On May 26, 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned the King of Italy, thus turning the Republic of Italy into the Kingdom of Italy. Napoleon took on the titles he would henceforth use – ‘Emperor of France’ and ‘King of Italy’.
In 1795, Napoleon was called upon by Paul Barras, a leader of the Thermidorian Reaction to take charge of the forces defending the National Convention in the Tuileries Palace against a royalist rebellion in Paris. Young Bonaparte had risen through his girth and had made a name for himself as the general at Toulon. Napoleon made the defense look easy and cleared the streets of Paris of any rebel faction. This earned him the loyalty of the new Directory and brought him much fame. By early 1796, Bonaparte had been promoted to Commander of the Interior and had been given command of the Army of Italy. He soon led a very successful invasion of Italy. He defeated Austrian forces at the Battle of Lodi and evicted them from Lombardy. The following year, Napoleon marched into Austria and forced the Treaty of Leoben. France now gained control of most of the northern regions of Italy. He then turned towards and gained Venice. Later, in 1799, Napoleon led the 18 Brumarie coup d’état which led to the adoption of the “Constitution of the Year VIII” which would accord the First Consul almost limitless powers. Napoleon also stepped up to assume the role and started to live at the Tuileries.
In 1804, Napoleon used the plots against him to justify the turning of his rule into an imperial one. His intention was to firmly embed the notion of a Bonapartist succession in the constitution, providing it legitimacy and legality and making it impossible for the former Bourbon rulers to return. In 1804, Napoleon was elected as “Emperor of the French” by plebiscite. His coronation as Napoleon I at Notre Dame de Paris was held on December 2, 1804. Pope Pius VII also crowned Napolean’s wife Joséphine Empress. It then became time to set his eyes on the throne of Italy.
Napoleon had become the chief magistrate of Italy in January 1802. The newly-formed Italian republic was in need of a president and the thirty-member commission that set out to find one believed that a Napoleonic influence would be perfect. Despite having been persuaded to be the president, the commission could not succeed in getting Napoleon to stay stationed in Italy. Vice-president Francesco Melzi looked after the day-to-day administration.
Before Napoleon’s coronation as the Emperor of France, Italy had in effect become a French protectorate, much to the ire of Austria and other European nations. Napoleon, though absented, decreed most of the Italian economic and international policies. His army was stationed in Italy to fend off any further Austrian designs. But with the coronation of Napoleon and the proclamation of Empire in France, it became clear that Italy could no longer remain as a republic.
On March 17, 1805, about a year after the proclamation of Empire in France, the Italian republic was formally transformed into the Kingdom of Italy. Though called the Kingdom of Italy, the territory that was included extended only across Lombardy and the Emilia Romagna. The rest of the peninsula did not acknowledge Napoleon as its king. The formal, ceremony of coronation, however, was held a couple of months later, on May 26, 1805 at the Milan Cathedral. For the coronation, Napoleon took the Iron Crown of the Lombards, one of the oldest royal insignia of Christendom and a symbol of the Kingdom of Lombardy. With this gesture, Napoleon highlighted his Carolingian credentials.
Also On This Day:
1647 – Alse Young becomes the first person executed for witchcraft in America.
1896 – The last czar of Russia, Nicholas II, is crowned.
1897 – The classic novel Dracula goes on sale in London.
1958 – Union Square in San Francisco becomes a state historical landmark.
1987 – Sri Lanka launches Operation Liberation – an offensive against the Tamil rebels in Jaffna.