Chafing in exile on the small island of Elba off the Tuscan coast, Napoleon escaped to the southern coast of France and marched swiftly on Paris, winning over forces sent to arrest him by restored Bourbon King Louis XVIII. Napoleon strove mightily to recreate a French Army to counter the advancing Allies, but the men he needed lay dead from Russia to the Rhine. The Emperor threw what men he could gather against his enemies before suffering final defeat at Waterloo and perpetual banishment on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena. Enshrined forever in romantic legend as the Hundred Days, his resurrected Empire only lasted from March 20 to June 22, 1815.
Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who had a significant impact on the history of Europe. He was a general during the French Revolution, the ruler of France as First Consul of the French Republic and Emperor of the First French Empire.
Born in Corsica and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France, he rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. In 1799, Napoleon staged a coup d'état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later he crowned himself Emperor of the French. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, he turned the armies of France against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of military victories - epitomised in battles such as Austerlitz and Friedland. He maintained France's sphere of influence by the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.
The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. His Grande Armée was wrecked in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig, invaded France and exiled him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he returned and was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon spent the last six years of his life under British supervision on the island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. The autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer though Sten Forshufvud and other scientists in the 1960s conjectured that he had been poisoned with arsenic.
Napoleon developed few military innovations, drew his tactics from different sources and scored major victories with a modernised French army. His campaigns are studied at military academies the world over and he is widely regarded as one of history's greatest commanders. While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the administrative foundations for much of Western Europe.
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