Napoleon Bonaparte was a military and political leader of France and Emperor of the French as Napoleon I, whose actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century.
He was born in Corsica to parents of noble Italian ancestry and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France. Bonaparte rose to prominence under the First French Republic and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. In 1799, he staged a coup d'état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later the French Senate proclaimed him Emperor. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the French Empire under Napoleon engaged in a series of conflicts—the Napoleonic Wars—involving every major European power. After a streak of victories, France secured a dominant position in continental Europe and Napoleon maintained the French sphere of influence through the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.
The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. His Grande Armée was badly damaged in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig; the following year the Coalition invaded France, forced Napoleon to abdicate and exiled him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he escaped Elba and returned to power, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in confinement by the British on the island of Saint Helena. An autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer, though Sten Forshufvud and other scientists have since conjectured that he was poisoned with arsenic.
Napoleon's campaigns are studied at military academies the world over. While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the administrative and judicial foundations for much of Western Europe.
"The best way to keep one's word is not to give it."
"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."