By 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte’s domination of continental Europe seemed unchallengeable. Five enemy coalitions had been formed against him: each had been militarily outclassed and forced to sue for peace on humiliating terms. The War of the Third Coalition had ended in 1806 with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, a string of French satellite states including the Kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg. A year later the Fourth Coalition was crushed, with Prussia losing half of its territory to newly created French puppet republics, notably the Kingdom of Westphalia and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. The Fifth Coalition fared no better: its leader, the Austrian Empire, lost 20 percent of its territory in the Treaty of Schönbrunn (1809) and with it their access to the Mediterranean through French annexation of the Illyrian Provinces. Russia had escaped relatively lightly from its participation in the Fourth Coalition, but Tsar Alexander was forced to become France’s ally in the subsequent conflict and to join the Continental System, Napoleon’s trade embargo of Britain, with ruinous consequences for the Russian economy. Breaches of that embargo would provoke Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia and the end of his European supremacy.
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