France has found a charismatic and ambitious leader in the person of Napoleon Bonaparte. His string of victories in the battlefields of Europe all the more contributed to his steady rise and prominence among the French people. Consequently, France’s rise to power brought unease among other European nations.
Assured of his prominent status and support among the people, Napoleon launched a coup in 1799 that overthrew the Bourbon king and established himself as ruler and First Consul. Later on, he would declare himself emperor for life ("The Battle of Waterloo"). Napoleon had wanted to make France the most powerful country in Europe and to achieve this. he waged a campaign of annexation and colonization of lands which resulted in many victories for his army. The wars were later called the Napoleonic Wars.
A coalition of major powers in Europe, notably the Great Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria mobilized an army to meet the threat posed by Napoleon’s army. After a series of wars, the Allied army finally defeated Napoleon in 1814 thereby effectively checking his ambition of establishing France as the dominant power in Europe. Napoleon was subsequently deposed and exiled to the island of Elba along with some 600 of his loyal guards in accordance with the Treaty of Fontainbleau. The bourbon king, Louis XVIII was made ruler of France by the victorious European powers ("Battle of Waterloo").
The Congress of Vienna was convened by the nations of Europe that defeated Napoleon to discuss the problems that arose after the fall of France. The Congress also wanted to re-establish the territorial balance in Europe wherein the future and status of the nations conquered and annexed by Napoleon’s campaign in Europe were to be discussed.
The unpopularity and ineptness of Louis XVIII resulting in economic and social unrest left many veterans who fought with Napoleon and many citizens as well clamoring for change. The men who had fought alongside Napoleon remained a potent force and many felt that their past efforts were wasted because of the government’s corruption and insensitiveness to the needs of the people. Many were hoping that their deposed emperor would return and liberate them. Napoleon, believing that many in France would allow his return while others would not dare oppose it, decided to risk a return and put forth plans to establish himself again as the ruler of France ("Waterloo").
On Feb. 26, 1815, Napoleon together with less than a thousand of his men, left Elba and landed on an unpopulated beach near Antibes. Napoleon is determined to return to Paris and early on the next day, he marched toward Grenoble with his men. Soldiers who were stationed in outposts outside Paris initially barred his advance but after offering the guards to shoot him because he has no intention of turning back, instead joined him. Everywhere Napoleon marched, veteran soldiers and those soldiers serving the government joined his ranks. At Auxerre, Marshal Ney, Napoleon’s old comrade whom he once called the "bravest of the brave," was overwhelmed by the presence of his former emperor. He embraced him and turned over to Napoleon the command of his 6,000 troops. Because of