Boulogne to Rhine Synopsis (1 of 2)

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When France and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 Europe was at peace for the first time in a decade.  Relations between these two states deteriorated quickly, however, as a result of the aggressive policies of Napoleon Bonaparte, now ruler of France.  Napoleon strengthened French control of the Batavian and Helvetic Republics (Holland and Switzerland); took steps to extend French control of northern Italy; oversaw the dismantling of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) to the benefit of French clients in western Germany; continued to discriminate against British trade; began building a navy; and sought to establish a French presence in the eastern Mediterranean. In May 1803, less than fourteen months after the conclusion of the Treaty of Amiens, Great Britain declared war on France, beginning what would become the War of the Third Coalition.To begin with neither country had any means of attacking the other directly. Great Britain primarily targeted French shipping, while Napoleon occupied Hanover and began preparations for an invasion of Britain from a military camp established at the French port at Boulogne. Further French provocations served to transform a Franco-British war into a European conflict. In 1804 Napoleon shocked Europe with the extra-territorial arrest and execution of the Duc d’Enghien on trumped-up charges of conspiracy. A couple of months later Napoleon announced that France was now a hereditary empire and on December 2, 1804, he crowned himself emperor. The following spring he crowned himself King of Italy, annexed Genoa, Parma and Piacenza, transferred Lucca to his younger sister Elise, and partially occupied the kingdom of Naples.These actions finally brought Russia, Sweden and Austria into an alliance with Britain. In early August 1805 Austria formally joined the Third Coalition and a month later Austrian forces crossed the Bavarian border. Napoleon now turned his attention to Austria.  “I am marching on Vienna,” Napoleon wrote to his foreign minister Talleyrand on August 23.  Two days later, his army had orders to prepare for a fall campaign in Germany.  As Napoleon wrote to his chief of staff, "The moment of decision has arrived."For the quotations, see letters 10645 (to Talleyrand, 23 aout) and 10658 (to Berthier, 25 aout), in Napoléon, Correspondance générale, vol. 5, pages 607 and 618.

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