Napoleon Bonaparte’s Coup d’Etat

November 9, 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte implemented his prepared coup d’état. Before his takeover of the government, Napoleon was both a popular and successful general in the French army who led military campaigns in Italy and Egypt. The phrase coup d’état describes Napoleon’s seizure of the French government at the Palace of Saint-Cloud, a few miles outside of Paris. Here, the French Directory was overthrown and the Consulate was installed as the new form of government, led by Napoleon who would act as First Consul. Napoleon instrumented his coup by giving a powerful speech to his soldiers denouncing the politicians, the soldiers then escorted out the deputies who refused him power which effectively dissolved the Directory. The takeover was planned principally by Napoleon and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, an important figure in the Revolution who would later become a Consul alongside Napoleon, and Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, a former minister. The coup was also made possible with the help of deputies who were allied with Napoleon, namely his brother Lucien. At the time of his coup, France was wracked by political instability from within and faced rebellions in many territories. The unpopularity of the Directory as well as France’s political disarray allowed for Napoleon’s takeover to be successful, and the need for a stable government ensured that he stayed in power. Napoleon’s coup d’état is a key moment during the French Revolution as it represents the definitive end of the Revolution and a very distinct transition to another phase of French history.

 

Bell, David A. Napoleon: A Concise Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Dwyer, Philip G., and Peter McPhee. The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2006.

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. London: Routledge,   2014.