After Napoleon’s troops occupied Egypt, the remaining obstacles to the French promise of Egyptian security were the British fleet and the forces of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Sultan sent an expeditionary corps to encounter the French near Aboukir Bay, while the fleet of Horatio Nelson assailed the unprepared armada of Bruaise on August 1, 1798.
While Napoleon directed and achieved victory in the land battle, Bruaise lost his fleet to British cannon fire as a result of indecisiveness and a lack of initiative. Vice-Admiral Villeneuve managed to escape to France with the remaining ships, yet the defeat was crippling to French interests in the region. Napoleon was unable to preclude this turn of events, yet throughout Europe they were perceived as a demonstration of his fallibility.
Austria re-entered the war, introducing into it its ally, the vast Russian Empire. During Napoleon’s absence, the experienced and adamant commander of the Russian armies, Fieldmarshal Alexander Suvorov, managed to cross Alps through the Saint-Gottard Pass and recapture a significant portion of Italy. As he furthered his preparations for an assault on Paris itself, the Directory was crumbling.
The royalists began to grumble in Paris and scheme for a counterrevolution in hopes that such would terminate the war. Seeing that the military situation in Egypt had stagnated, Napoleon realized that there was only one means of defeating this crisis.
Leaving General Cleuber in command of the French armies, he secretly departed from Cairo and headed for Paris after receiving a letter from Director Paul Barras that promised him the chief administrative role within the French government, that of First Consul.
However, upon his arrival in the meeting hall of the National Convention, Napoleon was rudely thrown out by hostile delegates who shouted derogatory expletives at him.
Realizing that he had been taken advantage of by those who wished woe and misery to France and to his own career, Napoleon resolved that the promise they had given him would be carried out still. He instructed Generals Ney and Murat to prepare his fabled cannon and station them around the centers of Parisian government.
Angered and bloody (for the delegates of the Convention attempted to disfigure his face as they rushed him during the meeting), he used his silver tongue to stir up the masses and create popular support for the November 9, 1799, coup d’etat. Eventually, the Directory, encouraged by Barras and Talleyrand, agreed to submit themselves to Napoleon’s authority and call for national elections to the new Consulate.