Napoleon Proclaims His Accession to the Throne

(May 20, 1804)

(Napoleon was named Emperor on May 18th 1804 and his coronation was December 2nd 1804)

The story of Napoleon Bonaparte’s quest to become Emperor is truly fascinating. The story begins in Egypt in 1798. Napoleon Bonaparte, already head of the French Army, had proposed occupying Egypt in order to cut off England’s route to India and the source of English wealth. However, Admiral Nelson, Napoleon’s nemesis, destroyed the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile, confining Napoleon to the African mainland. An attempt to escape through Syria was turned back by Sir William Sidney Smith and the English army. Smith sent newspapers to Napoleon, possibly as a joke, an insult or perhaps as propaganda. The newspapers detailed French losses in Italy and Germany and the chaos in France. BUT, in the newspapers, the leaders of France were claiming that ‘only a military dictator could save France’. Rather than becoming disheartened, Napoleon saw an unbelievable opportunity ….. he could be that military dictator! He immediately announced his departure for France, abandoning his army in Egypt ….. in order to “save” the government at home.

On arrival in Paris, as Napoleon himself put it; he “found the Crown of France just lying in the gutter”.
He “picked it up with the tip of his sword” and (although it took 5 years) it was his.

To the Bishop of Versailles,

The object of my dearest thoughts has always been the happiness of the French people, and their glory the object of my labors. Called by Divine Providence and the Constitutions of the Republic to Imperial power, I see in this new order of things nothing but greater means of assuring, within and without, the national power and prosperity. I take comfort with confidence in the powerful aid of the Almighty. He will inspire His Ministers to support me by all means within their power. They will enlighten their people by wise instruction, preaching to them love of duty, obedience to law, and the practice of all the Christian and civil virtues. They will call the blessing of Heaven upon the nation and on the Supreme Head of State…