The First Empire

  • © Monginoux

The First Empire


The Empire was proclaimed in May 1804. A long series of wars and major government upheavals accompanied the rule of Napoleon I who made war against England, Austria and Russia. In 1805, the victories of Ulm and Austerlitz as well as the defeat at Trafalgar, led to numerous treaties.

Napoleon placed members of his family on the thrones of conquered kingdoms. He continued his advance Eastwards, with the victories of Iena, Eylau and Friedland. In Paris, the Arc-de-Triomphe and the names of avenues commemorate these ruthless wars for the conquest of an empire. The European countries, including Spain, formed a coalition against the emperor. In vain. The victory at Wagram (1809) gave Austria to Napoleon. The Vatican was invaded, the Pope excommunicated Napoleon who then married his second wife, Marie-Louise of Habsburg, mother of the King of Rome, the future Aiglon.

In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with the 700,000 men of the Grand Army. In front of a burning Moscow, the hard Russian winter was to take its toll on the 'Grognards', Napoleonic soldiers.

In 1814 Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau and left for the island of Elba. Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI, restored royal power under the Restoration, but Napoleon returned with his loyal followers: this brief period came to be known as the Hundred Days. The defeat at Waterloo (1815) and the Treaty of Paris were to put an end to the insatiable emperor who was sent into exiled for the last time to Saint Helena where he died in 1821. Napoleon's tomb is in the Hôtel des Invalides, in Paris