To the troops he commanded in battle Napoleon was known fondly as the "Little Corporal." To the monarchs and kings whose thrones he overthrew he was "that Corsican ogre." Some believed him a great reformer. Others thought him a monster. Friend and foe alike, however, could agree on one fact: Napoleon I, emperor of the French and for 16 years master of most of Europe, was one of the greatest military geniuses of all time.
A French Citizen by Chance
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica, on Aug. 15, 1769. It was by chance that the future ruler of France was born a French citizen. His family had migrated to Corsica from the Italian mainland in the 16th century. The island had been transferred from the Republic of Genoa to France one year before Napoleon's birth. His christening name was Italian. It was spelled Napoleone Buonaparte. As a boy he hated the French, whom he considered oppressors of his native land.
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