The Man from Corsica

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Written by: Mayank Rastogi

Napoleon Buonaparte (a self-spelled name) was born in the French-ruled island of Corsica in the Mediterranean to a minor noble family. He was a man with little money but great dreams.

He was against the existing French rule and against the aristocratic king and queen, who preferred eating delicacies and having sensual pleasures rather than look after the public. But Napoleon supported the Jacobins and republican rule.

When he was 9, he was sent for military training, and it was his ambition to hold an extremely powerful position within the French elite.

He had a conflicting attitude towards the revolution that was happening in the years of his youth, and he wrote a letter to his brother about the situation, mentioning that:

"Since one must take sides, one might as well choose the side that is victorious, the side which devastates and loots because it is better to eat than to be eaten."

Napoleon rose to the ranks quickly during the French Revolution and became famous in the army as an able lieutenant and military tactician. In December 1793, he drove British forces out of the French port of Toulon, which was one of his first victories, and his fame soon spread wide.

He then went on a victory streak, capturing most of North Italy and forcing the Hapsburg emperor to make peace by signing a treaty. He hoped to interrupt the British trade with India and, thus, led an expedition against the Egyptian fleet. The campaign proved disastrous, but he managed to hide his losses from his admirers in France.

As with every successful person who is consumed by ego and fame, Napoleon's success had consumed him and fed his ambition. In 1799, he moved from victorious general to political leader and helped overthrow the weak Directory that was set up after the revolution had been successful in executing the king and the queen. He instead established the Consulate and eventually made himself one of the consuls for life.

Then, after two years, he took the title Emperor of France and invited the pope to preside over his coronation as emperor, but, when the pope was putting the crown over his head, he instead took the crown in his own hands and placed it over his head, indicating that he had struggled alone towards his destiny and that he owed his throne to no one but himself.

Napoleon had introduced various laws and the famous Napoleonic code. He proved his might in the battlefield, and year after year, he marshaled the military strength of France and also suffered huge losses, but said:

"A man such as I care little for the life of a million men on the battlefield."

 He valued rapid movements and drew up different strategies and tactics for each battle he fought so that the enemies could never anticipate what he was about to do in the battle.

Napoleon's presence on the battlefield said one enemy, was "worth 40,000 troops because he is such a fine warrior". At various times, the rulers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia signed treaties with the "Corsican Upstart", as his enemies called him.

Napoleon was a family man, but to gain all of Europe, he put his friends and family on the thrones of Europe. He unseated the king of Spain and placed his own brother, Joseph, on the throne. He was so ambitious that he divorced his loving wife Josephine and married a Hapsburg princess, the niece of 'Marie Antoinette' or as everyone preferred to call her then 'The Eccentric Queen', just to ensure control on the Hapsburg kingdom so that it didn't rise against his empire that he had created from scratch.

After "The Corsican Upstart" was defeated in 1813 by the combined forces of Russia, Britain, Austria, and Prussia, he was exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, and the victors arranged for the Bourbon king Louis XVIII to be instated as emperor, but Napolean's followers were hell-bent on revenge, to get their leader back, so, Napolean escaped his exile and reconstructed his army, and Louis XVIII fled abruptly after the march of Napoleon to Paris with his reconstructed army. But, his triumph was short-lived. He ruled again only for 100 days. The allies or the countries that defeated Napoleon assembled their armies and fought a war with Napoleon at Waterloo. British and Prussian forces together crushed the French army in a day-long battle, and once again, Napoleon was forced to go into exile on St. Helena, an island in the Atlantic, only this time never to return.

He was and still is an inspiring role model for the youth around the world, for the people who dream big, but their roads are blocked by obstacles, who aim high but cannot achieve their goals.

Napoleon Bonaparte, he accomplished wonders, and he conveys the same essential message, that we can achieve everything in our lives no matter what the world says, no matter what others think of us. Still, in the present minds, his era is remembered as full of grandeur and parades and marches, and the people of France still remember him as "The Revolution on Horseback "or The Man from Corsica", who transformed France and brought peace and prosperity in his empire.

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