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He hoped to re­claim his po­si­tion as Em­peror of France (and most pow­er­ful man in Europe), but his short sec­ond rule was des­tined to be­come known as ‘The Hun­dred Days’

History Revealed - - CONTENTS -

1815, the (brief) re­turn of Napoleon

N apoleon Bon­a­parte forged an em­pire through his mastery of mil­i­tary strat­egy, but then came his cat­a­strophic Rus­sian in­va­sion in 1812. The failed of­fen­sive crip­pled his army, re­vealed his weak­nesses and gave heart to his en­e­mies – lead­ing to an­other heavy de­feat at Leipzig in Oc­to­ber 1813. To the coali­tion of Euro­pean pow­ers that formed against him, Napoleon had be­come “the sole ob­sta­cle to the reestab­lish­ment of peace in Europe”, and the French peo­ple, tired of war and reel­ing from their losses, turned on their em­peror. On 6 April 1814, he was forced to ab­di­cate.

Napoleon was ex­iled to the tiny Mediter­ranean is­land of Elba, tak­ing with him 600 of his loyal Im­pe­rial Guard. There, he set about build­ing his own lit­tle do­main, but his promised pen­sion never came, and he longed to see his wife and baby son. Ever am­bi­tious, he kept abreast of the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in Europe – and plot­ted his re­turn.

Af­ter just 300 days, Napoleon sailed from Elba with a force of fewer than 1,000 men, land­ing back on French soil at the Côte d’Azur on 1 March 1815. By the time he had reached Paris, thou­sands had flocked to his ban­ners and the re­stored King Louis XVIII had al­ready fled. In power once again, Napoleon set about pre­par­ing for war against a new coali­tion – Bri­tain, Prus­sia, Aus­tria and Rus­sia – and mus­tered an army of 120,000 men. His aim was to strike be­fore his en­e­mies could unite, and it started well with vic­tory at Ligny on 16 June.

But two days later, Napoleon's dreams of do­min­ion came to an end with a crush­ing de­feat at the Bat­tle of Water­loo. He spent the rest of his days ex­iled on an­other is­land, this one in the South At­lantic – Saint He­lena.

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