Napoleon Part IV



Napoleon’s economic blockade against Great Britain wasn’t working. Spain was trading with Great Britain. So, Napoleon decided to invade Spain. In 1808, Napoleon sent 118,000 soldiers into Spain. He thought Spanish people would welcome them. He thought that there would be no resistance to his army. On 2 May 1808, people of Madrid rose up against the French army. They killed 150 French soldiers. The French retaliated. They killed thousands of Spanish people. A savage war began. Thousands of people died. However, Napoleon wouldn’t give up. He didn’t listen to his advisors. He kept the army in Spain for five years. There was no victory.


Napoleon’s wife Josephine was 46 years old. She could not give birth. However, Napoleon wanted an heir to his throne. He divorced Josephine in 1809. She fainted upon hearing this. Napoleon said, “It is for France. The whole of France wants the divorce.” He gave her a big house and 3 million francs a year. Then he married Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian Emperor Francis. She was 19 years old. She didn’t want to marry Napoleon. ( But her father said, “Marriage with Napoleon will bring peace and alliance with the most powerful country in Europe.” Finally she agreed with her father and married Napoleon on 2 April 1810. Next year she gave birth to a son. Napoleon was very happy because now he had an heir to his throne. He called his son the King of Rome. He was 42 years old. He said, “Late hours, hardship, and war are not for me at my age. I love my bed more than anything but I must finish my work.”

What was his work?

-The war in Spain continued.

-Britain was still a stubborn enemy.

– A new war with Russia was coming.


Russia was also trading with Britain. Alexander said  “I will no longer be a part of the blockade against Britain” because the blockade was ruining the Russian economy. Napoleon thought of invading Russia. His advisers told him that he should not attack Russia. But he ignored their advice (he didn’t listen to them) and decided to invade Russia. He had become too proud and arrogant. He assembled the largest army ever, 600,000 soldiers. Napoleon was confident. He said, “The war will be over in 20 days.” He imagined that he would easily destroy the Russian Army. He moved into Russia with his army in the spring of 1812. However, the Russians would not give battle. In other words, they kept retreating and retreating. They didn’t fight Napoleon. It was summer. It was hot. Napoleon‘s soldiers were very tired. They had been marching thousands of kilometers. Some soldiers died of heat and fatigue. Many deserted. Everyday Napoleon lost more and more soldiers without a fight. In two months, he lost 150,000 soldiers. ( At last, at the Battle of Borodino, the two armies fought. It was the deadliest battle of the Napoleonic wars. In total, 70,000 soldiers were killed or wounded. There was no decisive victory. Next day the Russian army retreated. Napoleon said, “We are victorious.” Next week Napoleon entered Moscow. The city was deserted. The Russian people had left the city before the French came. That night, Moscow began to burn. Napoleon could not stay in Moscow anymore. But he didn’t want to leave it either. He said, “Winter is coming, but I don’t want to abandon my conquest.” So, he wrote to the Czar, “Let’s make peace.” He waited for an answer to his letter. But the answer didn’t come. The Czar was silent. Then, on 19 October 1812, Napoleon ordered his army to leave Moscow and return to France. Soon it began to snow. The Russian winter had arrived early. It was 22 degrees below zero (-22°C). One French soldier wrote, “Our lips stuck together, our nostrils froze, we seem to be marching in a world of ice.” Their food supplies had finished. Thousands of horses died. The French soldiers ate these horses because they didn’t have better food. Another serious problem was the Cossacks. They conducted surprise attacks against the French army. Fearing capture, Napoleon carried a small bag of poison around his neck. Hunger, cold, disease, and the Cossacks destroyed the French army. Out of 600,000 French soldiers, 93,000 came back to France. This was the beginning of the end for Napoleon.


Now Russia, Prussia, Britain, and Sweden united against Napoleon. Napoleon hoped that one decisive victory in central Europe could turn his luck. However, he didn’t have enough soldiers. And he lost even more soldiers. In two months against the allied forces, he lost 400,000 soldiers. He said, “A year ago, the whole of Europe was marching alongside of us. Today the whole of Europe is marching against us.” At the beginning of 1814, the Allies invaded France. Even Austria, his wife’s father’s country, had joined the coalition against Napoleon.  On 5 January 1814, Napoleon said goodbye to his wife and son. He would never see them again. On 31 March 1814, the allies marched into Paris. The war was over. Napoleon was psychologically crushed. He poisoned himself but didn’t die. A British warship carried Napoleon into exile to the island of Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean near Corsica. He was 45 years old. He had won and lost an empire.


Napoleon was not a prisoner in Elba. The Allies forbade him to leave the island but he didn’t live like a prisoner. He was the emperor of Elba. He ruled the island. At first he was excited about it. But then he was bored.
In France, the Allies had restored monarchy. Louis XVIII was made the king. However, he wasn’t a popular king. French people didn’t like him. Napoleon thought that he could have a chance if he returned to France. On February 1815, he escaped from Elba and returned to France. The king sent a regiment of soldiers to stop him. ( When they found Napoleon, he stepped out in front of them and said, “Soldiers, if there is one among you who wants to kill his emperor, here I am.” His soldiers loved him. They would not kill him. They cried, “Long live the emperor [Napoleon]!” Two weeks later, Napoleon was back in Paris. The king had fled. Napoleon was the emperor again. Napoleon’s enemies united once again. They declared him an outlaw. Napoleon marched toward Waterloo, with an army of 73,000. He wanted to destroy the British army before the Prussians, Russians and the Austrians arrived. The battle took place on 18 June 1815. The Prussians arrived in time to help the British. They defeated Napoleon. Four days later Napoleon abdicated his throne. He asked the British to let him live “in a country house near London.” The British refused. They sent him back to exile. But this time they chose a remote island, the island of St. Helena (12,000 km from France) in the South Atlantic Ocean. When Napoleon saw the island he said, This is going to be my grave.” He was very unhappy. He said he wanted “to fall asleep and not wake up for a year or two.” On this island he was a prisoner, guarded by 2000 British soldiers, and two British warships that circled the island 24 hours a day.

Napoleon didn’t know what to do on the island. He read, wrote, gardened, dictated his life. He lived 5,5 years more. On 5 May 1821, at the age of 51, he died. His last words were, “France, army, chief of army, Josephine”.


⇐ Napoleon Part I

⇐ Napoleon Part II

⇐ Napoleon Part III



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#1 Why did Napoleon decide to invade Spain?

#2 Why did Napoleon think that the invasion of Spain would be easy?

#3 Why did Napoleon divorce Josephine?

#4 Who was Napoleon’s new wife?

#5 Why did Emperor Francis want his daughter to marry Napoleon?

#6 How old was Napoleon when he had a son?

#7 Why did Napoleon invade Russia?

#8 Why did Alexander I say, “I will no longer be a part of the blockade against Britain”?

#9 How many soldiers did Napoleon assemble for the invasion of Russia?

#10 How long did Napoleon think it would take to defeat Russia?

#11 How many soldiers did the two armies lose at the Battle of Borodino?

#12 Why did Napoleon leave Moscow?

#13 Why did Napoleon carry a bag of poison around his neck?

#14 How many French soldiers survived the Russian Campaign?

#15 What was Napoleon’s first place of exile?

#16 Who was the ruler of France after Napoleon?

#17 Why did the Allies choose a remote island for Napoleon’s second place of exile?

#18 What was Napoleon’s last battle?

#19 How old was Napoleon when he died?