Before Napoleon’s attempted invasion of Russia in the winter of 1812, France was on its way towards domination of mainland Europe. A series of defeats suffered by successive European alliances at the hands of Napoleon had gradually reduced the strength and territories of France’s main continental rivals, Austria and Prussia. In 1810 Napoleon had incorporated the kingdom Holland and other coastal parts of modern day Germany into the Empire of France as part of his attempt to rival the British at sea. Napoleon was suffering at the hands of the British naval blockade of France and had pushed for the implementation of an embargo against British trade across occupied and non-occupied Europe, known as the ‘Continental System’. France’s domination in southern-central Europe had reached its greatest extent, with Napoleon becoming ‘king’ of northern Italy in 1805, acquiring control of the Adriatic and absorbing the Papal States following an invasion in 1808.
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