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Bible Dictionaries

1910 New Catholic Dictionary

Napoleon I

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Emperor of the French, born Ajaccio, Corsica, 1769; died Island of Saint Helena, 1821. Leaving Corsica, 1778, he attended the college of Autun, after which he was at the military schools of Brienne and Paris, and at Valence garrison as lieutenant. He was made brigadier after the capture of Toulon, and from his victory at Saint Roch's church, 1795, through the Italian Campaign, March, 1798 (resulting in the Holy See's surrender of important territories and the imprisonment of Pius VI), and the Egyptian Campaign, May, 1798, his military career was brilliantly successful. During his consulship the Concordat with the Holy See, 1801, was passed as a law with the Organic Articles, establishing Catholicity as the state religion. At the coronation ceremonies in Notre Dame, 1804, Napoleon crowned himself and the empress, although Pope Pius VII had been induced to officiate, on condition that Napoleon should previously go through a religious ceremony with Josephine de Beauharnais, the widow he had civilly married, 1798. This marriage was performed on the eve of the coronation. The pope's refusal to annul Jerome Bonaparte's marriage, Napoleon's refusal to act when the French Civil Code was introduced into Italy, extension of Napoleon's domains by the Treaty of Presburg, occupation of the papal state of Ancona, general attitude of Pius not to regard Napoleon's enemies as his, resulted in strained relations between them, and when Pius required Joseph Bonaparte to submit to the Holy See's suzerainty before recognizing him as King of Naples, Napoleon threatened to cease regarding the pope as temporal prince, and to cut his peoples from communication with Rome. Pius was forced to agree to join the Continental blockade against England, though not to declare war, but Napoleon, desiring rupture, annexed the pontifical states and installed a new government. Pius then excommunicated him, 1809, and consequently he was arrested and imprisoned at Savona (removed, 1812, to Fontainebleau). During imprisonment, his refusal to fill 20 vacant bishoprics while out of commupication with the cardinals suspended the life of the French Church. At this time Napoleon, desiring an heir, divorced Josephine, 1809. Metternich encouraged alliance with Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, but the Viennese court required dissolution of the spiritual bond. The pope of course would not grant this, but diocesan authorities annulled the marriage, 1810, on the grounds of the absence of parish priest and witnesses. Napoleon married Marie Louise, April, 1810, and in 1811, his son, the "King of Rome" was born. Ecclesiastical councils, summoned 1811 by Napoleon, to decide about dispensations and canonical institution of bishops during the pope's captivity, resulted, after two dissolutions and misrepresentations of negotiations with Pius, in the passage of a decree providing canonical institution by the metropolitan within six months, if the pope refused. Napoleon, having made extensive preparations to reduce Rome to a bishopric and establish the Holy See at Paris, thought himself victorious, but the pope's necessary ratification omitted most of the mooted points and left matters much as they had been. From the failure of the Russian campaign (after which the tentative Concordat of 1813 was made law despite Pius's protests), the gradual circumscription of Napoleon's power modified his attitude until, on demand of the allies, 1814, Pius was conducted to Piacenza and liberated. Talleyrand attributes Napoleon's long struggle with the papacy to "the most insensate ambition." The allies entered Paris, March, 1814; after some last vain struggles, Napoleon left Fontainebleau and was in Elba, May 4,. Returning, 1815, for the Hundred Days, he negotiated pacifically with Pius, but the Coalition reformed and, after the Battle of Waterloo, he abdicated in favor of his son, going to England, whence he was transported to Saint Helena; there he dictated his "Memoirs" which give him a place in literature. On his request, Pius sent him a chaplajn, to whom he said, 1821, "I was born in the Catholic religion. I wish to fulfill the duties it imposes and receive the succor it administers."

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Bibliography Information
Entry for 'Napoleon I'. 1910 New Catholic Dictionary. 1910.

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