A Brief History
On December 2, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte shocked the world as he crowned himself Emperor of the French by taking the crown from the Pope and plopping it on his own head. 48 years later on this same date, his nephew and namesake, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, was also crowned Emperor and given the title Napoleon III.
Over 9,500 people in the U.S. have Napoleon for a first name, a name that means “from Naples,” as in Naples, Italy. More has been written about Napoleon Bonaparte than any other person in history after Jesus Christ.
Just as Napoleon I’s attempts to regain power were thwarted by his loss at the epic Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon III’s reign also ended in defeat, this time as a result of the Franco-Prussian War. Both emperors died in exile. Also, just as Napoleon I had accomplished great things for France and the world, Napoleon III also made major improvements in France, such as rebuilding Paris, brokering trade agreements and expanding the empire by doubling its size. He also was a backer of the construction of the Suez Canal, a major gift to the world.
Napoleon II, the son of Napoleon I, had died in 1832, age 21 and was Emperor of France for a whopping 1 week in 1814 after Napoleon I’s first fall from power. Napoleon II became Emperor again in 1815 (actually in name only) after Waterloo, and this time his reign lasted an entire 2 weeks! Like Napoleon I and Napoleon III, the young man died in exile; his exile being in Austria; his death being from tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Napoleon III also had a son, who was proclaimed Napoleon IV by the Bonapartist faction upon his father’s death in 1873, but he was killed age 23 in the Anglo-Zulu War.
Other famous people or characters named Napoleon include the quirky and popular title character from the animated series Napoleon Dynamite. In 2004, a movie based on the series, starring Jon Heder, was made. Before that movie took audiences by storm, there was the 1964-1968 television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. starring Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, a James Bond type of super-spy character. (History and Headlines Trivia: U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. The show‘s creator actually wanted the initials to remain a mystery but was compelled to come up with a meaning for them.)
Notable athletes named Napoleon include College Football Hall of Fame running back Napoleon McCallum who played for the U.S. Naval Academy and with the Oakland Raiders for 6 years. He is the career rushing leader at Navy. Interestingly, the Raiders have had another running back named Napoleon, namely Napoleon Kaufman who played from 1995-2000.
While there have been other athletes with this famous name, the most accomplished has to be Napoleon Lajoie, Hall of Fame major league baseball player for the Cleveland Naps (1902-1914), a team actually named after him. (He also played shorter stints for the Phillies and Athletics, won a Triple Crown and had 5 batting titles, 3 home run titles and 3 RBI titles.)
Some other famous Napoleons include the Polish-Lithuanian composer Napoleon Orda (1807-1893), American author Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) and U.S. Navy Admiral Napoleon Collins (1814-1875). Some people are referred to as the “Napoleon of …….” (fill in the blank). In the case of the notorious General Santa Anna, for example, whose Mexican forces defeated the Americans at the Alamo, he was known as “The Napoleon of the West.”
There is also Napoleon brandy and a delicious custard-filled puff pastry dessert that bears the name Napoleon!
Question for students (and subscribers): What person, character or thing named Napoleon would you have liked to have read about in this article? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Markham, J. David. Napoleon For Dummies. For Dummies, 2005.