There are few individuals in European history as influential as Napoleon Bonaparte. The historic leader is remembered for his iconic bicorn hat, his allegedly short stature (a bit unfairly, since he was actually of average height for his time), and his singular military skill. During his lifetime, Napoleon went from a student in a French military academy to the ruler of an empire that spanned nearly all of continental Europe. By the time he was finally defeated in 1815, his series of conquests, known as the Napoleonic Wars, had changed the European continent forever. Here are seven facts about Napoleon Bonaparte that offer a small glimpse into his spectacular rise and fall.
French Wasn’t His First Language
Despite the central role Napoleon played in the history of France, he didn’t start learning to speak French until he was 9 years old. Napoleon was born on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where most people spoke a regional dialect of Italian, and this was the language he grew up speaking. He spoke with a Corsican accent throughout his life, and even after he became emperor of France, this accent continued to mark him as a foreigner on the French mainland and served as a reminder of his Mediterranean origins.