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In today’s featured monarch section I thought I would focus on Napoleon. I will be upfront and say I am not crazy about this guy although I must admit what he did greatly impacted European history and the events surrounding him are fascinating. His presence and ambitions forced the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. I always wondered if the end of the empire was inevitable? Had Napoleon never come along would their still be a Holy Roman Empire? Napoleon changed the history of and the map of Europe. I feel his biggest impact was in France and Germany. One of the reasons I do not care for him is because I have a hard time thinking of him as royal. To me the ancient regime of the lines of Hugh Capét were the legitimate sovereigns of France and I see the French Empire as mere usurpers. As with many things in life to the victor goes the ability to make the rules!

Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769 in the town of Ajaccio, Corsica. He was the was the second of eight children to his parents Carlo Bonaparte and Letizia Ramolino. Napoleon became a French national at the right time seeing that the Italian island of Corsica had been occupied by French forces under the command of the Comte de Vaux in 1768 and 1769. His family was of the Italian nobility, attached to Tuscany. At a young age Napoleon joined the French military as an artillery officer and his natural talent and skill for the military allowed him to rise to prominence under the France’s First Republic. He proved himself in many campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. It was in 1799 that his star really began to rise when he staged a coup d’état and installed himself as First Consul. Five years later he had the French Senate proclaimed him emperor. His lust for power and land was almost boundless. The first fifteen years of the the 19th century was caught up in a series of conflicts, known as the Napoleonic Wars, that would involve every major European power.

His tumultuous relationship with his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, has become fuel for legend. In order to give himself an heir, along with more power and prestige, he chose as his second wife Archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of Franz II, The last Holy Roman Emperor and first Emperor of Austria. They had one son, Napoleon II, who lived his life in exile in Austria after his father’s defeat. There were rumors that Napoleon II, who become Franz, Duke of Reichstadt in Austria, was the actual father of Archduke Maximilian of Austria and Emperor of Mexico, and brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. This rumor has never been substantiated.

Napoleon certainly had enemies. Czar Alexander I saw his aim in his life was to defeat Napoleon, whom he called “the oppressor of Europe and the disturber of the world’s peace.” Napoleon set up many of his relatives as puppet kings. Jerome was made the king of Westphalia a kingdom carved out of Prussian territory. He set up his brother Joseph as the king of Spain. One positive repercussion of Napoleon’s campaigns was that Sweden got a new royal family that still sits on the throne today. A French General, Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, was very popular in Sweden for the kindness he showed Swedish prisoners in a recent campaign against Denmark. With the elderly and childless king Carl XIII of Sweden needing and heir, and with the Swedish government looking for a soldier, Bernadotte was elected Crown Prince of Sweden in 1810 and became king of Sweden and Norway in 1818.

Napoleon’s ambitions were finally thwarted on the battlefield of Waterloo in 1815 when he was soundly defeated by a multinational army lead by the Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. He was exiled once again, after having been defeated and exiled the previous year and he died on the isle of Saint Helena on May 3, 1821 at the age of only 51. His first escape from exile in 1814 interrupted the Congress of Vienna which had convened to try to repair the dame from the the Napoleonic Wars and the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. The rightful kings of France were restored and Germany was sent on its slow path to unification.

I find Napoleon amazing in that he did so much in such a short life. I also find his lust for power fascinating. With my background in psychology Napoleon makes an interesting study. He has given his name to a disorder, the Napoleon Complex: This is from wikipedia.

Napoleon complex is an informal term describing an alleged type of which is said to affect some people, especially men, who are short in stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives. Other names for the term include Napoleon syndrome[1] and Short Man syndrome. It does not appear in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Although not a true disorder I do know some men who do struggle with issues of height. But was his aggressive need for power compensating for some lack in his life? Was it a drive for self-esteem? A poor self image can plague many people and what better way to bolster a shaky self-image than to proclaim ones self to be an Emperor?

 

 

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