About Napoleon Bonaparte

By Heather Haggstrom, Exhibitions Manager

“The man fitted for affairs and authority never considers individuals, but things and their consequences.” –Napoleon Bonaparte (Date unknown)

Napoleone Buonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica. He was the fourth child of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer, and his wife, Letizia Ramolino. The Corsican Buonapartes were descended from minor Italian nobility from Tuscany and it was through these noble connections along with his father’s successful law career and political connections that Napoleon had the privilege to study more than the typical Corsican. He excelled in his studies and was the first Corsican to graduate from the École Militaire.

1954.158.3 Napoleon Bonaparte

“Napoléon Bonaparte,” Jean Baptiste Isabey, 1806, MdHS, 1954.158.3

Napoleon was strong-willed and determined trusting only himself; in his words “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.” Bonaparte, an excellent military strategist, well-versed in the art of deception and espionage, used the great political unrest in France as an opportunity to rise quickly through the military ranks, and ultimately setting the stage for a coup.

He was elected First Consul by the French people but was not satisfied.  Eventually, he reinstated the monarchy and was crowned Emperor Napoleon I by Pope Pius VII in 1804.

He believed that much of his success was destined by God, but he also believed that one should take advantage of opportunities, and in doing so, one should take into account not the individuals involved, “but things and their consequences.” His glory and that of France were all that mattered.

In 1805, General Denis Decres wrote to Jerome that “he (Napoleon) considers himself as having no family but the French people; everything unconnected with the glory and happiness of France is indifferent to him.” His younger brother’s marriage to an American, even one with remarkable wealth and extraordinary beauty, had no benefit to France. Napoleon had more glorious plans for Jerome…


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