August 15, 1769: Napoleon Bonaparte born in Ajaccio, Corsica.
May 17, 1779: Napoleon begins study at the royal military academy
October 17: 1784: Enrolls in the Ecole Militaire
October 28, 1785: Graduates from Ecole Militaire with the rank of second lieutenant in the artillery.
November 3, 1785: Stationed in Valence
July 14, 1789: Paris mob storms the Bastille
May-October, 1792: While in Paris with his regiment, Napoleon witnesses the storming of the Tuileries Palace and the dethroning of the French King, Louis XVI.
December 22, 1793: For his courage at an internal French battle at Toulon, Napoleon receives the new rank of brigadier general
June 13, 1795: Napoleon is promoted to General of the Army of the West October 5, 1795: The government assigns Napoleon the task of suppressing civil strife and rebellion against the Republic
October 15, 1785: At the home of Paul Francois Barras, a Directory member, Napoleon meets Rose de Beauharnais (Josephine)
March 2, 1786: Napoleon is given command of the French army in Italy
March 9, 1796: Napoleon marries Josephine
March 11, 1796: Italian campaign against Austria begins
May 10, 1796: Napoleon wins the Battle of Lodi
November 17, 1796: Napoleon wins the Battle of Arcole
January 14, 1797: Napoleon wins the Battle of Rivoli
October 17, 1797: Napoleon draws up the Treaty of Campo-Formio with Austria
December 5, 1797: He returns to Paris a hero
May 19, 1798: Napoleon begins his Egyptian campaign
July 2, 1798: Fall of Alexandria
July 21, 1798: Wins Battle of the Pyramids against Mamelukes in Egypt
July 24, 1798: Fall of Cairo
August 1, 1798: Under the command of Admiral Nelson, the British fleet destroys the French navy in the Battle of Aboukir
August 23, 1799: Receiving news of turmoil in France, Napoleon returns to Paris
November 9-10, 1799: Following a coup d'etat, Napoleon becomes First Consul of the new French government
February 19, 1800: Sets up a household in Tuileries Palace
May 20, 1800: Napoleon leads his army across the Alps in the Second Italian Campaign
June 14, 1800: Wins Battle of Marengo against Austria
February 9, 1800: Treaty with Austria signed at Luneville
July 15, 1801: Signing of the Concordat between France and Rome ends schism between the French government and the Catholic Church
March 25, 1802: Treaty of Amiens signed with Britain
August 4, 1802: New constitution adopted, making Napoleon First Consul for life
May 16, 1803: England violates Treaty of Amiens
May 18, 1804: Senate proclaims Napoleon Emperor
December 2, 1804: Napoleon crowns himself Emperor in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris
March 17, 1805: Napoleon is crowned king of Italy in Milan
October 21, 1805: The Battle of Trafalgar: The British under Nelson are defeated.
December 2, 1805: Victory in the Battle of Austerlitz against Austria and Russia
June 14, 1807: Defeats the Russians at the Battle of Friedland
July 7, 1807: Czar Alexander I makes peace with Napoleon in the Treaty of Tilsit
July 22, 1807: Napoleon creates the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (Poland), to be overseen by France
November 30, 1807: Beginning of French occupation of Portugal
February 20, 1808: Napoleon sends the French marshal Joachim Murat to lead an army in Spain
December 15, 1809: Divorces Josephine
April 2, 1810: Marries Marie-Louise, Archduchess of Austria
March 20, 1811: Napoleon's son born, referred to as the "Roi de Rome"
June 24, 1812: Russian Campaign begins
September 14, 1812: Grand Army enters Moscow to find the city abandoned and set aflame by the inhabitants; retreating in the midst of a frigid winter, the army suffers devastating losses
December 18, 1812: Napoleon returns to Paris
March 17, 1813: Prussia declares war on France
June 21, 1813: The French fall to Spain in the Battle of Vitoria
January 1814: Anti-French coalition army enters France
March 30-31, 1814: Paris falls
April 2, 1814: Senate proclaims end of the Empire; Napoleon's wife and son flee Paris.
April 4, 1814: Napoleon abdicates his rule and Louis XVIII, a Bourbon, is restored to the French throne
May 4, 1814: Napoleon is exiled to Elba; his wife and son take refuge in Vienna
March 1, 1815: Escaping Elba, Napoleon returns in South France
March 7, 1815: Napoleon rallies the French army
March 20, 1815: Louis XVIII flees, Napoleon takes control, begins "Hundred Days" campaign
June 18, 1815: Defeated in the Battle of Waterloo by the British and Prussians, led by Wellington and Blucher
June 22, 1815: Final Abdication
October 16, 1815: Napoleon is exiled to Saint Helena
March 5, 1821: Napoleon dies
October 15, 1840: Exhumed for Reburial in Paris as a French National Hero
The Philip Corso Collection
The sale of 'the collection of a lifetime' is always an event. And that of Dr Philip Corso's is very much so, not only because it is a collection which includes certain extraordinary rarities but also because it is a collection of Napoleonica. Napoleon has always fascinated. His military genius, his immense drive and force of character, his remarkable charm and his staggering capacity to put the head before the heart have all found many admirers. And what more poetic way to emulate and 'touch' his greatness than to possess objects which he once held. One of the books in Corso's collection, the sumptuous Berthier account of Marengo, was in fact given by Berthier to Napoleon and he then subsequently passed it on to his physician, Barry O'Meara, just before the doctor was expelled from St Helena. An imperial souvenir indeed!
Philip Corso has been a lifelong Napoleon enthusiast. He fell under the charm about forty years ago after reading Felix Markham's influential 1963 biography, Napoleon. Markham, British academic (1908-1970), was a vintage product of the British educational system (Eton, then Balliol college, becoming history tutor at that university until his death), and his book is renowned for its even-handed approach. Ironically enough Dr Corso was on a three-month medical missionary trip to East Africa (1966 and 1967), but instead of bringing medical assistance to the locals, it was he who fell ill - badly ill. He had caught that most incurable of maladies, the Napoleon disease.
The thrill of collecting was soon to be shared with his wife, and they scoured sale rooms the world over in search of just the right piece of Napoleonica. In fact, Corso's collection includes six to seven hundred Napoleonic prints, amongst which there are some hand-coloured and framed prints and certain anti-Napoleonic political caricatures by the great British artist/satirists of period, namely Gillray, Cruikshank, and Rowlandson. There are also some rare books, of which particularly noteworthy is the lavishly illustrated account of the Battle of Marengo prepared for Napoleon by Berthier in 1805 to coincide with the re-enactment of that battle on the actual battlefield at Marengo, following the emperor's coronation as King of Italy in Milan. And yet, to imply that this was a collection of pictures and books would be to miss-represent it. Corso's collecting philosophy was always one of eclecticism. So in addition to the prints and caricatures, there are bronze and marble statues, jewelry, china, snuff-boxes, and ultimately a large conglomeration of memorabilia with a Napoleonic theme decoration, such as spoons, pipes and Dalton mugs.
But there comes a time in every collector's life to take stock. Perhaps the children leave home, perhaps storage becomes a problem (very often, the collection begins to 'own' the collector). Dr Corso has been caretaker of these works for nearly half a lifetime. It is now time for someone else to take on the torch. But the game was worth the candle, as Philip Corso recounts. "I bought an entirely autograph letter from Napoleon to his brother Joseph. In it the future emperor gives instructions to his brother, telling him how much money to take out of his bank account to pay for the chbteau of Malmaison. When I originally purchased it in London through an agent, I was bidding against Malmaison. Fortunately (or unfortunately!) I prevailed. But now I will give Malmaison the opportunity of adding it to their collection. I very much hope they are successful."
Peter Hicks, Historian, Fondation Napolion