The Napoleonic Wars are often seen as a clash of European powers fighting for dominance over the European continent. In many ways they were, but the Napoleonic Wars are also an example of world war before 1914. Here are seven largely forgotten facts about the Napoleonic Wars…
1) The young Napoleon showed little promise
The Bonapartes (Buonapartes in Italian) originated in Italy, but Napoleon was born into a branch of the family that moved to Corsica [an island in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to France]. His parents were both of minor Corsican nobility and had married young. The couple had had another son called Napoleon four years before the more famous one, but the child died in infancy. Growing up in Corsica, Napoleon’s first language was Italian, not French. However, as his family was well off (by Corsican standards), he and his brother Joseph were sent to military academies in France.
Napoleon did not fit in particularly well. While he did learn French, he spoke it with an accent that betrayed his roots, and he was teased for sounding like a peasant. Furthermore, the other boys came from well-connected and more affluent families, and while they were good at dancing, Napoleon’s skills lay in gardening. It was not a promising start for a boy who, at various times, dreamed of becoming an officer in the French navy or an artillery instructor in the Ottoman Empire. How different history would have been had he taken one of those routes.
Aged 15, Napoleon was admitted to the elite École Militaire in Paris. This was a huge honour, which turned into a disaster when his father died of stomach cancer while Napoleon was in his first year. The young cadet was now expected to be the family’s chief source of income, while at the same time attending one of the most expensive schools in France. The situation forced him to complete the two-year course in just one, and while he came only 42nd in a class of 58, graduation meant he could become a commissioned officer just after his 16th birthday.
Credit : Jem Duducu, author of The Napoleonic Wars in 100 Facts, reveals seven things you might not have known about the 25 years (or so) of conflict… on www.historyextra.com