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Napoleon Bonaparte
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Napoleon Bonaparte

The most famous Frenchman in history was born at Ajaccio, Corsica on 15 August, 1769. His family was upper-middle class. His father Carlo was a political opportunist who gained acceptance into the French aristocracy. At the age of 10 Napoleon entered the military academy at Brianne, France. His first few months there were a nightmare with the other children teasing him for his strange name, his foreign accent and his small size. Between 1790 and 1791 Napoleon spent 18 months in his homeland of Corsica, helping to consolidate French rule. In 1793, he rejoined his regiment who were stationed in Italy. He was here given his first military command at the siege of Toulon. In 3 days Napoleon bombarded the city into submission, gaining control of this important harbor city. He was rewarded by a speedy promotion to brigadier-general and an appointment as commander of planning for the army of Italy. In quick succession Napoleon achieved victories over the Italians, Austrians and Sardinians at Matelote, Dego, Millesimo, Mondovi and Lodi, Milan, Castiglione and Arcola. In February 1797 he marched across the Alps toward Vienna. The Austrians sued for an Armistice before a single shot was fired. His return to France was triumphant. At just 28 years of age Napoleon had established himself as the greatest French general of all time. Napoleon set about reforming local and national government, education and legislature, proving himself a brilliant statesman and administrator. In 1802 Napoleon was voted consul for life. This, however, was not enough for him, and he set about paving the way for himself to be crowned Emperor of the French. In May, 1804 he got his wish. In 1813 the Prussians joined forces with Russia in an alliance against France. When Austria joined the alliance, Napoleon knowing he couldn’t prevail, sued for an armistice. He soon reneged on the conditions, however and an allied invasion of France was put in motion. By January, 1814 France was under attack from all sides. In March, 1814 Paris fell to the allies. Napoleon had moved his army east. The Parisian authorities had, however, abandoned him and they came to terms with the allies. Just a year later, however, he returned to Paris and, with the masses rallying around him, was reinstated as head of state. The allies, of course, retaliated by marching once more on France. Initially Napoleon’s forces gained the victory but the final defeat came when the British forces, reinforced by the Prussians, met the French at Waterloo. Napoleon had fought his last battle. Deciding what to do with him, the allies finally decided on exile to the rocky island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic Situated a thousand miles off the African Coast Napoleon was now well and truly out of the way. On 5 May, 1821 Napoleon Bonaparte died on his island prison
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