early retirement.

The next stage in Bonaparte's career came in 1800, when he again moved into Italy with another brilliant manouevre that saw him lead the French army over the Alps and surprise the occupying Austrians. But all was not safe for Bonaparte and there were several attempts on his life, including a bomb set off in Paris as his carriage went by. Still, in 1804, the general felt confident and secure enough to declare himself Emperor and the next day created the Marshalate for his most trusted and talented soldiers.

Bonaparte waited until 2 December for his coronation where, with much pomp and ceremony, he crowned himself.

While affairs within France were on a high, Bonaparte committed a serious error when the determined Duc d'Enghien, a Royalist figurehead, was kidnapped from neutral Baden, tried without a lawyer defending him and then executed. The event turned Europe's monarchies forever against him and led to the formation of the Third Coalition to try to bring down his regime.

Bonaparte reacted by amassing a huge army - the first Grande Armee - on the coastline of Europe with the intention of invading Britain but, fortunately for those opposing him, he was never given the opportunity

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