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The French Empire (French: Empire Français), also colloquially known as the Empire (l'Empire) in France, was the empire established by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1804, which quickly became the dominant European power and being the leading nation throughout the world during the Napoleonic Age.
Its establishment led to Austria and Russia's entrance into the War of the Third Coalition. The Empire persisted until the end of the War of the Sixth Coalition and was briefly replaced by the Bourbon Restoration (Louis XVIII's Kingdom of France), but was permanently restored to power after Napoléon's return from exile in March 1815; this, similarly, triggered the initiation of the War of the Seventh Coalition. Napoléon's victory here and the subsequent Treaty of Prague began a golden age for the Empire economically, militarily, culturally, and politically, which lasted until ???? with the ????. During this time, the French Empire was often recognized as the single most powerful and influential state in the world, with pan-continental abilities of power projection and immense economic and military resources at its disposal. Though this position was occasionally challenged by other world powers, the Empire always maintained its spot during the Napoleonic Age.
France was at the head of most military innovations of the 19th century. Emperor Napoléon II, shortly before his death, ordered the construction of the ironclad Gloire, which would revolutionize naval warfare and theory. The Chassepot rifle, introduced in 1862, was widely regarded as the finest military rifle of its period, and the French Imperial Army was regarded as extremely proficient in drill, maneuver, and melee combat; similarly, the French cavalry and artillery were second to none for most of this period. The Imperial Navy, often at odds with the British Royal Navy, could match them in numbers and in the quality of its ships, crews and officers. Admirals like Abel Aubert Dupetit Thouars, Amédée Courbet, and others, were considered the finest naval officers of their age, and helped to greatly expand France's global overseas empire.
France's economy under most of the Empire was the largest in the world; later on, France became one of the biggest producers and exporters of oil, foodstuffs and manufactured goods. In perhaps the most famous financial incident of the early Empire, Minister of Finance Louis-Emmanuel Corvetto re-established the value of the Franc and successfully dodged the Panic of 1823 with great skill and minimal damage.
Politically and diplomatically, France oversaw the establishment of a grand sphere of client-states and allied nations, connected to France either through lineage and marriage ties, economic and political necessity, military protection, or some combination of the three. This geographic empire contained the majority of people living in Europe, and over half of the continent's GDP. A de-facto absolute monarchy, the French Parliament acted largely as a rubber stamp for the Emperor's legislative and executive initiatives and agenda.
Establishment and Napoleonic Wars
Beginning of the Napoleonic Age
Emperor of the French