Today I’ll talk about the personality of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814.
Napoleon dominated European affairs for over a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, rapidly gaining control of continental Europe before his ultimate defeat in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide and he remains one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in Western history.In civil affairs, Napoleon had a major long-term impact by bringing liberal reforms to the territories that he conquered, especially the Low Countries, Switzerland, and large parts of modern Italy and Germany. He implemented fundamental liberal policies in France and throughout Western Europe.His lasting legal achievement, the Napoleonic Code, has been adopted in various forms by a quarter of the world’s legal systems, from Japan to Quebec.
Historians agree that Napoleon’s remarkable personality was one key to his influence. They emphasize the strength of his ambition that took him from an obscure village to command of most of Europe.George F. E. Rudé stresses his “rare combination of will, intellect and physical vigour.“At 5 ft 6 in (168 cm),he was not physically imposing but in one-on-one situations he typically had a hypnotic impact on people and seemingly bent the strongest leaders to his will. He understood military technology, but was not an innovator in that regard. He was an innovator in using the financial, bureaucratic, and diplomatic resources of France. He could rapidly dictate a series of complex commands to his subordinates, keeping in mind where major units were expected to be at each future point, and like a chess master, “seeing” the best plays moves ahead.
Napoleon maintained strict, efficient work habits, prioritizing what needed to be done. He cheated at cards, but repaid the losses; he had to win at everything he attempted.He kept relays of staff and secretaries at work. Unlike many generals, Napoleon did not examine history to ask what Hannibal or Alexander or anyone else did in a similar situation. Critics said he won many battles simply because of luck; Napoleon responded, “Give me lucky generals,” aware that “luck” comes to leaders who recognize opportunity, and seize it.Dwyer argues that Napoleon’s victories at Austerlitz and Jena in 1805-06 heightened his sense of self-grandiosity, leaving him even more certain of his destiny and invincibility. By the Russian campaign in 1812, however, Napoleon seems to have lost his verve. With crisis after crisis at hand, he rarely rose to the occasion. Some historians have suggested a physical deterioration, but others note that an impaired Napoleon was still a brilliant general.
In terms of impact on events, it was more than Napoleon’s personality that took effect. He reorganized France itself to supply the men and money needed for great wars.Above all he inspired his men—Wellington said his presence on the battlefield was worth 40,000 soldiers, for he inspired confidence from privates to field marshals.He also unnerved the enemy. At the Battle of Auerstadt in 1806, King Frederick William III of Prussia outnumbered the French by 63,000 to 27,000; however, when he mistakenly was told that Napoleon was in command, he ordered a hasty retreat that turned into a rout.The force of his personality neutralized material difficulties as his soldiers fought with the confidence that with Napoleon in charge they would surely win.
In the next article I will tell you anecdotes concerning this political leader..