On This Day in Napoleonic History – 18 February 1797

The Army of Italy Launches a Newssheet Entitled Journal de Buonaparte et des Hommes Vertuex

18Napoleon was highly conscious of the power of propaganda. He dictated various articles to the Journal with the aim to increase his popularity, such as ‘Bonaparte files like lightening and strikes like a thunderbolt.’ In ten days the Journal was criticising the Directory, something it wouldn’t do without General Bonaparte’s instruction.


1796 was the year when the first prints and engravings of Napoleon began to appear, with titles such as General Bonaparte at Lodi and Bonaparte in Milan. After Montenotte Napoleon commanded the first medal to be struck. Overall, 150 official medals had been produced by 1815, commemorating battles, treaties, coronations, marriages and other important occasions. This attention to propaganda distinguished Napoleon from other generals and helped influence public opinion, which was already heavily in his favour. The cult of personality had begun.


On This Day in Napoleonic History – 17 February 1806

A decree orders the construction of Arc de Triomphe on Place de l’Étoile

17The Arc was commissioned by the Emperor Napoleon after his brilliant victory at Austerlitz and was to become the symbol of France’s military supremacy, glorifying the Grande Armée.

Although Napoleon and his new wife Marie-Louise passed underneath a full-size model of the Arc made of wood and painted cloth in 1810, unfortunately Napoleon never saw it completed. It would not be finished until more than a decade after his death during the reign of King Louis-Philippe, between 1833 and 1836. Napoleon’s body passed under the Arc on the way from Saint Helena to his final resting place at Les Invalides in 1840.