Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most familiar historical figures in many people’s minds. He is memorable for his position as Emperor of France, his wars, his defeat in Russia and his diminutive height (although he was not actually that short, just self-conscious about it). On November 9th in 1799, Napoleon staged a coup which would lead to becoming Emperor of France.
Napoleon’s rise to power
Born Napoleone di Buonaparte, Napoleon was the son of a minor Italian noble family. He served as a French artillery officer and rapidly rose through the ranks during the French revolution, being promoted to the rank of general at the age of 24.
After suppressing an insurgent revolt, Napoleon was given command of the Army of Italy. After that, he led successful campaigns against the Austrians and conquered the Italian Peninsula within a year, prompting the French people to name him a war hero. In 1798, he ventured into Egypt on an expedition which would serve to solidify his political power.
Napoleon orchestrated a coup in 1799 after returning from Egypt. The successful attempt to grasp power resulted in him gaining the position of First Consul of the Republic, and swiftly led to his being crowned Emperor of France on December 2nd, 1804.
During his coronation ceremony, Napoleon snatched the crown from the hands of Pope Pius VII and crowned himself emperor.
Loss of power and exile
Napoleon reigned as emperor until April 4th, 1814. He tried to abdicate the throne to his son but was forced into unconditional abdication by political rivals fearing he would find a way to reclaim power.
He was exiled to the island of Elba, but escaped and again proclaimed himself Emperor of France for a brief period called the “hundred days.” This second, short reign ended with Napoleon’s capture by the British and his exile to the island of Saint Helena.