The new, revolutionary Republic of France is under threat from all the old reactionary nations of Europe! It is clear that there are no options other than war, and that the utter ruination of France is the only aim of Austria and France’s other enemies. The Austrians are motivated by fear: they fear their own people will follow the same revolutionary path.
The Austrians can be confronted in Germany and northern Italy. Austria’s possessions in Italy are ready for liberation! The other states of Italy bear watching, but should not be able to stand against the righteous anger of the French people!
General “Napoleone Buonaparte”, in charge of the Army of Italy’s artillery, has been appointed to command the entire army. It is his duty to hold onto France’s territory in the Italian peninsular. This is, however, an ambitious and skilful man and he has plans to drive the Austrians out of Italy and back to the gates of Vienna.
Napoleon Bonaparte and his Armée d'Orient are faced with a difficult task: the conquest of Egypt and a march to India. Once in India, they will join forces with Tippu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, and drive the hated English into the sea! Such is the grandeur of the scheme and, in General Napoleon Bonaparte, there is a commander of equal grandeur to undertake it.
Before this can be achieved, however, there are more immediate obstacles. Egypt is ruled by the Mamelukes, who are nominally loyal servants of the Ottoman Empire. In the burning heat of the desert, Frenchmen must march on Alexandria and break their power before anything else can be achieved. But here, in this land of ancient secrets, there is glory to be won!
Glory enough for France, and glory enough, possibly, for General Bonaparte!
Behind all the Imperial façade and republican sentiments, France is once again an absolute monarchy, now ruled by Emperor Napoleon I. His efforts to secure good marriages for his brothers and marshals are dynastic politics that Bourbon kings would have grasped instantly. Yet, for all this, the French people have freedom, as Napoleon has used credit gained by his victories to remake France. Merit, as well as birth, now counts for something.
The Emperor’s efforts have given France an impressive empire and domination over many neighbours; he is a source of strength. Napoleon has redrawn the map of Europe to suit his own ends. He is also a great weakness, as his treatment of enemies and rivals has not been entirely politic or polite. He has caused offence to nearly everyone, taking not giving, even when he should have been conciliatory. He has managed, through poor diplomacy, to make the British look like attractive allies to many.
As a result, the Austrians are waiting for an opportunity to strike back at France for their recent humiliations and losses. The Russians, too, will strike down this new upstart emperor if given a chance, and will they ignore Napoleon’s instructions to ban trade with England? The Prussians, apparently, are content to sit and wait, but for how long? Will they idly sit by if it becomes necessary to extend French power in northern Germany? And then there are the British: always there are the British. That vindictive little island will have to be dealt with at some time.
France, therefore, faces many rivals. But if they can be isolated and removed one by one, then Europe really will know peace, under Bonaparte, the heir to Caesar!
Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy, a nation of free trade and personal liberty. Its people are seemingly devoted to making money and disliking foreigners in equal measure. Foreigners are, quite simply, just not very good at anything, be that running an empire or making a decent pie. Britons make no secret of their prejudice, a crass attitude that makes diplomacy difficult. The “English” as, much to the annoyance of the Scots, everyone calls them, are disliked in every court in Europe for this arrogance and their willingness to let everyone else do all the fighting and dying against the French. The apparent truth of this last point has been a gift to Bonaparte.
If the British do have a truly visceral dislike, then it would be the French, thanks to traditional rivalry and a genuine horror at the consequences of the French Revolution. While many British politicians were pleased to see an end to the Bourbon monarchy, they were repulsed by the insatiable bloodshed of the Terror, and fearful that the infection of revolution might cross the English Channel, with or without French bayonets to help it along. Invasion is a constant fear and, as always, an enemy in control of the Low Countries is enough to scare London.
Britain’s position in 1805 is better than might be expected, but not due to its own efforts: Napoleon has managed to upset almost every other nation in Europe with his high-handedness. This is an opportunity for the British to build a new alliance, although this will mean paying handsome subsidies to its partners. As long as the Royal Navy can keep control of the seas, Britain is safe from invasion, but without a substantial army and continental allies this counts for little against France. Britain can contribute to the downfall of France, but needs time and resolve to muster its strength. Napoleon may not grant that time.
There are matters to be settled between the house of Hapsburg and the upstart Bonaparte.
Francis I is the first Hapsburg monarch to use the title Emperor of Austria. His ancient possessions in the Holy Roman Empire have been largely stripped away by a series of military disasters inflicted by the “Emperor” Napoleon. The old Empire is no more. In Italy and Germany, General Bonaparte personally oversaw military campaigns that broke Austrian Hapsburg dominance. Despite a relatively generous peace settlement in 1801, the Hapsburg throne lost too much.
France remains a threat: it is unlikely that Napoleon can ever let matters rest as they are now. His legitimacy as a ruler is bought and paid for in military glory, and that cannot be won in times of peace. His attitude towards other nations is tinged with contempt at best, and hostility at worst. Austria, then, has to choose sides. Fortunately, there are potential allies in the Russians and the British. Indeed, the British may be ideal allies, for they are likely to want the return of Hanover, thus weakening Prussian power within Germany. They also have an exceptionally large amount of money to help finance their continental allies.
The Russians will expect to be compensated for any efforts against Napoleon by Polish territory, but Austria can put up with such an arrangement. The difficulty may lie in coming to an arrangement with Prussia: can Germany be divided equably? But there is much to be gained by finding allies: Austria needs help if she is to regain the lost lands of Italy and, finally, remove the revolutionary threat that is France.
Russia is a giant, if it can be mobilised to face the deadly danger to peace that is Napoleon Bonaparte.
It is also a nation that is recovering from the assassination of the reforming Tsar Paul in 1801, a man who was too interested in reform to be left on the throne. Rumour has it that Tsar Alexander was complicit, at the very least, in his father’s death. Paul had taken Russia to war against revolutionary France. Now Alexander is beginning to realise that a French, or rather, Napoleonic hunger for victories will drag Russia into war once again. If Russia is to be seen as a major power in Europe, she must behave as a major power, or accept French domination of Europe.
This is why Russia now contemplates war against France again. There may be incidental gains to be made in Poland and Prussian-dominated Germany, but the threat of the new French Empire is real. Napoleon has set himself up as the equal of the Tsar, and that is an implicit challenge. There are potential allies and some, like the English, have very large treasuries.
Russian soldiers may be rough and ready, but her generals are cunning commanders. Russia also has the advantage of time and space, should a war go badly. No invader from the west can comprehend the emptiness of the steppes, deal with the vast distances of Russia, or survive the merciless campaigns of “General Winter”.
Prussia has a proud military heritage: what else could be the case for the nation of Frederick the Great? The country has been at peace for ten years, the result of getting a free hand in northern Germany east of the Rhine in exchange for recognising French control west of the Rhine. Political realities have to be recognised. Napoleon, however, is not an easy neighbour to endure. His ambitions are seemingly limitless, his army is growing every day, and he is in need of new victories to add lustre and legitimacy to his crown. It may only be a matter of time before he once again looks to secure the borders of France through war. Perhaps, though, he can be persuaded to go south, against Austria, even if that only leaves a stronger France to face at a later date. There are allies available, if the Prussians can stomach them. The British are condescending and unwilling to fight on land, but they have the wealth needed to finance a war. The Russians and Austrians may be willing to help bring down the upstart empire of Napoleon, even as they will do their best to hamper Prussian ambitions. Neither the Austrians nor the Russians have any wish to see Germany or Poland dominated by Prussia, even as they prepare for war against France. Such then, is the situation facing Frederick William III. Danger and opportunity await.