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Napoleon Bonaparte

Important Terms, People, and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Continental System -   · The Continental System refers to Napoleon's attempt, beginning in 1806 with the Berlin Decree, to strangle Britain's economy by closing off all European ports. This would prevent the British from exporting their manufactured goods to Europe. The Continental System was largely a failure. It created discontent throughout Europe, and, as Napoleon tried to enforce it in Spain, he touched off the Peninsular War.
Confederation of the Rhine -   · Early in 1806, Napoleon dissolved the old Holy Roman Empire to which the German states had belonged, and created in its place the Confederation of the Rhine, the name for Napoleon-dominated Germany.
Corsica -   · The fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean. Corsica rebelled against Genoa in 1729, and was independent for a time, until Genoa ceded its rights in the island to France in 1768, which took the island over by force. Napoleon was born on Corsica in 1769, the same year that it became a French province.
Directory -   · The Directory was the name for the French revolutionary government from 1795 to 1799. It had a bicameral legislature consisting of the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of the Ancients. Five Directors made up the weak executive branch. This government was created to remedy the excesses of Robespierre's government.
Elba -   · An island off the west coast of Italy. Napoleon was exiled to Elba from 1814 until his escape in 1815.
Jacobin -   · An extreme revolutionary group during the French Revolution. The Jacobins' equalitarian vision was very liberal, but they were also very violent. The Jacobin stereotype was epitomized by the figure of Robespierre.
Hundred Days -   · The Hundred Days refer to the days from March 20 to July 8, 1815, which saw Napoleon's escape from exile Elba, his raising of a new army, and his last campaign to dominate Europe. The combined forces of the British and Prussian armies finally brought the campaign to a stop in the battle of Waterloo.
Napoleonic Code -   · The system of laws, especially the civil code, which Napoleon announced in 1804. This code remains a basis of European continental law to this day, but differs somewhat from the Anglo-American "Common Law" tradition at the root of the U.S. legal system. (The Napoleonic Code did have some influence, however, in forming the legal system of the state of Louisiana, however, which was settled by the French.)
Saint Helena -   · A British colony in the South Atlantic. Napoleon was exiled there from 1815 to his death in 1821.
Tuileries -   · The Palais des Tuileries was a French palace next to the Louvre, which French Royalty and Napoleon often inhabited. The palace burned down in 1871.

People

Alexander I -  Czar and emperor of Russia from 1801 to 1825. For a time he allied with Napoleon under the Treaty of Tilsit, but ultimately he joined the alliance that defeated Napoleon.
Gebhard Blucher -  A Prussian Field Marshal who helped the British, led by Wellington, to defeat Napoleon's forces at Waterloo.
Jacques-Louis David -  A Leading French artist of the Napoleonic period, painting in the "Neoclassical" style popular at the time. David painted many of Napoleon's most famous portraits, which portray the Emperor in an idealized, heroic manner.
Francis II -  Francis II was the Holy Roman Emperor in 1806 when Napoleon dissolved the Empire and replaced it with the Confederation of the Rhine. Francis II then served as Emperor of Austria until his death in 1835.
Frederick William III -  Prussian King from 1797 to 1840. Frederick William III was a weak king, manipulated alternately by the influence of Alexander I and Metternich.
Josephine -  Born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, in Martinique, Josephine had been married to Alexandre de Beauharnais, a French officer, prior to his execution in the French Revolution. In 1796 she married Napoleon. As Empress of France, she amassed an incredible fortune in jewels. In 1810, after she failed to bear an heir, Napoleon had their marriage annulled on the alleged grounds that no parish priest had been present at the wedding. Josephine died in 1814.
Marie Louise -  After divorcing Josephine, Napoleon married Marie Louise, an Austrian Archduchess. She was 18 at the time. In 1811 she gave birth to a son, called the "King of Rome."
Clemens von Metternich -  The Austrian foreign minister from 1809-1848. Metternich was highly conservative and a master diplomat, and was one of the key architects of the reorganization of Europe following Napoleon's fall.
Admiral Horatio Nelson -  A brilliant British naval commander, who won crucial victories against the French fleet, including the Battle of Aboukir (The Battle of the Nile) in 1798 and Trafalgar in 1805. Although he won the battle, Nelson was killed at Trafalgar. Privately, Nelson was involved in an affair with a married woman, the affair was some of the leading gossip in England at the time.
Maximilien Robespierre -  An especially radical Jacobin during the French Revolution, Robespierre served as chairman of the Committee of Public Safety, basically becoming a dictator. It was under Robespierre that Napoleon was first promoted in government, by virtue of his service in defense of the Republic. Robespierre is most remembered for being an overzealous revolutionary who instigated the so- called Reign of Terror.
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes -  During the French Revolution, Sieyes was a Liberal member of the clergy, supporter of the Third Estate, and author of the fiery pamphlet What Is the Third Estate?. Sieyes led the coup that overthrew the Directory and replaced it with the Consulate, in which he served as one of the three consuls. Sieyes took on Napoleon as his "Saber."
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand -  As the French foreign minister under Napoleon, Talleyrand played politics so well that he managed to stay in office throughout the two following regimes.
Duke of Wellington -  The British commander who, along with Blucher, took primary credit for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo. Earlier, Wellington had also led the British forces supporting the Spanish guerillas in the Peninsular War. Wellington later entered British politics and served as Prime Minister.

Events

Peace of Amiens -  In this 1802 the British and French agreed not to fight. Of the entire Napoleonic era, 1802 was the only year during which no European power was officially at war with another European power.
Austerlitz -  In this battle, fought on December 2, 1805, Napoleon's army defeated the Russian and Austrian armies. The Russian army limped back to Poland while the Austrians surrendered their Italian territory, Venetia, to the French.
Concordat -  The French Revolution had treated the Catholic Church in France very badly, and the government had confiscated much Church property. By signing the Concordat on July 15, 1801, the French government and the Church agreed to a reconciliation. Napoleon could now forge ahead in his regime without opposition from the Church.
Treaty of Campo Formio -  This treaty with Austria ended Napoleon's Italian campaign and secured his victory. Because he negotiated the details of the treaty on his own authority, Napoleon incurred the severe annoyance of the Directory; however, the military triumph cemented by the treaty propelled Napoleon to the height of popularity among the French people.
Treaty of Fontainebleau -  This 1814 treaty called for the exile of Napoleon to Elba, promising him a stipend of 2 million francs a year (which he never received). The treaty also allowed Napoleon to keep the title of Emperor.
Leipzig -  In this battle, fought in October 1813 and also known as the Battle of Nations, Napoleon's army of raw recruits was defeated by a four-nation alliance. Up to that time, no single battle had involved so many soldiers.
Treaty of Luneville -  In this February 1800 treaty, the Austrians and French renewed the conditions of the Treaty of Campo Formio.
Peninsular War -  In this war, fought in the Iberian Peninsula from 1808-1814, the Portuguese, Spanish, and British (under Wellington) struggled against the French, who were trying to impose the Continental System on them.
Treaty of Tilsit -  This treaty, signed in 1807, required both Russia and Prussia to join the Continental System. Russia, Prussia, and Austria declared war on Britain following the treaty.
Trafalgar -  This naval battle was fought October 21, 1805 off the coast of Spain. In it, Napoleon's navy of 33 French and Spanish ships was decimated by the British fleet of 27 ships. Admiral Horatio Nelson commanded the British fleet, and lost his life in the battle. The battle firmly established Britain's naval supremacy for the rest of the 19th century.
Waterloo -  In this June 18, 1815 battle, Napoleon was finally defeated by the British (under Wellington) and the Prussians (under Blucher). The loss was partially due to a crucial mistake of Napoleon's: Prior to the arrival of the Prussians on the scene, Napoleon had had a chance to attach the British forces, but decided to wait for the muddy ground to dry before attacking.

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Wrong date.

by kbbaby224, November 18, 2013

It wasn't in 1814 that he abdicated this throne. He abdicated his throne in 1815

response to abdication

by brianohhh, November 22, 2013

To the comment above.
Actually - Napoleon did sign an abdication on April 4, 1814, after the Allies ganged up on him and invaded France successfully. In 1815 he was sent to St.Helena after he had escaped from Elba and was defeated at Waterloo.

Waterloo Error

by brianohhh, November 22, 2013

The article makes a massive and typical blunder in stating Napoleon fought 'the British army' at Waterloo. In fact Wellington's army was made up of various nationalities; British, Dutch, Belgian, various German states. Of the 68,000 strong army of Wellington, just over 24,000 were actually British.

See all 6 readers' notes   →

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