Napoleon had arrived back in Paris in December 1812 and by the following April he’s at war again because the Russians are advancing south to Prussia. Incredibly, he admits Talleyrand, who had betrayed him, back into his counsels. He also begins talks with Metternich. They are two of the most brilliant and least trustworthy men in Europe and neither is his friend. The allies, now better organised and more determined to defeat Napoleon, begin grouping around Leipzig. By what is now called the Trachenberg strategy, the allies would divide their armies into three; if one were attacked, another would be free to go for Napoleon’s flank.
The three-day battle of Leipzig, known as ‘The Battle of the Nations’ ends in defeat for Napoleon. He makes mistakes; yet again his men are short of supplies. Surely now is the time to end these wretched wars? By what would have been the agreement of Frankfurt, France would lose Italy, Germany, Spain and Holland. Similar terms could have been agreed before and saved many lives. Napoleon does not want to give up Italy and Holland and we’ve already seen that his idea of ‘an honourable peace’ is one where France retains all conquered territory. What really stymies hopes of peace is the British refusal to allow Napoleon to keep Belgium, which they see as a possible base from which to attack Britain.
In France there is increased opposition to yet more conscription and to even higher taxes. How much longer will the French support their self-appointed Emperor and be willing to die for him?