Napoleon is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest military leaders. An ambitious and skilled military strategist, his legacy shaped European politics for decades. His remarkable story is the subject of this new epic action-packed film Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Here are some facts about the great emperor before watching the film.
Though Napoleon had a remarkable rise to power, eventually proclaiming himself emperor of France, he had an even greater fall and died at the young age of 51, some suspecting that he was poisoned.
Following Napoleon’s defeat at the battle of Waterloo on June 8th, 1815, he surrendered, was exiled to the island of Saint Helena in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and was housed in a wooden bungalow, often damp and mouldy. Many believe that it was the English’s way of hastening his death.
The movie discusses Napoleon’s ambition, relentless pursuit of power and world domination, as well as his famous love story with Josephine (played by Academy Award nominee Vanessa Kirby) and their turbulent 13-year marriage.
Josephine and Napoleon met in 1795 when she was known as Rose, aged 32 and six years his senior. Josephine was already widowed with two children but lived a lavish Parisian life. The young Napoleon was fascinated by Josephine, and in March of 1796, the two were married. Unfortunately, the marriage was not well received by the French court nor by Napoleon’s family, though he remained undeterred. Just two days after their wedding, Napoleon left his bride to lead the French army in Italy.
Despite Napoleon’s passion and many love letters to Josephine, she engaged in many affairs whilst he was away. Upon discovering her unfaithfulness, Napoleon had many affairs of his own to enrage her, though he never divorced Josephine.
In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France, making Josephine Empress. As Empress, Josephine was a great patroness of the arts and spent lavishly on interior decorations and architecture, creating immense debt that distracted Napoleon.
One problem that Josephine faced, however, was the fact that she was unable to bear Napoleon any children, and thus no heirs to the throne. So, in 1809, Napoleon decided to divorce Josephine, claiming it was for the good of France. It is said, however, that Napoleon still loved Josephine and did so until the day she died, insisting that she retain the rank of Empress and continued to give her a very generous allowance. Having loved her all his life, it is said that on his deathbed, he uttered the words “France, The Army, The Head of The Army, Josephine.”