Migraines didn't stop Napoleon Bonaparte from becoming a great military leader or an emperor. Born on August 15, 1769 in Corsica, to Carlo Bonaparte and Letizia Ramolino, he was the second son of seven children. Bonaparte was educated in military schools in France, where he excelled in math and prepared for a military career.
After his graduation in 1785, Bonaparte became second lieutenant in a section of the French army that concentrated in weaponry. Following the French Revolution, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and then to Captain in 1792. During The Battle of Toulon, Bonaparte was able to use his skill and military mastery to help win against the British troops and was soon seen as a military powerhouse. With this success, his rank increased to Brigadier General, and he was later put in charge of the French weaponry arm, "Army of Italy." While commanding his army in 1794, his connection to Maximilien Robespierre and his demise got him a short stay in jail and almost ended his military career.
In 1796, Bonaparte was named commander and chief of the French army in Italy and married Josephine de Beauharnais. Shortly after their wedding, he had to leave his bride to take up his new station and continued to win one battle after another against the Austrians and Italians. He returned home a hero and became deeply interested in French politics.
Once Bonaparte had a taste for power, he thought Egypt could be his next conquest. He sailed with 35,000 men and fought against the "Mamluks" in the Battle of the Pyramids. A British fleet struck and defeated a group of French ships in the Battle of the Nile, but he didn't let this didn't stop him. Using his military finesse he gained control of other territories in Egypt and rearranged their government, postal service and more.
Upon his return to France in 1799, Bonaparte took a large part in overthrowing the five-man Directory that had replaced the king. He was appointed first consul and headed the new leadership of the government, giving him unlimited power. Now Bonaparte wanted peace with Austria and Italy, but they were having none of it. So he sent his army to defeat Italy in The Battle of Marengo and it came under French rule again in 1800. The war with England soon ended and the Treaty of Amiens was signed in 1802.
During this period, Bonaparte was busy enhancing the relationship between the French government and Catholic Church in addition to setting up the Bank of France. He also improved France's legal system with new laws called Code Napoleon and restructured education. In 1804 he named himself emperor, and a year later he became the kind of Italy. Later in 1805, the British naval fleet overpowered the French in The Battle of Trafalgar, but Bonaparte defeated Austria and Russia in The Battle of Austerlitz. When the French sought to overpower the Prussian army in 1806, Russia attempted to come to its aid but failed. This resulted in Alexander I signing the Tilsit peace treaty in 1807. Sweden was then defeated in 1808 with help from Russia, leaving England the only land left for Bonaparte to conquer.
Due to England's excellent naval fleet, Bonaparte wasn't able break through and attain control, so he crafted a blockade called the Continental System, which essentially closed off European ports to trade with England. This affected more countries than England, others suffered and started to rebel. Seeing as England would not be forced into French rule, they took any opportunity to rally against them and in 1808 British fleets assisted Spain in rebellion over Bonaparte's brother being king. With Russia's increasing displeasure over the blockade, Alexander I put a stop to it sending Bonaparte on immediate attack. This attack led to the death of five hundred thousand of the French army due to cold weather, disease and a poor supply of provisions.
Fourteen years after Bonaparte and Josephine were married, they remained childless, and he desperately wanted an heir. He dissolved the marriage in 1810 and married the Emperor Francis II of Austria's daughter, Marie Louise. His son, Napoleon, was born a year later. This however did not stop Austria from proclaiming war on the French in 1813 and in 1814 Paris was captured by an alliance consisting of England, Sweden, Austria, Russia and Prussia. Napoleon was forced to step down, replaced by Louis XVIII, and banished to the island of Elba.
He valiantly made plans to return to power during his exile, eventually escaping and successfully attacking Paris although his rule would be short lived. The Battle of Waterloo between Bonaparte and an allied contingent from Europe was complete within a week. His rule was finally complete, and he was finished both militarily and politically. He relinquished his power to England who then banished him to the island of St. Helena. He lived the rest of his life there, dying on May 5, 1821, after becoming ill with some think was stomach cancer.
Bonaparte's aggressive nature and military prowess gave him all the skills he needed to become a great leader and historical figure. His short stature never seemed to get in his way, maybe it pushed him harder than most men.
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- Periera, Parun. "Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte." Buzzle.com
- "Napoleon Bonaparte Biography." Encyclopedia of World Biography.
- "Short Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte." Napoleon & Empire.com.
- Young, William, B. M. D.; Silbertein, Stephen, D. M.D. Migraine and Other Headaches. New York, N.Y: Demos Medical Publishing, 2004.
Thanks for reading, and feel well,
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© Nancy Harris Bonk, 2012.
Last updated February 21, 2012.
Published On: February 21, 2012