causes of the downfall of Napoleon

    0  Views: 1412 Answers: 5 Posted: 7 years ago

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    The Continental System backfired. Great Britain was able to produce goods cheaper and better than any country. The ban on British goods only resulted in economic instability in Europe.

    Napoleon blamed Russia and raised an army of 600,000 men to attack.

    Napoleon marched into Moscow and watched it burn. After awhile, Napoleon decided to retreat from Russia.

    The retreat was devastating. The bitter winter and Cossacks reduced Napoleon's army of 600,000 men to only 30,000. Napoleon deserted his army to come back and raise another one. Seeing their opportunity, Austria, Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Sweden formed an alliance against France.

    After the Allies took Paris, Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau on April 11, 1814.

    The allies restored the Bourbon dynasty to the French throne. They gave Napoleon the island of Elba to rule. He was even allowed to keep his imperial title and was given a yearly income of 2 million francs.

    Napoleon never saw his son or wife again. However, once on Elba, Napoleon planned his return to France.

    Read more here :


    This of course is one version {Roy,}Wildly aclaimed,

    Well....he was particularly short.

    Now for the long answer >>>>>

    The vast empire of Napoleon was based on power but it was hollow from within and could collapse at any time before an ordinary blowing wind. Napoleon knew this well. Once he said, "The hereditary kings can get back their kingdom even after their twenty defeats but for me it is not possible for I rose to power through the coup."

    He also stressed that the day his power was ended his influence would be no more and would not be afraid of him. In fact, his estimate proved true and it took no time for his kingdom to collapse, based as it was on the principle of power.

    He touched the zenith of his power at the time of the treaty of Tilsit in 1807 and then began his decline according to natural law. When the zenith is achieved, the nadir is sure to follow.

    He was exiled to St. Helena after his defeat at the battlefield of Waterloo in 1815. Napoleon during his stay at St. Helena admitted in his memoirs that Spain, Pope and Russsia were the main factors that contributed to his downfall.

    The vast empire of France collapsed like a house of cards after the imprisonment of Napoleon at St. Helena. The following were the chief reasons of his downfall:

    The End of Revolutionary Spirit

    Napoleon had confidence that people of France would rise against the allied attack like in 1793 when they compelled them to flee. But at last they gathered courage and invaded France. By that time the spirit revolution had vanished and people realized that it was the question the ambitions of Napoleon only.

    They seemed to have no concern France which they had in 1793. The people were tired of incessant wars. They wanted peace.

    They opposed the compulsory recruitment Napoleon. Several young men broke their teeth and cut their thumbs avoid recruitment in the army. Thus in the changed circumstances the revolutionary spirit had subsided.

    Superiority of British Naval Power

    Napoleon was the victor on land but his naval fleet was not powerful enough. Nelson had established the superiority of British naval power by destroying the joint fleet of Spain and France in the battle of Trafalgar.

    England really had the greatest naval power in the continent; it could very well safeguard itself from Napoleon's invasion.

    England thwarted the continental system of Napoleon due to her powerful navy and participated in the battle of Spain and Portugal against Napoleon.

    Napoleon's military was not powerful enough to face Britain's invincible naval power. Hence the British fleet played a prominent role in his downfall.

    Obstinacy of Napoleon

    Napoleon was obstinate by nature. His allies were prepared to confine him within the natural boundaries of France even after his defeat but he did not agree to their proposals.

    Once Napoleon said, "I shall know how to die but never yield an inch of territory." In the same way he did retreat after making an attack on Spain. He also realized the difficulties during his first invasion of Russia.

    He wanted to establish a vast empire under his sway. Napoleon was aware that it was not an easy task but he did not give up his efforts. He often rejected the advice of his worthy ministers like Talleyrand and Fouche.

    When Talleyrand advised him not to invade Spain he compared him with dung in silk stocking but after the end of Spanish campaign he said:

    "The Spanish ulcer had ruined me."

    In the same way he used to name the confederation of Rhine as 'A Bad Calculation' and continental system a 'Chimera' but he never gave them up.

    Metternich unsuccessfully tried to convince Napoleon on 26th June 1813 at Dresden about the necessity of peace but seeing his pride Metternich said, "Sire, you are lost. I felt it when I came, and now that I go I am certain."

    The Military Power of Napoleon

    The successes of Napoleon depended on his military strength. The people were afraid of him and they loved him out of fear. Napoleon had the opinion that "God marches with the biggest battalions" and therefore, he recruited a vast army.

    When he failed to get men of proper age, he began to recruit the raw youths by force. It proved fatal for Napoleon as well as for France.

    The people of France began to abhor his militarism; hence Napoleon had to recruit foreigners in his army who had no love for France.

    Moreover Napoleon generally posted his armies in the countries under him and forced them to meet the expenses of his armies.

    It generated hatred in the subdued countries for Napoleon which resulted in the forming of a coalition and ultimately they (Russians, Austrians and Prussians) were able to crush the French military pride.

    Internal Weaknesses of the Army

    The army of Napoleon suffered from several internal weaknesses. Recently some documents have been found which disclose that the internal condition of Napoleon's army was not satisfactory.

    They were short of food and clothing. The soldiers were not paid their salaries for long periods and Napoleon's forced recruitment proved disastrous for the organization of the army.

    His army consisted of German, Dutch, Polish, Italian and Spanish soldiers which did not make the army a cohesive force. Soldiers of different nationalities had no concern with either victory or defeat.

    They had no nationalistic spirit for France. Thus all these inherent weaknesses of the army contributed to the downfall of Napoleon.

    His Egoism

    With the rise of Napoleon's power, there had been a tremendous boost in his ego. He began to think, his judgments were better than those of his advisers and he had an exceptionally sharp intelligence.

    He began to overlook seasoned politicians like Talleyrand and Fouche who were well renowned in diplomacy and foresight. They had remarked about his downfall:

    "It was his judgment that degenerated him and proved to be the ultimate cause of his failure."

    Napoleon's Soaring Ambitions

    Napoleon was very ambitious and that was the chief cause of his failure. He achieved victories after victories over various countries by his powerful vast army. He was dreaming to be the master not only of Europe but of the entire world.

    In order to satisfy his soaring ambitions, he perpetrated several blunders and did not care for the consequences.

    After all he was a man but he forgot that a man cannot be a god. His extraordinary ability and capability proved of no avail when he forgot that "to err is human".


    Napoleon was growing fat and his capacity to work was declining rapidly. His health was visibly deteriorating as Dr. Sloane remarked, "The causes of decline may be summed up in a single word 'exhaustion'."

    Spirit of Treachery

    Napoleon thought him self to be a great politician and diplomat and often acted treacherously with his friends. His attitude towards his allies, Portugal and Spain, was of high-handed treachery.

    His behaviour towards friendly countries made them doubt his sincerity and integrity and his friend the Czar of Russia got disillusioned with him because Napoleon used to say, "I know when to exchange the lion's skin for that of the fox."

    His Unworthy Kinsmen

    Napoleon had appointed his brothers and kinsmen on high posts in the country but all of them proved unworthy and inefficient in performing their duties. They did not prove even loyal to Napoleon and often acted treacherously. Napoleon himself accepted it thus:

    "My relatives have done more harm than I have done them good."

    Rise of Nationalism

    By a series of conquests Napoleon had established a vast empire but the people of the vanquished nations regarded him as an alien. Gradually the spirit of nationalism grew to be powerful and people began to oppose his autocratic rule.

    Napoleon had crushed Prussia and he was sure that Prussia would never raise its head against him. But the Prussians were anxious to avenge their defeat and a national awakening in Prussia was developing rapidly.

    In the same way entire Spain stood as one man against the atrocities of Napoleon. The spirit of nationalism was also growing in Italy and Germany.

    So far, Napoleon had waged wars against the Emperors but now he had to face the people imbued with the spirit of nationalism.

    It was easy to defeat the emperors but it was impossible to vanquish the nationalistic spirit of the people who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their motherland.

    Lack of Reverence in People

    People belonging to different nationalities lived in the vast empire of Napoleon. They did not have any reverence or devotion towards him and a feeling of nationalism was taking hold of them.

    They wanted to get rid of the foreign yoke. Napoleon lost the sympathies even of the French people. As he was the symbol of absolute monarchy, he did not give an opportunity to the people to participate in the affairs of the government.

    It created discontent among them. Gradually, people began to raise their voices for the fundamental rights which were assured to them during the period of revolution but Napoleon was not prepared to concede their demand. Hence a struggle was inevitable between the king and his people.

    The Continental System

    Napoleon introduced the continental system in order to defeat England in an indirect war. He compelled the European countries to take active part in this scheme. By this system he wanted to destroy the trade and commerce of England.

    He asked his vassal countries to ban the entry and movement of British ships around their ports. It resulted in the prices of various commodities shooting up. The poor people began to suffer hardships even with regard to their daily necessaries.

    Napoleon adopted a highhanded policy for the implementation of this policy. People began to think that Napoleon was the main source of their miseries and they began to despise him.

    Napoleon had to wage wars against Portugal, Spain and Russia in order to get his scheme implemented effectively. He maltreated the Pope for his slackness in implementing the continental system.

    All this measures which he adopted for the smooth running of the scheme, proved detrimental to his interests and contributed to his downfall.

    The Spanish Invasion

    Napoleon came to know through his agencies that Spain was not following his continental system sincerely and the British goods were imported from England. He, therefore, launched an attack on Spain and compelled the king and his son to give up their rights.

    The king Charles IV was pensioned off and Prince Ferdinand was imprisoned and his (Napoleon's) brother Joseph was put on the throne of Spain. It sparked the rise of national sentiments in the Spaniards.

    They waged an uneven war against Napoleon but the geographical features of Spain proved advantageous to them. They harassed and defeated the invincible of Napoleon and made the countries of Europe sit back and realize that Napoleon was no more invincible.

    The Spanish attack proved diastrous for Napoleon and ultimately he himself accepted it to be an ulcer for just as Aurangzeb accepted that Deccan had proved to be his grave.

    Russian Campaign

    Napoleon's invasion of Russia was in the nature of a great blunder, for it showed up the military weakness of Napoleon to the countries of Europe. It spurred Austria, Prussia and Germany to reorganise military power in order to avenge their defeats.

    When Napoleon proceeded to Russia he was well aware that besides Russians he had fight against the bitter cold of Russia, but he did not prepare in ad to face January and February, the two powerful commanders of Russia He had to face numerous hardships during the course of his inv along with a crushing defeat 5, 80,000 of his soldiers were killed in war. It amounted to virtual decimation of his grand army and ultimately doomed him.

    Struggle with Pope

    The Pope rejected the continental scheme of Napoleon pressurised him to go along with this scheme. When the Pope failed to oblige Napoleon, he captured Rome and made the Pope his prisoner. Papal state was annexed to France.

    On the other hand, the Pope declared him an atheist and accused him of blasphemy. The Pope was the religious and temporal head of the Catholics.

    Hence all the followers of Roman Catholic religion began to oppose him. The scholars have described struggle of Napoleon with the Pope, the greatest blunder of his life.

    Enmity with England

    The relations of France and England were worsening day by Napoleon had annoyed England by his own faults. Napoleon wanted to crush England but could not be successful to that end for want of powerful navy.

    England was not only opposed to Napoleon due to soaring ambitions but was also exciting European nations to oppose ambition of becoming the king of entire Europe.

    Thus England with powerful navy set at naught the designs of Napoleon and made him realize that he was not omnipotent or all powerful.

    Miscalculation of the Power of Enemies

    Napoleon used to underestimate the might and strength of enemies. He considered his wisdom to be a good instrument which more useful to him than the advice of several seasoned people.

    Once said to his Commander Soult, "I tell you that Wellington is a bad general and that his army is a bad army." He also once remarked about Spaniards, "I have seen nothing so cowardly as these Spanish nobles and troops."

    But both of them, the Spaniards and the Duke of Wellington contributed greatly to his downfall. Thus bloated ego and under estimation of his enemies' strength paved the way of his downfall.

    Lack of Permanent Planning

    Whatever plannings were made by Napoleon for the remaking of Europe, all were temporary. In fact no idea remained permanent in his mind. He used to change his mind like a child at play. Fisher has written about this:

    "Napoleon had no permanent plan for the settlement of Europe. There was never so restless a diplomatist. He would change the boundaries of states and open up new horizons from month to month, like a child who amuses himself with bricks, now making a castle, now a temple, now a fresh farm house and now a wall."

    This instability of his mind weakened his empire from within. Fisher remarks:

    "The downfall of Napoleon is a trilogy of which Moscow, Leipzig, Fontainebleau are the successive pieces and Waterloo the epilogue."

    Thus even after the fall of Napoleon which was an outcome of the factors referred to above, the powers which helped him to rise had not been vanquished.

    The revolution had attained its objective and the ancient regime could not be revived in Europe. Now the work of Napoleon was over, but the work of people was to begin.>>>


    I feel SOOOOOOOO inadequate now!!

    You're not short too are you? LOL
    (I think I'll have that injection now....LOL)

    Is everything I wanted to ever know about him......

    yes...notice the link says 'brief essay'?? LOL

    Not tonight Josephine!

    For one, at Waterloo, he surrendered.

    Well here is it,it is quite too long 



    ...hey that's my link!!!....cheeky eh! ;D
    ...or deja vu!

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