Napoleon was born 15th of August 1769, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Napoleon’s military career began at the age of 9. He graduated from Paris’s prestigious military school in 1785 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Artillery, where he quickly rose ranking after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.
In late 1793, Napoleon was sent to the navel ports of Toolon which had rebelled against the French Government and joined the British. Lieutenant Colonel Bonaparte forced the British ships out of the port and as the assault followed, the city was recaptured. Napoleon was promoted to Brigadier General.
In 1795 an armed mob of Royalists tried to overthrow the French Government. Napoleon was put in charge of the defensive force and successfully crushed the insurgents. This triumph won him money, fame and support of the government. Within weeks he was romantically linked with society star, Josephine Beauhanais and in 1796 they were married.
Just days after his wedding, he successfully lead an invasion of Italy. The attack introduced a new era of French Empire building and gave Napoleon a taste of victory.
Military success continued through 1797 as Austria was defeated and Belgium, Holland and The Rhineland became part of The French Empire. Not content with these victories, Napoleon invaded Venice and broke more than 1,000 years of Venetian independence, robbing the city of many of its art treasures.
In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt, defeating the Egyptian army and capturing the capital, Cairo. However, the success on land was not matched at sea and British Admiral, Horatio Nelson, annihilated the French ships at the battle of the Nile. Napoleon escaped to France.
With France threatened by enemies both North and South and the government turning against him, Napoleon staged a coup and made himself First Consel, the most powerful man in France. The new First Consel again defeated the Austrians and France was saved. In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emporer and Britain, Austria, Russia and Sweden joined together in an attempt to defeat him.
In 1805, Admiral Nelson again inflicts defeat on the French off cape Trafalga. Undeterred, Napoleon gathered 200,000 men and fought a brilliant campaign against the Austrians and the Russians, eventually capturing the Austrian capital, Vienna. In perhaps his finest battle and tactical masterpiece, he beat the combined Austro-Russions in December 1805. And then 10 months later he smashed Russia and occupied Berlin.
He was now the virtual ruler of Central and Western Europe. Only one country still defied him, Britain. So Napoleon banned all European trade with Britain. Napoleon’s successful conquest of Europe continued with the Invasion of Spain in 1808. Having put his brother on the throne, he returned to France instructing his Generals to invade Portugal. After another victory agains Austria, Napoleon married Austrian Arch Duchess, Marie Louise in 1810.
The war he had started in Spain and Portugal raged on until the British Duke of Wellington managed to defeat the French Army and end Napoleon’s hold over the region. In 1812, Napoleon made his gravest mistake. He invaded Russia. Although he took Moscow, the French, like the Nazis 130 years later, were unprepared for the Russian winter. Napoleon retreated with the loss of 300,000 men.
In 1813 Russia, Austria and Britain closed in on the French Emperor, forcing him back to France. In November, Napoleon rejected peace offers so the allies invaded. Paris fell in March 1814 and in April Napoleon was exhiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. Less than 12 months later, Napoleon, having escaped, resumed power and gathered an army. Once again, the allies prepared to attack.
Nearby in Belgium was Napoleon’s Arch Nemesis, the Duke of Wellington. On 18th June, Napoleon attacked Wellington at Waterloo but he was unable to repeat his earlier success and the French collapsed. This time Napoleon was imprisoned on the remote Atlantic island of Saint Helena and he died May 5th, 1821.