Napoleon Bonaparte was the Emperor of France from 1799 through 1814. Under his reign, Europe was plunged into war as he attempted a campaign of conquest that was remarkably successful.
In the world of the Sharpe's novels he is often referred to, usually as Boney, a soldiers nickname for him, but is not seen. Only once was he glimpsed by the characters of the novels during the wars, briefly and through the smoke of battle at Waterloo.
He only appeared in the novels in any noticeable way in Sharpe's Devil, when Sharpe and Harper stopped at the island of St. Helena to visit the exiled dictator.
Historical FigureEditBorn Napoleone di Buonoparte was born on August 15, 1769 in the city of Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. His father was Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney who represented Corsica at the court of the French King.
Napoleon was able to attend a military academy in France and trained to become an officer in the army. When his father died in 1785, Napoleon returned to Corsica to help handle the family's affairs where he became involved with a local revolutionary.
Upon Napoleon's return to France, he allied himself with a radical group of the revolutionaries called the Jacobins. He received a position as the artillery commander at the Siege of Toulon in 1793. His victory there at age of 24, led to his promotion to brigadier general.
In 1796, Napoleon was given command of the French army in Italy. He soon drove the Austrians out of Italy and became a national hero. After leading a military expedition in Egypt, Napoleon returned to Paris in 1799. Napoleon formed a new government called the Consulate. Initially, there were to be three consuls at the head of the government, but Napoleon gave himself the title of First Consul. His powers as First Consul essentially made him dictator of France.
Napoleon's power and control continued to grow with his reforms. In 1804, he was crowned the first Emperor France. At the coronation, he did not allow the Pope to place the crown on his head, but instead crowned himself.
He led France to war with Britain, Austria, and Russia. After losing a naval battle against Britain at Trafalgar, Napoleon moved against Austria. He defeated the Austrian and Russian armies at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Over the next several years, Napoleon expanded the French Empire. At its greatest extent in 1811, France controlled much of Europe from Spain to the borders of Russia
In 1812, he invaded Russia in the first abject failure of his march of conquest. With the bulk of his army shattered, the British pushed into France even as all his conquered territory rebelled, and he was at last defeated and forced into exile on the island of Elba in 1814.
He escaped from Elba in 1815, his army rallied to him and he took over control of Paris for a period called the Hundred Days. The rest of Europe, however, would not stand for a return of Napoleon. They gathered their armies and met him at Waterloo. Napoleon was defeated there on June 18, 1815 and was once again forced into exile. This time on the island of Saint Helena.