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Napoleon invades America.

From paintings and sculpture to period furnishings, the treasures on exhibition at the Memphis Cook Convention Center capture the military and imperial nature of the man who left his mark on civilization.

Few figures in history have inscribed their names as indelibly in the annals of mankind as Napoleon Bonaparte. A magnificent warrior and master diplomat, he bestored Europe like a Colossus and, in little over two decades, changed the face of that continent, as well as those of North America and Africa. Feared by his enemies and revered by his countrymen, Napoleon dominated his time as but a handful have before or since.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on Aug. 15, 1769. Although the island had been controlled by the Republic of Genoa since the 13th century, its strategic location in the Mediterranean - off both the Italian and French coasts - made other nations covet this prize possession. The previous year, according to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, Genoa ceded its rights to Corsica to France.

To foster the development of a French faction, the King of France sought to gain the support of the island's nobles, whom he incorporated into his kingdom's aristocracy. Napoleon's family, although originally from Tuscany, had been on Corsica since the 15th century. On Sept. 13, 1771, Charles Buonaparte, the father of the future emperor, had his family officially declared "nobles whose nobility can be proven to be more than 200 years old." (Napoleon adopted the French spelling of his last name-bonaparte-after becoming a captain in the army.)

Taking advantage of the privileges their status as French aristocrats afforded them, Charles obtained a royal scholarship for Napoleon to the Royal Military Academy in Brienne (Champagne) in 1777. Napoleon was a student there until October, 1784, when he was admitted to Paris' prestigious military college, the Ecole Militaire, founded by Louis XV to train young men to be officers and gentlemen. Attaining the rank of second lieutenant of artillery in the La Fere regiment in 1785, he began his career as a soldier.

In 1789, financial crisis led to the downfall of the absolute monarchy. Frances support of the American cause during the War of Independence cost more than the Royal Treasury could afford, making it necessary to borrow money since it was impossible to raise taxes. The imminent specter of bankruptcy obliged Louis XVI to convoke a meeting in May of elected representatives of the three orders of the realm - nobility, clergy, and commoners. The determination of the deputies of the Third Estate, which represented the people, to demand fiscal equality was met by the absolute and uncompromising refusal of the privileged classes - the nobles and the clergy - who were supported by the King.

The final break came on June 21, when the representatives declared themselves a National Assembly. The Revolution had begun, and Louis XVI could not stop the impetus. On July 14, in defiance of royal power, the population of Paris stormed the Bastiue, a government prison that was partly closed, but symbolized the arbitrary justice of the absolute monarchy. During the nights of Aug. 4 and 5, the National Assembly abolished all privileges and, on Aug. 26, adopted the Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights, inspired by the American Declaration of Independence.

At the request of his fellow Corsicans, Napoleon wrote the National Assembly to complain of the attitude of the King's representative: "You who are the protectors of freedom deign to pay us some attention from time to time, for we were formerly its most zealous defenders." Napoleon had anchored his native island firmly in the revolutionary camp.

France declared war on Austria on April 20, 1792, and on England on Feb. 1, 1793. Prussia, the German states, Russia, Spain, Naples, and Sardinia joined the coalition against the French. Louis XVI tried to thwart the Revolution, but his attempt to flee abroad left him suspected of treason.

Rival political factions were at each other's throats and there was utter chaos. On Aug. 10, 1793, a mob attacked the Tuileries Palace, where the King and his family were in residence, to demand that he be handed over to the people for trial. The Royal Guard, made up of Swiss soldiers, was massacred. On the evening of Aug. 10, the monarchy was overthrown. The French Republic, "one and indivisible," was proclaimed on Sept. 25.

Meanwhile, in Napoleon's homeland, those who favored joining the new Republic, led by the Bonapartes, confronted those who dreamed of a free and independent Corsica. In June, 1793, after their house was looted, Napoleon and his family decided it was wiser to go to the mainland. They landed in Toulon on June 13 and found southern France in rebellion. Napoleon immediately was requisitioned to serve in the Republican army since the southwestern and southeastern provinces had revolted against Paris. Having seceded from the Republic, they refused to obey any orders from the capital. The Revolution found itself in serious straits during that summer. The Austro-Prussian armies had trampled Frances borders, and Toulon surrendered to the English fleet.

Under the orders of Gen. Carteaux, a former court painter who became a commanding officer in the Revolution, Napoleon took part in the siege of Toulon, which had to be wrested from the English. In the midst of the fighting, the brother of Robespierre, who would inspire the Reign of Terror, noticed how well the intrepid and untiring artillery captain commanded his batteries. After the enemy troops hastily had reboarded their ships on Sept. 22, Napoleon was named brigadier general in recognition of his courage and valor. He won a reputation there, but also caught that terrible skin disease that gave him the olive complexion and leanness so often noticeable in his early portraits.

To avoid the risk of another dictatorship, a new constitution, adopted in 1795, entrusted executive power to a five-member committee cared the Directoire. In October, the royalist insurrection took a more dramatic turn. The government assigned Barras, an influential member of the Directoire, the task of re-establishing law and order and placed all available generals under his authority. When the royalist uprising was put down on Oct. 5, Napoleon was propelled to the front of the political scene. Barras chose Napoleon as second-incommand of the Army of the Interior on Oct. 8 and named him commander-in-chief on Oct. 26. During this time, Napoleon met Rose de Beauharnais, the future Empress Josephine, at the home of Barras. She was the widow of a general who had been guillotined during the Reign of Terror and the mother of two children, Eugene and Hortense. They married on March 9, 1796.

By 1795, fighting had stopped between France and most of its enemies. The only unresolved conflicts were with England on the seas and on land with Austria, supported by the southern German states and Italian princes such as the King of Piedmont-Sardinia. Maintaining that France only could defeat England by winning on the continent, Napoleon advised attacking Austria, London's ally, by undertaking a military offensive in northern Italy. He convinced the Directoire of his plan, and was named commander of the army of Italy on March 2, 1796.

By March 26, he was ready to move, and his lightning offensive took the enemy by surprise. In just 18 days (April 10-28), he defeated the Sardinian army, pushed back the Austrians, won six battles, and forced the King of Sardinia to withdraw from the allied coalition against France. After eliminating Piedmont, Napoleon concentrated on Austria. On May 10, the French smashed the Austrian rear guard at Lodi. On the 16th, they entered Milan. The Austrians had to evacuate Lombardy rapidly, they retreated to Mantua. With Napoleon occupying Lombardy, the Dukes of Parma and Modena, the King of Naples, and the Pope were left with no option but to surrender.

Napoleon attacked the Austrians in the swamps of Arcole (Nov. 15-17) and defeated them at Rivoli (Jan. 14, 1797). Mantua surrendered on Feb. 2. Capitalizing on this victory, Napoleon moved into Austria, marching on Vienna to force Emperor Francis II to sue for peace. The armistice was signed March 31.

The Italian Campaign made France aware of its military might, and Napoleon's fame was at its zenith. He had negotiated with the enemy without paying the slightest attention to the Directoire, which only could concur. The government had no choice but to lavish honors on the hero of the Italian Campaign. France had defeated Austria, recovered its natural frontiers, and consolidated its hold on Italy. Only England held out.

The Directoire argued for an invasion of England, but Napoleon had a much more ambitious plan to put an end to the supremacy of Britain. To destroy England, France must conquer Egypt, a province of the Ottoman Empire, and then move on to India, from which the English would be expelled.

Assured of the support of Talleyrand, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Napoleon convinced the five members of the Directoire to agree to his plan. The government was relieved, perhaps, to see this general who had become dangerously popular leave France to undertake a distant campaign. Napoleon sailed from Thulon on May 19, 1798, with 54,000 men and 280 ships.

On its way across the Mediterranean, the French fleet captured Malta on June 9. It reached Alexandria on July 1, having eluded the pursuing English fleet, under the command of Adm. Horatio Nelson. By July 7, he was fighting in the desert and moving up the Nile toward Cairo. On July 21, he engaged the Egyptian army. Before the battle, Napoleon harangued his troops. Pointing to the pyramids, he told them: "Soldiers, forty centuries of history are watching you." Victory gave him control of the Egyptian capital.

Napoleon, with barely 12,000 men, decided to advance into Palestine to engage the 500,000 warriors of the powerful Turkish army. On March 7, 1799, he stormed the fortified port of Jaffa, where plague struck many of his soldiers. On March 19, he attacked Saint John of Acre, but was not able to capture the city. On May 10, he retreated to Cairo with the survivors of an army decimated by epidemics. Regrouping his troops, Napoleon defeated the 18,000 janissaries of the second Turkish army entrenched in Aboukir on July 25, pushing them to the coast.

The situation had turned to his advantage. The country's borders were secured and the population under control. The news from France was more alarming and convinced Napoleon he should return to Paris immediately. The Directoire had ordered the occupation of the Papal States and Switzerland. Again, Europe was at war. Napoleon expressed his aggravation and his ambition to one of his officers: "I'll get rid of that bunch of lawyers who pay us no heed and who are incapable of governing the Republic, and then I'll take over." On Aug. 23, 1799, he secretly set sail for France.

In Paris, Napoleon found the government in desperate straits. Complete control was his for the taking and, with the help of Talleyrand, he organized a coup d'etat on Nov. 9, 1799. Named First Consul of the Republic, Napoleon declared that the Revolution was over. Much later, he revealed that it was not until after the Battle of the Pyramids that the scope of his ambition became clear to him: "Then I really knew that my wildest dreams could come true." Napoleon was on his way to becoming Emperor.

In an attempt to end hostilities with England and Austria, Bonaparte had made peace overtures in December, 1799. They were rejected, and the First Consul decided to impose his will by force. In May, 1800, he assisted Italy, which again was threatened by the coalition of allies against France. With surprising daring, he moved his troops across the Alps by way of the Great Saint Bernard Pass. On June 9, he was in Milan, and on the 14th, he crushed the Austrians at Marengo. England, exhausted by seven years of incessant warfare, finally agreed to lay down arms. The signing of the Treaty of Luniville with the Austrian Emperor Francis II on Feb. 9, 1801, and the Treaty of Amiens with London on March 27, 1802, brought peace to the continent, although it would be of short duration.

Meanwhile, half a world away, new opportunities blossomed. In order not to compromise these delicately crafted arrangements, Bonaparte abandoned the idea of taking possession of Louisiana. Spain had returned the territory to France according to terms of a treaty the two countries officially ratified Oct. 2, 1801. The First Consul was aware of Pres. Thomas Jefferson's determination to defend American territory against any foreign power that might have designs on New Orleans. Bonaparte thus thought it wiser to come to an agreement with "this burgeoning power," as he called the U.S. On April 30, 1803, Louisiana was sold to the Americans for 60,000,000 francs, plus 20,000,000 francs to cover indemnities (a total of approximately $15,000,000).

To the world, France appeared to have come out of the Revolution a stronger nation. However, it had been weakened domestically by six years of fierce fighting for power among the different political factions. Thus, Bonaparte's first task was to re-establish peace within the country. The First Consul confirmed his extraordinary skill as an organizer and statesman. "To deal with public, administrative and military affairs," he used to say, "one must have strength of character, the power to analyze in depth and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time without tiring."

Pursuing a skillful policy of appeasement, Bonaparte worked to re-create national unity. For the country to be at peace, it was necessary to end the schism that had torn the Church apart since 1789. After a year of difficult negotiations, periodically on the point of being broken off and often interrupted, a Concordat was signed on July 15, 1801, between France and the Holy See. By its terms, Pius VII relinquished the Church's claim to confiscated ecclesiastical property - which amounted to de facto recognition of the French Republic by Rome - and Bonaparte declared Catholicism the "religion of the majority of the French," without giving up the principle of religious pluralism. In this way, the First Consul confirmed his authority over a Church whose clergy and people now unequivocally owed him allegiance.

Bonaparte took advantage of the peace he had restored to increase his own powers. Proclaimed First Consul for life in August, 1802, he had a new constitution adopted that gave him the right to designate his successor. The Thileries, the former palace of the French kings, became the official residence of the head of state.

The more the political scene moved ostensibly away from republican ideals, the more worried the royalists became, since they still nursed a vain hope the monarchy would be re-established. Hostilities were renewed between England and France in 1803, after the Treaty of Amiens was violated. Several royalists who had taken refuge in London took advantage of the rift to hatch a plot against the First Consul with the blessing of the English. Denounced, arrested, and questioned, the conspirators confessed that they had acted for a French prince. The fact that Louis de Bourbon-Conde, Duke of Enghien and the cousin of Louis XVI, happened to be in the German Duchy of Baden at the time convinced Napoleon that he was the guilty party. Shrouded in utmost secrecy, Bonapartes police kidnapped the prince on March 15, 1804, brought him back to Paris, and, after a mock trial, executed him at the Chiteau of Vincennes near Paris. The assassination of the prince precipitated a definitive break with the royalists. There was no further obstacle between Bonaparte and the throne. On May 18, 1804, the Senate proclaimed Napoleon Emperor of the French, and Josephine became his Empress.

The Napoleonic Empire

With the creation of the Napoleonic Empire, Bonaparte established himself as the successor of Charlemagne, from whom he borrowed the eagle with spread wings to decorate his standards. From that point on, the new Emperor was on equal footing with the emperors of Germany and Russia. The official Coronation of Napoleon as Emperor in December, 1804, provided the occasion for sumptuous festivities of unprecedented splendor. On Dec. 2, the Emperor and Empress, cloaked in velvet and ermine, were crowned under the golden tapestries that decorated the Cathedral of Notre-dame.

Three days later, on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris, Napoleon presented the army with its flags. To the soldiers who paraded in front of him, he declared: "These eagles will always be your rallying point. They will be wherever your Emperor decides they are necessary to defend his throne and his people." Several months later, on May 26, 1805, in Milan, Napoleon crowned himself King of Italy, placing the traditional iron crown on his own head. The advent of a new dynasty was celebrated throughout Paris and the French provinces.

After 1804, Napoleon was determined to re-establish an aristocracy, whose wealth and influence would be linked to the imperial government. In 1808, at the height of his power, he created a functional nobility, granting hereditary titles under certain conditions to individuals, rather than families. Since there is no power without public show, royal protocol was reinstated, and the Court of Louis XVI served as a model for palace life under the Emperor and Empress. The Emperor showered gifts and favors on Josephine, his brothers and sisters who had by now become princes and princesses, as well as on the high dignitaries of the realm.

For the Emperor's Coronation, the City of Paris ordered a magnificent table service in vermeil, made up of more than 1,000 pieces, from the famous goldsmith Henri August. In 1811, there were nine major shipments of silver and vermeil tableware for the imperial palaces. Josephine had an almost fanatical passion for gold-plate and jewelry, as well as for dresses. At her death, in 1814, the coffers at Malmaison overflowed with 3,000,000 francs worth of jewels, perhaps the largest private collection ever assembled by a sovereign.

Napoleon also planned to remodel the capital to make it "the most beautiful city that could be." Paris would be covered with arcades and colonnades. The Emperor dreamt of a triumphal avenue that would extend from the Temple of Glory at the Madeleine to a Temple of Peace to be built on the hill at Montmartre. Along the Tuileries Gardens, he had the rue de Rivoli laid out," straight as a yew tree." On the site of the Bastille, he ordered that a monumental fountain be built in the shape of an elephant. Often, such grandiose projects searcely were begun. The incessant warfare and brevity of the imperial monarchy hindered construction and prevented their completion.

The violation of the Treaty of Amiens in October, 1803, meant renewed warfare with England, giving Napoleon another chance to defeat "perfidious Albion." Planning to land on British soil, he concentrated his troops in the north of France, near Calais. The rout of the French fleet at Trafalgar by Nelson on Oct. 21, 1805, however, showed Napoleon that there was no way he ever could win a sea war against England. He had no choice but to acknowledge his rival's absolute naval dominance.

On the continent, Russia, Austria, Sweden, and Naples stood with England against France. Napoleon sent his troops to fight the Austrian army that had invaded Bavaria. On Dec. 2, 1805, he won a decisive victory over the Austro-Russian forces at Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg deprived Austria of its German and Italian possessions, which it was forced to hand over to Bavaria and France. In 1806, Prussia, worried about Napoleon's success in Germany, organized another coalition that obliged him to take up arms again. On Oct. 14, he crushed the two Prussian armies on the battlefields of Jena and Auerstadt. Prussia caved in. Defeated at Eylau in February, 1807, then at Friedland in June, Russia's Czar Alexander I also agreed to a cease-fire. He met Napoleon at Tilsit and suggested they become allies and divide Europe up into an Eastern and Western Empire.

Napoleon became master of Europe and assembled his successes into a family network, the Great Empire. His brother Joseph replaced the Bourbons on the throne of the Kingdom of Naples. His bother Louis became ruler of the former Batavian Republic, which became the Kingdom of Holland. Napoleon transformed the states along the Rhine into the Duchy of Berg, which he gave to his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. From Prussia, which lost half of its territory, he took its western provinces to create the Kingdom of Westphalia for his brother Jerome and its eastern ones to make the Grandduchy of Warsaw. His allies, the Dukes of Bavaria and Wilrttemberg, were made kings.

In November, 1806, Napoleon consolidated his position on the continent by decreeing a blockade against England. Unable to defeat Great Britain on the battlefield or at sea, he thought to bring his enemy to its knees by asphyxiating the country economically. To be truly effective, the continental blockade had to be total. Its strict application inevitably led Napoleon on to new conquests. In 1807, he ordered his troops to occupy the ports of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck on the Baltic Sea. Portugal was next, although trade with England was virtually its only source of income. Napoleon annexed Holland and deposed Louis, whom he considered too lenient in his attempts to eliminate contraband. In 1808, the Emperor invaded Spain, which he gave to Joseph to rule. In spite of his efforts, Napoleon's older brother never really overcame the fierce resistance of the Spaniards, who were actively supported by England. The war immobilized 300,000 of Napoleon's best soldiers until 1814 without achieving notable results, when he sorely needed them on other fronts. Austria took advantage of the Emperor's difficulties in Spain to reopen hostilities in April, 1809. After winning the Battle of Wagram in July, Napoleon forced Vienna to make new, major territorial concessions. He confiscated the ports of Trieste and Fiume and made them part of the Illyrian Provinces.

Napoleon also thought about the future and the dynasty he wanted to found, but the Empress was unable to give him the heir he so ardently desired. In December, 1809, Josephine agreed to a divorce, accepting the inevitable, while being compensated generously for her sacrifice. Napoleon immediately began looking for a new spouse. The Austrian Emperor, who was forced to recognize his adversary's military superiority, at least for the time being, let Napoleon know that he would be willing to grant him the hand of his 18-year-old daughter, Archduchess Marie-Louise. Flattered by this offer of alliance with the Hapsburgs, Napoleon submitted a formal request. The marriage took place by proxy in Vienna on March 10, 1810. On March 22, the new Empress arrived in France amid great pomp and circumstance. A son was born on March 20, 1811. Napoleon was as deliriously happy as he was supremely powerful.

In spite of appearances, Napoleon's hold on Europe was not firm. The Continental Blockade did not bring England to its knees, but did cause a serious economic crisis within the Empire. Moreover, French domination throughout Europe gave rise to nationalist sentiments among the vassal populations, which manifested more and more resistance to the occupation of their countries. Finally, Austria and Prussia were not true allies; they were just waiting for the right moment to wreak vengeance on the French. Yet, it was Czar Alexander, unhappy about the creation of the Grandduchy of Warsaw, who was the first to betray Napoleon.

When the Emperor declared war on Russia in June, 1812, the curtain rose on the final act of the imperial saga. To fight the Czar's 300,000 regular troops, Napoleon assembled an army of 600,000 men, with each vassal state furnishing its contingent of soldiers. The Russians adopted a tactic known as the scorched-earth retreat, withdrawing as the enemy advanced, leaving only smoldering farms and towns in their wake, aiming to avoid combat and draw the French as far as possible into their country. On Sept. 7, Napoleon crossed the Moscow River; on the 14th, he entered Moscow as it burned. In a letter to Marie-Louise, dated three days later, the Emperor wrote: "I had no idea what this city was like. There were 500 palaces as beautiful as the Elysbe-Napoleon, magnificently furnished in the French style, several imperial palaces, caserns, and wonderful hospitals. Everything is gone, destroyed by the fire which has been raging for four days.... It was the Governor and the Russians who, furious they had been defeated, set this beautiful city on fire.... The miserable creatures even took the precaution of removing or destroying the pumps."

On Oct. 19, when he realized that Alexander would not sue for peace, Napoleon ordered his men to retreat. Tortured by hunger and ravaged by the cold Moscow winter, the Great Army disintegrated into a bedraggled mob, sniped at by Cossack sharpshooters. On Nov. 29, what was left of the army escaped from their Russian pursuers and managed to cross the Berezina River. The Emperor returned to Paris, having left 380,000 of his soldiers dead, wounded, or prisoners of war. It was the culminating disaster. The Great Army was no more.

On Feb. 28, 1813, Frederick-William III of Prussia abandoned the Emperor and concluded an alliance with Alexander I to wrest his country from the grip of Napoleon. On June 27, Austria defected and joined the newly formed coalition. One catastrophe led to another. On Oct. 19, Napoleon had to abandon Leipzig and retreat from Germany. The Campaign of 1813 was a complete failure, and all the possessions conquered by the Emperor beyond the Rhine were irreparably lost. The Austrians invaded Italy. The Kings of Naples and Bavaria both betrayed the Emperor. The Illyrian Provinces fell at the end of October. The Tyrol revolted, and the enemy armies crossed the Alps and the Rhine.

For the first time in 10 years, battles no longer would be fought in the far-flung reaches of the Empire, but, rather, on home ground. With 80,000 recruits, Napoleon attempted to stand up to the 250,000 troops the allies had massed against him, but his marshals seemed weary of war and fought only half-heartedly. The few victories won in February were not enough to stop the allies. They continued to move toward the capital, which the Empress Marie-Louise and the government abandoned on March 28. On March 31, the coalition armies entered Paris, bringing with them Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI, whom they put on the throne. On April 3, 1814, the Senate proclaimed the fall of Napoleon. The Emperor, who had taken refuge at Fontainebleau, abdicated on April 6. The allies allowed him to keep his title of Emperor and granted him sovereignty over the island of Elba, located in the Mediterranean between Corsica and Tuscany. By the Treaty of Paris, signed on May 30, 1814, France was forced to surrender the territories it had acquired, and the borders of 1792 were reestablished.

Elba and Saint Helena

On April 20, 1814, Napoleon bade farewell to his faithful followers in the courtyard of the Chiteau of Fontainebleau. He left France for Elba, a tiny principality that measured a mere 85.7 square miles and had only 12,000 inhabitants. On May 4, the Emperor landed at Portoferraio, the capital of his new realm. One can wonder how someone who wanted to be emperor of the world could be satisfied with ruling over a miniature kingdom. Yet, not easily discouraged, Napoleon took his role as sovereign seriously. He ordered the olive groves to be replanted, built roads and hospitals, and made sure drinking water was readily available to the population. At the Mulini Palace, his official residence, he re-created a sort of imperial court with a formal etiquette. Pauline, the Princess Borghese, and his mother arrived to share his exile, but the Empress Marie-Louise refused. Balls and stage plays kept them all from being bored.

In spite of close surveillance by the Austrians and the French, Napoleon received thousands of letters from all over Europe. Numerous visitors brought him the latest newspapers from London and Paris. From them, he learned of the death of the Empress Josephine, who died at Malmaison on May 29 from complications brought on by a very bad cold and by anxiety about the Emperor.

Napoleon kept abreast of developments in France, where popular discontent was on the rise. Louis XVIII had no great support among the people, who feared that, with the return of the monarchy, the freedoms and advantages won by the Revolution would disappear. Napoleon's partisans were numerous and well-organized. A Bonapartist party had been formed around the Emperor's former Secretary of State. The army had rallied around the King with little enthusiasm, and the young generals looked to the Emperor for leadership. Napoleon decided to leave his home of exile to tempt fate again.

He embarked from Elba on Feb. 26, 1815, and, avoiding the English frigates, landed on French soil near Antibes on March 1. From Grenoble to Lyon, he was acclaimed, and the troops rallied to him. Marshal Ney, sent to arrest him, threw himself at the Emperor's feet.

On March 20, Napoleon arrived in Paris. To cries of "Long live the Emperor," he returned to the Tuileries Palace, which Louis XVIII had fled to take refuge in Belgium.

The vast majority of the peasants and workers supported Bonaparte, though the professional classes, bourgeois, and the aristocracy hesitated, when they were not outright hostile. Napoleon knew it was risky to rely only on the popular classes. He tried to appease the elite and to fulfill their democratic expectations by establishing a liberal constitution. Many observers felt, however, that Napoleon was not a sincere supporter of parliamentary monarchy and that the act was just a political maneuver.

It appeared obvious that the adventure could not possibly succeed. In fact, Napoloon's return to power lasted only 100 days. From the start, his political survival was compromised by the betrayal of the marshals, who were anxious for peace in order to benefit from the wealth they had accumulated; the passivity of the government; the hesitancy of the bourgeoisie; and royalist resistance in western France. Above all, his fate depended on the reaction of the allied sovereigns, who were meeting at the Congress of Vienna. As soon as they received word of the Emperor's escape, the coalition again closed ranks against him, declared him an outlaw, and refused to negotiate directly with Bonaparte.

Since he had no choice but to fight, Napoleon decided to take the offensive. On June 13, he entered Belgium with the hope that he could eliminate the Anglo-Prussian armies before reinforcements arrived. He pushed back the Prussians without really defeating them, then turned on the English, who were solidly entrenched near the vinage of Waterloo, approximately six miles south of Brussels. The battle began on June 18 and was one of the fiercest the imperial army ever had fought. The French efforts were in vain, and the allies were victorious.

Defeated, Napoleon returned to Paris. He still thought he could count on the support of the nation, but the deputies in the National Assembly demanded that he resign. On June 22, in the Elysee Palace, he abdicated. "My political life is finished," he wrote, "and I proclaim my son, under the title Napoleon II, Emperor of the French.... Unite for the good of the nation and remain independent." This solution proved unsatisfactory, as there was general opposition to a Napoleonic dynasty. Even the return of Louis XVIII seemed the lesser of two evils.

Completely abandoned, the deposed Emperor went to Rochefort on the western coast of France. On July 9, he took up residence on the island of Aix, but, for the first time in his life, the future looked bleak. Should he go to America? In that land of opportunity, he could begin a new life. To do so, however, he would have to fight his way past the English squadron patrolling the coast, and Napoleon had lost any desire to fight. The best thing was to surrender to the English.

"I have come, like Themistocles, to claim hospitality at the hearth of the British people," he wrote the Prince Regent of England. "I place myself under the protection of their laws." On July 15, he boarded the British man-of-war Bellerophon, which took him to Plymouth. On July 31, the Emperor learned he would be deported to Saint Helena, a tiny volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic with its nearest neighbor 800 miles away.

To all extents and purposes, the saga ends here, for the six years of exile Napoleon spent on Saint Helena seemed more like a period of suspended animation than another chapter in the adventure-filled life of the Emperor. When he died on May 5, 1821, his passing was not a major event, for Napoleon Bonaparte already had entered the world of myths in which the hero survives, never to be forgotten, crowned with immortality.

The largest exhibition devoted to the life and era of Napoleon Bonaparte ever presented in North America is appearing at the Grand Exhibition Hall, Memphis (Tenn.) Cook Convention Center. Featuring approximately 175 art masterpieces and historic objects, "Napoleon" will be on view through Sept. 22.
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Title Annotation:various artists, Memphis Cook Convention Center, Memphis, Tennessee
Author:Chevallier, Bernard
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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