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The Battle of France 1814 by MeissonierNapoleon leads the remnants of the Grand Army into the heroic but ill-fated Battle of France by Meissonier (click to zoom)
Napoleon's star is bornThe Sun of Austerlitz!Napoleon on the road to TilsitNapoleon at the PyramidsNapoleon returns to Italy Napoleon's 'Spanish Ulcer'From Leipzig to FontainebleauThe Grand Army suffersNapoleon's last great victoryNapoleon's last gamble

'Strategy is the art of making use of time and space...I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute!'

The violent end of the reign of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on the guillotine in 1793 triggered an almost endless series of wars pitting France and her allies against Great Britain and hers. Known as 'The Wars of the Coalitions', these seven particular alignments of powers against France would dominate the politics of Europe for more than twenty years.

France's enemies claimed that the primary motivating factor behind the formation of the Coalitions was the need to restore the balance of power in Europe. And to accomplish this goal, they deemed it essential to delegitimize and replace Revolutionary France and the Napoleonic Empire that followed it with the disenfranchised Bourbons who could be counted on not to threaten the political affairs of the other royal houses of Europe as the Revolution and Napoleon himself obviously could.

Since the the Dauphin, Louis XVI's son and heir, had died in of tuberculosis in 1795 while still a prisoner of the Revolution, the succession to the imaginary Royal throne of France fell upon his uncle, the Count of Provence, who sat out most of the Napoleonic Wars as the guest of King George III of England but who nonetheless established in exile the 'Court' of King Louis XVIII.

In truth, however, even without recognition of the legitimacy of the Bourbon Dynasty's claim to the throne of Royal France, English resolve not to have its hereditary enemy across the Channel replace it as the preeminent military power in Europe would have more than justified all that British gold ending up in the reactionary Royal Courts of Europe...and a healthy ransom fit for an exiled King it must have been indeed.

For Napoleon, who regarded himself as the very embodiment of all that the Revolution of 1789 stood for, 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!', he saw it as his sacred duty to pick up the Allied gauntlet thrown down at the feet of France and lead the huge armies born of the Levee en Masse to the glory promised him by his 'Star of Destiny'. For all of Napoleon's mistakes, and they were as colossal as his successes, the Continental System, Spain, Russia, he nonetheless fulfilled the one great wish of his people, to lead them to glorious victory. And Napoleon led to glory some of the finest armies the world had seen since the days of Rome's Legions.

On December 15, 1840, as a gesture to the glory-starved people of France upon his ascension to the throne as the head of the newly empowered House of Orleans, King Louis Phillipe brought Napoleon's remains back to France with great pomp and ceremony to honor the fallen Emperor's dying wish at St. Helena. For as Napoleon had stated in his Last Will and Testament:

'It is my wish that my ashes may repose on the banks of the Seine in the midst of the French people whom I have loved so well.'

How magnificent his Guard veterans must have looked to the people of Paris as they donned their regimentals to march with pride once again behind their 'Little Corporal'.

Today, the remains of Napoleon the Great and those of his son the 'King of Rome' (thanks to, of all people, Adolf Hitler) rest in the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. Every year tens of thousands of visitors come to gaze upon Napoleon's spectacular seven ton red porphyry granite sarcophagus and to visit the spectacular Musee de l’Armee.

The 'Great Thief of Europe' reposes in splendor surrounded by brothers, Marshals and imperial battle flags once carried by his rugged Amazons into glorious battles fought all over Europe, the floor beneath his tomb ringed with the names of some of the greatest victories ever won by Frenchmen upon the field of honor, a glorious testimonial indeed to the greatest Conqueror the world has known since Charlemagne.

Vive L'Empereur!