Italy Under Napoleon

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ITALY UNDER NAPOLEON                                 (go Back to the main menu of History of Italy)

At the End of 18th Century

The Italian political and territorial picture, which at the end of the 18C seemed to have stabilised, rapidly disintegrated in the face of Napoleon Bonaparte's first military campaign across the peninsula so as to successfully attack the Austrian Empire on its southern flank. After the Peace of Paris (16 May 1796) reached with the neighbouring kingdom of Savoy, that of Campoformio (17 October 1797) marked the end of the now enfeebled Republic of Venice. The latter was exchanged with Austria for the Duchy of Milan, which went to form the Repubblica Transpadana (November 1796).
With Napoleon's entry into Italy there came also the new ideas of liberty diffused from the French Revolution and these had an immediate effect. After the French occupation of the territory of the Papal Legations in 1796, in August of the same year the ducal government of Reggio (Emilia) was overthrown and in the following December the Repubblica Cispadana was proclaimed. This latter included the rest of Emilia and adopted for the first time a flag with the present-day white, red and green colours. On 29 June 1797 the two republics were joined in the new Repubblica Cisalpina and towards the end of the year the Repubblica Ligure was formed. At the beginning of 1798 the rest of the Papal States were occupied and turned into the Repubblica Romana, while the pope had to seek refuge in Tuscany. The next year (in January 1799) it was the turn of Naples, where a group of intellectuals and aristocrats formed the Repubblica Partenopea, while King Ferdinando IV had to flee to Sicily. A republican government was then also established in Tuscany.
But the dream of liberty seemed of brief duration. The absence of Napoleon, on the Egyptian Campaign (1798-99), favoured a coalition of the great European States allied with the Russian czar and the English monarchy. As quickly as it had arrived the French army was forced to withdraw from the peninsula leaving the way open to the restoration that was to be particularly violent at Naples (June 1799).
The Second Italian Campaign began with the resounding victory of Marengo (14 June 1800) and ended with the Peace of Luneville (9 February 1801) whereby France regained control over Italy. The republican ideals having been replaced by Napoleon's dynastic aspirations, the Repubblica Italiana, direct heir of the Cisalpina with the addition of the Venetian domain, was established on 28 December 1805 and then transformed into the Kingdom of Italy on 31 March 1805. The pope's authority over part of his territories was re-established; the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was transformed into the Kingdom of Etruria; the territories of Piombino, Lucca, Massa and Carrara were assigned as a duchy to Napoleon's sister Eloise; the Kingdom of Naples was given (30 March 1806) his brother Joseph; and only Sardinia and Sicily remained for the Savoys and Bourbons.
Successive events further reinforced Napoleon's control of Italy. His brother-in-law Murat ascended the throne of Naples; the Kingdom of Italy was expanded with the Trentino and Alto Adige (the latter fiercely defended by Andreas Hofer); and Tuscany and the Papal States were incorporated in the new French Empire (Peace of Sch?brunn, 14 October 1810). But after a brief interlude, the failure of Napoleon's Russian Campaign and his defeats at Leipzig (1813) and Waterloo (1815), as well as Murat's tragic end (October 1815), brought back to Italy the restoration of the old political and territorial order under the terms of the Congress of Vienna (June 1815).


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