In 1768, Corsica officially became French (after being Genoese) via the treaty of Versailles dated 15 May 1768. After a year of troubles, French troops subdued Paoli’s men at Ponte Nuovo on 9 May 1769. Amongst Paoli’s partisans figured Charles Bonaparte, Napoleon’s father. Charles Bonaparte (1746-1785) married Letizia Ramolino (1750-1836) on 1 June 1764, the dotal act having been signed on 13 May. Of the Bonapartes’ twelve children, only eight would survive, namely, Joseph (1768), Napoleon (1769), Lucien (1775), Marie-Anne known as Elisa (1777), Louis (1778), Marie-Paulette known as Pauline (1780), Marie-Annonciade known as Caroline (1782) and Jerome (1784).
In September 1771 , the Bonaparte family’s noble status was officially recognised, (a fact that allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to go to the military secondary school or “collège” at Brienne on 15 May 1779 – four degrees of nobility were the required measure). Charles Bonaparte was elected to the Corsican Estates General as representative for the nobility in the province of Ajaccio, in 1771 and 1772 and then again in 1777. Napoleon was born on 15 August 1769 and baptised on 21 July 1771.
In 1774, aged five years old, Napoleon entered the primary boarding school run by Beguine lay sisters in Ajaccio, as a day-boy . Two years later he studied French under Abbé Recco (who received 20,000 Francs in Napoleon’s will).
On 16 December 1778, Charles Bonaparte and his two elder sons set out for mainland France. Joseph and Napoleon went to the school in Autun on 1 January 1779, the aim being to perfect their French. Napoleon left Autun on 21 April, stayed for three weeks with M. de Champeaux before leaving for the Royal military Secondary chool at Brienne. His class was “septième” (which in translation would come out as year seven or seventh grade, though there is no modern equivalent), and he was an “élève pensionnaire du roi” or king’s scholar (the school was designed for financially distressed nobility). His first day was on 15 May 1779.
Franco-British Treaty of Versailles recognising the independence of the 13 American colonies.
The ‘bail des Fermes’ (sort of taxation) annulled by the Comptroller of Finance Lefèvre d’Ormesson
(1751-1808), and at the same time the sale of salt and tobacco taxed.
Appointment of Calonne (1734-1802) to the post of Comptroler General of Finance.
Pilâtre de Rozier (1756-1785) made a twenty-five minute flight over Paris in a balloon inflated with hot air; 1 December, Charles and Robert make a flight in a balloon inflated with hyrdogen.
The floatation of a state loan of 100 million in life annuities.
Duties on sugar and coffee reduced.
Visit of Charles Bonaparte to Brienne: accompanied by Lucien (who entered Brienne after several years of study at Autun). Elisa admitted to the Royal House of Saint-Louis boarding school at Saint-Cyr.
Napoleon tested by deputy school inspector, Monsieur Reynaud des Monts. Successful in his final exams, Napoleon to go to the École Militaire (Military School) in Paris.
Departure from Brienne. Napoleon accompanied by father Berton and four comrades.
19 ( OR 21 ?) OCTOBER
Napoleon’s arrival in Paris.
Start at the École militaire as a ‘cadet gentilhomme’ (Gentleman cadet).
Birth of Jerome, the last of the Bonaparte children.
20 OR 24 FEBRUARY
Death of Charles Bonaparte in Montpellier.
Napoleon learnt of the death of his father.
Departure of the expedition captained by La Pérouse (1741-1788), whose mission was to reconnoitre the north coast of the Pacific.
Arrest of cardinal de Rohan (1734-1803) embroiled in the Affair of the Queen’s Necklace : acquitted on 31 May 1786.
Results of the Paris École Militaire exams: out of 137 candidates, 58 passed, Napoleon coming 42nd, brevetted as a Second Lieutenant.
Official date of passing out: Napoleon affected to the Régiment de La Fère, of the Royal Artillery Corps, in captain Masson d’Auterive’s bombardier company, garrisoned in Valence.
Napoleon left Paris on the Lyons coach.
Napoleon arrived in Valence. Lodgings with Mademoiselle Bou, whose cafe had been requisitioned.
Napoleon participated in the Sainte-Barbe festivities, including a banquet and a ball.
Suspension of the exchange of old gold coins until 18 January 1786, the day on which new Louis were circulated.
A series of ordnances passed restructuring the French Navy in nine squadrons and providing new regulations for life on board ship.
Napoleon received as an officer.
Histoire de la Corse (History of Corsica). Napoleon’s first known piece of writing. A draught complaint concerning the French occupation of Corsica, heavily influenced by Rousseau, Napoleon’s favourite author at the time.
Napoleon’s regiment called to Lyons where an uprising had broken out.
Napoleon arrived in Corsica to deal with some family matters. He remained there until 12 September 1787.
Eden Treaty lowering customs duties between France and the United Kingdom.
Meeting of the Assembly of Notables. Calonne presented his financial plan: creation of a general real estate tax managed by the provincial assemblies, floatation of loans underwritten by a central bank. Faced with general hostility, Calonne forced to leave office on 9 April.
Public deficit estimated at 112 million livres.
Lamoignon (1735-1789) Garde des Sceaux (Keeper of the Seals) appointed to replace Miromesnil (1723-1796).
Napoleon went with his mother to the Baths at Guagno, near Ajaccio.
Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794) appointed to head the Royal Financial Council.
La Fayette (1757-1834) demanded the convocation of the Estates General during a meeting of the Assembly of Notables, rejected four days later.
The “Parlement de Paris” refused to accept the hike in stamp duty on private deeds.
Royal edict convoking the Estates General.
Royal declaration in favour of the transformation of the “corvée” into a paid duty.
New rules published for the Provincial Assemblies.
Louis XVI exiled the Parlement de Paris when it refused to accept the creation of a new tax called “subvention territoriale” (territorial support).
End of Napoleon’s stay in Corsica.
Anulment of the edict on the “subvention territoriale” and re-establishment of the “deux vingtièmes” tax.
Recall of the Parlement de Paris.
The American constitution adopted.
Napoleon in Paris.
During a rowdy sitting of the Parlement de Paris, Lamoignon, Garde des Sceaux (Keeper of the Seals), promised a sitting of the Estates General before 1791.
Napoleon lodging at Hôtel de Cherbourg, rue du Four Saint-Honoré (today Rue de Vauvilliers). Here he wrote the Parallèle entre l’amour de la patrie et l’amour de la gloire (Parallel between love of one’s fatherland and love of glory).
Edict granting civic status to Protestants.
Napoleon granted a further six months leave.
Napoleon arrived in Ajaccio. During this second stay in Corsica, he went several times to Bastia.
New ordnances regarding the army, namely: command in the provinces, police, discipline and general administration.
Lamoignon’s judicial reform.
Parlement de Paris’s protest against the reform.
“Lit de justice” (formal sitting of the Parlement de Paris) for the leglisation of the judicial reform, which provoked a revolt in the Parlements in Grenoble, Besançon, Rennes, Dijon, Pau and Toulouse in June.
Napoleon affected to Auxonne; he composes a draught of a Constitution for the Calotte of the Régiment de La Fère (organisational guidelines allowing self-government (notably with the participation of lieutenants and sub-lieutenants) within the regiment).
“Journée des tuiles” (Day of tiles) in Grenobles protesting against the exile of the Parlement.
The Vizille Assembly demanded: a sitting of the Estates General of the Dauphiné; the doubling of the number of representatives of the Third Estate; and the right of all to have a job of their choice without restriction.
Napoleon part of a commission charged with studying different element of artillery technique.
The King’s Council promised a sitting of the Estates General for 1 MAY 1789.
Creation 5 % notes to allow the State to pay its “rentes” and “charges”, to all intents and purposes a confession of bankruptcy.
Necker (1732-1804) appointed State Minister with the right to participate in Councils.
Resignation of Lamoignon: annulment by Necker of the creation of the 5 % notes.
Abandon of Lamoignon’s judicial reform and re-etsblishment of the Parlements.
Napoleon writing a dissertation on Royal authority.
Essai sur les privilèges (Essay on privileges) by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748-1836) published.
6 NOVEMBER – 12 DECEMBER
Sitting of the new Assembly of Notables in Versailles.
Royal Council decision: doubling of the number of representatives of the Third Estate.
Napoleon took a course in artillery at Auxonne taught by the Baron du Teil (1722-1794), Maréchal de Camp, and made reading notes from several artillery treastises. During this time in this marshy region, he falls victim to high fevers.
Tension and rioting in Brittany and Provence. Sieyès’s Qu’est-ce que le tiers état? (‘What is the Third Estate?’) published.
Beginning of the elections to the Estates General and the compiling of the Cahiers de doléances (Lists of Grievances). At the request of the Baron du Teil, Napoleon writes a Mémoire sur la manière de disposer les canons pour le jet des bombes. (‘Method for arranging cannon with regard to the projection of the cannonballs’)
MARCH AND APRIL
Rioting throughout France.
Napoleon helped put down a riot in Seurre (today Côte-d’Or); he stayed there one month; on 14, he accompanied the Intendant for Burgundy to Verdun-sur-le-Doubs.
Presentation to the King of the 1,315 députés of the Estates General, including suppléants.
Opening sitting of the Estates General at Versailles.
Death of the Dauphin aged seven.
The Third Estate proclaimed itself the Assemblée nationale (National Assembly).
The Jeu de paume oath.
Louis XVI demands the dissolution of the Assemblée nationale.
The taking of the Bastille.
Creation of the Commune de Paris. Jean-Sylvain Bailly (1736-1793) became its mayor. The Garde Nationale under command of La Fayette.
Rioting in Auxonne. Napoleon participated in the defence of the château.
Beginning of the “Grande Peur” (Great Fear).
Abolition of privileges and feudal rights.
Napoleon took part in a commission studying the firing of bombs with siege artillery.
In Auxonne, Napoleon swore an oath of allegiance to “the Nation, the King abnd the Law”, following the decree adopted by the Assemblée Constituante on 9 August.
Adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Napoleon left Auxonne for Marseilles passing via Lyons and Valence.
BETWEEN SEPT. 1789 AND FEB. 1791
Napoleon’s third stay in Corsica. During this period, he wrote Lettres à l’abbé Raynal (Letters to Abbé Raynal), and the Letter to Buttafuoco, (23 January 1791) underlining his leanings towards Corsican independence and his support for Pascal Paoli (1725-1807).
Louis XVI forced by demonstrators to move to Paris.
Confiscation of the clergy property.
Creation of the assignat.
Decree dividing French territory into “départements”.
JANUARY-MARCH Napoleon participed in the elections in Corsicaà la campagne électorale en Corse.
20 JANUARY Decree passed integrating Corscia completely within France.
12 APRIL Napoleon and his brother Joseph participated in the Assemblée d’Orezza.
14 MAY Sale of clergy property.
Corsica subject to violent disorder, notably on 25 in Ajaccio. The town government asked Napoleon to write a document justifying the actions taken so as to restore order.
Abolition of the nobility and hereditary titles.
Fête de la Fédération on the Champ-de-Mars.
Napoleon welcomed Paoli on his return to Corsica.
Proclamation of the “Constitution civile du clergé”.
Resignation of Necker.
Dissolution of the Parlements.
Napoleon participated in a new government, still in Orezza.
The Assemblée Constituante decided that Corsica will become a single “département”.
Pie VI refused to recognise the “Constitution civile du clergé”.
Establishment of a new judicial framework for France.
Institution of the Chamber of Commerce.
Napoleon was in Valence, leaving on the 8th.
Napoleon was in Auxonne and had his Letter to Buttafuoco published by the printer Joly, in Dole.
Napoleon elected “lieutenant-colonel en second” in the 2nd Batallion of Corsican Volunteers in the Garde Nationale.
Napoleon had copies of his Letter to Buttafuoco sent to Corsica, notably to Paoli, mentioning to the latter his desire to write a History of Corsica.
Death of Mirabeau (1749-1791).
Napoleon affected to Valence with the rank of First Lieutenant; He left Auxonne on 14th.
Napoleon entered the garrison in Valence, again lodging with Mademoiselle Bou.
Flight of the Royal Family and their arrest at Varennes. On hearing of the King’s flight, Napoleon wrote a short text, République ou Monarchie (Republic or Monarchy), in which he affirmed his Republican preference. In the summer, he also competed in an essay competition organised by the Académie de Lyon on the subject “Quelles vérités et quels sentiments il importe le plus d’inculquer aux hommes pour leur bonheur ?” (‘What are the truths and feelings that should be inculcated in men for their greatest happiness’). The Académie thought his essay mediocre. On becoming Emperor, Napoleon attempted to have all copies of the text destroyed.
Napoleon in Valence was present at the meetings of several popular societies in the south that had mentioned the King’s flight in June.
Napoleon swore a civic oath in Valence.
Soldiers open fire on the Champ-de-Mars on petitioners demanding the abdication of the King.
Decree ordering the levy of four batallions of Nation Guard in Corsica. Napoleon became adjudant-major and wrote a set of Rules and Regulations for the policing and the service of the Batallion of Voluntary National Guards.
Napoleon stayed with Général du Teil at the Château de Pommiers.
The Declaration of Pillnitz, in which Austria and Prussia evoked the possibility of military intervention against France.
Beginning of the elections for the Législative.
SEPTEMBER 1791 – MAY 1792
4th stay in Corsica: Napoleon set out a few days before an order suspending leave arrived. During this stay, he tried to ensure his brother Joseph’s election to the Assemblée Législative. In vain.
Adoption of the Constitution.
The joining of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin to France.
Death of the Archdeacon Lucien, Napoleon’s great uncle.
Treaty of alliance between Austria and Prussia.
Napoleon joined the battalion of the voluntary Corsican National Guard, with the rank of adjudant-major.
Death of Leopold II. His son, Francis II (1768-1835) succeeded him and was elected Emperor 7 July.
Napoleon elected ‘Lieutenant-Colonel en second’ in the 2nd Battalion of Ajaccio Volunteers.
Confrontations in Ajaccio between the 2nd Battalion of Ajaccio Volunteers and the inhabitants of the town, in the course of which Napoleon tried to bring French military personnel over to his side.
Commissioners of the departmental Directory ordered to arbitrate the conflict in Ajaccio. They arrested 34 and sent Napoleon’s battalion to Corte. Napoleon wrote a ‘Mémoire justificatif’ for the Battalion of Ajaccio Volunteers on the uprising of April.
The French government declared war on the “King of Bohemia and Hungary”.
Napoleon arrived in Paris with the aim of explaining his role in the events at Ajaccio and showing that his long absence should not be considered in fact as desertion.
Creation of a camp of 20,000 Fédérés in Paris.
An armed crowd invaded the Tuileries and forced the King to wear a Phrygian bonnet, but was unable to make him reconsider his veto against several decisions voted by the Législative.
Napoleon reintegrated into the army at the rank of Captain, starting from 6 February 1792.
The Fatherland declared ‘in danger’.
Manifesto of Brunswick.
Napoleon witnessed the taking of the Tuileries. The King is demoted and soon imprisoned in the Temple.
Convocation of the Primary Assemblies so as to elect a “Convention nationale”.
Napoleon left Paris accompanied by his sister Elisa, whom he had removed from Saint-Cyr. They reached Marseilles on the 15th.
Last sitting of the Assemblée Législative. Victory at Valmy.
First sitting of the Convention. The royalty was abolished and a new Constitution was to be drawn up.
Proclamation of the Republic, decreed “one and indivisible” on the 25th.
Napoleon set off from Toulon for his 5th stay in Corsica. Arriving in Ajaccio on around the 15, he joined his battalion in Corte.
Adam-Philippe de Custine (1740-1793) took Mainz and then Frankfurt on the 23rd.
The Prussians proposed peace negotiations.
Dumouriez entered Belgium.
Dumouriez beat the Austrians at Jemmapes.
French troops occupied Namur.
The Comté de Nice and Savoy joined to France.
Beginning of the trial of the King.
Preparation of a diversionary manœuvre against Sardinia, in which Napoleon participated.
Paoli appointed general. He accepted the project to take the island of La Maddelena, near Sardinia.
Execution of Louis XVI.
The Comte de Provence (1755-1824) took refuge in Westphalia and proclaimed himself regent of the kingdom.
France declared war on the United Kingdom and Holland.
Monaco joined to France.
Dumouriez entered Holland.
Napoleon participated in the expedition against the island of La Madellena in Sardinia, under the commande of Cesari, Paoli’s nephew.
Napoleon took the small island of San Stefano.
San Stefano abandoned on Cesari’s orders.
Attempt to assassinate Napoleon. Napoleon broke definitvely with Paoli.
Brussels, Hainaut, Ghent, Bruges, Tournai (Dornick), Leuven, Namur attached to France.
France declared war on Spain.
Beginning of the uprising in the Vendée.
Dumouriez beaten at Neerwinden, then at Leuven on the 21st. He began peace negotiations with the Austrians on the 23rd.
The president of the Departmental Directory and Commander of Armed Forces in Corsica, Pascal Paoli, was fired from his post by a decree from the Convention. On the 8th, he collected more than 3,000 men in armed resistacne to the Convention. On the same day, it became known that Lucien Bonaparte was the source of the accusation against Paoli.
Dumouriez changed sides and went over to the enemy.
Creation of the Committee of Public Safety.
Napoleon was taken by Paolistes but managed to escape.
Napoleon arrived in Bastia.
Paoli assumed the head of a independent provisional government.
The Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio sacked. On the same day, Napoleon participated in a failed expedition against Paolists in Ajaccio.
The Bonaparte family left Ajaccio heading for Calvi, to be joined by Napoleon on 2 June.
Agreement between commissioners of the Convention and the Paolist resistance to allow the inhabitants of Ajaccio who wished to do so to leave the city and go to mainland France.
After Lyons rose against the Convention on 30 May, Bordeaux and Marseilles followed suite.
Blockade of the French cost by the Royal Navy.
Napoleon and his family left Corsica. They landed in Toulon on the 13th, and set up house in Marseilles shortly afterwards.
MID-JUNE Napoleon affected to Nice.
The Convention decided to split Corsica into two départements: Golo and Liamone.
Napoleon received the order to go to Avignon. The town was to be taken by Marseilles Fédérés on the 7th, and re-taken by troops under Jean-François Carteaux (1751-1813) on 26.
Napoleon wrote his pro-Jacobin dialogue Le Souper de Beaucaire (The supper in Beaucaire) which would be printed by Tournal, in Avignon, and then by Aurel, printer to the army.
Adoption of a single system of weights and measures for the whole of the territory.
Alexandre de Beauharnais (1760-1794) resigned from his post as commander of the Armée du Rhin.
Napoleon participated in the re-taking of Marseilles by Carteaux.
Toulon surrenders to British forces.
Napoleon appointed Commander of Artillery in Carteaux’s army.
Adoption of the Republican Calendar starting from 24 November.
Napoleon appealled to the War Ministry when Carteaux refused to use his plan against the British and Fédérés in Toulon.
25 NOVEMBER (5 FRIMAIRE AN II)
Dugommier arrived on the 16th as commander of the army at Toulon and agreed to use Napoleon’s plan, namely: to rain permanent cannon fire on the British vessels in the bay.
30 NOVEMBER (10 FRIMAIRE)
Victorious counter-attack led by Napoleon.
17 DECEMBER (27 FRIMAIRE)
Napoleon set up batteries dominating Toulon bay.
18 DECEMBER (28 FRIMAIRE)
British forces left Toulon.
22 DECEMBER (2 NIVÔSE)
Napoleon promoted to the rank of Brigadier General; ordered to inspect the costal defences in Provence. He reached Marseilles on the 31st.
23 DECEMBER (3 NIVÔSE)
Victory of François-Joseph Werstermann (1751-1794) at Savenay over the Catholic and Royal Army.
This timeline is an extract from a more detailed timeline made by Irène Delage, published in Correspondance générale de Napoléon Bonaparte, Tome 1: les apprentissages (co-edition Fayard/Fondation Napoléon, 2004). English translation PH.