Emperor Napoléon I Abdicates
His withdrawal continued to be followed by the Allies who captured
Paris on March 31, 1814. On April 12, 1814, Napoléon unconditionally abdicated the throne. On April 20, 1814, he bid adieu to his troops at Fontainebleau and was subsequently exiled to the small island of Elba [May 4, 1814], which is located off the northwestern coast of Italy, never to see his wife and son again. They had been sent back to Austria. Josephine died on May 29, 1814.
On Elba, which the Allies gave him as a sovereign principality, he plotted his return to France. On February 26, 1815, after spending 10 months on the island, he escaped from Elba and sailed with some 1100 followers to France, landing at Cannes, on the Golfe Juan-les-Pins on March 1, 1815. He then set off for Paris, attracting supporters as he went.
The Return to France - The HundredDays
Louis XVIII sent an army, under Marshal Michel Ney [Napoléon had made him a marshal of France in 1804], to arrest Napoléon. But Ney greeted his old leader with friendship and marched with him to
Paris. The army arrived in Paris on March 20, 1815 and Napoléon was carried on the shoulders of a cheering crowd into the Tuileries. Louis XVIII fled Paris.
Once in Paris, Napoléon immediately proclaimed a new, liberalized constitution that limited his powers. He also promised the Allies that he would not attack them, but his promise fell on deaf ears and both sides prepared for war.
On June 12, 1815, Napoléon marched to Belgium with an army of about 125,000 men. On June 16, 1815 he defeated the Prussian Marshal Gebhard von Blucher at Ligny near Fleurus.
On June 18, 1815, Napoléon, who was not in good health, attacked the Duke of Wellington’s English army at Waterloo, just 9 miles south of Brussels, in one of history’s most famous battles. Napoléon mounted cavalry charge after cavalry charge against the English, but failed to display his earlier energy and military grasp. Marshal Ney led the last French charge and was captured.
Napoléon might have won at Waterloo if he had attacked earlier in the day. However, he waited until noon due to heavy rains the night before. Just when it appeared that Wellington’s lines would collapse, the delay allowed for the timely arrival of reinforcements from von Blucher’s previously defeated army, and Napoléon was defeated.
Ney was tried for treason and rebellion and was condemned to death. He was shot on December 7, 1815, by a firing squad in Luxembourg Gardens.
The period, between Napoléon’s escape from Elba and his second abdication, is known as the Hundred Days.
Napoléon fled to
Paris and, on June 22, 1815, abdicated for the second time. He then tried to flee to the United States but was captured at Rochefort by the captain of the British battleship Bellerophon. On August 7, 1815, Napoléon was transferred to the Northumterland and on October 16, 1815, he arrived on Saint Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean, well off the coast of Africa.
Napoléon spend much of his time, on the barren British island, dictating his memoirs. In May of 1821 his health deteriorated and on May 5 he died of a bleeding stomach ulcer. He was initially buried on St. Helena. However, in 1840, the British and French governments honored the request that he be buried “on the banks of the Seine, among the French people I have loved so much”. His remains were brought to Paris where they were entombed at the Église du Dôme at the Hôtel des Invalides. His son, Francois-Charles-Joseph Bonaparte, died of tuberculosis on July 22, 1832, in Vienna. He was 21. In 1940, Adolf Hitler had the remains buried near his father’s in the Hôtel des Invalides.
Napoléon's Place in History
Estimates of Napoléon’s place in history differ considerably. However, all seem agreed that he was one of the greatest military leaders in history, that his policies of administrative and legal reforms promoted the growth of the modern state, and that he dominated his times, 1800 through 1815 [the Napoléonic era]. It is also widely agreed that his legend set the stage for his nephew, Napoléon III, to create the Second Empire.