Napoleon Bonaparte was a military general who, after a succession of small steps, proclaimed himself emperor. Those steps are what will be described in this essay.
The National Assembly was made up of the Third, Second and First Estates (the different classes). The National Assembly asked Napoleon to lead its army. After it self-declared its new name, Directory, it decided that what the bereaved country now needed was war. How the people, though they wanted revolution, must have felt when that was announced!
The French army invaded Rome in 1798, sacked it, took in its firing squads, tore the pope’s symbol of authority, his ring, off his finger and carried poor Pius off to France, where he died.
Napoleon was named First Consul in 1798. He privately forced the Second and Third Consuls into submission. He won the people by promising peace, like most false rulers who do exactly the opposite of what they say when they actually get to power. In 1799, the Directory gave him full power as Consul.
Pope Pius VII was elected in 1800. He helped Napoleon negotiate terms between the Catholic Church and France. These terms put the Church under Napoleon’s thumb, but the pope was happy in the sense that at least churches were open in France and they were at peace with each other.
The Code Napoléon put some of the revolutionary ideas in documents, therefore making them official.
Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804. The pope was allowed to officiate at the ceremony, but Napoleon placed his crown on his head himself. Normally the pope places the crown on the emperor’s head. By Napoleon’s act, Europe knew that he was not willing to submit to anyone. He didn’t want anyone to be able to rule over him.
Napoleon was warring mainly with England, though he declared war on the rest of Europe, too. In order to weaken England he formed the Continental Blockade, which prevented any trade from going on with England. England countered it with a blockade of its own.
Pope Pius VII didn’t go along with the Continental Blockade, so Napoleon kidnapped him and put him in Genoa under guard.
Napoleon conquered the Holy Roman Empire, thus disintegrating an empire which had been there for almost a thousand years.
Napoleon conquered almost all of Europe. He was very successful in all his campaigns until he went to Russia. There, during the terrible winter, he lost over 90% of his army.
Since Napoleon was so weak the powers in Europe decided that this was a good time to do away with Napoleon once and for all. They united into one power: Allies. They captured Paris and Napoleon was exiled to Elba.
While the Congress of Vienna was going on, Napoleon escaped and raised another army in 1815. He marched to France but was defeated at Waterloo. He was exiled to St. Helena, where he ended his days.
The Code Napoléon spread throughout Europe. It is the basis of most modern constitutions of Europe.
Napoleon changed Europe. Hitherto it had hung on to old ways and traditions. Now, with the Code Napoléon, and the sweep of conquer, it started towards what we know as modern Europe.