Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?

Napoleon Bonaparte by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Napoleon Bonaparte by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Excluding artists, religious figures, royals with numbers attached, and people from a period or culture in which last names were not commonly used, Napoleon is one of the few historical figures readily identifiable by only his first name. Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?

Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica (a French island off the coast of Italy) on August 15, 1769. He trained as a French artillery officer and led some successful campaigns during the French Revolution. In November 1799 he staged a coup d’état and took over the French government. He was crowned Emperor of the French in December 1804.

Napoleon Bonaparte conquered a large part of Europe, but failed in his attempts to conquer Spain and Russia. In April 1814, he was forced off the throne by a European coalition. Napoleon was exiled to Elba (another island off the Italian coast). He escaped from Elba in February 1815 and returned to France, where he again ruled for a period known as the “Hundred Days.” Once again Napoleon fought the European coalition that was allied against him. He lost the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena (a remote British island in the South Atlantic), where he died on May 5, 1821.

Opinions about Napoleon run the gamut from worshipful to censorious. Robert Gildea provides a good roundup in “Napoleon: Saint, Sinner or Both?” in the November 2013 issue of History Today.

You will find lots of information about Napoleon on this website, including “10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte” and “10 More Interesting Napoleon Facts.” There is also plenty of information about Napoleon’s family, including “10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon’s Family.”

For more about who Napoleon Bonaparte was, read his biography on History.com or About.com. If you’d like more information about Napoleon’s life and times, dive into the following websites.

Top 10 websites about Napoleon Bonaparte

A treasure trove maintained by the Fondation Napoléon, with a fantastic digital library.

Napoleon Series
Another excellent site, full of Napoleonic goodies.

Napoleonic Society
Website of the International Napoleonic Society, with many scholarly articles and links.

Napoleon Bonaparte: The Podcast
Over 46 hour-long episodes, each covering a period of Napoleon’s life and career.

The McGill University Napoleon Collection
Wonderful collection of prints, monographs, maps, etc.

Napoleon, His Army and Enemies
Armies, battles, strategy, tactics, commanders, uniforms, maps.

Napoleonic Guide
Also military focused.

Napoleon & Empire
The French version of the site is more extensive than the English.

Reflections on a Journey to St. Helena
John Tyrrell’s musings on St. Helena, Napoleon’s exile and English attitudes towards Napoleon.

Société d’Études Historiques Révolutionnaires et Impériales
In French, for diehard researchers, source of documents (archives, objects, listings) devoted to the period 1789-1815. If you don’t read French, you might still enjoy the photo albums on the blog.

If you visit even a few of these, you’ll have no problem answering “who was Napoleon Bonaparte?”

You might also enjoy:

10 Things Napoleon Never Said

10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes in Context

What did Napoleon look like?

What did Napoleon like to read?

What did Napoleon like to eat and drink?

What were Napoleon’s last words?

What happened to Napoleon’s body?

Was Napoleon good or bad?

10 commments on “Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?”

  • Pierre says:

    Bonjour Milady 🙂

    That’s a nice website you have. I’d like to point out that
    “French Revolutionary army” is a nonsense, the revolution is just an historical era for historians not a regime. Bonaparte was an officer of the French Republic.

    Did you know that between 1805 and 1808 the French coins were engraved “Napoleon Emperor, French Republic”? That might sound weird as he was crowned in 1804… At first Bonaparte was First Consul of the French Republic, then Napoleon was the Emperor of the French Republic (like Caesar was Emperor of the Roman Republic) and eventually he became Napoleon Emperor of the French Empire. You can learn a lot by the coins.

    Have you heard of the 2003 French-British movie called “Monsieur N.”? It was directed by Antoine de Caunes and its plot shares elements with your “Napoleon in America”. Here’s a Portuguese dubbed version, sorry that’s all I can offer you now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoi2zJs2_bU

    Regards from France 😉

    • Shannon Selin says:

      Thanks, Pierre. I’m glad you’re enjoying the website. Thanks for the details about the French coins – that’s a great way to keep track of Napoleon’s status in relation to France. I have seen “Monsieur N.” and quite enjoyed it. Another fun speculation on how things might have played out had Napoleon managed to escape from St. Helena. 🙂

  • may says:

    thanks you give good information

  • Kevin R. Roberts says:

    As a fellow writer, I am curious if you use the Chicago Manual of Style or AP? In my book, I put URLs in italics. What is your opinion? What is your online font? I default to Georgia which is preloaded on my Apple Mac.

    • Shannon Selin says:

      I must confess that I don’t adhere to any specific style guide in my blog posts, Kevin. I don’t put URLs in italics. I don’t think it matters whether they’re italicized or not. I’m not sure what the font is, as the site was designed by the excellent team at Bookswarm. It looks like Georgia, or something similar.

  • Michael Fass says:

    Would you consider adding my website to your Top Ten sites if I can reciprocate?
    I really like your site and ideas!
    My website is at http://www.napoleon-on-st-helena.co.uk
    Wine, women and wallpaper were the cause of endless disputes between Napoleon and his jailors throughout the years of his imprisonment in exile on St Helena.
    2021 will be the 200th anniversary of his death when world-wide interest in his extraordinary life can be expected.
    My website is designed to inform all those who wish to know more about the period 1815-1821 when the ex-emperor was imprisoned on the island of St Helena which was described by a British minister, Lord Melville, as “farther away than farther than anywhere else in the world.”
    I have painted the era in vivid colours that encompass events in North and South America and across the revolutionary world as well as in London and on the island of St Helena itself.
    I look forward to hearing from you and with best wishes
    Dr. Michael Fass

    • Shannon Selin says:

      Thanks for alerting me to your website, Michael. Napoleon’s time on St. Helena is a fascinating subject, and it looks like you’ll be covering the period well. Best of luck with it!

  • Adrian Elise Blanchard says:

    Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini the wife of Francesco ddel Gioconde. The model, Lisa del Giocondo, was a memberof the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany, and the wife of Wealthy Florentine silk merchant Franceso del Giocondo.
    English as Mona Lisa
    The Mona Lisa
    Monna Lisa
    La Gioconda
    French: La Joconde

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I have been praised with exaggeration, like all sovereigns who have done extraordinary things; but I always knew my intrinsic value.

Napoleon Bonaparte