Napoleon's first wife was Josephine de Beauharnais. She had been married before and was widowed. Her first husband, Alexander de Beauharnais had been guillotined during the 'Reign of terror' (a period of violence that occurred for one year and two months after the onset of the French revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of the revolution."). Joesphine had been imprisoned in the Carmes prison during that time, but was released five days after his execution.
She met Napoleon, six years her junior, in 1795 and became his mistress. In a letter to her in December, he wrote, "I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses." In January 1796, Napoléon proposed to her and they married in March.
Napoleon became the target of several enemies because of the power he was amassing. He used several plots and conspiracies against him to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France, with himself as Emperor. Napoleon crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I on 2 December 1804 at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris and then crowned Joséphine Empress. There are apocryphal claims that Napoleon seized the crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII during the ceremony to avoid his subjugation to the authority of the pontiff, but the coronation procedure had been agreed in advance.
At Milan Cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy. He created eighteen Marshal of the Empire from amongst his top generals, to secure the allegiance of the army.
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the French Empire under Napoleon engaged in a series of Napoleonic Wars, involving almost every major European power. After a streak of victories, France secured a dominant position in continental Europe and Napoleon maintained influence via an extensive network of alliances and nepotism.
Josephine did not bear Napoleon any children; as a result he divorced her in 1810 to marry Marie Luise of Austria (below).
Josephine, however, through her daughter, Hortense, was the maternal grandmother of Napoleon III. Through her son, Eugene, she was the great-grandmother of later Swedish and Danish kings and queens, as well as the last Queen of Greece. The current reigning houses of Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg also descend from her.
The invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. His army was badly damaged in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, he was defeated again at Leipzig. The following year France was invaded by a European coalition, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate. He was exiled him to the island ofElba. Less than a year later, he escaped Elba and returned to power, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1816, by the Duke of Wellington and his forces.
The Battle of Waterloo
Napoleon spent the last six years of his life under British supervision on the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, 2,000 km from any major landmass. In his first two months there, he lived in a pavilion on the Briars estate, which belonged to a William Balcombe. Napoleon became friendly with his family, especially his younger daughter Lucia Elizabeth who later wrote Recollections of the Emperor Napoleon. This friendship ended in 1818 when British authorities became suspicious that Balcombe had acted as an intermediary between Napoleon and Paris, and dismissed him from the island.
Napoleon moved to Longwood House in December 1815; it had fallen into severe disrepair. The Times published articles insinuating that the British government was trying to hasten his death and he often complained of the living conditions in letters to the governor and his custodian, Hudson Lowe. Napoleon criticised his captors—particularly Lowe. Lowe's treatment of Napoleon is regarded as poor by historians such as Frank McLynn. Lowe exacerbated a difficult situation through measures including a reduction in Napoleon's expenditure, a rule that no gifts could be delivered to him if they mentioned his imperial status, and a document that his supporters had to sign that guaranteed they would stay with the prisoner indefinitely.
There was sympathy for him in the British Parliament. Lord Holland gave a speech which demanded the prisoner be treated with no unnecessary harshness. Napoleon kept himself informed of the events through The Times and hoped for release in the event that Holland became Prime Minister. He also enjoyed the support of Lord Cochrane, who was involved in Chile's and Brazil's struggle for independence and wanted to rescue Napoleon and help him set up a new empire in South America, a scheme frustrated by Napoleon's death in 1821. There were other plots to rescue Napoleon from captivity including one from Texas, where exiled soldiers from the Grande Armée wanted a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America. There was even a plan to rescue him with a primitive submarine. For Lord Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely and flawed genius.
His last words were, "France, armée, tête d'armée, Joséphine."("France, army, head of the army, Joséphine.")
The Tuileries Palace was the royal palace in Paris, built by Catherine de Medici in 1564 after the death of her husband, Henry II of France. It stood on the right bank of the Seine until 1871, when it was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune.
It closed off the western end of the Louvre courtyard, which has remained open since the destruction of the palace.
Napoléon declared him his heir and gave him the style "His Majesty, The King of Rome". Three years later, the first French Empire, to which he was heir, collapsed. Napoleon wanted to abdicate the throne in favour of his toddler son, but the Allied Powers refused.
On 29 March 1814,Marie Louise and Napoleon II left the palace beat a protracted path to Austria via Rambouillet where they were met by Napoleon II's grandfather, Emperor Francis II of Austria, and the Emperor Alexander I of Russia. They left France forever and lived in exile in Austria.
In 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son, whom he had not seen since his exile to Elba. The day after Napoleon's abdication, the Government took the rule of France, in an effort to re-establish the monarchy under King Louis XVIII. The Commission held the power for two weeks, and it never summoned Napoleon II as emperor, and no regent was ever appointed. Napoleon II was probably never aware at the time that he had been proclaimed Emperor in his father's will. Napoleon II died of tuberculosis in July 1832. The next Bonaparte to come to the throne of France (in 1851) took the name Napoleon III in deference to his cousin's theoretical reign.
During Napoleon I's reign, Louis-Napoléon's parents had been made king and queen of a French puppet state of the Kingdom of Holland. After Napoleon I's military defeats and deposition in 1815 and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France, all members of the Bonaparte dynasty were forced into exile. The little Louis-Napoléon was brought up in Switzerland, living with his mother in Arenenberg Castle , and in Germany, being educated in Ausburg, Bavaria. As a young man he settled in Italy, where he and his elder brother Napoleon Louis espoused liberal politics and became involved with the Carbonari, an organization fighting Austria's domination of northern Italy.
Thus he secretly returned to France in October 1836, for the first time since his childhood, to try to lead a Bonapartist coup at Strasbourg. Louis Philippe had established the July Monarchy in 1830, and was confronted with opposition from many sides. The coup failed and Louis-Napoléon returned to Switzerland. When Louis-Philippe demanded his extradition, the Swiss refused to hand over a man who was a citizen and a member of their armed forces. In order to avoid a war, Louis-Napoléon left Switzerland of his own accord.
He was quietly exiled to the USA, and spent four years in New York. He secretly returned to France and attempted yet another coup in August 1840, sailing with some hired soldiers into Bolonge. This time, he was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment, albeit in relative comfort, in the fortress of the town of Ham. While in the Ham fortress, his eyesight reportedly became poor. During his years of imprisonment, he wrote essays and pamphlets that combined his claim to be emperor with progressive, mildly socialist economic proposals, which he came to define as Bonapartism. In 1844, his uncle Joseph died, making him the heir apparent to the Bonaparte claim. He finally escaped to Southport, Engalnd in May 1846 by changing clothes with a mason working at the fortress. A month later, his father Louis died, making Louis-Napoléon the clear Bonapartist candidate to rule France.
The City of Paris honored their new empress by giving her a wedding gift of 600,000 francs, but at her request the money was used to build a college for females. Empress Eugenie subsequently made an official trip to Great Britain, with her husband Emperor Napoleon III, and this visit heralded the beginning of a close relationship between Empress Eugenie and Queen Victoria. Empress Eugenie, who was the last Empress of France, influenced her husband in foreign policy matters, and served as regent during his absence.
An important legacy of Napoleon III's reign was the rebuilding of Paris. Part of the design decisions were taken in order to reduce the ability of future revolutionaries to challenge the government by capitalizing on the small, medieval streets of Paris to form barricades. However, this should not overshadow the fact that the main reason for the complete transformation of Paris was Napoleon III's desire to modernize Paris based on what he had seen of the modernizations of London during his exile there in the 1840s. With his characteristic social approach to politics, Napoleon III desired to improve health standards and living conditions in Paris with the following goals: build a modern sewage system to improve health, develop new housing with larger apartments for the masses, create green parks all across the city to try to keep working classes away from the pubs on Sunday, etc. Large sections of the city were thus flattened down and the old winding streets were replaced with large thoroughfares and broad avenues. The rebuilding of Paris was directed by Baron Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine department. It was this rebuilding that turned Paris into the city of broad tree-lined boulevards and parks so beloved of tourists today.
Above: Baron Haussmann and Napoleon
Napoleon III also directed the building of the French railway network, which greatly contributed to the development of the coal mining and steel industry in France, and thereby radically changing the nature of the French economy, which entered the modern age of large-scale capitalism. The French economy experienced a very strong growth during the reign of Napoleon III.
Although largely forgotten by later Republican generations, which only remembered the non-democratic nature of the regime, the economic successes of the Second Empire are today recognized as impressive by historians. The emperor himself was largely influenced by the ideas of the Industrial Revolution in England, and he took particular care of the economic development of the country. He is recognized as the first ruler of France to have taken great care of the economy; previous rulers considering it secondary.
Napoleon III, to this day, lacks the favourable historical reputation that Napoleon I enjoyed. Napoleon III has often been seen as an authoritarian but ineffectual leader who brought France into dubious, and ultimately disastrous, foreign military adventures.
He did, however, pay attention to the fate of working classes. His book Extinction du paupérisme ("Extinction of pauperism"), which he wrote while imprisoned at the Fort of Ham in 1844, contributed greatly to his popularity among the working classes and thus his election in 1848. Among other things, the Emperor granted the right to strike to French workers in 1864, despite intense opposition from corporate lobbies. Marxist sociologist Therborn has characterized the reign of Napoleon III as the "first modern bourgeois regime": one which combined a movement of mass support with bourgeois rule, albeit through authoritarian statist means.