Napoleon was a very controversial figure at the time of his death. A large percentage of French were monarchists and pro-Bourbons. Many others were Republicans or Socialists who were against personal dictatorships.

Instead, in the days of the Great War, he was widely seen as a French national hero, and now that perception is almost unanimous. When and how did this change in public opinion happen?

  • Is it national opinion or national politics (or both) involved here? – Ken Graham Nov 7 '16 at 14:56
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    During the First Italian Campaign? – T.E.D. Nov 7 '16 at 15:01
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    I think he means "after the Borbon Restauration / Napoleon I's death". And, if you think that Louis Napoleon won the French elections in 1848 and had already staged a coup in 1836 on the basis of being a relative of Napoleon I, I would say that while the Borbon regimen did condemn Napoleon I's memory, he remained a national hero for lots of people even then. – SJuan76 Nov 7 '16 at 19:55
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    After "a whiff of grapeshot" – MCW Nov 7 '16 at 20:17

Napoleon's career as a national hero started after his military victories during the "revolutionary wars" in France (Toulon) and Italy.

His next adventure was expedition to Egypt which ended with a humiliating defeat, but somehow this was not clear to most in France, and they made him a dictator with strong popular support. The later spectacular victories of the French army very much increased his popularity. He was able to ride on the wave of patriotism.

I understand this seems weird to some people, but one has probably to take into account almost a century of previous continuous British-French wars. Probably it seemed to many people that he is able to finally win this competition.

  • There was "Napoleon 3"...who started out strong but turned into a total dud...so certainly "Napoleon the Original and Still the Best" definitely "moved up the list" after that disaster. – Doctor Zhivago Nov 8 '16 at 17:40

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