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Provocative History - Napoleon #1 Destiny Calls

    Smoke belched forth from the mouths of cannons. The smell of gunpowder and blood hung heavy in the air. 65,000 uniforms clung to once-green grass, all of it tainted with the crimson red of life long-gone. To the French troops on the battlefield below, the sun had seemed determined to stretch the day as long as it could. Finally, they could take it no longer. The remainder of the French troops, a fraction of its original size, fled into the hilly grasslands of central Belgium. This was Waterloo.

     Though long persistent in striving for his dreams of power, Napoleon would not succeed. Europe determined that history could not repeat itself, they would not allow it. The last laugh would be directed towards Napoleon, and not from him.

     But how did this happen? How did one man from Corsica make his voice heard throughout the world? How and why did the world succumb and rebel to one, Napoleon Bonaparte?

     Napoleon's life isn't that of the average man. Slowly appearing as a hero from the masses, he seized opportunity without a second thought every time it appeared to him. In the film, the Dark Knight, a man by the name of Harvey Dent says, "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Napoleon is that man. His story isn't one where the forces of evil are overthrown and everyone rides off into the sunset. Join me in seeing what twisted and corrupted his potentially heroic path.

     Born in 1769 to Carlo and Maria Buonaparte, the second oldest, Napoleon was mamma's boy, through and through. Later in life, he claimed that his Mom was the source of his success. He and his father maintained a far more chilly relationship. Fiercely patriotic of Corsica, Napoleon hated his Francophile of a father, who had not resisted the French invasion of the isle whatsoever.

     Destiny needs a starting place, however, and so it was that Carlo Buonaparte secured a scholarship for his son in France when he was nine years old.

     This school is where some of his origins can be traced to. Knowing little French, and not particularly caring to learn it because of his Corsican heritage, he became a loner. Turning his back on his classmates, he cultivated his inner thoughts and emotions, including pride and insatiable ambition.

     When he turned fifteen years old, the school transferred him to the Royal Military Academy in Paris. Here, the staff catered to the students with luxury. Napoleon hated it all. Instead of being flattered by such service, he was repulsed by it, and it increased his scorn of what he already saw as useless French nobles.

     Regardless of his distaste for the nobility, Napoleon still learned. One year later the senior officers promoted him to 2nd Lieutenant of the best artillery unit in France. His fellow classmates held more outdated forms of chivalry in their minds, and looked down on the ranged cannons as cowardly tools. Napoleon saw what they could do. Cannons could be harbingers of death and destruction, and he took to their potential with enthusiasm.

     Even as he enjoyed artillery, however, his superiors cut his ambition short. Wanting to ascend in the ranks of the army, he found that the Government reserved such positions for nobility of greater status, far more than the Buonaparte's meager status. Napoleon learned the meaning of boredom. Out of a lack of things to do, he wrote a short history book on his native island, and tried his hand at writing a novel. For such a restless man, however, these could not keep him occupied for long. His ambition nagged at him, and with no other outlets, he became melancholy, struggling with suicidal thoughts.

     Destiny could not have a dead Napoleon. So, in 1789, Parisian mobs storm the Bastille. This lit up unrest all over the country, and the French Revolution took effect. From the Academy, he watched each event unfold with interest. Though he distrusted the chaos of the wild mobs, he favors the opportunities and possibilities Revolution could bring.

     With the death of King Louis XVI came the rise of the Republic, and for the first time in his life, Napoleon felt revolutionary fervor. When he turned twenty-three, then, the young man sailed to his home: Corsica, for the first time in fourteen years.

     Quickly Napoleon established himself as a political figure on the island. First he looked up to his childhood hero, Pauli, a Corsican nationalist, and tried to join Pauli's party. It soon became clear, however, that they stood on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Pauli easily outmaneuvers Napoleon, and the Buonaparte's are sentenced to death by their own people.

     Nevertheless, through quick actions, Napoleon managed to take his mother, three brothers and three sisters away from the island. As they traveled back to France, Napoleon thought over what had happened. In his naivete, he had brought danger to his family, and had failed spectacularly at politics. No matter. When destiny calls, you try again and again, as many times as it takes to win.

     Toughened up and shrewder than ever before, Napoleon swiveled his gaze towards the southern French coast. Before, these coasts were alien and hostile to him. Now, he felt like a Frenchman. He wanted to be a Frenchman. The utter hostility of one's home nation to a man can do that to someone.

     Read along next time to learn about Napoleon's first military ventures, his wife Josephine, and the closer he gets to villainy. So long!

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