NAPOLEON IS CROWNED EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH 1804 (G3c)
xxxxxAs we have seen, Napoleon was elected First Consul on returning to France from Egypt in 1799 (G3b). In this office he not only defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo in 1800 but, at home, he carried out a vast programme of reform in the country’s government administration, financial affairs, and judicial system -
xxxxxAs we have seen, it was in 1799 (G3b) that Napoleon, having returned from his Egyptian campaign, was elected First Consul. In this office he carried out a vast programme of reform at home, making widespread improvements in government administration, the country’s financial affairs, and the judicial system -
xxxxxAt the beginning of 1804, however, an event occurred which, though intended to end Napoleon’s days as Consul and, indeed, the days of Napoleon himself, served only to bring him greater honour and prestige. In February of that year a serious plot to assassinate him, financed by the British, was unmasked, and the two leading conspirators were duly arrested. Georges Cadoudal, a known rebel, was executed, and the other one, the former General Charles Pichegru, died in prison. However, this attempt re-
xxxxxThe coronation -
xxxxxMeanwhile, on the battlefront the Treaty of Amiens had run its course by 1803, and the war with Great Britain had resumed. Planning to invade southern England, Napoleon assembled a large army -
xxxxxFollowing his victory at Austerlitz, the Austrians were forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg. Napoleon gained Venice and Dalmatia to add to his Italian kingdom, and he set up the Confederation of the Rhine, a group of German states in central Europe which replaced the Holy Roman Empire and came directly under French protection. This move was regarded as a serious threat by the states of Eastern Europe. Yet another coalition was created against France, but Prussia, under its leader Frederick William II, chose to take on the French before its ally, Russia, was ready to assist. The result was a humiliating defeat for the Prussians at the Battles of Jena and Auerstadt in 1806. And when the Russians took to the field they too were overwhelmed, first at the Battle of Eylau in February 1807, and then at the Battle of Friedland in the June. The Treaty of Tilsit that followed brought about the Kingdom of Westphalia and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, reducing Prussia to a second-
xxxxxHaving failed in his bid to invade England in 1805, Napoleon saw a blockade of British trade as the best means to achieve his end. In 1806 he imposed the Continental System, closing all continental ports to British shipping in order to bring Britain to its economic knees and, ipso facto, the peace table. It was a policy that, in the long term, proved his downfall. The British, masters of the seas, were able to divert much of their trade to colonial possessions, but the countries on the continent, also seriously affected by the trade blockade, had no such alternative. For them the banning of trade with Britain resulted in much greater hardship to their industries and the people who depended upon them.
xxxxxThe first to break rank was Portugal, for long an important trading nation with Britain. In 1808 Napoleon was obliged to invade the country to enforce the blockade, and this inevitably involved him in Spanish affairs. To gain control of this region, in June of that year he installed his brother Joseph as King of Spain and, as a result both countries (Portugal and Spain) rose up in revolt. At one time Napoleon himself was obliged to take an army to Madrid to put down a rebellion. In August a British expeditionary force arrived in Portugal to add their support. The war that followed -
xxxxxEncouraged by this revolt against French rule, Austria returned to the fight but, despite some early success was decisively defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram in 1809. Even more land was lost to the French, but Austria gained some prestige by Napoleon’s marriage to Marie Louise, daughter of the Austrian Emperor Francis I in 1810. As we have seen, anxious for an heir to his throne, Napoleon had been granted a divorce from Josephine in December 1809, and his new bride provided him with a son -
xxxxxHis fall from that height began in earnest in 1812 with his decision to invade Russia, taken -
xxxxxTo add to his misery -
xxxxxIncidentally, the plan to assassinate Napoleon in 1804 was not the first attempt on his life. On Christmas Eve, 1800, whilst on his way to see an opera, a barrel of explosives, hidden in a small wagon, was blown up as the First Consul’s carriage travelled along the Rue Saint Nicaise. Luckily for him, the explosion came too late to harm the carriage, but 22 people were killed, and over 40 houses were damaged. ……
xxxxx…… Napoleon’s favourite horse Le Vizir, a thoroughbred white Arab, was presented to him by the Sultan of Turkey in 1805. Like all his horses, it was branded with the imperial crown and the initial ‘N’. Le Vizir accompanied his master into exile on St. Helena and outlived him. On his death he was preserved, and he now stands in the museum of Les Invalides, near to his master’s tomb. ……
xxxxx…… Facedxwith the threat of a French invasion in 1804, the British built a large number of “Martello Towers” along their Channel coast, some of them situated just out to sea. Round in shape, solidly built, and provided with a flat roof for a gun emplacement, they were named after and modelled on a tower at Cape Mortella in Corsica which the British had experienced great difficulty in capturing in 1794. Over one hundred were built between 1805 and 1812, spaced about 600 yards apart, but they never fired a shot in anger!
Napoleon: detail, by the French painter Jacques-