6 Things You Should Know About Napoleon

6 Things You Should Know About Napoleon

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1. Napoleon’s family was more Italian than French.

Napoleone di Buonaparte was born on Corsica on August 15, 1769, just 15 months after France had purchased the island from the Italian city-state of Genoa. Like many Corsicans, his parents, Carlo Maria di Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino, opposed both Genoese and French rule. But when the French quickly overwhelmed local resistance fighters, Carlo began collaborating with them. At age 9, Napoleone, nicknamed Nabulio, was sent to school in mainland France, where he learned to speak fluent French. He never lost his Corsican accent, however, and was purportedly mocked for it by his classmates and, later on, by the soldiers under his command. As a teenager, Napoleone dreamed of an independent Corsica, writing of “unjust French domination” and of his “fellow countrymen bound in chains.” He gradually changed his thinking following the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, and a final break occurred when political infighting forced his family to hastily flee Corsica in 1793. Three years later, after his first marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais, he made himself sound more French by dropping the second “e” in his first name and the “u” in his last name.

READ MORE: The Personality Traits that Led to Napoleon's Epic Downfall

2. Napoleon was arrested for treason following the “Reign of Terror.”

In the early stages of the French Revolution, Napoleon associated with the Jacobins, a political group that in 1793 and 1794 implemented a violent “Reign of Terror” against perceived opponents—a move motivated more by opportunism than ideology. In late 1793 he played a key role in capturing the city of Toulon from British and royalist forces, after which Augustin Robespierre—the brother of Maximilien Robespierre, de facto leader of France during the “Reign of Terror”—described him as having “transcendent merit.” Though briefly beneficial for career advancement, such ties to the Robespierres proved costly once they were overthrown in July 1794 and sent to the guillotine. Napoleon, for one, was arrested on suspicion of treason upon returning from a diplomatic mission to Genoa. Luckily for him, he was released within two weeks and soon after regained his position in the army. He then helped repel a royalist attack on Paris prior to leading a successful conquest of northern Italy that turned him into one of the most prominent figures in France.

3. Napoleon came to power in a coup.

Coups d’état were commonplace during the French Revolution, the last of which occurred courtesy of Napoleon, who returned from an Egyptian military campaign in October 1799 determined to take power. A plot soon arose involving a number of high-level co-conspirators, who provided a façade of legality when, on November 9, Napoleon engineered the collapse of the five-member Directory that headed the country. “What have you done with the France that I left in such a brilliant state?” he shouted outside the seat of government. “I left you peace, I found war! I left you victories, I find defeat!” A day later, a brawl broke out in the legislature between Napoleon’s supporters and opponents until troops moved in and cleared out the building. A new government was then set up with three consuls: Napoleon, who as first consul was by far the most powerful, and two former directors who were in on the coup plot. In 1802 Napoleon became first consul for life, and in 1804, at age 35, he crowned himself emperor.

4. Napoleon and the pope had a bitter falling out.

In 1791 Pope Pius VI publicly condemned the revolutionary government of France for, among other things, guaranteeing its citizens freedom of religion and seizing church property. This mutual enmity remained during Napoleon’s incursion into northern Italy in 1796 and 1797. As part of that campaign, Napoleon attacked the pope’s territories, known as the Papal States, which stretched across a sizeable portion of the Italian peninsula. In exchange for peace, Pius VI agreed to hand over land, money and a treasure trove of art. Nonetheless, the French went ahead and occupied Rome anyway in 1798 following the assassination of a general there. Pius VI was deposed and taken back to France a prisoner, where he died in August 1799. The next pope, Pius VII, originally got off to a good start with Napoleon. They signed a concordat in 1801 that partially restored the Catholic Church’s status, while keeping in place religious freedom. Three years later, Napoleon invited Pius VII to Paris for his coronation. Legend holds that at the last instant he snatched the crown from the surprised pope (who had intended to crown Napoleon emperor) and placed it on his head himself. Whether strictly true or not, their relationship deteriorated from that point forward, particularly after Napoleon annexed the Papal States in 1809. Pius VII responded by excommunicating Napoleon, after which the emperor had him abducted and placed under house arrest.

5. Napoleon’s army was decimated in Russia without losing a battle.

After taking power, Napoleon piled up one military victory after another against Austria, Prussia and other enemies. But his good fortune ran out during an 1812 invasion of Russia, which he initiated to punish Czar Alexander I for not complying with his embargo of British trade. For the campaign, Napoleon raised an estimated 450,000 to 650,000 troops, likely the largest European army ever seen to that date. Rather than stand their ground in the face of such overwhelming force, the Russians retreated, torching the cities, crops and bridges in their path. The first major battle, a bloody draw, finally occurred over two months after the start of the invasion. The Russians then withdrew again and allowed the French to occupy Moscow—but not before setting it on fire. Napoleon thought he had won until realizing that his army, already greatly reduced by desertions and a typhus epidemic, would not be able to survive the winter there. He ordered a retreat, which eventually turned into a rout due to the severe weather and constant assaults on his flanks and rear. By the time his army made it out of Russia, it was down to perhaps a few tens of thousands of men. Emboldened, Napoleon’s opponents immediately went on the offensive, winning the October 1813 Battle of Leipzig and rolling into Paris a few months later.

6. Elba would not be the last word from him.

The terms of Napoleon’s exile to Elba were hardly draconian. He retained the title of emperor and was given full sovereignty over the island, which included the right to build up a small navy and hold lavish parties for visiting dignitaries. “I want from now on to live like a justice of the peace,” Napoleon said. Yet in March 1815, he disembarked on the French coast with about 1,000 men and began marching to Paris. Many of his former troops joined him along the way, and King Louis XVIII fled. Now back in charge, Napoleon prepared to preemptively strike against Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia, only to suffer a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. In June 1815, he abdicated once again and was exiled to Saint Helena, a remote British-held island in the southern Atlantic Ocean. He died there six years later of what was probably stomach cancer.

Tyrant or visionary? The French view of Napoleon

Under the glittering dome of the Invalides military hospital in Paris, where Napoleon lies buried, France's great general
continues to divide opinion, 200 years after his historic defeat at Waterloo.

The few French tourists who come to pay their respects bicker among themselves: for Jean-Marie, Napoleon was a “dictator” but his wife Claudine reminds him that he “accomplished great things, including France's legal system”.

And while another French tourist, Mika, criticises Napoleon's “excesses of power”, his girlfriend retorts that he “exported the values of the French revolution”.

Napoleon generally has his fans around the world — even in the “enemy” Britain. In South Korea, a self-made chicken mogul recently bought a hat worn by the emperor for $2.2 million (€2.0 million).

But in his homeland, public opinion is more nuanced, although the emperor continues to fascinate.

“For me, Napoleon represents good and evil all at once,” said history student Alaume Houdry, showing off the tomb to a visiting Palestinian friend.

“Napoleon carried out some very important reforms. He gave glory back to France. But many lives were sacrificed for his desire for glory,” he added.

David Chanteranne, editor of a magazine devoted to Napoleon, said France was split between “fascination and repulsion” but stressed there was “huge popular interest in his character, profile and stature as a self-made man”.

People remain fascinated by several aspects of his life — his rise from obscurity to conqueror of Europe, his death in exile, his women (especially Josephine, his unfaithful empress).

Throughout France, fans stage reconstructions of famous Napoleonic battles, collect manuscripts and Napoleon paraphernalia — even down to a chamber pot bearing the great man's image.

His influence on popular culture in France is also enormous, said historian Jean Tulard, who held the Napoleon chair at the Sorbonne University in Paris from 1967 to 2002.

“Since his death, a book or article has been written about him every year,” said Tulard.

In addition, Napoleon has appeared in more than 1,000 films and there are currently four exhibitions devoted to him running in France on the 200th anniversary of his most famous defeat.

Napoleon … creator of Hitler?

The division of opinion in France is perhaps best reflected in the fact that, in a city not shy of naming squares and streets after historical figures, there is not a single “Boulevard Napoleon” or “Place Napoleon” in Paris.

A small Rue Bonaparte in the capital's Latin Quarter is the city's only nod to the man who commissioned some of its most famous monuments, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Pont des Arts over the River Seine.

Chanteranne says the “turning point” for public opinion of Napoleon was World War II.

Before the war, Napoleon was considered a hero of the French Revolution and of the people, he said.

“Afterwards, people incorrectly began to think of him as the precursor of the great dictators of the 20th century, comparing him to Hitler or Stalin.”

France began to focus less on the positive aspects of his legacy and more on the “re-establishment of slavery in 1802, the 600-700,000 deaths in the Napoleonic Wars and his expansionist foreign policy.”

And the split in French opinion is mirrored in political circles.

On the left-wing of French politics, former prime minister Lionel Jospin has penned a book entitled “the Napoleonic Evil” in which he accuses the emperor of “perverting the ideas of the Revolution” and imposing “a form of extreme domination”, “despotism” and “a police state” on the French people.

At the other end of the spectrum is former right-wing prime minister Dominique de Villepin, a passionate collector of Napoleonic memorabilia and author of several works on the subject.

But even in the realm of politics, there is no clear-cut dividing line.

Greens senator Jean-Vincent Place denies being a “fan of Napoleon”, but can hold court for hours about this “extraordinary man.”

“At the moment, I'm making plans to be on the battlefield at Waterloo on June 18,” he says.

6 Things You Should Know About Napoleon - HISTORY

David Grubin, producer of five presidential biographies and multiple series for PBS, is the producer, director, and writer of Napoleon. Grubin is an independent producer, director, writer and cinematographer whose work in film and television has brought him many prestigious awards, including eight Emmys and three Writers Guild Awards. He was the executive producer of the highly regarded PBS series Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers, and executive editor of the bestselling companion book. He has recently completed the six hour biography: Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided.

Q: What made you interested in making a film about Napoleon?

A: Before I set out to make this film, Napoleon to me was a caricature he was the little guy with the funny hat and the hand in his jacket — the guy who gave his name to a psychological syndrome, the Napoleon complex. I didn’t really know who he was. Making the film was my chance to find out. I knew that he had an amazing story. I wanted to learn more about it, and then tell it on film. Oddly, Napoleon’s life had never been told before in a series of documentary films, which is interesting because there are more feature films about him then anybody who ever lived — films dating back to before the 20 th century and right on up through the silent film era with Abel Gance’s great Napoleon to our own times and Woody Allen’s version of Napoleon. It amazed me that there hadn’t been a documentary series about his life.

Q: Did you watch any of those films again before filming Napoleon?

A: I’d seen of course Abel Gance’s film, which is virtuoso filmmaking. But it’s a great romantization of Napoleon. I was really interested in rooting Napoleon in history.

Q: How was Napoleon different than your previous films?

A: I’m always trying to go a step beyond what I’ve done in the past in my documentaries. I’d made other historical films, but for the most part I was able to build those stories out of archival film and archival photographs. With Napoleon, I was interested in the challenge of trying to tell a story before the invention of photography, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I was interested in telling this story at this point in my filmmaking career.

Q: Why do you think Napoleon continues to fascinate people around the world?

A: The story of Napoleon is the story of a man who comes out of nowhere to dominate first France and then all of Europe. He ruled over 70 million people - and then he loses everything. That’s an archetypal story. That’s a story that will always be fascinating. And then the story itself is so outlandish, it’s so filled with dramatic moments that are hard to believe that it seems as if it had been invented by a writer prone to exaggeration. But it’s all true. Napoleon stands at a turning point in history, a figure who embodies all the conflicting currents of his time. And what a time it was. The French Revolution changed Europe, and the world forever. The French beheaded a King who ruled by divine right and then set about trying to establish a democratic Republic at a time when democracy in America had just been born. But the French couldn’t make democracy work. Chaos and terror tore France apart. Napoleon restored order, but in the end, did he preserve the values of the French Revolution, or did he crush them? People still argue about that today. That’s why he continues to be a controversial, and fascinating figure.

Q: What were the high and low points of making this film?

A: I would say that shooting the battle recreations were probably the high and the low points at the same time. They were tremendously challenging, and I was gratified to see that we were actually able to make them work. Remember we’re not Hollywood, we can’t hire the entire Czechoslovakian army to come out and pretend that they’re Napoleonic soldiers. We had around 200 re-creators. How do you make 200 people look like 200,000? Very challenging and very complicated. We had re-creators coming from all over Europe with their muskets and their cannons and their period costumes speaking English, French, Italian, Czech, German. It was a confusing babble of languages - a little bit like Napoleon’s army that went into Russia. Except he had 600,000 soldiers. Well, for us 200 people were hard enough to manage. You didn’t know who you were talking to - whether you should be speaking English or French or getting translators or what. These re-creators had the passion for reenacting Napoleonic battles, but they were re-creators, they weren’t extras in a Hollywood movie. They liked imagining that they were part of a military organization, so if I wanted to have a private move five paces to get a better camera angle, I had to ask him by going through his sergeant. I couldn’t ask him directly as you might an extra.

Q: How did the re-enactors help make Napoleon’s story come alive?

A: They wanted it to be accurate. The difficult thing was that they got so into their roles that they sometimes wouldn’t do the things that I needed them to do. For example the most feared part of Napoleon’s army was the Imperial Guard. These were big, tough men, veteran fighters who terrified their enemies. In the battle of Waterloo, the climactic moment is when the Imperial Guard turns and runs in the face of a hail of British fire. So we’re filming this scene, and I wanted our re-creators to charge the British line and then fall and pretend to die, but these guys aren’t falling. And I’m saying, "You know, you’ve got to fall down," and they’re saying, "We’re the Imperial Guard. No one stops us. We just keep coming." It wasn’t until I told them, "The Imperial Guard would rather die than surrender" - which was a famous thing said about the Guard - that they began to fall.

Q: Did you feel like Napoleon commanding his army?

A: They say that making a film is like fighting a battle and in that sense managing this enormous shoot was like being a commanding general. But no one died in our recreations. You have to remember that these were life and death struggles and in the end 3 million people died in the Napoleonic wars. I was very aware that I was play acting. Napoleon was in it for real.

Q: Were you able to film on any of the actual battlefields?

A: We filmed on the battlefield at Austerlitz and we filmed on the Waterloo battlefield, so those landscapes in the film are from the actual battlefields. But the recreations were done on a separate field and intercut with the battlefields because we couldn’t re-stage the battles on the sites themselves.

Q: Were you afraid that the French wouldn’t want an American to be making a film about one of their most important and controversial figures?

A: If this series were made by an Englishman I think the French would have been worried. There’s a real rivalry there. But we Americans didn’t beat the French at Waterloo. I think the French felt I could be neutral, and resolve the controversies swirling around Napoleon’s life through good storytelling.

Q: What did you discover about Napoleon that you didn’t expect?

A: I think what intrigued me most was his vitality. He had the energy of ten men. He could get up at midnight and work till 5 in the morning, sleep for a couple of more hours and then get up and continue to work. He’d just wear out his secretaries. He would dictate to four of them at the same time, moving from one to the other as if he were playing 4 games of chess. He had the kind of brilliance that could hold all these letters in his mind at one time, like a great chess master. Tremendous energy, never stopped. I was also surprised to find that even though he was French, he would wolf down his meals in 10 minutes. French men and women during the Napoleonic time took a couple of hours to eat a meal. They still do today. Not Napoleon. So he surprised me in lots of ways.

Q: What kind of a ruler do you think Napoleon was?

A: You have to remember that Napoleon was a dictator. He didn’t stand for criticism. There was censorship of the press, there were no real elections. He didn’t care at all about freedom. What’s interesting is that he did believe in equality. He believed that everyone should have a chance to rise on their own, according to their own talent, to the level of their own abilities. That’s hard for Americans to understand. How can you believe in equality without liberty? Just one of the puzzles about this man, who also spread the Napoleonic code of laws across Europe — laws that put an end to feudalism and aristocratic privilege. In some ways he carries forward the legacy of the French Revolution, in other ways he kidnaps it.

Q: What kind of man do you think Napoleon really was?

First of all he was born in Corsica, and if the child is father of the man, you’ve got to look to the powerful influence of this small nation of fighters to understand him. He was born just after the French conquered Corsica and grew up chafing under French rule, so I think he always had a sense of himself as an outsider. And of course, he loved power, and couldn’t seem to get enough of it. In a time when thrones were inherited, and young men from Corsica didn’t become Emperors, he took to being Emperor quite naturally. He loved power, he said, like a violinist loves his violin.

Q: What do you think people will take away from watching this film?

A: I think it makes you aware of how fragile democracy is. You see how difficult it was for the French to establish a Republic after their revolution. Napoleon inherits the legacy of the French Revolution and the question is, what’s he going to do with it? Will he abolish aristocratic privilege? Will there be liberty and equality? America in Napoleon’s time was just an experiment. Now we know it worked. It didn’t have to. We take our own history for granted. Napoleon reminds you that democracy is something that’s very precious and very difficult to achieve.

15 Things You Might Not Know About The Count of Monte Cristo

Most everyone knows the story of Edmond Dantès, the wrongfully-incarcerated (and consequently revenge-obsessed) hero of Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo. But did you know these 15 facts about the classic?


Dumas’ appetite for action-packed tales led him to the 1838 publication Memoirs from the Archives of Paris Police, a collection of true crime stories arranged by author Jacques Peuchet. Among the accounts featured was the particularly macabre tale of Nîmes-born shoemaker Pierre Picaud, who was framed for treason by three men who lusted after his wealthy fiancée. Popular appropriation of the legend of Picaud has him earning the affection of someone wealthy and childless (possibly a priest) he was assigned to serve. After the man died, Picaud became his sole beneficiary and extremely wealthy. Later, on Picaud’s deathbed, he offered a small fortune to one of his friends, Allut, for the name of those who betrayed him. After getting the information, Picaud (who had been faking his death) went on to pursue increasingly vicious revenge quests against the three men who wronged him, saving the most brutal sentence for the man who went on to marry Picaud’s fiancée. And after killing the third conspirator, Picaud himself was murdered by Allut, the friend who had identified the betrayers.


A swashbuckler in the tradition of great literary heroes, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas—born Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie—certainly epitomized the “self-made man” characterization that made the titular Count such a winning figure. Born in the French colony of Saint Domingue to an enslaved African mother, Thomas-Alexandre followed his nobleman father back to mainland France, pursuing formal education and military enlistment. Ultimately seizing a position as a general, Thomas-Alexandre still holds the distinction of being the highest-ranking person of color in a Continental European army.


Knowing little of the author’s proclivity for impromptu seafaring expeditions, Jerôme Bonaparte—former King of Westphalia and brother of Napoleon—asked Dumas to play host and tour guide to his 19-year-old son, also named Napoleon, during his visit to Italy in 1842. Dumas encouraged the young prince to brave an ad-hoc boat trip, enjoying stops at the islands of Elba, Portoferraio, and ultimately the remote landmass Montecristo. Although Prince Napoleon grew quite ill on the trip, Dumas was so taken with the latter isle’s geological beauty and ample game that he vowed to name his next (and ultimately most successful) novel for it.


Following its completion in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo was first printed by Journal des débats. The French newspaper offered the story as a regular serial, publishing the first of 18 segments on August 28, 1844 and the final on January 15, 1846. The Count of Monte Cristo’s original hardcover incarnation also used this method, publishing likewise as a series of 18 distinct volumes between 1844 and 1845.


The editions published in this time period, and most of those released through the 1850s, bore the kind of spelling error that keeps copy editors awake at night. These early copies of the book were published as The Count of Monte Christo. It was 1846 before the first correction of this flaw was made, and only in 1860 did the circulation of correctly spelled copies outstrip the erroneous ones.


Although Dumas never outright confirmed that his Count of Monte Cristo characters Eugénie Danglars and her music teacher Louise d’Armilly were sexually and romantically involved, his allusions on the topic were enough to stir the ire of some conservative publishers of the era. Contemporaneous English-language translations of the novel deleted scenes showcasing the characters’ intimate relationship—including one featuring the pair lying in bed together—which would only reappear in English-language translations 150 years later.


A number of English-language translations of The Count of Monte Cristo entered circulation in the years following the story’s initial publication. An unabridged interpretation of the text reached England in the mid-1800s via the good graces of Emma Lavinia Gifford, the wife of novelist Thomas Hardy.


However, the most widely circulated English version, published in 1846, never carried the name of its translator. The book was identified only by the name of its publishing company, Chapman and Hall.


English writer and historian George Saintsbury, born just after the initial publication of the novel, estimated in an 1878 issue of The Fortnightly Review that The Count of Monte Cristo was, “at its first appearance, and for some time subsequently, the most popular book in Europe. Perhaps no novel within a given number of years had so many readers and penetrated into so many countries.” Granted, Saintsbury went on to malign said popularity, decreeing that only the first volume of the story, if any fraction, ever truly deserved such praise.


Thirty-six years after Journal des débats first published The Count of Monte Cristo, American politician, lawyer, and army general Lew Wallace turned his own hobby of creative fiction into a bona fide career with the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Chief among the novels that influenced the part-time author’s tale was Dumas’ revenge epic, and he even likened himself to the Count during the writing of Ben-Hur in his autobiography.


In 1996, Penguin Classics issued a new English-language translation of The Count of Monte Cristo, as penned by Robin Buss. The edition endeavored to provide a modern and casual alternative to the archaic or otherwise ostentatious language of earlier translations, with Buss replacing phrasings like "His wife visited for him, and this was the received thing in the world," with the altogether more digestible “His wife visited on his behalf this was accepted in society.”


Stephen Fry, though celebrated most for his humorous exploits, is hardly without his successes in the realm of drama. Alongside Golden Globe Award-nominated performances and thoughtful documentary projects are Fry’s literary feats, one of which is his 2000 thriller, The Stars’ Tennis Balls, a modern-day retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo story.


Dumas ranks among the likes of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoevsky on the list of writers whose works are most frequently adapted for the big screen. The Count of Monte Cristo trounces even Dumas’ own duly popular The Three Musketeers in its translations to the moving picture, boasting at least 40 individual depictions across the media of film and television. The Count of Monte Cristo’s relationship with cinema dates all the way back to 1908, when the short film Monte Cristo was released in Italy by director Luigi Maggi.


Due to the cunning duplicity of Dumas’ hero Edmond Dantès, his name has become a popular alias throughout pop culture. Some figures have even adopted the moniker as a nom de plume, notably one renowned screenwriter. Although Dantès is the name attributed to scripts for the films Beethoven, Maid in Manhattan, and Drillbit Taylor, they were each written by teen flick icon John Hughes.


In the 1920s, a deep fried sandwich consisting of white bread, ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese was developed, most likely in California. Based on the French croque monsieur, it became popular in the '40s under the name Monte Cristo. While no one is sure about the name’s origin, the timing (and spelling) has led many to believe that it was named after the movie adaptations that were so popular at the time.

4 Catherine the Great Fucked a Horse

Go to Google and type in "Catherine the Great" and one of the top recommended searches is "Catherine the Great + Horse." So. was there a horse named Catherine the Great? Was her horse famous for some reason?

No, the reason is that these days half the people who know who Catherine the Great is, know her as "that lady who died fucking a horse." It's the kind of thing that kind of overshadows all your other accomplishments.

In Catherine's case those other accomplishments include being the sole ruler of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Under her rule, Russia expanded its territory and modernized in step with the rest of Europe. But her reign infuriated the other nations, as A) Russia was widely considered the backwoods retard of the continent and B) she had a vagina. And boy, did those grumpy old monarchs hate her vagina.

"What SHALL we do about this troubling vagina?"

It didn't help that the unmarried Catherine loved her pink parts and put them to good use regularly, something that ladies weren't allowed to be open about in those days. She reportedly "tested" her suitors on one or more of her handmaidens first.

Catherine's fondness for 18th century sex was matched by her love of equestrianism. Seeing as how the empress' favorite mounts were both man and beast, it was easy for pesky French aristocrats to combine her hobbies into a nasty rumor designed to knock Russia's hillbilly queen down a peg.

The rumor culminated in what is today the most well-remembered detail about Catherine: That she perished when a stud crushed her during coitusequus.

In reality she died in her bed, of a stroke, at the age of 67. But the smear gained legitimacy on the continent, being too misogynistic and Russophobic to ignore. And today it's just so much more awesome to remember Catherine as a quasi-mythical creature that ran through multiple species of dicks to prove her might.

Angelina Jolie, ladies and gentlemen!

Related: The Secret History Of The French Horse-Butt Sniper

6 lesser-known facts about the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire covered a dynasty that lasted 600 years. Who founded the it? And what was their most humiliating military defeat? Jem Duducu presents six lesser known facts about one of the largest empires in history…

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Published: January 22, 2020 at 9:28 am

The Ottoman Empire is one of the largest empires in history. In existence for 600 years, at its peak it included what is now Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Macedonia, Romania, Syria, parts of Arabia and the north coast of Africa. In some countries, it is a legacy best forgotten in others, it is a hotly debated topic and, in a handful, national pride has been nailed to this vital part of their history.

Putting aside all the nationalist politics, the Ottoman empire is a fascinating subject covering a dynasty that lasted 600 years. Here, Jem Duducu presents six lesser known facts about this empire.

The founder of the Ottoman empire was a man called Osman

Osman, a Seljuk Turk, is the man who is seen as the founder of the empire (his name is sometimes spelt Ottman or Othman, hence the term ‘Ottoman’). The Seljuks had arrived from the Asiatic steppes in the 11th century AD and had been in Anatolia for generations, while Osman had ruled a tiny Anatolian territory at the end of the 13th century and the early 14th century. He was very much a warrior in the mould of other great cavalry officers of the Middle Ages (like Genghis Khan before he won an empire).

It was on the coronation day of Osman’s successor that the tradition of wearing Osman’s sword, girded by his belt, began. This was the Ottoman equivalent of being anointed and crowned in the west and was a reminder to all of the 36 sultans who followed that their power and status came from this legendary warrior and that they were martial rulers. This certainly rang true in the first half of the history of the empire, and for the next 300 years, sultans would regularly be seen in battle. But as the empire matured and then waned, so the sultans began to shirk their duties on the battlefield.

Osman’s lavishly-decorated sword and belt are the Ottoman equivalent of the coronation crown jewels, but it’s doubtful that what is seen today on display in the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul is what Osman held in his hand. Putting it simply, Osman was unlikely ever to have had such an impractical sword, though it could be that the original blade was later plated and embellished.

Osman was definitely real, but in some ways, he’s like King Arthur in the west: a founder of an idea and a near-mythical figure. During his lifetime, he was regarded as unimportant enough that we have absolutely no contemporary sources about him. We don’t know what he looked like we have no proclamations extant from his reign, as Osman’s reign began in what was then the Ottoman Dark Ages.

The Ottomans could be unlucky

Only once did a sultan die in battle and only one sultan was ever captured by an enemy. Unfortunately for the early empire, these sultans were father and son. In 1389, at the famous Battle of Kosovo, Murad I was in his tent as his forces fought a brutal and bloody engagement with Serb forces. A contemporary account states that: “having penetrated the enemy lines and the circle of chained camels, [serb forces] heroically reached the tent of Murat (sic) … (and killed him) by stabbing him with a sword in the throat and belly.”

While this account claims to describe how Murad died, it doesn’t ring true. The idea that a dozen Serbs were able to break through the entire central force of the Ottoman army, which we know held for the whole battle, doesn’t make sense. Instead, there is a later report that as the Serb lines crumbled, a Serbian aristocrat (often named as Miloš Obilić) pretended to defect and was brought before the sultan. Murad, believing that any change to the battle would finally break the deadlock, met Miloš in his private tent, where the Serb lunged forward and stabbed Murad before the guards reacted. This would make more sense against the overall events of the day. Either way, after 27 years of rule, Murad lay dead in a pool of his own blood.

Murad’s son and heir, Bayezid I, was present at the battle and had already proven himself to be a fearsome warrior. He was known as Bayezid Yildirm (thunderbolt) because he moved as quickly and struck as lethally as a thunderbolt. Amongst many other military successes, he was to annihilate the last serious crusade sent from Europe to counter the rising tide of Islamic power. However, in 1402, he had to face a new threat: that of the legendary warlord Tamerlane (actual title Emir Timur), a brutal 14 th -century warlord born in what is now Uzbekistan, who amassed an empire that stretched from present day India to Turkey, and Russia to Saudi Arabia. The two met at the battle of Ankara, where more than 150,000 men, horses and even war elephants clashed.

Accounts of the battle are fairly sketchy and often contradictory. What is clear is that a pivotal point in the battle took place when some of Bayezid’s Anatolian vassals switched sides or melted away, leaving him with an even greater numerical disadvantage against Tamerlane. However, the core of the Ottoman force fought bravely. The battle was vicious and the resulting carnage was enormous. By the end of the day it was said that around 50,000 Ottoman troops lay dead the same was said of Tamerlane’s force. If these numbers are true (and there’s no way of knowing), it was one of the bloodiest battles in world history prior to the 20th century.

Bayezid might have been up against a man who was his equal in leadership, but Tamerlane simply had more of everything – and some elephants. Bayezid had thrown all of his empire’s resources into the battle, but he couldn’t overcome the fact that Tamerlane’s empire was bigger. By the end of that violent and sweltering July day, Bayezid’s army was in tatters, and he and his wife had been captured, showing that Bayezid had personally fought to the bitter end.

Bayezid’s death in captivity led to a period of civil war and infighting amongst his sons, each of whom wanted to become the next sultan. These events almost undid the empire just 100 years into its history.

Ottomans are not the same as ‘Turks’

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Ottoman empire is that many of the ‘Turks’ mentioned in the European chronicles were no such thing. It is thanks to European ignorance (that has lasted centuries) and to nation building in Turkey that the Ottoman sultans have become ‘Turkish’ sultans. Quite often in European Renaissance literature, the sultan was referred to as the ‘Great Turk’, a title that would have meant nothing to the Ottoman court. So let’s clear this up: the Ottoman Empire, for most of its existence, predated nationalism. The attacking forces at the famous ‘Fall of Constantinople’ against the Byzantine Empire in 1453 weren’t all ‘Turks’ in fact, not all of the besieging forces were even Muslim.

More than 30 of the sultans were the sons of women from the harem. Why is that salient? Because none of these women were Turkish it’s unlikely any of them were even born Muslim. Most of their backgrounds have been lost to the mists of time, but it seems most were European women, so Serbs, Greeks, Ukrainians. It is likely that later ‘Turkish’ sultans were genetically far more Greek than Turkish.

Similarly, any of the legendary Janissaries [an elite fighting corps within the army], including the famous architect Mimar Sinan who started his career as a Janissary, were all Christian children who had been brought into this elite fighting force and then converted to Islam. The best modern analogy to describing anything Ottoman as ‘Turkish’ is like saying that the anything from the British empire was exclusively ‘English’.

Suleiman was even more magnificent than you think

In the west, he has become known as Suleiman the Magnificent. In the east, he is remembered as Suleiman the Lawgiver. However, here is a full list of his titles and they are fascinating:

“Sultan of the Ottomans, Allah’s deputy on earth, Lord of the Lords of this world, Possessor of men’s necks, King of believers and unbelievers, King of Kings, Emperor of the East and the West, Majestic Caesar, Emperor of the Chakans of great authority, Prince and Lord of the most happy constellation, Seal of victory, Refuge of all the people in the whole entire world, the shadow of the almighty dispensing quiet on the Earth.”

Let’s break things down: the first title is obvious and “Allah’s deputy” implies his supreme Islamic authority without overstepping the mark (the word ‘Islam’ means ‘one who submits to God). The “possessor of necks’ harks back to his father Selim’s practice of beheading even senior officials anyone who displeased the sultan could expect to be beheaded for certain crimes.

The next few titles are unexpectedly Roman. The Ottomans were aware that when they conquered Constantinople (in essence, the Eastern Roman empire) the titles of “emperor” and “Caesar” still had importance. Claiming to be ‘”Emperor of the East and West” was not only an exaggeration, but also a direct challenge to the authority of Rome which, at this point, was hopelessly outclassed by the Ottomans.

“King of Kings” may sound a little biblical, but that’s only because the Gospels took the title from the Persian emperors’ shahenshah, literally, ‘king of kings’. So, again, the Ottomans are challenging a major rival, but this time it’s in the east, the Safavid Persians.

The next few titles are little more than showing off, but then we come to “Refuge of all the people in the whole entire world”, which shows that the sultans were well aware that their empire was multi-cultural and multi-religious, with Christians, Jews, Muslims and others all living together, not necessarily in harmony, but much better than anywhere else at the time. The ejection of the Jews and Muslims from Spain was still fresh in the minds of those living in the first half of the 16th century.

Only two of Suleiman’s military campaigns failed he swept through everything else before him. When he wasn’t in the saddle, he was sitting in his opulent palace in the largest city in Europe. His empire stretched for hundreds, if not thousands, of miles in all directions. If anyone should be called ‘magnificent’, Suleiman fitted the bill perfectly.

The greatest humiliation in Ottoman military history was inflicted by Napoleon

On 20 May 1799, Napoleon laid siege to the port of Acre, where he fired the few cannons he had at the mighty defences, while the defenders sought refuge behind the city’s walls. As Napoleon was now committed to the siege, Ottoman forces were able to gather a relief force and march to the aid of the city. Napoleon had always picked competent generals and, even though his force was small, one Jean-Baptiste Kléber was a battle-hardened and highly capable general. His force of around 2,000 men (later joined by over 2,000 of Napoleon’s men) met the Ottoman relief force at Mount Tabor in Palestine. By comparison, Abdullah Pasha al-Azm, the governor of Damascus, had gathered an army of over 30,000. The French were outnumbered about 9-1 but, as we have seen, numbers don’t count for everything, and the Battle of Mount Tabor was possibly the greatest (often forgotten) humiliation of Ottoman martial power.

The Ottoman forces were made up of Sipahis, Mamelukes and other brave but outdated warrior classes. From dawn to late afternoon, Kléber sat in the hollow anti-cavalry squares, resisting every attack by Pasha al-Azm’s men. The Ottoman governor’s losses were mounting, but his army so dwarfed the French force that he could afford them. Meanwhile, after ten hours of fighting under the sweltering sun of Palestine, Kléber’s men were tired, thirsty and dangerously low on gunpowder and ammunition. It was then that Napoleon arrived with about 2,000 men, not enough to match the numbers in the Ottoman army but enough to distract them by sending a few hundred men to attack and loot the Ottoman camp. Abdullah Pasha al-Azm thought Napoleon’s tiny force was the vanguard of a larger army and panicked, thinking he was about to be attacked from the rear and flanks. He ordered a general retreat, at which point the two French forces charged the disengaging Ottomans, and the orderly Ottoman retreat turned into a messy rout.

Total losses of Ottoman soldiers were around 6,000 killed and another 500 captured, versus two dead French soldiers. An army of around 4,500 had fought an army of over 30,000 and not only won, but sustained just two fatalities. It was a devastating humiliation for the sultan Selim III, and a spectacular triumph that allowed Napoleon to continue his siege of Acre (although he would not take the port and this would mark the furthest extent of his conquests in the Middle East).

The Ottomans outlasted all their main opponents… just

From the middle to the end of the empire, when it was on its long slow decline to collapse, the empire faced three main rival powers that crop up again and again in Ottoman history: to the east, the Persian Safavids to the north, the tsars of Russia and to the west, the Habsburgs.

The Safavids fell first to Afghan invaders in 1736 and, while Persia/Iran would remain an opponent to the late Ottoman sultans, it was never the same expansionist threat it had been earlier under the Safavid dynasty.

Similarly, as the tsars of Russia began to spread their power south towards the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea, the Ottomans began to lose ground and were forced to fight multiple wars with the tsars. The most famous of these in the west is the Crimean War, when France and Britain joined sides with the Ottomans to prop up the failing state against the rising star of Russian power. However, the sultans were still seated in power when the last tsar, Nicholas II, was first deposed and later shot.

The Habsburgs and Ottomans fought so regularly that Vienna was twice besieged by Ottoman forces. There were so many clashes between the two empires that some of the war names sound half-hearted, such as the Long Turkish War (1593-1606). However, during the last war the Ottoman empire was involved in (the First World War) the Ottomans were on the same side as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, led by a Habsburg. That dynasty didn’t quite make it to the end of the war, whereas the Ottoman Empire survived for a few years after it. The Ottoman sultans didn’t have time to gloat, however. The empire was dismantled by the victorious Allied powers of First World War, and a way of life that had lasted from the Middle Ages into the 20th century was gone by 1922, when the last sultan, Mehmed VI, was forced into exile.

Jem Duducu is the author of The Sultans: The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Rulers and Their World: A 600-Year History (Amberley Publishing, 2017).

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LGBT+ history month takes place in February each year, to help educate people on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, as well as the history of the gay and civil rights movements.

Find out more about some of those who have made an impact both from the past and present.

Alan Turing was not a well known figure during his lifetime, but today he is famous and celebrated for the crucial part he played in the victory over Nazi Germany in WW2.

Turing was a mathematician who cracked something called the Enigma code, which is thought to have shortened the war by several years.

He was also a victim of mid-20th Century attitudes to homosexuality and in 1952 was arrested because being homosexual was illegal in Britain at this time.

In 2013 he was pardoned for this 'crime', and in 2017 the government agreed to officially pardon men accused of ɼrimes' like this, meaning they will no longer have a criminal record.

This pardoning has come to be known as the Alan Turing law.

In 2019 Turing was named the most "iconic" figure of the 20th Century and his face now appears on the £50 note.

Napoleon Sarony/Universal History Archive

Oscar Wilde is one of the famous playwrights of all time, in fact, you might even have studied 'The Importance of Being Earnest' - one of his most famous plays - at school.

He was married to a woman and had two sons, but was later accused of being homosexual. After details of his private life were revealed during a court case had started, he was arrested and tried for gross indecency.

He was sentenced to two years of hard labour, and his wife took their children to Switzerland.

His time in prison severely affected his health and once he was released he spent the rest of his life in Europe.


Marsha P. Johnson was an African American transgender-rights activist, whose work in the 1960s and 1970s had a huge impact on the LGBT+ community.

At this time, being gay was classified as a mental illness in the United States. Gay people were regularly threatened and beaten by police, and were shunned by many in society.

In June 1969, when Marsha was 23 years old, police raided a gay bar in New York called The Stonewall Inn. The police forced over 200 people out of the bar and onto the streets, and then used excessive violence against them.

Marsha, who was living and working in New York at the time, was one of the key figures who stood up to the police during the raids.

News of these protests spread around the world, inspiring others to join protests and rights groups to fight for equality.


These days he's often called the grandfather of the gay rights movement, for openly campaigning as a gay man when homosexuality was still illegal.

In 1964 Allan Horsfall and a group of friends set up the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee, even giving out his home address as the base for the organisation. To be so open at that time was very brave.

It became the first campaigning organisation outside of London set up and run by gay men, and its work directly led to homosexuality no longer being illegal.

Later the North West Committee was transformed into the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which was the largest LGBT organisation there has ever been in the UK, with more than 5,000 members and 120 local groups all over the country when it was at its biggest.

It's role in the removal of the stigma of criminality from homosexuality remained his crowning achievement.

Goronwy Rees isn't a name many people will be familiar with, but the part he played in LGBT history is significant.

He began his career as a journalist before working for MI6, and becoming principal of Aberystwyth University.

He was asked to join the government's committee looking into homosexual offences which led to the Wolfenden Report, which recommended that having a homosexual relationship should no longer be a criminal offence.

This laid the foundations for a later law which partially decriminalised male homosexuality for the first time in England and Wales.

Goronwy was described as the "most perceptive member of the committee", and the one who successfully argued that the committee should take evidence directly from homosexual men.

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Edith Windsor or Edie - was a leading woman in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in America.

Her case against the American justice system was the first time same-sex marriage was recognised as legal in America.

Edie married her wife Thea Syper in Canada in 2007, Thea died in 2009.

When Thea died, the American government said that Edith had to pay $363,053 in tax.

This was because only marriage between a man and woman had something called unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes.

Edie decided to sue and said that the law was discriminating against same-sex couples.

She did and was successful. Her fight led to an Act called the Defence of Marriage Act being overturned.


If you know anything about LGBT movement you'll definitely recognise the iconic rainbow flag, which was invented by this man!

Gilbert Baker was an American artist, gay rights activist who designed the flag to have eight stripes instead of the six normally seen now.

It first made an appearance back in 1978 and has become associated with LGBT+ rights all over the world.

Although it would have made him a lot of money, Gilbert refused to trademark it, saying it was a symbol for everyone.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Baker created the world's largest flag, at the time.

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Maureen Colquhoun was the first openly lesbian MP, as well as the first openly LGBT MP.

When she was first elected, Maureen was married to a man and the couple lived in Sussex with their three children.

But in 1976 she moved to London to live with her new partner who was a woman.

Although she hadn't spoken publically about being gay, a newspaper found out and printed the news against her will.

Afterwards, she was deselected by her party, and although she still managed to stand in the election, she lost her seat to the Conservative candidate.

Lady Phyll

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, better known as Lady Phyll, is a British LGBT+ rights activist and anti-racism campaigner.

She is the co-founder of UK Black Pride, which began in 2005 as a day trip to Southend-on-Sea in England. It now attracts nearly 8,000 people every year.

Lady Phyll created the event to promote unity and co-operation among all LGBT+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent in the UK, as well as their friends and families.

She is also the Executive Director of the charity Kaleidoscope Trust, which campaigns for the human rights of LGBT+ people in countries around the world where they are discriminated against.

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In 1984 Chris Smith became the UK's first male openly gay MP and later, the first gay cabinet minister.

After announcing that he was gay, he received a five-minute standing ovation. His actions and the positive reaction he received has undoubtedly helped pave the way for many other MPs to be open about their sexuality as well.

There have since been lots of other gay cabinet members.

There are currently 54 LGBT MPs in the House of Commons, and in 2015 it was declared the gayest parliament in the world due to its proportion of LGBT members.

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Justin Fashanu was Britain's first openly gay footballer, and although 30 years have passed he remains the only male footballer to reveal his sexuality while playing professionally in the top tiers.

Hi career was going well, having risen through Norwich City's youth ranks and in 1981 he became the country's most expensive black player with his £1m move to Nottingham Forest.

He stunned the football world in 1990 by when he told a newspaper he was gay. But after this he didn't receive much support and suffered homophobic bullying, as well as harassment from the tabloid newspapers.

He died in 1998 and was inducted into the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame in Feb 2020, with his niece Amal Fashanu calling him "one of the bravest men I've ever come across".

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The singer and pianist has sold over 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

In 2019 he received France's highest civilian award, the Legion d'honneur, by President Emmanuel Macron, who called him one of the first gay artists to give a voice to the LGBT community.

Elton came out as bisexual in a 1976 interview with music magazine Rolling Stone, and in 1992 said he was gay.

He and his partner David Furnish were among the first couples in the UK to get a civil partnership in 2005, when the law was changed to allow gay relationships to be legally recognised.

In 2014, after gay marriage became legal in the UK the pair got married and have two sons born via surrogacy.

Napoleon: flawed hero or power-mad tyrant?

On 5 May 1821, one of the most iconic figures in world history died while in bitter exile on a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose from obscure soldier to new Caesar, remains a uniquely controversial figure to this day. Should we think of him as a flawed but essentially heroic visionary who changed Europe for the better? Or was he simply a military dictator, whose cult of personality and lust for power set a template for the likes of Hitler?

Napoleon: The biggest myths debunked

The problem is that nothing with Napoleon is simple, and almost every aspect of his personality is a maddening paradox. He was a military genius who led disastrous campaigns. And he was a liberal progressive who reinstated slavery in the French colonies. And take the French Revolution, which came just before Napoleon’s rise to power. As historian Professor Chris Clark ponders, 'His relationship with the French Revolution is deeply ambivalent. Did he stabilize it or shut it down? He seems to have done both.'

A nation which had boldly brought down the monarchy had to watch as Napoleon crowned himself Emperor.

On the one hand, Napoleon did bring order to a nation that had been drenched in blood in the years after the Revolution. The French people had endured the crackdown known as the 'Reign of Terror', which saw so many marched to the guillotine, as well as political instability, corruption, riots and general violence. Napoleon’s iron will managed to calm the chaos. But he also rubbished some of the core principles of the Revolution. A nation which had boldly brought down the monarchy had to watch as Napoleon crowned himself Emperor, with more power and pageantry than Louis XVI ever had. He also installed his relatives as royals across Europe, creating a new aristocracy. In the words of French politician and author Lionel Jospin, 'He guaranteed some principles of the Revolution and at the same time, changed its course, finished it and betrayed it.'

Napoleon Bonaparte: facts about his life, death and career

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is considered to be one of history's greatest military leaders. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution (1787–99) and served as emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and again in 1815. Napoleon is remembered today for his role in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15), and his defeat at the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. But how much do you know about him?

This competition is now closed

Published: May 3, 2021 at 6:13 pm

Here we bring you the facts about Napoleon Bonaparte and explain why he was exiled to the island of Elba in 1814…

When was Napoleon born?

15 August 1769, in Corsica.

When did Napoleon die?

5 May 1821, on the Atlantic island of St Helena.

What is Napoleon remembered for?

Many things, but in particular his roles, which included Emperor of the French, during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15), and his defeat at the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Who were his family?

Napoleon was the second of eight surviving children born to Carlo Maria Buonaparte (1746–85), a lawyer, and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte (1750–1836). The Buonapartes were minor Corsican nobility.

Napoleon was twice married: to Joséphine de Beauharnais, from 1796–1810, and Marie Louise, [later known as Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma], from 1810–1821. His second wife bore him a son, Napoleon II.

Napoleon acknowledged one illegitimate son, Charles Léon (b 1806), but may have had further unacknowledged illegitimate offspring.

Napoleon’s height: how tall was the French emperor?

If there’s one thing Napoleon Bonaparte is known for, it’s that he was short – and very unhappy about it. But how tall was he really?

What was Napoleon’s childhood like?

Although Napoleon’s parents were members of minor Corsican nobility, the family was not affluent. Educated at French military academies, which he attended on scholarships, Napoleon was poor compared to his classmates, who came from wealthy, well-connected families. Having grown up in Corsica, Napoleon’s first language was Italian, not French, and he was teased for allegedly sounding like a peasant.

When did he begin his military career?

Aged 15, Napoleon was admitted to the elite École Militaire in Paris, but was forced to complete the two-year course in just one after his father died of stomach cancer, leaving Napoleon as the family’s chief source of income. He became a commissioned officer just after his 16th birthday.

As war was about to break out across Europe, Napoleon was still a second lieutenant stationed in a sleepy garrison town, and went on leave to see his family in Corsica.

What were Napoleon’s early achievements?

In July 1792 Napoleon was promoted to captain in the regular army, and in 1796, having helped to suppress a royalist insurrection against the revolutionary government in Paris, he was made commander of the French army in Italy.

Napoleon’s national profile was bolstered dramatically by his numerous critical victories against the Austrians and his marriage to Joséphine de Beauharnais, whose first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, was famously guillotined during the Reign of Terror, a period of violence following the onset of the French Revolution.

In November 1799, Napoleon became first consul, and worked to establish a European empire under his military dictatorship. He centralised the government, reinstated Roman Catholicism as the state religion, instituted education reforms, and managed the creation of the Bank of France.

When did Napoleon become emperor of France?

Napoleon triumphed over the Austrians at Marengo in 1800, and then negotiated a general European peace (which established French power on the continent). In 1802 Napoleon proclaimed himself consul for life, and two years later he became emperor of France.

How did Napoleon gain control over Europe?

But the peace Napoleon had negotiated was short-lived – by 1803 Britain had resumed war with France, later joined by Russia and Austria.

Britain’s naval victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 forced Napoleon to abandon his plans to invade England, and he turned his attention instead to Austro-Russian forces, which he defeated at the battle of Austerlitz later that year in what is considered to be one of his greatest victories.

Napoleon gained much new territory in the years that followed, which seemingly gave him control of Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, and Napoleon’s relatives and loyalists were installed as leaders in Italy, Naples, Spain and Sweden, as well as Holland and Westphalia – territories newly created by Napoleon.

How did Napoleon’s first marriage end?

In 1810 Napoleon arranged for the annulment of his childless marriage to Joséphine, and married Marie-Louise, the 18-year-old daughter of the emperor of Austria. She gave birth to a son, Napoleon II (aka the King of Rome) the following year.

Why did Napoleon go into exile?

From 1810, the tide began to turn against Napoleon: France suffered several military defeats that drained resources, and in 1812 Napoleon oversaw the catastrophic failed invasion of Russia. France was forced to retreat, and of the original 400,000 frontline troops, fewer than 40,000 returned.

Paris fell in March 1814, and Napoleon went into exile on the island of Elba, over which he was given sovereignty. Meanwhile, his wife and son went to Austria.

How did Napoleon return to power?

But in February 1815, after less than a year in exile, Napoleon escaped from Elba and marched on the French capital, and victoriously returned to power. This prompted Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria to declare war. His success was short-lived: he governed for a period now known as the Hundred Days – a brief second reign brought to an end by the battle of Waterloo in June 1815.

When and where did Napoleon die?

Following his humiliating defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821, aged 51, most likely from stomach cancer, though exactly ‘what killed Napoleon‘ has long been a subject of speculation.

Where is Napoleon buried?

Napoleon was buried on the island and his remains were not returned to France until 1840. Napoleon’s remains are entombed in a crypt at Les Invalides in Paris, where other French military leaders are interred.

This article was first published on History Extra in June 2015

6 interesting facts you should know about Paris Saint Germain

Soccer is the most popular sport in France. As you may know, the French national team won the recent World Cup in Russia and has always been a great symbol for the country. Every big city in France has a professional soccer team and some of them are very popular (Lyon, Monaco, Marseille, Nantes…).

One of the most successful teams is Paris Saint Germain. And even if you think you heard everything about PSG, here is a list of 6 interesting facts that you probably don’t know!

1. Real Madrid helped in the creation of Paris Saint Germain

The creation of Paris Saint Germain has always been a topic of debate among soccer historians in France. A documentary that explains the story behind our soccer club has been released a few years ago.

This documentary, called « The Club That Almost Never Not Existed », explains that the history of PSG is strongly linked with Real Madrid. Indeed, it seems that the Spanish side played a big role in the creation of a soccer team in Paris.

What happened?

Let’s go back almost 50 years ago, in 1969.

At this moment, Paris doesn’t have a decent soccer team. But Madrid in Spain has one. Not only a big club, but the biggest one (still the case!). Santiago Bernabeu, who was the legendary Chairman of the Spanish side, found out that his skills and his experience were needed somewhere else…

Developing soccer in Paris was a great ambition back in time, and Real Madrid’s legend gave some precious advices to Paris’ future board of directors. Indeed, the problem was related to the financing of the project.

Solving the money issue…

According to Santiago Bernabéu starting a crowdfunding campaign was the best solution to create our soccer club.

« You should only count on you and the love of Parisians », he whispered to Parisians directors.

In 1970, Paris Saint Germain was founded. For the first time in France, the fans contributed financially to the creation of a soccer club. Bonjour Paris !

2. The most successful club in France

Despite its young age, Paris Saint-Germain Football club holds many records in France. With only 48 years of activity, PSG is already the most successful French team in terms of trophies.

A big surprise?

Not really, investments made all along our history have been huge. Since 2011, Qatari owners are always happy to invest hundreds of millions every year. Last season, Brazilian-star Neymar and French wonderkid Kylian M’bappé were the biggest signings in Europe. Overall, €400 millions were invested to buy these two players from Barcelona FC and AS Monaco.

As of the season 2017/2018, PSG won 7 Ligue 1 titles, 12 French Cups, 8 League Cups and 1 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup (in 1996). In total, PSG has won 37 major titles.

However, rival teams such as Saint-Etienne (10), Marseille (9), Monaco and Nantes (8) are still ahead in terms of Ligue 1 title – which is the most important trophy in France.

3. 10 years ago, Paris Saint-Germain avoided relegation on the final day

Nowadays PSG tries to compete with the biggest European soccer clubs. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Arsenal… PSG is one of them now. Thank you Qatar!

Since 2011, the Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain Football Club has been successful, winning la Ligue 1 and most of domestic titles almost every year.

Forget Zlatan, Neymar or Mbappé… our hero is Diané

However, during the 2007-2008 season, PSG struggled throughout the campaign and spent many games in the relegation zone.

After a difficult season on the pitch and marked by violence between some fans, PSG avoided relegation to Ligue 2 on the final game after a 2-1 win at Sochaux. The savior was named Amara Diané who scored two goals on that particular night.

Today, Amara Diané is a hero for most Parisian fans and people still recognise him in the streets of Paris. It was a long time ago, but these two goals from Amara Diane will never be forgotten by the fans.

4. PSG shirt was designed by the inventor of prêt-à-porter

As a fashion enthusiast, you probably heard of Daniel Hechter. If you don’t know him, Daniel Hechter is one of the most famous French couturiers. He is often viewed as the inventor of ready-to-wear (prêt-à-porter).

As a true soccer fan, he contributed to the creation of Paris Saint German and he also conceived the traditional PSG jersey: a blue shirt with a central red stripe edged with white.

Today, the Hechter Shirt has been replaced by a more modern shirt and some fans don’t like it. However, even if this symbolic shirt is not used anymore, it is still a source of inspiration for Nike when designing new kits every year. Blue, red and white, always.

5. French people hate Paris Saint Germain

No one likes us, we don’t care

Paris fans have a particular chant that they like to sing when they play rival teams. Created by the fans of Millwall FC in England, « No one likes us, we don’t care » is a popular song among soccer clubs that people like to hate.

But why do people hate Paris Saint Germain in France? There are many reasons for that:

1- Arrogance

Paris is not only the capital city, but also the most beautiful city in the world… and Parisians are aware of that.

Even if French people have the reputation of being arrogant and are very proud of their country, it’s nothing compared to Parisians. Believe me, Parisians can have a really bad reputation in France!

The most noticeable cliché is to think that Parisian people consider la « Province » as « the Rest of the country », without differentiating one city from another. No one likes condescension!

Such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool or Manchester United in England, Paris are owned by foreign investors which make them « less » French than other teams.

In a country where money has always been a controversial topic, PSG often receives a very lukewarm welcome from the French public.

3- Winning is bad

Paris Saint Germain has become the most successful team in France… nobody likes a winner!

6. Celebrities love Paris Saint Germain

If you have the chance to attend a soccer game at the Parc des Princes (PSG stadium) you will probably meet celebrities around the stadium.

Beyoncé, Jay Z, David Beckham (who used to play for PSG a few years ago) and even Stephen Curry were spotted in the stadium recently.

This is the end of my 6 interesting facts about Paris Saint Germain, our favorite soccer club. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to comment!

  1. The best travel book : Rick Steves – Paris 2020– Learn more here
  2. Lonely Planet Paris 2020 – Learn more here

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Born and raised in the west side of Paris, Michel prefers the picturesque districts of Paris. Besides discovering secret places and hidden corners, he spends his spare time watching football - he is a big fan of Paris Saint Germain.


After the mass, the civilian authorities administered the imperial oath. Shortly before 3:00, the imperial party began the return to the Tuileries, arriving there after dark. Napoleon dined alone with Josephine.

He was delighted with his day, and complimented the ladies of the Court… He displayed no penetrating emotion, no awe at having evoked the mystery of kingship, no distrust with regard to the future, only a somewhat shallow satisfaction that the pomp should have been so magnificent, and that every one should have played his part so well. (6)

The police estimated that some 2 million people were present in Paris. Hundreds of church bells rang out, followed by illuminations, fireworks, formal balls, and dancing in the streets. These and other festivities continued for the next two weeks. The cost of the whole affair was 8.5 million francs, paid for by crown and state treasuries.

Napoleon insisted on keeping his title of Emperor of the French even after his abdication and exile to St. Helena. He retains it in Napoleon in America.

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