We all know the story - General Bonaparte traipsed all over Europe's crowns until he tripped over Alexander's. Naturally the actual situation is much more complex than that. But the question remains - what could Napoleon have done to retain the First French Empire's 1812 borders? If that's impossible, how far back would we have to roll his conquests before they could be sustainable?
To clarify, I am not interested in other actors doing things differently. Yes, Napoleon would have won the Russian campaign if they had decided to surrender after losing Moscow. Yes, Napoleon would not have had to do the Russian campaign if Alexander had decided not to seek an alliance with Britain. I'm also not terribly concerned about Napoleon staying "in character."
I have a few starting points, but this is not my area of expertise, so please feel free to critique them:
- Refuse to invade Russia and permit the alliance with Britain. Napoleon has easily defeated four coalitions up to that point; a fifth was little threat to him.
- Finish the Peninsular War first. If the Grande Armée were committed entirely to Spain, he could have put an end to British and Portuguese ambitions, and then committed his entire army to fight Russia.
- Make a show of returning to the status quo. If the powers of Europe recognized him as just another monarch (rather than a dangerous revolutionary) they would be less inclined to try and bring him down.
- Use the carrot rather than the stick, and buy
off the European powers. Britain was financing wars against
France, but surely it is easier to take a small bribe and not go to
war, than take a large bribe and have to go fight?
- March north to St. Petersburg and capture Alexander to force a surrender, rather than deal with Moscow. Avoid decisive battles until then by leaving just enough soldiers to keep Kutuzov busy, and rely on Baltic distaste for their Russian overlords to avoid guerrilla action.
Would some combination of these points, or some other things, make it possible to keep the Empire?