Napoleon I, (1769–1821), first emperor of the French, 1804–14. His full name was Napoléon Bonaparte, the French rendering of his original name, Napolione Buonaparte, which was Italian.

Napoleon's career as military commander was marked by supreme triumphs and shattering defeats. His successes came largely from the simplicity of his plans for campaigns and battles and the rapidity with which he executed them. Also important was the conscription system brought on by the French Revolution. Conscription gave France large masses of soldiers to oppose the small professional armies of other European nations.

Napoleon's defeats were caused by a variety of situations. In time, the opposing generals recognized the value of Napoleon's methods and adopted them as their own. Also, by 1812 the number of troops in battle had become so great that commanders were unable to have a clear overview of the situation. Some of Napoleon's marshals had lost their zeal; others failed him on the battlefield. In some cases, Napoleon was simply outgeneraled. He was victorious in his invasion of Russia in 1812, but lack of supplies and the Russian winter combined to turn his homeward march into a disastrous rout.

Napoleon, however, did more than win and lose battles. He came to power when all of France was in a state of near anarchy, and he created an orderly government. By establishing the council of state, the public accounts office, a new system of courts, and the Bank of France, he overcame the chaos that had been brought about earlier by the leaders of the Revolution. The legal code that Napoleon had compiled became the basis for the laws of modern continental Europe, Latin America, Turkey, Quebec, and, in certain respects, Louisiana.

Important dates in Napoleon's life
1769 (Aug. 15) Born at Ajaccio, Corsica.
1796 (March 9) Married Josephine de Beauharnais.
1799 (Nov. 9-10) Seized power in France.
1804 (Dec. 2) Crowned himself emperor of the French.
1805 (Dec. 2) Crushed the allied armies at Austerlitz.
1806 (July 12) Set up the Confederation of the Rhine.
1806 (Oct. 14) Defeated the Prussians at Jena and Auerstadt.
1807 (June 14) Overwhelmed the Russians at Friedland.
1809 (July 5-6) Defeated Austrians at Wagram.
1810 (April 2) Married Marie Louise of Austria.
1812 (Sept. 14) Occupied Moscow.
1814 (April 6) Abdicated his throne.
1814 (May 4) Exiled and arrived on Elba.
1815 (March 20) Returned to power in France.
1815 (June 18) Defeated in the Battle of Waterloo.
1815 (Oct. 16) Exiled to St. Helena.
1821 (May 5) Died at Longwood on St. Helena.