Napoleon is proclaimed Emperor of France by the French Senate (May 18, 1804) - History Key

Napoleon is proclaimed Emperor of France by the French Senate (May 18, 1804)

Napoleon Bonaparte is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His actions were differently judged and criticized by historians. What everyone recognizes, regardless of their position, is that he had exceptional qualities. He became the first emperor of France who conquered important areas of Europe in the early 19th century.

Joséphine kneels before Napoléon during his coronation at Notre Dame
Joséphine kneels before Napoléon during his coronation at Notre Dame ©PD-US/ Jacques-Louis David/Image Source: Wikipedia

From Lieutenant to First Consul

He was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica. His education started at an artillery school with a strong passion for math and history. Despite his many qualities, he couldn’t advance much in the Old Regime, but the Revolution of 1789 gave him a chance. The young artillery lieutenant became a captain at 24 years old.

Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne © Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres/Image Source: Wikipedia

In late 1795, Napoleon crushed a royalist rebellion which brought him the command of the Italian army. From that moment he showed his military talent and his first political ambitions started to develop. In short time he gained a great popularity among the people and military. Because of his fame, Napoleon was sent away in Egypt. Napoleon planned a surprise attack while he was away and in 1799 gives the coup d’état of Brumaire.

From that moment he had absolute power. A new Constitution was promulgated through which Napoleon became the First Consul (there were other two, but with no real power). Napoleon could create or dissolve Governments, declare war or peace, initiate laws and so on. Through the measures taken, the corruption and the insecurity of the citizens have been eliminated and France became once again prosperous. Also the education system received a significant attention, but the education for girls was neglected. He strongly believed that women should focus on marriage.

From Emperor to Exile

Having the power strengthened by the achievements of his government, Napoleon was proclaimed the first emperor of France by the French Senate on May 18, 1804. However a proper definition is that he proclaimed himself. Despite the fact that he was already an emperor, his coronation took place on December 2, 1804. In the ceremony he said: “Empire means peace”. But his leadership led to a long line of wars with England and the absolutist monarchies.

With a large army, Napoleon managed to win important battles against Austria and Prussia. The only continental power that stood in his way was Russia. Therefore, he concluded an agreement in 1807 by which Europe was divided between him and the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I. His desire to conquer more and more territories made him vulnerable. Napoleon made a disastrous attempt to invade Russia which brought the start of his fall. In 1813 Napoleon is defeated by all the great nations and he is forced to abdicate. One year later he is exiled to the island of Elba in 1814.

Napoleon portrait by Jacques-Louis David
Napoleon portrait by Jacques-Louis David © Image Source:

The results of his wars formed the Great Empire of France. He introduced reforms from the French Revolutions, a civil code, the abolition of nobility and feudal obligations. Maybe one of the most important indirect achievements was the awakening of the national conscience.

Facts about Napoleon

  • His first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, barely escaped execution;
  • We wasn’t that short: 168 cm (5.5 feet);
  • He wrote a romance novel: Clisson et Eugénie;
  • Beethoven originally planned to dedicate his third symphony to Napoleon
  • Napoleon’s empire attempted to spread religious tolerance
  • Napoleon attempted suicide before exile in Elba

Stay tuned, for a full article with facts about Napoleon.

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