Napoleon Bonaparte - His Life and Achievements
Napoleon Bonaparte is probably the best known Frenchman ever because his life and achievements have left their impact to this very day. The Little Corporal who became the Emperor of the French is truly one of history's enigmas. He was born on 15 August 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica to Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte. Being a member of the landed gentry, he was educated in a military school. He won a scholarship to an elite French military academy at the age of 14. His meteoric rise to fame began upon this foundation. The period after the French Revolution was a very tumultuous one and all it needed was the right man to take charge. Napoleon rose rapidly through the ranks of the French army and he was in a position to come to the beleaguered country's aid against its neighbors who were at war with it immediately after the revolution. Napoleon has been termed one of the greatest military commanders in history. He also was a far sighted and able administrator who brought about revolutionary changes in government and society. His Code Napoleon was the basis of many country's laws and police codes, and not just of France. Interestingly, his impact on science and the arts can still be felt till this day. The end of feudalism and the advent of the modern age have been attributed to his reforms because he strove to reduce the impact of religion on society. He was also responsible for creating the Bank of France and also the centralization of the French government. During his lifetime and for a long time afterwards, Napoleon was known as a power hungry conqueror. He took on other countries in Europe, mainly Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia and spent many years on the campaign trail. His initial campaigns were highly successful and his professionally trained armies were feared throughout Europe. Famous battles such as Marengo and Austerlitz are remembered to this very day because of the resounding way in which he defeated the forces arrayed against him. Napoleon got rid of many royal houses and put many of his family members and supporters on the thrones in different places such as Holland, Westphalia, Italy, Naples, Spain and Sweden. Needless to say, this only increased his unpopularity. He also annulled his marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais in order to marry Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian emperor. Their son was born a year after the marriage. Napoleon was unable to maintain his momentum on the battlefield especially once his enemies joined together to put an end to his influence in Europe. His Grand Armèe was annihilated in Russia in 1812 and this eventually led to his downfall. A coalition of forces defeated him in Paris in 1814 and once more, for good, in Waterloo in 1815. He was exiled to the island of St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean where he died on 5 May 1821. His mystique lives to this day because of his numerous achievements and the drama of his story.

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