Napoleon was born Napoleon Buonaparte on August 15, 1769 on the island of Corsica, which is Italian. His father was Carlo Buonaparte who had fought on the island with Pascale di Piali and had helped force the Genovese out of Corsica. Paoli went to England in 1768, when France took Corsica, but Carlo Buonaparte stayed behind. Had he followed Paoli, Napoleon most likely would have been born in Great Britain. This is one of history's more interesting ironies.
Napoleon received an appointment to the royal military academy at Brienne in 1779. Earlier, in 1770, France had conferred titles of nobility upon his family. At the academy, Napoleon proved himself to be exceptionally bright; but was mocked by other students for his strong Corsican accent. There is some argument that this emotional abuse instilled in him a will to succeed at any cost. He was later appointed to the military section of the National Academy at Paris. While there, he passed all the necessary examinations his first year.
Napoleon returned to Corsica when the Revolution began and formed the National Guard. He was responsible for preparing a petition to the National Assembly requesting that Corsica be annexed to France, and its citizens given the rights of French citizens. He became a Jacobin who captured the village of Toulon from the British, and commanded a volunteer force which fired on a group who supported the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday. During the Reign of Terror, he probably would have been guillotined, except he had political connections (his future wife, Josephine de Beauhamais, was the mistress of a corrupt member of the Directory,) plus it was determined that he had played no active role in any of the factional battles of the time. While his friends went to the Guillotine, he continued to advance. He put down a royalist uprising with his famous "whiff of grapeshot," and was appointed commander of the French army in Italy. Thereafter, he changed the spelling of his name to Bonaparte. The rest is history.