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Napoleon Bonaparte seized power of the French Republic in 1799 in a coup d'etat. He ruled France as First Consul in a triumvirate with Jean Cambaceres and Charles-Francois Lebrun.
On the 2nd of December, 1804, Napoleon created the French Empire , crowning himself Emperor at Notre Dame. He became ruler of an empire comprising of France, most of Northern Italy. One year later, he defeated the Austrians and Russians at the Battle of Austerlitz. As a result, he reorganised the German states into the Confederation of the Rhine, a French protectorate. Earlier that year, Napoleon had created the Kingdom of Italy, with himself as king.
In 1805, a small French fleet arrived in the new Republic of New South Wales. After leaving a garrison to assist the new republic, they sailed south to found the French colony of Terre Napoleon.
In 1806, Napoleon made his brother Joseph King of Naples, effectively bringing all of the Italian Peninsula under his control. The next year, Napoleon signed the Treaty of Tilsit with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, creating an alliance between their two countries.
In 1808, France invaded Spain, beginning the costly Peninsula War. The Spanish army quickly disintegrated, but their British allies and British-sponsored Guerrillas continued the war. Napoleon replaced Joseph with Joachim Murat as King of Naples, and instead proclaimed him King of Spain.
In 1811, Napoleon's new Austrian wife, Marie-Louise, gave birth to a son, the future Napoleon II, ensuring the survival of the Bonaparte dynasty. That same year, France- with the assistance of their Russian allies- invaded Prussia, Denmark-Norway, and Sweden, adding them to the empire.
In 1813, Napoleon invaded Britain. Within two months, the British were defeated, the royals exiled to Saint Helena. Britain was divided into three parts: the southern part was annexed directly to the empire, Ireland was made a republic, and the remainder was made into the Kingdom of Scotland. Napoleon moved changed Joseph's title once again, this time for good, to King of Scotland. Joseph's former Kingdom; Spain, was annexed to France, as without British sponsorship, the guerrillas could not survive.
Expansion to World Power
The Southern War of 1814 was the final pase of French expansion in continental Europe. Franco-Russian forces invaded the Austrian Empire and the European Ottoman Empire, Austria becoming part of France and the Ottoman Balkans becoming part of Russia.
With Europe divided between the massive French Empire and it's satellite states: Italy, Naples, the Confederation of the Rhine and the Duchy of Warsaw; Napoleon turned his attention to the new world. As Spain had been annexed to the French Empire, all the Spanish colonies in the Americas were French colonies. The problem was that during the Peninsula War, many of the colonies had rebelled against colonial rule.
Arriving in Guyana in 1815, Napoleon spent the following seven years battling South American revolutionaries in Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico, Peru and Martinia. Eventually, he was able to come to a series of agreements with the rebel nations, known as the Bogota Accords.
The treaty was very profitable to France. The Guyanas, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Northern peru and Central America up to the Rio Grande became French colonies. However, by the treaty, France officially recognised the United Provinces of the Rio de Plata, Chile, Martinia, Peru and the Republic of the Rio Grande. The treaty comprehensively defined the boundaries, both on land and sea, of all those countries; bringing a period of relative stability to the continent.
At the same time as the South American Wars, the French were taking over Britain and Holland's former colonies. The British, Dutch and Danish Gold Coasts, Cape Town and Mauritius were all taken with hardly a shot fired in 1814. The next year, French troops from Mauritius arrived in Calcutta and demanded that the British colonial authorities submit to France. The British East India officials, however, did not accept French domination, and expelled the French. The British East India Company continued operating as an effective country well into the 19th century.
It was much the same story in the Dutch East Indies as in the Gold Coast. The civilian authorities surrendered to the french, but the military and a few settlers fled to Borneo where they set up their own government: the Dutch Republic of the East Indies.
So it was that by the death of Napoleon I in 1833, the French Empire and its colonies stretched through all of Western and Eastern Europe, Northern South America, Central America, Southern Australia, Cape Town and some of the East Indies.
Main article: Napoleon II
Napoleon II succeeded his father in 1833. The new emperor made it his life's work to improve diplomatic relations with the countries his father had made mistrustful of France. Trading ties with the new South American countries were established. Brazil was officially recognised. An embassy was opened in Rejkjavik, capital of the new Kingdom of Iceland. France's already strong relationships with Russia and the USA were further strengthened with treaties and trade deals. The French embassy in the Ottoman Empire was re-established after years of tension between the two empires. Diplomatic ties were even established with the fervently British Dominion of Van Diemen's Land.
At home, Napoleon II gave more powers to the parliament, hoping to create a more constitutional monarchy along the lines of the former UK.
Napoleon II's policies of friendship and peace earned him the epitaph "Napoleon II, the Peacemaker"
Unfortunately, the stability at home and abroad created by Napoleon II would not outlive him.
The nineteen year old Maximillian, son of Napoleon II, succeeded his father in 1851. An inexperienced, naive young man, he was dominated by his second cousin, Louis-Napoleon. In late 1851, Maximillian violently suppressed a popular uprising in Hungary on the advice if his second cousin. This incited hatred from the powerful Liberal faction, who refused to pass the Emperor's laws in the senate. Seeing the political deadlock as a chance to become more than just the power behind the throne, Louis-Napoleon took power as emperor on the 2nd of December, 1852. Maxamillian was exiled to Mexico, given the honorary title of Governeur.
When Napoleon III took the throne in a coup d'etat in 1852, he immediately set about limiting the powers of the French Parliament, and concentrating power on himself.
Despite the autocratic nature of his reign, Napoleon III oversaw some major accomplishments. Paris was redesigned, creating the wide boulevards and parks that we know today. He upped the ante on industrialisation, building factories, railways and steamships. The navy was modernised with ironclad, steam-powered warships. Very profitable colonies were established in Cochin-China and the Philippines. India was finally added to the empire in 1870. And, in 1869, Napoleon III and the Ottoman Sultan jointly opened the Suez canal, completed after ten years of cooperation between the French and Ottoman Empires.
Towards the end of his reign, Napoleon III began giving the parliament more powers, but by his death in 1873, France was still essentially an absolute monarchy.
Napoleon IV, the son of Napoleon III and his wife, Eugine de Montijo, ascended to the throne upon his father's death. The new, young emperor was greatly influenced by liberals and gave the French parliament back the powers it had lost during his father's reign. In 1875, suffrage was expanded to include all men over the age of eighteen. For the first time in its history, the French Empire was a truly democratic institution.
The young emperor took a great deal of interest in the colonies, and traveled extensively to each. He personally pushed the parliament towards passing the Aide Coloniale bill, aimed at industrialising and educating the colonies.
It was natural therefore, that when the Zulus invaded the Cape Colony in 18--, he should personally lead the troops. The Zulu War was unpopular with the French public. As the hope of a quick victory against the "black horde" faded, the public becam disillusioned by the war. In 18-- Napoleon IV was killed by a Zulu sharpshooter as he led his troops into battle.
So it was that Victor Napoleon, second cousin of the old emperor, came to the throne. Sensing the public disapproval of the war, he entered into negotiations with the Zulus, with a final treaty being signed at the end of 1881.
Napoleon V, his popularity growing with the end of the war, began petitioning the parliament to pass legislation improving the living and working standards of French citizens. This culminated in 1899 with the landmark Second Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. It stipulated the right of all french citizens to work for a fair wage, to have food, drink and shelter, to be treated equally in the workplace and to have the right of assembly.
The declaration made the emperor's popularity skyrocket, and his successful negotiation of the end of the Russo-American War in 1902 made him gain yet more popularity, both at home and overseas.
The final major act of his reign occurred in 1920, the groundbreaking Reformes Coloniale bill. This elevated all the French colonies overseas to integral provinces of France, with representation in the parliament. This fundamentally changed the entire empire. Instead of being a European empire with colonies, France had become a truly global empire.
Napoleon V died peacefully on the 3rd of May, 1926. He was succeeded by his son, Napoleon VI.
Unlike his father, Napoleon VI would reign through a dark time in the empire's history.
The outbreak of the Asia-Pacific War of ___ was an enormous drain on the empire's resources. After four long years of fighting, the resulting stalemate just wasn't enough for the widows of France.
The post-war depression hit France hard. Napoleon VI ordered a complete overhaul of the economy, and passed at least ten austerity measures. There were protests in Hungary, which were put down by armed police.