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Napoleon Bonaparte

Emperor of France
1769-1821

By Richard Moore

12 Portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte
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Napoleon BonaparteOne of the most brilliant individuals in history, Napoleon Bonaparte was a masterful soldier, an unequalled grand tactician and a superb administrator. He was also utterly ruthless, a dictator and, later in his career, thought he could do no wrong.

Not a Frenchman by birth, Napoleon Bonaparte was born at Ajaccio on Corsica - only just sold to France by the Italian state of Genoa - on 15 August 1769 and learnt French at the school of Autun and later the military academy at Brienne. He never fully mastered French and his spelling left a lot to be desired.

The revolutionary fever that was spreading when Bonaparte was a teenager allowed a talented individual the opportunity to rise far beyond what could have been achieved only a few years previously.

His first real military opportunity came as a captain of artillery at the siege of Toulon, where he expertly seized crucial forts and was able to bombard the British naval and land forces, eventually forcing them to sail away.

Now a brigadier-general, Bonaparte served in the army campaigning in Italy but found himself arrested and jailed for being an associate of the younger brother of Maximilien Robespierre.

With no position for him after his release, Bonaparte thought about joining the Turkish army and even joining a naval expedition to Australia, but became involved with a member of the Directory, Paul Barras, who used the young man's zeal to put down a royalist mob in 1795 with the now legendary "whiff of grapeshot".

With his loyalty and ruthlessness proven, the next year Bonaparte took up command of the Army of Italy and set off on a campaign that was to take him to absolute power in France and Europe.

Initially treated with suspicion, and not a little contempt, by the older generals he superceded, Bonaparte won over his badly treated soldiers with promises of great things to come and a large helping of personal bravery. Like Caesar, he was not afraid to get into the thick of the fighting to inspire his men.

In a series of battles that included such as Montenotte, Mondovi, Arcola and Rivoli, Bonaparte swept the board of ageing Austrian generals and established himself as one of the leading soldiers of his time.

 
 
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