Great Essay Example on Napoleon


Napoleon Bonaparte was born in a gentry family in Corsica, France, on the 15th August 1769 and died on 5th May 1821 (Tarbel, 1990).

Napoleon was not only a well-known French military leader but also a charismatic politician. He became prominent during the French Revolution and the wars that were associated with the revolution. Napoleon was the French emperor between 1804 and 1814. During his tenure, Napoleon implemented a variety of liberal reforms in the whole of Europe. For approximately two decades, he was the dominant figure in the European affairs. During his tenure, he led France to several coalitions in Napoleonic wars (Chandler, 1994). Most of the battles he engaged in were won. As a result, Napoleon seized and controlled the large part of Europe. He was later defeated in 1815. Despite the defeat, Napoleon is one of the greatest commanders in the history.

Early Life of Napoleon

Napoleon was born in 1769 in Corsica in the family of the Italian origin. He went to school and could fluently speak French though with a heavy accent of Corsica (Dean, 2002). He later joined military school that opened his way to the military field. He supported Jacobin where he gained a lot of experience in matters to do with military. As a result, he rapidly got promoted in the First French republic. During the Egyptian and Italian campaigns aimed against the enemies of French Revolution, Napoleon’s fame rose significantly (Dean, 2002). Because of the ever-increasing mastery in military matters, in 1799, Napoleon became the First Consul though the restriction concerning the control of France. In 1804, to the joy of his supporters, he was crowned the Emperor of French people.

Achievements of Napoleon

As an Emperor of France, Napoleon was keen to make peace with not only the head of the Catholic Church (Pope) but also the church as a whole. This was a welcoming gesture as it was a big sigh of relief among the religious groups. Besides, he launched an aristocracy system that was new to the French people. He further allowed most of the French aristocrats who had fled into exile during the time of revolution to come back to the country (Chandler, 1994). They were not charged with anything as they were pardoned by Napoleon.

As an emperor, he fought several wars widely referred to as “Napoleonic Wars” (Chandler, 1994). The wars were complex in nature; as a result, they comprised of coalitions that were ever-changing against the French Empire. He got several victories; for instance, in 1805, he came out as a winner at Ulm and Austerlitz (Chandler, 1994). This further led to the end of the Third Coalition that resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire that was multi-secular. He also created the Confederation of the Rhine. Unfortunately, the Confederation of Rhine navy was destroyed during the Trafalgar battle in the year 1805. The British went ahead to impose a naval blockade around the French coasts. As an act of revenge, Napoleon established a Continental system whose sole purpose was to cut off any trade activities that could have risen between Britain and the rest of Europe (Dean, 2002).

Napoleon’s Failures

There were several defeats among the failures experienced by Napoleon. He attempted to destroy England by setting up a blockade with the purpose of seizing the trading ports. However, things never work as expected. Thus, French people continued to trade with England (Tarbel, 1990). Napoleon also attempted to invade Spain by walking through it to Portugal. The king of Spain was not happy with the idea of Napoleon coming into Spain. As a result, Napoleon replaced him with his family member. However, those loyal to the king of Spain kept on attacking Napoleon’s army. As a result, most Napoleon soldiers were killed (Chandler, 1994). Then the Fourth Coalition against France was formed. The coalition was, however, defeated in several battles. The first battle was with Jena-Auerstedt in 1806, then followed the battle at Friedland and Eylau in the year 1807 (Tarbel, 1990). Napoleon disbanded the Fifth Coalition at Wagram in 1809. This helped him to secure a principal position in Europe. Napoleon realized that he needed to maintain his influence in France. To do this effectively, he formed several coalitions though they were fluctuating. Napoleon continued to enforce a continental blockade. To ensure a successful enforcement, he decided to invade Russia in 1812 (Dean, 2002). However, this was one of the greatest failures he registered as almost the whole of his Grande Armie was destroyed. As a result, most of the countries from Europe turned against him (Chandler, 1994). The Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in the battle of Leipzig in 1813. The coalition went ahead to invade France. As a result, Napoleon had no choice but to go into exile.

Consequently, most of the gains of France in terms of boundaries since 1772 were restored. The kingdom of France was also restored. In the year 1815, Napoleon came to power but for one hundred days only (Tarbel, 1990). He was later defeated in the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon the Great spent his last 6 years of life in confinement on Saint Helena Island. In the 19th century, the French people viewed him as their great hero. Because of this fame, his nephew, Napoleon III became the ruler of France from 1848 to 1870.


In conclusion, Napoleon is famous for not only his achievements but also failures. One may then wonder whether he was a successful leader or not. Based on the achievements, he managed to form several coalitions, which entailed uniting people from different locations. Through, he was able to show his leadership skills. He can, therefore, be referred to as a true leader. During his tenure, he experienced several failures; however, such happenings are normal for any leader.