After Napoleon’s victorious campaign in Poland, Alexander I met with him in Tilsit (June 25, 1807), and the two leaders signed a treaty that promised mutual cooperation and a division of influence in Europe.
Russia entered the Continental Blockade system, thus dealing a crippling blow to the British Empire. In the meantime, the Grand Duchy of Warsaw was forged and an independent Polish government established. The Polish were grateful to Napoleon for having accomplished what years of civil upheaval could not and agreed to supply him with troops and material goods.
An entire corps was thereby generated under the leadership of Marshal Joseph Poniatowski, one of the new progressive Polish elite whose devotion to Napoleon equaled that of the French commanders.
Beginning in 1807, radical adherents of the Ancien Regime in Spain began to aggressively plot a return to the old Hapsburg monarchy. Their guerilla tactics enabled small groups of partisans to ambush and brutally torture groups of French soldiers. Napoleon’s brother Joseph was forced to flee Madrid and appeal to the Emperor for military assistance.
Thus the French armies entered Spain and dealt numerous crushing blows to the subversives. Madrid was soon regained after Napoleon’s prized artillery bombarded the city from above. Joseph was reinstated as King, and the rebels were driven into Portugal. But the juntas of renegade Spanish nobles began to receive British support as an army led by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, landed in Portugal and thus created a stalemate that stagnated the campaign for the next four years. In the meantime, the pro-feudal elements in Austria stirred up the masses to declare war on Napoleonic France.
The Emperor of the French was forced to again shift his attention to the Eastern Front in order to devastate the armies of the Archduke Karl at Wagram in 1809. As a result of this, Emperor Francis II dissolved the Holy Roman Empire and entered into an alliance with Napoleon that guaranteed Austrian assistance in France’s future conflicts.
It was this alliance that Napoleon hoped to secure when he married Marie-Louise, the daughter of Francis II, for political purposes after divorcing his first wife Josephine. Napoleon believed that he required an heir to his throne in order to secure the government that he had created in the French Empire beyond his lifetime.
In the fall of 1810, Marie-Louise gave birth to Napoleon II, who was dubbed “King of Rome” by his adoring father. However, Napoleon II, despite his subsequent wealth and connections to two ruling families, would never equal his namesake’s glory due to his early death by tuberculosis in 1832.