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Napoleon Crossing the Alps

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Napoleon Crossing the Alps

The Fragile Empire, 1802-1810 (Station 4)

Napoleon was voted as emperor by the Senate and the people in May 1804. On December 2, 1804, the coronation (crowning ceremony) took place at Cathedral Notre Dame in Paris. In a bold move, Napoleon took the crown from the Pope and crowned himself Emperor, breaking centuries of tradition.

Napoleon also established the Napoleonic Code, or Civil Code, in 1804. It secured the gains of the peasants and middle class during the French Revolution. The Code, however, took away all the gains made by the women during the Revolution. Freedom of speech and press was cut down and a secret police was formed.

Soon, the fragile peace between France and her neighbors crumbled. Napoleon’s attempted to invade England, but his invasion fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. Though Britain managed to organize a coalition of Austria, Russia, Sweden, and Naples against France, the Third Coalition, it collapsed after several defeats by Napoleon’s army.

After the defeat of the Third Coalition, Napoleon began to reshape Europe. He placed his family members on the thrones of Europe. Instead of trying another invasion of England, Napoleon decided to set-up a blockade called the Continental System in 1807, ordering French ships to attack any British vessel in sight.

By 1809, Napoleon was concerned about Josephine’s inability to produce a child. In December of that year, Napoleon divorced Josephine, and he later married Marie Louise. Marie produced a son within the year, who they named Napoleon.

In 1810, Napoleon’s empire reached its height. Then in late 1810, disaster struck.

Coronation painting of Napoleon I, Emperor of France

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