World History

Napoleon Bonaparte | Biography, Born, Death, Achievements, & Facts

Where did Napoleon grow up?

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in the city of Ajaccio, Corsica. His father was Carlo Buonaparte, a prominent lawyer who represented Corsica at the court of the King of France. He had his four brothers and his three sisters, including an older brother named Joseph.

Napoleon Bonaparte Overview:

Occupation Emperor of France
Born August 15, 1769 at Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Died  May 5, 1821 at St. Helena, United Kingdom
Nickname Little Corporal
Height 1.68 m
Best known for A brilliant military commander, conquered much of Europe

Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte:

Early Life

Napoleon came from a fairly wealthy family, which allowed him to attend school and receive a good education. He attended the French Military Academy and was trained as a military officer. Upon his father’s death in 1785, Napoleon returned to Corsica to help with his household affairs.

While in Corsica, Napoleon allied with a local revolutionary named Pasquale Paoli. For a time he assisted Paoli in fighting the French occupation of Corsica. However, he later switched sides and returned to France.

French Revolution

While Napoleon was in Corsica, the French Revolution was taking place in Paris, France. The people revolted against the King of France and took control of the country. The royal family and many nobles were killed.

After Napoleon’s return, he allied himself with a radical group of revolutionaries, the Jacobins. He was given a post as artillery commander at his 1793 Siege of Toulon. The city of Toulon was occupied by the British and the Royal Navy took control of the port.

Napoleon devised a strategy to defeat the British and force them out of port. His military leadership in combat was recognized by French leaders and at the tender age of 24 he was promoted to brigadier general.

Military Commander

In 1796 Napoleon was given command of the French army in Italy. Upon reaching Italy, he found his army unorganized and inferior to the Austrian army. But Napoleon was an ambitious man and a brilliant general.

He used good organization to move his army quickly across the battlefield, always outnumbering his opponents. He soon drove the Austrians out of Italy and became a national hero.

Becoming Dictator

After Napoleon led a military expedition in Egypt, he returned to Paris in 1799. The political situation in France changed. The current government called “Directory” has lost power.

Napoleon, along with his allies, including his brother Lucien, established a new government called the Consulate. The government was originally to be headed by three consuls, but Napoleon gave himself the title of first consul. His powers as First Consul essentially made him a French dictator.

Ruling France

As French dictator, Napoleon was able to introduce many government reforms. One of these reforms was the famous Napoleonic Code. This code stipulated that positions in government were to be appointed on the basis of a person’s qualifications and abilities rather than one’s birth or religion.

This was a big change for the French government. Prior to the Napoleonic Code, nobles were given high status by the king in return for grace. As a result, incompetent people often took important posts. Napoleon also helped improve the French economy by building new roads and revitalizing the economy.

He restored the Catholic Church as the official state religion while also allowing non-Catholics freedom of religion. Napoleon also established secular schools so that everyone could get an education.

Napoleon’s power and control continued to grow with the reforms. In 1804 he was crowned the first Emperor of France. At the coronation ceremony, the pope did not allow the crown to be placed on his head, and he crowned himself.

Conquering Europe

Initially, Napoleon brought peace to Europe, but soon France was at war with England, Austria and Russia. After losing a naval battle with the British at the Battle of Trafalgar, Napoleon decided to attack Austria.

He clearly defeated Austrian and Russian forces in his 1805 Battle of Austerlitz. In the years that followed, Napoleon expanded the French Empire. In 1811 France controlled most of Europe (excluding Great Britain) from Spain to the Russian border to its greatest extent.

Invasion of Russia

In 1812 Napoleon made his first big mistake. He decided to invade Russia. Napoleon marched into Russia with a large army. Many of them starved on the way. After heavy fighting with the Russian army, Napoleon invaded Moscow. However, he found the city deserted.

Soon the city was engulfed in fire and many supplies were burned. As winter approached, Napoleon’s army ran out of supplies. he had to return to France. By the time he returned to France, most of the surviving force had fallen victim to the weather or starved.

Exile on Elba

With much of Napoleon’s army destroyed by the Russian invasion, the rest of Europe was now turned against France. Despite some victories, Napoleon’s army was too small and he was forced into exile on Elba in 1814.

Return and Waterloo

Napoleon fled Elba in 1815. His army soon backed him up and he ruled Paris for a period called “Hundred Days”. But the rest of Europe would not accept Napoleon’s return. They rallied their forces and met him at Waterloo. Napoleon was defeated at his Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and was again forced into exile. This time it’s Saint Helena.


Napoleon died on May 5, 1821 after six years in exile on St. Helena. It is highly probable that he died of stomach cancer. His body was moved to Les Invalides in Paris, France in 1840.

Interesting Facts about Napoleon

Napoleon is known for being very small, perhaps 1.70 meters tall. However, he may have been of average height when he was alive.

These days, he calls what he feels overcompensated for being outnumbered a “Napoleon complex.”

His real name is Napoleone di Buonaparte. When he moved to mainland France, he changed his name to make it more French.

He married his first wife Josephine in 1796. She became the first Empress of France, but divorced in 1810 and married Marie-Louise of Austria.

The famous composer Beethoven wanted to dedicate his Third Symphony to Napoleon, but changed his mind after Napoleon became emperor.

He wrote a romance novel titled Clisson and Eugenie.