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Napoleon Bonaparte (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), later known by his regnal name Napoleon I, was a French emperor and military commander who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. He was the leader of the French Republic as First Consul from 1799 to 1804, then of the French Empire as Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and briefly again in 1815. His political and cultural legacy endures as a celebrated and controversial leader. He initiated many enduring reforms, but has been criticized for his authoritarian rule. He is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and his wars and campaigns are still studied at military schools worldwide. However, historians still debate whether he was responsible for the Napoleonic Wars in which between three and six million people died.
|First Consul of the French Republic
13 December 1799 – 18 May 1804
|Emperor of the French
|18 May 1804 – 6 April 1814
|20 March 1815 – 22 June 1815
|(1769-08-15)15 August 1769
|5 May 1821(1821-05-05) (aged 51)
Longwood, Saint Helena
|15 December 1840
Les Invalides, Paris
Napoleon was born on the island of Corsica into a family descended from Italian nobility. He was resentful of the French monarchy, and supported the French Revolution in 1789 while serving in the French army, trying to spread its ideals to his native Corsica. He rose rapidly in the ranks after saving the governing French Directory by firing on royalist insurgents. In 1796, he began a military campaign against the Austrians and their Italian allies, scoring decisive victories, and became a national hero. Two years later he led a military expedition to Egypt that served as a springboard to political power. He engineered a coup in November 1799 and became First Consul of the Republic. In 1804, to consolidate and expand his power, he crowned himself Emperor of the French.
Differences with the United Kingdom meant France faced the War of the Third Coalition by 1805. Napoleon shattered this coalition with victories in the Ulm campaign and at the Battle of Austerlitz, which led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, the Fourth Coalition took up arms against him. Napoleon defeated Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, marched the Grande Armée into Eastern Europe, and defeated the Russians in June 1807 at Friedland, forcing the defeated nations of the Fourth Coalition to accept the Treaties of Tilsit. Two years later, the Austrians challenged the French again during the War of the Fifth Coalition, but Napoleon solidified his grip over Europe after triumphing at the Battle of Wagram.
Hoping to extend the Continental System, his embargo against Britain, Napoleon invaded the Iberian Peninsula and declared his brother Joseph the King of Spain in 1808. The Spanish and the Portuguese revolted in the Peninsular War aided by a British army, culminating in defeat for Napoleon's marshals. Napoleon launched an invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812. The resulting campaign witnessed the catastrophic retreat of Napoleon's Grande Armée. In 1813, Prussia and Austria joined Russian forces in a Sixth Coalition against France, resulting in a large coalition army defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. The coalition invaded France and captured Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814. He was exiled to the island of Elba, between Corsica and Italy. In France, the Bourbons were restored to power.
Napoleon escaped in February 1815 and took control of France. The Allies responded by forming a Seventh Coalition, which defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The British exiled him to the remote island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic, where he died in 1821 at the age of 51.
Napoleon had a lasting impact on the world, bringing modernizing reforms to France and Western Europe and stimulating the development of nation states. He also sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803, doubling the latter's size. However, his mixed record on civil rights and exploitation of conquered territories adversely affect his reputation.
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