A Birthday Remembrance of Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821)

Portrait of Napoleon I
After a painting by Baron François Gérard  (French, Rome 1770–1837 Paris)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

“I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Casa Buonaparte in the Place Letizia, Ajaccio, Corsica where Napoleon was born

 The room where Napoleon Bonaparte was born

Napoleon Bonaparte was born of August 15, 1769, in his family's ancestral home Casa Buonaparte, located in the town of Ajaccio, Corsica. He was the second of eight children born to Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino.  He was christened Napoleone di Buonaparte, most probably named after an uncle and an older brother who died in childbirth named Napoleone. During his twenties, he used the more commonly French Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Corsican Buonapartes were descended from Italian nobility located in the Lombard region. They had come to Corswica from Liguria during the sixteenth century. His father was an attorney appointed as Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1777.  Not surprisingly, the dominant figure Casa Buonaparte, was the mother, Letizia Ramolino, who ruled the home with a firm disciplined hand. It was rumored that Napoleon was a 'rambunctious' child! Napoleon was baptized a Catholic before his second birthday on July 21, 1771 at Ajaccio Cathedral. 

In January 1779, Napoleon enrolled at a religious school in mainland France to learn French. In May he was admitted to a military academy at Brienne-le-Chateau. He spoke with a noticeable Corsican accent and never learned to spell properly. He was teased by other students but applied himself to reading. His favorite subjects were history and geography and he was distinguished in mathematics as well.

In 1784, Napoleon completed his studies at Brienne and was admitted to the elite Ecole Militaire in Paris. Any naval ambitions were quickly dashed. Instead, he trained to become an artillery officer and was forced to complete the two-year course in one because his father reduced his income. Napoleon Buonaparte was the first Corsican to graduate from the Ecole Militaire.

The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte Vol. I. (of IV), Sloane, William Milligan, 1850-1928, Library of Congress

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