Portal:Napoleonic Wars

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• • • Napoleonic Wars • • •

The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to the application of modern mass conscription. French power rose quickly as Napoleon's armies conquered much of Europe but collapsed rapidly after France's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon's empire ultimately suffered complete military defeat resulting in the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France. The wars resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and sowed the seeds of nascent nationalism in Germany and Italy that would lead to the internal consolidation of both nations later in the century. Meanwhile, the global Spanish Empire began to unravel as French occupation of Spain weakened Spain's hold over its colonies, providing an opening for nationalist revolutions in Spanish America. As a direct result of the Napoleonic wars, the British Empire became the foremost world power for the next century, thus beginning Pax Britannica.

No consensus exists as to when the French Revolutionary Wars ended and the Napoleonic Wars began. An early candidate is 9 November 1799, when Bonaparte seized power in France with the coup of 18 Brumaire. 18 May 1803 is the most commonly used date, as this was when a renewed declaration of war between Britain and France (resulting from the collapse of the Treaty of Amiens), ended the only period of general peace in Europe between 1792 and 1814.

The Napoleonic Wars ended following Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and the Second Treaty of Paris.

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Le souper de Beaucaire
Painted by Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ 1869–94, this artwork depicts Napoleon as a captain, on 28 July 1793, having supper in Beaucaire during a period of civil revolts amidst the French Revolution. Shortly afterwards he wrote a pro-Republic pamphlet, titled Le souper de Beaucaire, explaining the need for revolution.

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Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. An Imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by combined armies of the Seventh Coalition, an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher. It was the culminating battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last. The defeat at Waterloo put an end to Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French and marked the end of his Hundred Days' return from exile.

Upon Napoleon's return to power in 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies. Two large forces under Wellington and von Blücher assembled close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the Coalition. The decisive engagement of this three-day Waterloo Campaign (16–19 June 1815) occurred at the Battle of Waterloo. According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life."

Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18 June to allow the ground to dry. Wellington's army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. At that moment, Wellington's Anglo-allied army counter-attacked and drove the French army in disorder from the field. Pursuing Coalition forces entered France and restored Louis XVIII to the French throne. Napoleon abdicated, surrendered to the British, and was exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.

The battlefield is in present-day Belgium, about eight miles (12 km) south-south-east of Brussels, and about a mile (1.6 km) from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield is today dominated by a large monument, the Lion Mound. As this mound used earth from the battlefield itself, the original topography of the part of the battlefield around the mound has not been preserved.

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Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor

Francis II (12 February 1768 – 2 March 1835) was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Empire after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1804, he had founded the Austrian Empire and became Francis I (Franz I.), the first Emperor of Austria (Kaiser von Österreich), ruling from 1804 to 1835, so later he was named the one and only Doppelkaiser (double emperor) in history. For the two years between 1804 and 1806, Francis used the title and style by the grace of God elected Roman Emperor, always August, hereditary Emperor of Austria and he was called the Emperor of both Germany and Austria. He was also Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia-Slavonia and Bohemia as Francis I. He also served as the first president of the German Confederation following its establishment in 1815.

Francis I continued his leading role as an opponent of Napoleonic France in the Napoleonic Wars, and suffered several more defeats after Austerlitz. The proxy marriage of state of his daughter Marie Louise of Austria to Napoleon on 10 March 1810 was assuredly his most severe defeat. After the abdication of Napoleon following the War of the Sixth Coalition, Austria participated as a leading member of the Holy Alliance at the Congress of Vienna, which was largely dominated by Francis' chancellor Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich culminating in a new European map and the restoration of Francis' ancient dominions (except the Holy Roman Empire which was dissolved). Due to the establishment of the Concert of Europe, which largely resisted popular nationalist and liberal tendencies, Francis became viewed as a reactionary later in his reign.

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• • • Did you know? • • •

Did You Know? ... that Yakov Kulnev, a Russian general killed in action during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, was reputed to live in poverty, in order to emulate the soldiers of Roman antiquity that were his ideal?

Did You Know? ... that Eugène de Beauharnais returned the territories of the Napoleonic Italy to provisional Austrian rule in 1814 by the Convention of Mantua?

Did You Know? ... that British rifleman William Green's memoir is one of the few accounts by an enlisted man of life in the Duke of Wellington's army, and as such, has provided source material for many historians?

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