December 2, 1804 the imperial procession made its way through
Paris. In spite of the cold, a half million cheering spectators
lined the streets. A little more than 10 years before, the
French had beheaded a King. Now, they were crowning an Emperor.
Senate proclamation and a vote of the people both carefully
arranged by Bonaparte himself - had given him what he wanted.
He was about to become Emperor Napoleon I.
wanted the ceremony to glow with the aura of religion. Pope
Pius VII had been brought from Italy to sanctify the occasion.
He has the genius of making the Pope come to Paris, which
gave the everything a sacred air. It is God who confirms
that the changes that took place during the Revolution are
he walked to the throne that awaited him, his brothers supported
his mantle. He would soon grant them each kingdom over their
own: Joseph became King of Naples and Spain, Louis was named
King of Holland and Jerome named King of Westphalia. He created
the Confederation of the Rhine, consolidating the fractured
German kingdoms, annexed Holland and Rome, and founded the
Grand Duchy of Warsaw in Poland. Soon Napoleons empire
would bring 70 million Europeons under his rule.
I of Austria and Tzar Alexander I of Russia had joined Britain
in an alliance to destroy him. In retaliation for the English
blockade of the French coast, Napoleon declared the Continental
Blockade in an attempt to cripple Englands economy.
All of Europe braced itself for the coming war.
had inherited the ten-year-old struggle between revolutionary
France and the monarchs of Europe, who were determined to
crush the Revolution before it spread.
Napoleon inherited this extraordinary dynamism left over
from the French Revolution. Everybody who had a crowned
head, you know, what happened to Louis XVI might happen
with Napoleon's iron-fisted rule grew throughout the empire.
He narrowly escaped two assassination attempts and a kidnapping
plot, all somehow overlooked by his eagle-eyed head of police,
Joseph Fouché. By 1808, Fouché and Napoleons
former foreign minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand had
joined in a plot against Napoleon.
on the battlefield failed to silence opposition to his rule.
The people of Spain, who he thought would welcome him, fought
French troops with grim determination. Pope Pius VII excommunicated
Napoleon and was consequently arrested. Alexander broke the
Treaty of Tilsit with France by trading with England, openly
challenging Napoleons power.
April 12, 1814, Napoleon was forced to abdicate his throne
after allied Austrian, Prussian and Russian forces vanquished
his army and occupied Paris. Banished into exile on Elba,
he returned less than a year later to challenge the weak Bourbon
king who had replaced him. Although he was welcomed by the
people of France, the allies, now joined by England, once
again dealt him a defeat. On June 22, 1815 he was forced to
abdicate again. Sent into exile far from Europe, he would
never hold power again.