Napoleon’s Last Gift to Son offered for sale at Sotheby’s

An exquisite pair of bespoke gold-encrusted pistols made for Napoleon’s beloved son and heir the three-year-old ‘King of Rome.’WaterlooA Brief History of Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) conquered Europe to become 1st Emperor of the French. Born in Corsica, he rose through the ranks of the French army in the wake of the Revolution which had overthrown King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, conquering Egypt by 1798, and launching a coup d’etat in France in 1799, becoming first consul.

By 1804 he had been proclaimed Emperor in a lavish ceremony at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Napoleon is today a polarising figure, a tyrant to some, but to others an enlightened reformer who swept aside feudal systems of law and government throughout Europe, replacing them with his Code Napoleon, which established the principles of meritocracy, justice and freedom of religion; he also abolished slavery.

Napoleon’s forces swept Europe, defeating the Austrians at Marengo (1800) and Austerlitz (1805), and annexing Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium and large swathes of modern day Germany. His downfall began with his disastrous conquest of Russia, which eventually led to retreat from Moscow and the invasion of France by his enemies, Britain, Austria and Prussia. Napoleon abdicated in April 1814, was forced into exile on the island of Elba, but returned triumphantly only to be decisively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington on 18 June 1815. He was exiled to the Atlantic island of St Helena, where he died in 1821. His defeat led to the ascendancy of Britain as the leading force in world affairs through the 19th century.

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