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Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map

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Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map

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The Barker Family: Panorama Painters

barkerThe English itinerant portrait painter Robert Barker  (1739–8 April 1806) coined the word “panorama”, from Greek pan (“all”) horama (“view”) in 1792 to describe his paintings of Edinburgh, Scotland shown on a cylindrical surface, which he soon was exhibiting in London, as “The Panorama”. In 1793 Barker moved his panoramas to the first purpose-built panorama building in the world, in Leicester Square, and made a fortune.

Viewers flocked to pay 3 shillings to stand on a central platform under a skylight, which offered an even lighting, and get an experience that was “panoramic” (an adjective that didn’t appear in print until 1813). The extended meaning of a “comprehensive survey” of a subject followed sooner, in 1801. Visitors to Barker’s semi-circular Panorama of London, painted as if viewed from the roof of Albion Mills on the South Bank, could purchase a series of six prints that modestly recalled the experience; end-to-end the prints stretched 3.25 meters.

The exterior of a Panorama building.
The exterior of a Panorama building.

When Barker first patented his technique in 1787, he had given it a French title: La Nature à Coup d’ Oeil (“Nature at a glance”). A sensibility to the “picturesque” was developing among the educated class, and as they toured picturesque districts, like the Lake District, they might have in the carriage with them a large lens set in a picture frame, a “landscape glass” that would contract a wide view into a “picture” when held at arm’s length.

Continue reading The Barker Family: Panorama Painters

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Scholarly looks at Trafalgar and Waterloo

Trafalgar : The Biography of a Battle
by Roy Adkins

Truly a biography of this battle – a pivotal event in European history.

This seems to be the same book as the American Published one entitled “Trafalgar, a battle which changed the world” – which seems a much overblown title. I liked the “Biography of the battle” which was chosen for the British Edition as it more accurately describes exactly what this book is.

I would highly recommend this book to others who have not read much about sea battles of this period before. Adkins is enormously readable, his prose flows and is neatly interspersed with quotes of contemporaries both describing the battle, and everyday life where appropriate

The first part of the book is very much about the basics. There is a short introduction to Nelson’s colourful life and career, a lot about the life and times of a seaman, and much useful information about life onboard ship during this period, specifically what it was like to serve in the Navy of George III. It was easy to understand the hardships and deprivation when reading this including the shortage of good food – which was generally maggoty or mouldy or both, the smells from the lack of good sanitation, the terrible water which was unfiltered and stored in uncleaned barrels so that it soon became noxious and full of algae.

It was a hard life for anyone, and even Nelson did not touch land once for at least 2 years. The difference in life for officers and enlisted men was significant though. Conditions, food, clothing, position on board all played a significant role.

So the first part of this book sets the stage for the battle – it also dwells in excellent detail on the political situation, the pending Napoleonic invasion of Britain, the reaction, the blockades by British ships of French and Spanish ports, the lead up battles, such as that of the Nile, and so on.

The battle itself lasted but six hours, and is discussed almost cannon blow by cannon blow. It is a confusing battle but Adkins is very clear with his detail and makes it enormously interesting. The aftermath of the battle, the messengers attempts to get to London, and the ‘fruits’ of trafalgar make up the last chapters.

It is a thoughtful book, written, I believe, with an eye on the novice reader. I did not find that it talked-down to the reader though. Rather, it used the social and military information to compliment the build up of the battle, as a reminder to the context it was fought in.

There are extremely useful and easily referenced illustrations and some maps to help the reader.

Overall I loved this book and will be recommending it to others. Given that we have just passed the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, it was published at a significant time and makes excellent reading.

Paperback, 416 pages (May 5, 2005)
Publisher: Abacus
ISBN: 0349116326
List Price: £8.99

Waterloo : June 18, 1815
The Battle for Modern Europe
by Andrew Roberts

This is not my favourite account of the battle of Waterloo, and Roberts nails his colours to the mast early on by acknowledging Peter Hofshroer (a revisionist of the first order) in his introduction. There are only so many sources of the battle and it is always a matter of reinterpreting what is said to be mistinterpreted in the first place.

The main problem is that because the allied forces won the battle and therefore wrote the final account (including, it seems, naming it) this must mean that there needs to be a reinterpretation of how it has been written. I don’t necessarily agree with this premise so maybe I am not the best person to read revisionist accounts with an open mind. However I definitely don’t believe that this account does revisionism any justice. For a short book it seems to have a number of unforgiveable errors in it.

I think for an original account, David Howarth’s book, Waterloo, Day of Battle is an excellent and very personal account of the event. I know that John Keegan argued in his book ‘Face of Battle’ that while Howarth’s book gives the best personal account of the battle there was still room for another account of the movements etc, I don’t believe Robert’s book really adds to the body of work available – either on the personal or the military.

The advantage is that it is a short and punchy book, you can read it in an afternoon without too much effort.

Paperback, 160 pages (January 2006)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0060762152
Price: $14.93

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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Napoleon I of France

“The mightiest breath of life which ever animated human clay. ”
Chateaubriand

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution, and the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from 11 November 1799 to 18 May 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des Français) and King of Italy under the name Napoleon I from 18 May 1804 to 6 April 1814, and again briefly from 20 March to 22 June 1815.

Napoleon developed a number of innovative military strategies that led to many successful campaigns and surprising victories, as well as some spectacular failures. Over the c=ourse of little more than a decade, he fought virtually every European power and acquired control of most of the western and central mainland of Europe by conquest or alliance until his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, followed by defeat at the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in October 1813, which led to his abdication several months later. He staged a comeback known as the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours), but was again defeated decisively at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium on June 18, 1815, followed shortly afterwards by his surrender to the British and his exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he died.

Aside from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code. He is considered to have been one of the “enlightened despots”.

Napoleon appointed several members of the Bonaparte family as monarchs. Although their reigns did not survive his downfall, a nephew, Napoleon III, ruled France later in the nineteenth centur

Early Life and Military Career

He was born Napoleone Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione) in the city of Ajaccio on Corsica on 15 August 1769, only one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte.

His family was of minor Corsican nobility. His father, Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI of France in 1778, where he remained for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon’s childhood was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino. Her firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious Napoleon as a boy, nicknamed Rabullione (the “meddler” or “disrupter”).

Napoleon’s noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. At age ten, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes, on 15 May 1779. He had to learn to speak French before entering the school, which he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life, and never learned to spell properly. He earned high marks in mathematics and geography, and passable grades in other subjects. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the two year course of study in only one year. Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire. Upon graduation in September, 1785, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery, and took up his new duties in January 1786, at the age of 16.

Napoleon served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 (although he took nearly two years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period). He spent most of the next several years on Corsica, where a complex three-way struggle was played out among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction, and gained the position of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family were forced to flee to France in June 1793.

Through the help of fellow Corsican Saliceti, he was appointed as artillery commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen in revolt against the Terror and was occupied by British troops. He formulated a successful plan: he placed guns at Point l’Eguillete, threatening the British ships in the harbour with destruction, thereby forcing them to evacuate. A successful assault of the position, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led to the recapture of the city and a promotion to brigadier-general. His actions brought him to the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, and he became a close associate of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. As a result, he was briefly imprisoned following the fall of the elder Robespierre in 1794, but was released within two weeks.

The ‘Whiff of Grapeshot

In 1795, Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries organized an armed protest against the National Convention on 3 October. Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, who later became his brother-in-law. He utilized the artillery the following day to repel the attackers. He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a “whiff of grapeshot”. This triumph earned him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory, particularly that of its leader, Barras. Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras’s former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he married on March 9, 1796.

The Italian Campaign

Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French “Army of Italy”, leading it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Lodi, he gained the nickname of “The Little Corporal” (le petit caporal), a term reflecting his camaraderie with his soldiers, all of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States. Because Pope Pius VI had protested the execution of Louis XVI, France retaliated by annexing two small papal territories. Bonaparte ignored the Directory’s order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. It was not until the next year that General Berthier captured Rome and took Pius VI prisoner on February 20. The pope died of illness while in captivity. In early 1797, Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced that power to sue for peace. The resulting Treaty of Campo Formio gave France control of most of northern Italy, along with the Low Countries and Rhineland, but a secret clause promised Venice to Austria. Bonaparte then marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending over 1,000 years of independence. Later in 1797, Bonaparte organized many of the French dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.

His remarkable series of military triumphs were a result, in part, of his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his infantry. As he described it: “I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning.” Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign depict his use of the world’s first telecommunications system, the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception. He often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments.

While campaigning in Italy, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as well. In May 1797 he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris, entitled Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux. Elections in mid-1797 gave the royalist party increased power, alarming Barras and his allies on the Directory. The royalists, in turn, began attacking Bonaparte for looting Italy and overstepping his authority in dealings with the Austrians. Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d’etat and purge the royalists on 4 September (18 Fructidor). This left Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent on Bonaparte’s military command to stay there. Bonaparte himself proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, then returned to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force in government, far more popular than any of the Directors.

The Egyptian Expedition

In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed an expedition to colonize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain’s access to India. The Directory, although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from the centre of power.

An unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of a large group of scientists assigned to the invading French force: among the other discoveries that resulted, the Rosetta Stone was found. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered by some an indication of Bonaparte’s devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda obfuscating the true imperialist motives of the invasion. In a largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations casting himself as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praising the precepts of Islam.

Bonaparte’s expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June 9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding (temporarily) pursuit by the Royal Navy. Although Bonaparte had massive success against the native Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids (his 25,000 man strong invading force defeated a 100,000 man army), his fleet was largely destroyed by Nelson at The Battle of the Nile, so that Bonaparte became land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated nationalist uprisings.

In early 1799 he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria, now modern Israel, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease and poor supplies. He was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was forced to retreat to Egypt in May. On 25 July, he defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir. Eventually Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Egypt in 1801, under constant British and Ottoman attacks.

Ruler of France

While in Egypt, Bonaparte had kept a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly. On 23 August, he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading French coastal ports.

Although he was later accused by political opponents of abandoning his troops, his departure actually had been authorized by the Directory, which had suffered a series of military defeats to the forces of the Second Coalition, and feared an invasion.

By the time he returned to Paris in October, the military situation had improved thanks to several French victories. The Republic was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was more unpopular with the French public than ever.

Bonaparte was approached by one of the Directors, Sieyès, seeking his support for a coup to overthrow the constitution. The plot included Bonaparte’s brother Lucien, then serving as speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, and Talleyrand. On 9 November (18 Brumaire), and the following day, troops led by Bonaparte seized control and dispersed the legislative councils, leaving a rump to name Bonaparte, Sieyès, and Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government. Although Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmanoeuvred by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul. This made him the most powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which made him First Consul for life.

The First Consul

Bonaparte instituted several lasting reforms including centralized administration of the départements, higher education, a tax system, a central bank, law codes, and road and sewer systems. He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, seeking to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime. His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code or Civil Code, has importance to this day in many countries. The Code was prepared by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, who held the office Second Consul from 1799 to 1804; Bonaparte, however, participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although contemporary standards may consider these procedures as favoring the prosecution, when enacted they sought to preserve personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts.

An Interlude of Peace

In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered during his absence in Egypt. He and his troops crossed the Alps in spring (although he actually rode a mule, not the white charger on which David famously depicted him). While the campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually routed in June at Marengo, leading to an armistice. Napoleon’s brother Joseph, who was leading the peace negotiations in Lunéville, reported that due to British backing for Austria, Austria would not recognize France’s newly gained territory. As negotiations became more and more fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result the Treaty of Lunéville was signed in February 1801, under which the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased; the British signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, which set terms for peace, including the division of several colonial territories.

The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The “legitimate” monarchies of Europe were reluctant to recognize a republic, fearing that the ideas of the revolution might be exported to them. In Britain, the brother of Louis XVI was welcomed as a state guest although officially Britain recognized France as a republic. Britain failed to evacuate Malta and Egypt as promised, and protested against France’s annexation of Piedmont, and Napoleon’s Act of Mediation in Switzerland (although neither of these areas was covered by the Treaty of Amiens).

In 1803, Bonaparte faced a major setback when an army he sent to reconquer Santo Domingo and establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Recognizing that the French possessions on the mainland of North America would now be indefensible, and facing imminent war with Britain, he sold them to the United States—the Louisiana Purchase—for less than three cents per acre ($7.40/km²). The dispute over Malta provided the pretext for Britain to declare war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.

Emporor of France

In January 1804, Bonaparte’s police uncovered an assassination plot against him, ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbons. In retaliation, Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Duc d’Enghien, in a violation of the sovereignty of Baden. After a hurried secret trial, the Duke was executed on 21 March. Bonaparte then used this incident to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France, with himself as Emperor, on the theory that a Bourbon restoration would be impossible once the Bonapartist succession was entrenched in the constitution.

Napoleon crowned himself Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Claims that he seized the crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII during the ceremony in order to avoid subjecting himself to the authority of the pontiff are apocryphal; in fact, the coronation procedure had been agreed upon in advance. After the Imperial regalia had been blessed by the Pope, Napoleon crowned himself before crowning his wife Joséphine as Empress. Then at Milan’s cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

By 1805 Britain instigated a Third Coalition against Napoleon. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and therefore arranged to lure the British fleet away from the English Channel so that a joint Spanish and French fleet could regain control of the Channel for twenty-four hours, enough for French armies to cross to England. However, with Austria and Russia preparing an invasion of France and its allies, he had to change his plans and turn his attention to the continent. The newly born Grande Armee secretly marched towards Germany. On 20 October 1805 it surprised the Austrians at Ulm. The next day, however, at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), Britain gained lasting control of the seas. A few weeks later, Napoleon secured a major victory against Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (2 December), forcing Austria yet again to sue for peace.

A Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806). He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland, and was attacked at the bloody Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a major victory at Friedland he signed a treaty at Tilsit in East Prussia with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, dividing Europe between the two powers. He placed puppet rulers on the thrones of German states, including his brother Jerome as king of the new state of Westphalia. In the French part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813 Napoleon also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.

Ludwig van Beethoven initially dedicated his third symphony, the Eroica (Italian for “heroic”), to Napoleon in the belief that the general would sustain the democratic and republican ideals of the French Revolution, but in 1804, as Napoleon’s imperial ambitions became clear, renamed the symphony as the “Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il Sovvenire di un grand Uomo”, or in English, “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”.

The Peninsular War

In addition to military endeavors against Britain, Napoleon also waged economic war, attempting to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the “Continental System”. Although this action hurt the British economy, it also hurt the French economy and was not a decisive factor.

Portugal did not comply with this Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon sought Spain’s support for an invasion of Portugal. When Spain refused, Napoleon invaded Spain as well. After mixed results were produced by his generals, Napoleon himself took command and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then defeated a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast and forcing withdrawal from Iberia (in which its commander, Sir John Moore, was killed). Napoleon installed one of his marshals and brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, as the King of Naples, and his brother Joseph Bonaparte, as King of Spain.

The Spanish, inspired by nationalism and the Catholic Church, and angry over atrocities committed by French troops, rose in revolt. At the same time, Austria unexpectedly broke its alliance with France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. A bloody draw ensued at Aspern-Essling (May 21-22, 1809) near Vienna, which was the closest Napoleon ever came to a defeat in a battle with more or less equal numbers on each side. After a two month interval, the principal French and Austrian armies engaged again near Vienna resulting in a French victory at Battle of Wagram (6 July).

Following this a new peace was signed between Austria and France and in the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie-Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.

Invasion of Russia

Although the Congress of Erfurt had sought to preserve the Russo-French alliance, by 1811 tensions were again increasing between the two nations. Although Alexander and Napoleon had a friendly personal relationship since their first meeting in 1807, Alexander had been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break off the alliance with France.

The first sign that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing of the application of the Continental System in Russia, angering Napoleon. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire (and the recapture of Poland).

Large numbers of troops were deployed to the Polish borders (reaching over 300,000 out of the total Russian army strength of 410,000). After receiving the initial reports of Russian war preparations, Napoleon began expanding his Grande Armée to a massive force of over 600,000 men (despite already having over 300,000 men deployed in Iberia). Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared his forces for an offensive campaign.

Napoleon, in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, termed the war the “Second Polish War” (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria). Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, although this was rejected by Napoleon, who feared it would bring Prussia and Austria into the war against France. Napoleon also rejected requests to free the Russian serfs, fearing this might provoke a conservative reaction in his rear.

The Russians under Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly were unable to successfully defeat Napoleon’s huge, well-organized army and retreated instead. A brief attempt at resistance was offered at Smolensk (August 16-17), but the Russians were defeated in a series of battles in the area and Napoleon resumed the advance. The Russians then repeatedly avoided battle with the Grande Armée, although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity presented itself.

Criticized over his tentative strategy of continual retreat, Barclay was replaced by Kutuzov, although he continued Barclay’s strategy. Kutuzov eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September. Losses were nearly even for both armies, with slightly more casualties on the Russian side, after what may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history – the Battle of Borodino (see article for comparisons to the first day of the Battle of the Somme). Although Napoleon was far from defeated, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle the French hoped would be decisive. After the battle, the Russian army withdrew, and retreated past Moscow.

The Russians retreated and Napoleon was able to enter Moscow, assuming that the fall of Moscow would end the war and that Alexander I would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city’s military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, fearing loss of control back in France, Napoleon left Moscow.

Napoleon's Retreat From Moscow by Adolf Northern
Napoleon's Retreat From Moscow by Adolf Northern

The French suffered greatly in the course of a ruinous retreat; the Army had begun as over 650,000 frontline troops, but in the end fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River (November 1812) to escape. In total French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand civilian deaths.

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to the German states to rejoin the expanding force there – numbering 130,000 with the reinforcements from Poland. This force continued to expand, with Napoleon aiming for a force of 400,000 French troops supported by a quarter of a million German troops.

Heartened by Napoleon’s losses in Russia, Prussia soon rejoined the Coalition that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and soon inflicted a series of defeats on the Allies culminating in the Battle of Dresden on August 26-27, 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000).

Despite these initial successes, however, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the Battle of Nations (October 16-19) at Leipzig. Some of the German states switched sides in the midst of the battle, further undermining the French position. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost both sides a combined total of over 120,000 casualties.

After this Napoleon withdrew in an orderly fashion back into France, but his army was now reduced to less than 100,000 against more than half a million Allied troops. The French were now surrounded (with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the Coalition forces moving in from the German states) and vastly outnumbered. The French armies could only delay an inevitable defeat.

Exile in Elba, Return and Waterloo

Paris was occupied on March 31, 1814. At the urging of his marshals, Napoleon abdicated on 6 April in favour of his son. The Allies, however, demanded unconditional surrender and Napoleon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean 20 km off the coast of Italy.

In France, the royalists had taken over and restored King Louis XVIII to power. Separated from his wife and son (who had come under Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours that he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic, Napoleon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the mainland on 1 March 1815. King Louis XVIII sent the Fifth Regiment, led by Marshal Michel Ney who had formerly served under Napoleon in Russia, to meet him at Grenoble. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within earshot of Ney’s forces, shouted “Soldiers of the Fifth, you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor, he may do so now”. Following a brief silence, the soldiers shouted “Vive L’Empereur!” and marched with Napoleon to Paris. He arrived on 20 March, quickly raising a regular army of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000 and governed for a Hundred Days.

Napoléon’s final defeat came at the hands of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815.

Off the port of Rochefort, Napoléon made his formal surrender while on board HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815.

Exile in Saint Helena and Death

Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea) from 15 October 1815. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers, he dictated his memoirs and criticized his captors. Sick for much his time on Saint Helena, Napoleon died, on 5 May 1821. His last words were: “France, the Army, head of the Army, Joséphine”.

Napoléon had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but was buried on Saint Helena. In 1840, his remains were taken to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and entombed in Les Invalides, Paris. Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date.

The cause of Napoleon’s death has been greatly disputed. Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon’s personal physician, listed stomach cancer as the reason for Napoleon’s death in his death certificate.

The diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoleon’s valet, have led some (most notably Sten Forshufvud and Ben Weider) to conclude that Napoleon was killed by arsenic poisoning, although whether he was murdered or ingested arsenic in some accidental way (it was used in wallpaper, as a pigment, and in some medicines) is still disputed. In 2001, Pascal Kintz, of the Strasbourg Forensic Institute in France, added credence to this claim with a study of arsenic levels found in a lock of Napoleon’s hair preserved after his death that were seven to thirty-eight times higher than normal (although this is disputable, because another use of arsenic at the time of Napoleon’s death was to preserve samples of hair).

Legacy

Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other states eventually followed.

In France, Napoleon is seen by some as having ended lawlessness and disorder in France, and that the Napoleonic Wars also served to export the Revolution to the rest of Europe; the movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably in Italy and Germany, may have been precipitated by the Napoleonic rule of those areas.

The Napoleonic Code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained in force after Napoleon’s defeat. Professor Dieter Langewiesche of the University of Tübingen describes the code as a “revolutionary project” which spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by expanding the right to own property and breaking the back of feudalism. Langewiesche also credits Napoleon with reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire made up of more than 1,000 entities into a more streamlined network of 40 states providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.

In mathematics Napoleon is traditionally given credit for discovering and proving Napoleon’s theorem, although there is no specific evidence that he did so. The theorem states that if equilateral triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle (all outward or all inward), the centres of those equilateral triangles themselves form an equilateral triangle. See the discussion in about the significance of the theorem.

Critics of Napleon argue that his true legacy was a loss of status for France and many needless deaths:

After all, the military record is unquestioned—17 years of wars, perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas colonies lost. And it was all such a great waste, for when the self-proclaimed tête d’armée was done, France’s “losses were permanent” and she “began to slip from her position as the leading power in Europe to second-class status—that was Bonaparte’s true legacy.

Contrary to popular belief (perpetuated by the above-mentioned caricatures), Napoleon was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in Imperial (British) feet, or 1.686 meters, making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 19th century. The metric system was introduced during his lifetime, so it was natural that he would be measured in feet and inches for much of his life. A French inch was 2.71 centimetres, an Imperial inch is 2.54 centimetres. In addition to this miscalculation, his nickname ‘le petit caporal’ adds to the confusion, as non-francophones mistakenly take petit literally as meaning “small”; in fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers. He also surrounded himself with soldiers, his elite guard, who were always six feet tall or taller.

From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, online.

 

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The Duke of Wellington: The life of the Iron Duke

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1 May 1769–14 September 1852) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, widely considered one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century. He came from an established family of noblemen – his father was the 1st Earl of Mornington, his eldest brother, who would inherit his father’s Earldom, would be created Marquess Wellesley, and two of his other brothers would be raised to the peerage as Baron Maryborough and Baron Cowley. Commissioned an Ensign in the British Army, he would rise to prominence in the Napoleonic Wars, eventually reaching the rank of Field Marshal.

Wellington commanded the Allied forces during the Peninsular War, pushing the French Army out of Spain and reaching southern France. Victorious and hailed as a hero in England, he was obligated to return to Europe to command the Anglo-Allied forces at Waterloo, after which Napoleon was permanently exiled at St. Helena. Wellington is often compared to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, with whom he shared many characteristics, chiefly a transition to politics after a highly successful military career. He served as a Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on two separate occasions, and was one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement in 1846.

Early Life

Believed to have been born in either Dublin or at his family’s lands in County Meath, both in Ireland, the third son of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington, his exact date of birth is a matter of some contention. All that exists is a church registry of the event marked a few days after it must have occurred. The most likely date is 1 May, but any day for a few days before or after is possible. He was baptised Arthur Wesley, which was legally changed to Arthur Wellesley in March 1798.

Wellesley was educated at Eton from 1781 to 1785, then moved to Brussels in Belgium to receive further education. In 1787, his father purchased Wellesley a commission as an Ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot; he attended the Military Academy of Angers in France, after having received earlier training in England. His first assignment was as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland (1787–1793). He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1788; two years later, he was elected as an independent Member of Parliament for Trim in the Irish House of Commons (in 1790), a position he held until 1797. He rose rapidly in rank (largely through the purchase system, which at that time allowed, and, indeed, generally required, officers in the British Army to purchase their rank) becoming Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33rd Regiment of Foot in 1793. He then fought in Holland between 1794 and 1795, and was present at Boxtel.

In 1796, after a promotion to Colonel, he accompanied his division to India. The next year, his elder brother, Richard Wellesley, 2nd Earl of Mornington, was appointed Governor-General of India, and when war broke out in 1799 against the Sultan of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, Arthur Wellesley commanded a division of his own. While serving in that capacity, he was appointed Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore, positions he held until 1805. He fought at Assaye, Argaum, and stormed the fortress at Gawilghur. Following the successful conclusion of that campaign, he was appointed to the supreme military and political command in the Deccan; while in that position he defeated the robber chieftain Dhundia Wagh (who had ironically escaped prison in Seringapatam during the last battle of the Mysore war) and the Marathas (in 1803). In 1804, he was created a Knight of the Bath, which would be the first of numerous honours throughout his lifetime. When his brother’s term ended in 1805, he returned with him to England.

Upon his return to England, Wellesley was elected MP for Rye (in the British House of Commons) for six months in 1806; a year later, he was elected MP for Newport on the Isle of Wight, a constituency he would represent for two years. During this time, he was an established Tory, and in April 1807 (while representing St Michael), he was invested a Privy Counsellor. Additionally, he served as Chief Secretary for Ireland for some time. However, his political life would soon come to an abrupt end, and he would sail to Europe to participate in the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleonic Wars

It was in the following years that Wellesley undertook the events that made his place in history. Since 1789, France had been embroiled in the French Revolution, and after seizing the throne in 1799, Napoleon had reached the heights of power in Europe. The British government was casting about for ways to end Napoleon’s threat; and Wellesley began to supply them.

First came an expedition to Denmark in 1807, which soon led to Wellesley’s promotion to Lieutenant-General and a transfer to the theatre of the Peninsular War. Although that war was not going particularly well, it was the one place where the British (and the Portuguese) had managed to put up a fight on the European mainland against France and her allies. Wellesley defeated the French at the Battle of Roliça and the Battle of Vimeiro in 1808. The resulting Convention of Cintra, which stipulated that the British army would transport the French out of Lisbon, was controversial, and Wellesley was briefly recalled to Britain. In the meantime, however, Napoleon himself had come to Spain, and when the Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Moore, died during the Battle of Corunna, Wellesley was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in Portugal.

Returning to Iberia in April 1809, he defeated the army of King Joseph of Spain (Napoleon’s eldest brother) at the Battle of Talavera in 1809. For this, he was raised to the Peerage as Viscount Wellington, of Talavera and of Wellington in the County of Somerset. He proceeded to drive French forces out of Portugal entirely in 1810 to 1811, fighting at Busaco, Lisbon, and Fuentes de Oñoro. In May 1811, he was promoted to General for his services in Portugal.

Driving into Spain he defeated the French again at Salamanca, then took Madrid in 1812. Around this time, he was created Earl of Wellington. A French counter-attack that year put British forces in a precarious position, but Lord Wellington was given command of all Allied armies in Spain and created Marquess of Wellington on 3 October. Wellington led a new offensive in 1813, culminating in the Battle of Vittoria, which pushed the enemies back into France and for which he was Promoted to Field Marshal. He invaded France, and finally defeated the French forces at Toulouse; after this battle, Napoleon was exiled to Elba in 1814.

Hailed as the conquering hero, Wellington was created Duke of Wellington, a title still held by one of his descendants. He was soon appointed Ambassador to France, then took Lord Castlereagh’s place as First Plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna, where he strongly advocated allowing France to keep its place in the European balance of power. On 2 January 1815, the title of his Knighthood of the Bath was converted to Knight Grand Cross upon the expansion of that order.

On 26 February 1815, Napoleon left his exile on Elba and returned to France. Regaining control of the country by May, he then faced a reformation of the alliance against him. Wellington left Vienna to command the Anglo-Allied forces during the Waterloo Campaign. He ended up in Belgium, along with Prussian forces under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, and the Anglo-Allied forces fought the French in the inconclusive Battle of Quatre Bras. Two days later, on 18 June, Wellington and von Blücher finally defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. The French Emperor abdicated once again on 22 June, and was spirited away by the British to distant St Helena.

Later Life

Politics beckoned once again in 1819, when Wellington was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance in the Tory government of Lord Liverpool. In 1827, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, a position he would hold for the remainder of his life, except during his premiership. Along with Robert Peel, Wellington became one of the rising stars of the Tory party, and by 1828, had become Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister, Wellington was the picture of the arch-conservative, though oddly enough the highlight of his term was Catholic Emancipation, the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. The change was forced by the landslide by-election win of Daniel O’Connell, a Catholic proponent of emancipation, who was elected despite not being legally allowed to sit in Parliament. Lord Winchilsea accused the Duke of having “treacherously plotted the destruction of the Protestant constitution”. Wellington responded by immediately challenging Winchilsea to a duel. The duel is also one of the reasons for the founding of King’s College London. On 21 March 1829, Wellington and Winchilsea met on Battersea fields. When it came time to fire, the Duke deliberately aimed wide and Winchilsea fired into the air. He subsequently wrote Wellington a grovelling apology. In the House of Lords, facing stiff opposition, Wellington spoke for Catholic emancipation, giving one of the best speeches of his career. The Catholic Emancipation Act was passed with a majority of 105.

Wellington’s government fell in 1830. In the summer and autumn of that year, a wave of riots swept the country. The Whigs had been out of power for all but a few years since the 1770s, and saw political reform in response to the unrest as the key to their return. Wellington stuck to the Tory policy of no reform and no expansion of the franchise, and as a result lost a vote of no confidence on 15 November 1830. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Lord Grey.

The Whigs introduced the first Reform Act, but Wellington and the Tories worked to prevent its passage. The bill passed in the House of Commons, but was defeated in the House of Lords. An election followed in direct response, and the Whigs were returned with an even larger majority. A second Reform Act was introduced, and defeated in the same way, and another wave of near insurrection swept the country. During this time, Wellington was greeted by a hostile reaction from the crowds at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and eventually the bill was passed after the Whigs threatened to have the House of Lords packed with their own followers if it were not. Though passed, Wellington was never reconciled to the change; when Parliament first met after the first election under the widened franchise, Wellington is reported to have said “I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life”. During this time, Wellington was gradually superseded as leader of the Tories by Robert Peel; when the Tories were brought back to power in 1834, Wellington declined to become Prime Minister, and Peel was selected instead. Unfortunately Peel was in Italy, and for three weeks in November and December 1834, Wellington acted as a caretaker, taking the responsibilities of Prime Minister and most of the other ministries. In Peel’s first Cabinet (1834–1835), Wellington became Foreign Secretary, while in the second (1841–1846) he was a Minister without Portfolio and Leader of the House of Lords.

Wellington retired from political life in 1846, although he remained Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, and returned briefly to the spotlight in 1848 when he helped organize a military force to protect London during that year of European revolution. He died in 1852, and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.

In 1838 a proposal to build a statue of Wellington resulted in the building of a giant statue of him on his horse Copenhagen, placed above the Arch at Constitution Hill in London directly outside Apsley House, his former London home, in 1846. The enormous scale of the 40 ton, 30 feet high monument resulted in its removal in 1883 and the following year it was transported to Aldershot where it still stands near the Royal Garrison Church.

Apart from giving his name to “Wellington boots”, the Duke of Wellington also had several nicknames, such as the “Iron Duke” (after an incident in 1830 in which he installed metal shutters to prevent rioters breaking windows at Apsley House), “The Beau” (so called by his officers, thanks to him being a fine dresser ), and “The Peer” (after he was created a Duke) Regular soldiers under his command called him “Old Nosey” because of his long nose.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.