By feats of arms, Napoleon Bonaparte had forged a prototype European Union by 1810. His coronation as French Emperor (1804) portrayed him as heir of Charlemagne, but Napoleon’s imperial model was Roman not Holy Roman. As decisive a reformer as he was a general, he liberalized the legal code, respected religious freedoms, espoused meritocratic advancement and emancipated the Jews. However, he introduced public education for boys only, and despised democracy and press freedom. Much of his empire was parcelled up amongst brothers and sisters: Louis was bequeathed the Dutch, before being sacked for excessive sympathy for his subjects; Joseph was a popular ruler of Naples (where, unlike his brother, he founded a network of girls’ schools), but loathed as king of Spain. However, destructive forces were already apparent: Britain was unbeaten, and commanded the sea. Russia was an increasingly mistrustful ally, about to provoke Napoleon’s ultimate folie de grandeur.
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