F RANCE now made peace with all Europe, and for the next few years Napoleon ruled France quietly. These few years are really the best part of all his life. In them he did many good things for his country. And these lasted when all his great conquests faded, and his vast Empire crumbled into pieces.
Gradually his power grew greater and greater. From being Consul for ten years he was made Consul for life. Then he was asked to take the title of Emperor, and on the 18th of May 1804 he was proclaimed Emperor of the French.
The "little corporal" had come far. He who, a few years before, had wandered almost penniless among the streets of Paris, was now the greatest man in all the land. He seemed to have reached the very highest power that man could hope for, and he was not yet thirty-five years old.
But although Napoleon had been proclaimed Emperor, and accepted by the people of France, he had not yet been crowned. Now he felt that to be crowned and anointed by the Pope would make his throne more sure. So he sent a friend to Rome, to ask the Pope to come to crown him.
Pope Pius VII. did not want to crown Napoleon, and acknowledge him as the rightful ruler of France. But he saw that nearly all the other rulers of Europe had acknowledged him, and he thought it better to do so too, as perhaps he might in that way win something good for the Church. So he consented to come to Paris to crown the Emperor.
The Pope, as head of the Church, had been treated with fear and reverence by the proudest of kings in all ages and in all countries. They had knelt to him as to one greater than themselves. But Napoleon had grown so proud that he could not bear the thought of kneeling to any one. So, although he very well knew the hour at which the Pope might be expected to arrive, he arranged to meet him as if by accident while out hunting.
Napoleon and the Pope.
As the Pope's coach drove along the road leading to the palace of Fontainebleau which had been prepared for him, he met the Emperor, booted and spurred, and riding upon a horse.
The Emperor got off his horse, and the Pope, in his beautiful robes and white silk shoes, left his coach, and walked a few steps along the muddy road to greet him.
The young Emperor and the old Pope embraced each other, then the servants, having received their, orders before, drove the coach up between them. The footmen opened both doors at once, and as the Pope stepped in at one side the Emperor stepped in at the other, so neither went in before the other. But Napoleon took care that he had the seat of honour, on the right side. Thus Pope and Emperor drove to Fontainebleau.
There were a great many preparations for the coronation to be made, for Napoleon meant it to be a very fine affair. But at last; everything was ready, and on the 2nd of December the coronation took place. The day was cold and bleak, but the streets of Paris were lined with people, eager to see the Emperor and Empress as they drove in their gilded carriage to the Church of Notre Dame.
The church was thronged with fair ladies and splendid men glittering with jewels and lace, and as the Emperor entered, wearing upon his head a wreath of golden bay leaves like a Cæsar, the archways of the dim old church rang and rang again with shouts, "Long live the Emperor! Long live the Emperor!"
The notes of the organ rolled, the voices of the, choir rose and fell in chant and hymn. But as the long ceremony went on, Napoleon yawned and fidgeted. To him there was nothing sacred or solemn in the service. The grand display added something to his pomp and glory; that was all.
At last the Pope with trembling hands lifted the crown to place it upon the young Emperor's head. But Napoleon, seizing it out of the Pope's hand, himself placed it upon his own ahead, took it off, placed it for a moment on the head of the Empress, and then returned it to the cushion upon which it had rested. Again the organ pealed, and the exultant words of the "Te Deum'' rang out through the church.
The Emperor was crowned.
A few months after the coronation at Notre Dame, Napoleon went to Italy. Here, in the great cathedral at Milan, he again crowned himself. This time the title he took was King of Italy, and this time the Pope sternly refused to have anything to do with it. At Paris he had received only empty promises and insults as his reward, and he now knew that he had nothing to hope from the new Emperor.
But while Napoleon was placing crowns upon his own head, the rulers of Europe were again joining against him. For they saw that the Emperor's power, and desire for still more power, were becoming so great that none of their crowns were safe.
Sweden, Russia, and Austria joined the alliance. But, on the other hand, Spain and Britain, having quarrelled, Spain joined with France against the others. Once more Europe was ablaze with war. Upon the Rhine, in Tyrol, in Italy, there was noise of battle.
The Czar of Russia gathered a great army and sent it to join the Austrians. When they joined, it was intended that both armies should march together into France.
But the Austrians began to fight before the Russians joined them. Napoleon did not wait for France to be invaded. He marched into Germany to meet his enemies. And long before the Russians could arrive to help them, the Austrians were shut up in the town of Ulm.
The Austrian leader, Mack, was not cowardly, but he was stupid and unlucky. And although there was plenty of food within the walls, Mack weakly gave in after six days' siege.
In Tyrol, in Italy, everywhere that the French and Austrians met, the Austrians were defeated, until at last a flying remnant of Mack's once splendid army took refuge in the mountains of Tyrol. There was nothing now to hinder Napoleon from marching on to Vienna, the beautiful capital of Austria.
And the Emperor Francis, knowing that Vienna could not stand a siege more than a few days, made up his mind to leave the town. So on the 13th of November, less than a month after the taking of Ulm, the French entered the Austrian capital.
While Napoleon was at Vienna, living in the Emperor's beautiful palace of Schönbrunn, bad, tidings came to him. He heard that the French and Spanish fleets had been utterly destroyed in the battle of Trafalgar.
"I cannot be everywhere," cried he angrily, when he heard the news.
That the French had again been defeated by sea made the Emperor more eager to win fresh fame by land. The Austrian army was shattered, but the Russians were still to beat. So from Vienna Napoleon marched out to meet them. Upon the plain of Austerlitz, not far from the town of Brunn, a great battle was fought. It has been called "the battle of the three Emperors," for there were three Emperors present—the Emperor of Germany (the Holy Roman Empire), the Emperor of Russia, and the Emperor of the French.
The morning of the 2nd December dawned cold and bleak. A thick white fog shrouded the land. But with the first streak of day both camps were astir. Through the white dimness came muffled sounds, and ghostly figures loomed and passed. Then suddenly the fog lifted; and the sun shone out in golden splendour. The French soldiers greeted it with a shout. It seemed to them as if it rose to do honour to their own Emperor, for it was the anniversary of his coronation day. "The sun of Austerlitz has risen," cried Napoleon in exultation.
In the fog the two armies had moved close to each, and now the fight began. It was a terrible battle, and raged all the short winter's day. "It was absolute butchery," says one who fought there. "We fought man to man."
For a time it seemed uncertain who should win, but when the night fell the Russians and Austrians were flying from the field. Many lay there dead, and twenty thousand were prisoners.
Thus once more Napoleon had triumphed. And now Austria made peace with France, and the Russians marched away to their own land This peace was called the treaty of Pressburg, from the name of the town at which it was signed.
By this treaty the map of Europe was again changed and still more lands came under Napoleon's rule. Some of these lands he gave to his relations. For Napoleon had made up his mind not only to be great himself, but to make his whole family great. "I can no longer have shabby relatives," he said. "Those who will not rise with me shall no longer be of my family. I am going to make a family of kings."
So he made his brother Joseph King of Naples. His brother Louis, who had married Josephine's daughter Hortense, was made King of Holland. General Murat, who had married Napoleon's sister Caroline, was made Archduke of Berg. He made Eugène Beauharnais marry the daughter of the King of Bavaria, and a little later he made his brother Jerome marry the daughter of the King of Würtemberg. In every way Napoleon tried to make his family great, and so surround himself with splendour.