Napoléon Bonaparte was born Napoleone Buonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica, on 15 August 1769.
His father, Carlo Buonaparte, was an attorney and Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI of France in 1778, so Napoleon later adopted a more French form of his name.
He began his military career at the age of 16, and rapidly advanced through the ranks.
Famed for being an excellent military strategist, he deposed the French Directory in 1799 and proclaimed himself First Consul of France.
His military forays into Europe were highly successful, and by 1807 he ruled territory stretching from Portugal to Italy and north to the river Elbe.
Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France on 2 December 1804, at Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Despite Napoleon’s military successes, he failed in his aim to conquer the rest of Europe.
He was defeated in Moscow in 1812 in a move which nearly destroyed his empire, and his 1815 loss to the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo resulted in his exile to the island of St Helena, where he died in 1821.
However, his codification of laws, the Napoleonic Code, remains the foundation of French civil law.