What Happened During The Napoleonic Era?
The Napoleonic Era is an epoch of French history that not only changed the social and political structure within France itself, but the various Napoleonic Wars and their far-reaching effects changed the destinies and lifestyles of millions of people, both within the neighbouring European nations and much further afield.
The era is named after the central figure at the heart of this fascinating historical period – a Corsican soldier who rose through the ranks to not only triumph in his military career, but to also achieve the unprecedented accolade of crowning himself Emperor of France.
While the name of Napoleon may have become synonymous with the history of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly within France and Europe, the figure behind the legend is often less well known.
It can also be interesting to discover precisely which events were the most notable occurrences during the era that took its name from the ambitious soldier who came seemingly from nowhere but who went on to change the world.
Here are some insights into this remarkable man and his legendary story, as well as the impact they both had on the entire globe.
Who Was Napoleon Bonaparte?
The man who would become renowned the world over as Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica in 1789, and used the Corsican spelling of his name – Napoleone Buonaparte – until his rise within the military and his life as an influential figure in Paris began during the early part of his career.
Although his ambition was never in any doubt by those who know him in his youth, the early days of his military career were relatively unimpressive, marked more by disappointment and frustration than by any sense of potential glory.
This was set to change as Napoleon embarked on his life in France, siding initially with the revolutionaries and making his name by protecting one of the Directory councils that had been established after the original abolition of the Bourbon monarchy.
After this spectacular local victory, Napoleon’s star was set to rise rapidly through the political and social echelons of France, leaving an undisputed legacy even beyond his adopted nation that was felt around the world for many decades after the Napoleonic Era had ended.
Napoleon I – Emperor of France
In an unprecedented twist in the story of a military champion, Napoleon Bonaparte’s fame and influence grew to such astonishing heights that his fame and legend were secured with a spectacular coronation, as he crowned himself Emperor of France in a lavish ceremony in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the winter of 1804.
Perhaps the most bewildering aspect of this achievement was that his elevation to a position of such pomp, glory, wealth and finery, so reminiscent of the greatest French Kings, came in the years following France’s infamous Revolution – the decade of violence that sought to abolish the monarchy in favour of a more egalitarian social order.
That Napoleon managed to attain such rank and status, along with the devotion and support of the French people, makes the rise of this unique Emperor one of history’s most captivating tales.
The Napoleonic Era
The era that takes its name from this fascinating individual was a relatively short period in the history of France, widely regarded to have spanned the years between 1799 and 1815.
The roots of the Napoleonic Era began during the decade of the French Revolution, which lasted from 1789 until 1799.
As the revolutionaries claimed the governance of France – famously imprisoning the king and queen before they ultimately met their fate under the shadow of the guillotine – Napoleon began making a name for himself among the high-ranking politicians that would lead the nation after the monarchy was initially abolished.
Becoming established within the various consulates and directories that governed France in the wake of the Revolution, Napoleon embarked on a series of military campaigns that secured his popularity with the people of France and positioned him as the leading name of the era.
Some of the wars and expansions of the empire that are synonymous with the Napoleonic Era have become legendary in popular history, such as the Egyptian Expedition, the Italian Campaign, the famous Franco-Russian war of 1812 that ended in such disaster, and the well-known Battle of Waterloo that spelt the end of Napoleon’s rise to power and prominence.
Within this period, France also witnessed numerous political and social shifts credited to its rising star and military champion. Even as he expanded the French Empire, claiming new territory, treasure and royal titles around the globe, Napoleon was actively responsible for many changes within France, such as the much-welcomed peace that followed the frightening years of the revolution, as well as relations with the Roman Catholic Church that positioned France as an indomitable power on the world stage.
Napoleon In Exile
As with many of the great figures of history, the spectacular rise of Napoleon was followed by an infamous fall from grace.
After a series of military failures, along with failed attempts to escape capture and avoid his fate, Napoleon was ultimately exiled by the powers that succeeded his tenure as Emperor of France.
He was destined to live out his days in relative obscurity in his exile home, the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles from the nation who had crowned him their Emperor and the people who had loved and followed him.
The Napoleonic Era is one of the iconic periods of modern history, notable for its numerous wars and political coups. What makes this period a singular story within the many cultural shifts or Europe in the 18th century is that it was largely the story of a single man.
That such a tumultuous and impactful era of world history would be named after one man – not born into royalty or nobility or even fortune – makes the story of Napoleon and the era named after him one of the most intriguing epochs of all time.
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