On This Day in Napoleonic History – 20 February 1800

The Count of Provence appeals to the First Consul

20The Count of Provence (future Louis XVIII) wrote to the First Consul, requesting to be allowed to return to France. Louis promised the First Consul any post in the kingdom, if only he restored him to the throne.


Napoleon had no intention to play Monk, however. He took more than six months to reply and this is what he said in his polite but assertive letter to Louis XVI’s brother: ‘You must not wish for your return to France. You would have to march over 100,000 corpses. Sacrifice your interests to the peace and happiness of France. History will recognise it. I’m not insensitive to the misfortunes of your family. I will gladly contribute to the sweetness and the tranquility of your retirement.’


The finality of Napoleon’s reply resulted in countless plots against Napoleon’s life by the Bourbons from 1800 onward.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 19 February 1797

Peace treaty signed between France and the Papal States

(c) Burton Constable Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Burton Constable Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The treaty of Tolentino was signed between Revolutionary France and the Papal States during the War of the First Coalition, under which the Pope Pius VI ceded Romania, Bolognia and Avignona to France, closed all ports to the British and promised to send contribution of 30 million to France and one hundred works of art. ‘We will have everything that is good in Italy,’ Napoleon wrote to the Directory.

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.