When Napoleon was merely a boy, he used to identify himself with the great heroes of ancient history he read about. Today he is remembered as one of the few men in history who have been immensely powerful and have exercised much influence on others. He was a benevolent dictator, i.e. he used his power for the good of the people and not simply to meet his own ends.
Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio on the Island of Corsica. He was educated in France and when he was barely 16 years old, he graduated from the military academy in Paris and became an army officer in 1785. When he was just 24 years old, he fought during the French Revolution and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1793.
The threat of revolt brought him the command of the army of the interior in 1795. He, then, led the army of Italy to several victorious campaigns. His expeditions
To Egypt and Syria in 1798 1799 were unsuccessful, and he was defeated by the British. However, he finally returned to France. A coup in 1799 brought him to supreme power as the First Consul and he Instituted a military dictatorship.
In the early 1800s, Napoleon made numerous reforms in the government and education. Under his rule, industry expanded and universities flourished.
He defeated the Austrians in 1800, went to war against Great Britain in 1803 and had crowned as the emperor in 1804. His greatest victory, the battle of Austerlitz against Austria and Russia came in 1805. Thereafter, except for temporary setbacks in Spain, he was successful until his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. In 1812, he invaded Russia with an army of more than 600,000 men,Even though he captured Moscow, his army did not have enough supplies. So he had to retreat. Only about 100,000 men survived to march home.
After several other defeated, Napoleon abdicated and was sent into exile on the Island of Elba. He escaped from Elba and returned to France. He gathered a new army and regained power for the period known as 'the hundred days'. On July 15, 1815 he was defeated at Waterloo by the British commander the Duke of Wellington. Napoleon surrendered to the British, and was exiled to the remote Island of St. Helena in South Atlantic Ocean, 1200 miles off the African Coast. He was to spend the last six years of his life on this Island. He frequently quarrelled with
Sir Hudson Lowe, the Governor, who had repeatedly prevented Napoleon from escaping. However, Napoleon never gave up his attempts to escape. He also found time to write his memoirs.
He died on 5 May, 1821. It was rumoured that he had been poisoned, but modern historians and doctors refute this misconception. Now it is believed that he probably died of stomach cancer.
Napoleon was a great soldier and a skilful diplomat, but he caused great suffering to millions of people and ruined their lives.
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