French Empire (may 18, 1804 – jul 7, 1815)
During the French Revolution, a military general named Napoleon Bonaparte rose through the ranks and eventually overthrew the government making himself First Consul of France. Five years later he was crowned "Emperor of the French" thus creating the French Empire.
As with any empire, Napoleon's influence was not limited to just the borders of France; by 1804 a number of states and duchy's that had belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, and on the Italian peninsular were dominated by French rule.
Now was the time for further expansion however, and the opportunity for that presented itself when another coalition of European nations began to form. The United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden, the Holy Roman Empire, and the recently independent Austrian Empire allied together in their new fight against France .
As the war progressed though, it became clear that France was proving victorious. Eventually, Europe was dealt a significant blow at the Battle of Austerlitz in the winter of 1805. It was here that Napoleon defeated an army made up of Russian and Austrian soldiers led by the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. This defeat was perhaps the most significant in the Napoleonic Wars as it meant that the French took control of the majority of the German territories, rendering the Holy Roman Empire useless. Francis II abdicated his throne and thus the 800-year-old empire came to an end. In it's place Napoleon organized the Germans into a rough collection of states known as the Confederation of the Rhine.
As Europe once again regrouped for another fight, the French continued on winning the Napoleonic Wars. Their greatest extent came in 1812 when the French Empire had control, in one way or another, over nations including Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia. Napoleon came to rule around 44 million people stretched over 810,000 sq miles of Europe.
It seems that although the French Revolution was an attempt to end the monarchy, it only gave rise to a stronger and more absolute royal power in the form of Imperial France.
As with all human empires before it however, France's rule would also eventually come to an end. In late 1812 Napoleon and his army were shockingly forced to retreat from their invasion into Russia, due to the harsh country and climate. As Europe continued in their efforts to fight against him, Napoleon was also forced to retreat from the German territories and soon lost control over the Netherlands and Spain.
This only encouraged the European Coalition more, and by 1813 they had decided to push on onto Paris and finally defeat this powerful French commander. Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher was the man who led the invasion into France, and after a number of battles and manoeuvres in the north, Napoleon accepted the overwhelming odds against him and abdicated the throne in April 1814.
It was after this point that Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, of which he was allowed to rule. In a turn of events however, less than a year after his exile, Napoleon made a last ditch attempt to gain power again by escaping the island and into France. He managed to rule from Paris as Emperor for a hundred more days before being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. This caused Napoleon to abdicate his throne a second time on 7th July 1815 finally bringing the French Empire to an end.
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