First French Empire

French Empire [1]
Empire Français
1804–1814, 1815
" Veillons au salut de l'Empire"'
Chant du départ" (de facto) [2] [3]
(English: "Song of the Departure")
" Marche consulaire"[ citation needed]
(English: "March of the Consulate")
A map of the First French Empire in 1812.
  Directly administered
Capital Paris
Languages French (official)
Breton, Basque, Occitan, Picard, Polish, Franco-Provençal, Dutch, Croatian, Catalan, German, Italian, Slovene
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Constitutionally absolute monarchy
 •  1804–1814/1815 Napoleon I
 •  1815 Napoleon II Note 2
Legislature Parliament
 •  Upper house Senate
 •  Lower house Corps législatif
Historical era Napoleonic Wars

French Revolutionary Wars

 •  Constitution adopted 18 May 1804
 •  Coronation of Napoleon I 2 December 1804
 •  Treaty of Tilsit 7 July 1807
 •  Invasion of Russia 24 June 1812
 •  Treaty of Fontainebleau 11 April 1814
 •  Hundred Days 20 March – 7 July 1815
 •  1813 [4] 2,100,000 km2 (810,000 sq mi)
 •  1812 est. 44,000,000 
Currency French franc
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French First Republic
Kingdom of Holland
Ligurian Republic
Kingdom of France
Principality of the Netherlands
Today part of   France
   Vatican City

The First French Empire [1] ( French: Empire Français Note 1) was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire because he was the first ruler of France since the days of the Franks to take an imperial title.

On 18 May 1804, Napoleon was granted the title Emperor of the French (L'Empereur des Français, pronounced  [lɑ̃.pʁœʁ de fʁɑ̃.sɛ]) by the French Sénat and was crowned on 2 December 1804, [5] ending the period of the French Consulate and of the French First Republic. The French Empire won early military victories in the War of the Third Coalition against Austria, Prussia, Russia, Portugal, and allied nations, notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 [6] and, during the War of the Fourth Coalition, at the Battle of Friedland [7] in 1807.

A series of wars, known collectively as the Napoleonic Wars, extended French influence over much of Western Europe and into Poland. At its height in 1812, the French Empire had 130 departments, ruled over 70 million subjects, maintained an extensive military presence in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Duchy of Warsaw, and could count Prussia and Austria as nominal allies. [8] Early French victories exported many ideological features of the French Revolution throughout Europe: the introduction of the Napoleonic Code throughout the continent increased legal equality, established jury systems and legalised divorce, and seigneurial dues and seigneurial justice were abolished, as were aristocratic privileges in all places with the exception of Poland. [9]


In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte was confronted by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès – one of five Directors constituting the executive branch of the French government—who sought his support for a coup d'état to overthrow the Constitution of the Year III. The plot included Bonaparte's brother Lucien, then serving as speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, and Talleyrand. On 9 November 1799 ( 18 Brumaire (VIII under the French Republican Calendar)) and the following day, troops led by Bonaparte seized control[ clarification needed]. They dispersed the legislative councils, leaving a rump legislature to name Bonaparte, Sieyès and Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government. Although Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, the Consulate, he was outmaneuvered by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul. He thus became the most powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which made him First Consul for life.

The Battle of Marengo (14 June 1800) inaugurated the political idea that was to continue its development until Napoleon's Moscow campaign. Napoleon planned only to keep the Duchy of Milan for France, setting aside Austria, and was thought[ by whom?] to prepare a new campaign in the East. The Peace of Amiens, which cost him control of Egypt, was a temporary truce. He gradually extended his authority in Italy by annexing the Piedmont and by acquiring Genoa, Parma, Tuscany and Naples, and added this Italian territory to his Cisalpine Republic. Then he laid siege to the Roman state and initiated the Concordat of 1801 to control the material claims of the pope. When he recognised his error of raising the authority of the pope from that of a figurehead, Napoleon produced the Articles Organiques (1802) wanting, like Charlemagne, to be the legal protector of the papacy. To conceal his plans before their actual execution, he aroused French colonial aspirations against Britain and the memory of the 1763 Treaty of Paris, exacerbating British envy of France, whose borders now extended to the Rhine and beyond, to Hanover, Hamburg and Cuxhaven. Napoleon would have ruling elites from a fusion of the new bourgeoisie and the old aristocracy. [10]

On 12 May 1802, the French Tribunat voted unanimously, with exception of Carnot, in favour of the Life Consulship for the leader of France. [11] [12] This action was confirmed by the Corps Législatif. A general plebiscite followed thereafter resulting in 3,653,600 votes aye and 8,272 votes nay. [13] On 2 August 1802 (14 Thermidor, An X), Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed Consul for life.

Pro-revolutionary sentiment swept through Germany aided by the "Recess of 1803", which brought Bavaria, Württemberg and Baden to France's side. William Pitt the Younger, back in power over Britain, appealed once more for an Anglo-Austro-Russian coalition against Napoleon to stop the ideals of revolutionary France from spreading.

On 18 May 1804, Napoleon was given the title of emperor by the Senate; finally, on 2 December 1804, he was solemnly crowned, after receiving the Iron Crown of the Lombard kings, and was consecrated by Pope Pius VII in Notre-Dame de Paris. Note 3

In four campaigns, the Emperor transformed his " Carolingian" feudal and federal empire into one modelled on the Roman Empire. The memories of imperial Rome were for a third time, after Julius Caesar and Charlemagne, used to modify the historical evolution of France. Though the vague plan for an invasion of Great Britain was never executed, the Battle of Ulm and the Battle of Austerlitz overshadowed the defeat of Trafalgar, and the camp at Boulogne put at Napoleon's disposal the best military resources he had commanded, in the form of La Grande Armée.

The Battle of Austerlitz
Other Languages
français: Premier Empire
Bahasa Indonesia: Kekaisaran Pertama Perancis
Lëtzebuergesch: Premier Empire
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Birinchi imperiya
Simple English: First French Empire
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Prvo Francusko Carstvo