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  4. Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte. Emperor of France


Consul and emperor of France. A professional soldier, his progressive rise took place mainly during the French Revolution. His political and military rise was particularly swift between 1796 and 1797, the years in which he reaped significant victories in Italy as head of the French army; and also when leading the French expedition to Egypt, the aim of which was to block Britain's sea route to India. In November 1799, in the face of a France ruled by a discredited system of government under the Directory and threatened by potential internal revolts in favour of the monarchy, Napoleon led the coup of 18 Brumaire. Appointed First Consul of France after a few days, his authoritarian, iron rule led to his proclamation as Emperor of France. His desire to isolate Britain, and eventually dominate Europe, led him to take advantage of the alliance with Spain – established by the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1796) – to achieve his aim. The sinking of the frigate Mercedes in 1804 presented him with the perfect scenario for Spain to declare war on Great Britain. The continental blockade of this country was not completely possible given Portugal's support for the British monarchy, so, with the approval of Charles IV and Manuel Godoy, Napoleon inserted his troops in Spain under the pretext of starting the occupation of Portugal. However, his true goal – and what triggered the Peninsular War – was his attempt to take over Spain and move the Spanish royal family to Bayonne to force the abdication of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII.