The Age of George III
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Reasons for the defeat of Napoleon
It is almost impossible to deal with every factor that led to Napoleon's
defeat; the main causes may be identified, however.
- Napoleon never possessed adequate naval power.
Even after Trafalgar, the Royal Navy, which had held
the superiority for many years before, was almost unchallenged.
- Napoleon's lack of sea power meant that the French threat of invasion
to Britain was removed
- without adequate naval power Napoleon's Continental
System had many loopholes
- the Continental System became a far greater burden to the countries under
Napoleon's control than to Britain, whose natural resources enabled her wealth
and power to increase rapidly during these years, despite her considerable
losses to privateers and the numerous bankruptcies this caused
- Britain's increased grain production was sufficient to ward off any threat
- Napoleon's disastrous Moscow campaign of 1812
had its origins in the Czar Alexander's refusal to continue his support of
the Continental System
- in his attempt to control the whole coastline of Europe Napoleon attacked
both Spain and Portugal. He underestimated the national
resistance to him in both these countries. He also made a grave miscalculation
after British forces had entered Portugal under Wellesley in 1808. "If I thought
it would need 80,000 men to master the Peninsula I would not under take it,"
declared Napoleon, "but 30,000 will suffice."
- by 1811 Napoleon had over 300,000 French troops in Spain and
Wellington defeated some of Napoleon's outstanding generals. British
sea power was once again of vital importance, for Wellington's forces were
kept fully supplied through Lisbon. The Battle of Talavera (1809), was a victory
for a combined British and Spanish army, followed by Fuentes D'Onoro, 1811,
and Salamanca, 1812. The French never recovered from these blows
- nationalism had its strongest support from the middle class of Europe which
was adversely affected by Napoleon's taxation and Continental System
- after 1807 Napoleon's judgment declined; for example, he believed that Moscow
was the heart of Russia and that to capture it would lead to Russian defeat,.
He had very poor opinion of Wellington as a soldier right up to the battle
of Waterloo itself.
See The Battle of Waterloo web site for a detailed account of the battle.
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12 January, 2016