In what year did Napoleon crown himself Emperor?

Question: In what year did Napoleon crown himself Emperor?

Show answer


In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte took a step that would further cement his legacy and his control over France: he crowned himself Emperor. Specifically, this monumental event took place on December 2, 1804.

Napoleon’s rise to power began during the tumultuous years following the French Revolution. The Revolution, which began in 1789, had dismantled the French monarchy, leading to a period of significant social, political, and economic upheaval. By 1799, the French people, exhausted by years of instability, were ready for a change. Seizing this opportunity, Napoleon, a successful military general at the time, staged a coup known as the Brumaire Coup and established himself as the First Consul of the French Republic.

As First Consul, Napoleon initiated several reforms, bringing stability and prosperity back to France. These reforms included the famous Napoleonic Code or the Civil Code, which streamlined and modernized French law. Recognizing his increasing popularity and power, and always the shrewd political operator, Napoleon sought to further consolidate his hold on the nation.

In 1804, he decided to resurrect the notion of a French empire. While France had been a republic for over a decade, Napoleon believed that the title of Emperor would give him even greater authority and legitimacy. But, in a break from tradition and a display of his audacity, Napoleon did not let the Pope crown him, as was customary for monarchs. Instead, at the lavish coronation ceremony held at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, Napoleon took the crown from the Pope’s hands and placed it on his own head, symbolizing that his authority came from himself and the will of the people, not from any divine right.

This act was emblematic of Napoleon’s larger approach to governance and power. Throughout his reign, he would continue to expand his empire, challenging and reshaping the political landscape of Europe. His reign as Emperor lasted until 1814, followed by a brief return to power in 1815 during the Hundred Days, before his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Nevertheless, the impact of Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor in 1804 would reverberate throughout history, influencing the course of European politics and governance for years to come.