Napoleon Bonaparte: Exile, Victory, Defeat.


Elba Island


Saint Helena’s extreme isolation, between Angola and Brazil (centre, south east).

In 1805, after three years of peace under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte, France was again at war with Britain, and then with Russia and Austria.

The British achieved an important naval victory against Napoleon in 1805 at Trafalgar, which led Napoleon to abandoning the plans he’d had to invade England. Rather than admit total defeat however, Bonaparte turned his military ambitions towards Austria and Russia, against whom he was victorious.

Napoleon’s expansion of the French Empire didn’t stop there. Soon he had installed loyalists to his government in Holland, Italy, Naples, Sweden, Spain and Westphalia.

This string of successes didn’t last. In 1812 France was devastated when its invasion of Russia became a devastating failiure, in which thousands of soldiers in Napoleon’s Grand Army were killed or badly wounded. News of the defeat reinvigorated Napoleon’s enemies, both inside and outside of France.  A failed coup was attempted while Napoleon led his charge against Russia, and the British began to advance through French territories.
With international pressure mounting, and his government lacking the finances and the resources to fight back, Napoleon had no choice but to surrender to the allied forces on March 30, 1814.

Forced into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba, Napoleon hated having to hear of France’s continuous decline from so far away, and in March 1815 he escaped the island and headed to Paris, where he triumphantly returned to power. Napoleon immediately led his country back into battle, and defeated the Prussians on June 16, 1815. But then, only two days later, at Waterloo, he was defeated in a raging battle against the British, who were reinforced by Prussian fighters.

Napoleon had once again suffered a humiliating loss, and this time there would be no return to power. The British government sent him to the very much more remote island of St. Helena, in the southern Atlantic, where he lived in relative comfort until his death on May 5, 1821.

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