At the end of 1810, following the annexation of the Hansa cities and the Duchy of Oldenburg, the Napoleonic Empire reached its territorial peak. It spread over an area of 750,000 km2 (293,000 square miles) and had 44 million inhabitants. In March 1811, Marie Louise gave birth to an heir. The dynasty appeared secure. Yet beneath the apparent stability lay signs of weakness. Conscription and financial pressures continued to arouse resentment and increase Napoleon’s unpopularity. Similarly, the Continental Blockade stimulated much opposition and continued to be defied. The occupation of Rome, and particularly the banishment of Pope Pius VII in 1809, earned Napoleon the bitter hostility of devout Catholics throughout Europe. In France, too, there were signs of fatigue with the ongoing demands of war, and an overall crisis was looming.1 Budget deficits and tax increases caused discontent, and a recession in 1810–11 hurt industry. The Continental Blockade continued to hurt French ports considerably2 and caused a shortage of raw material from the colonies, which harmed industrialists. Grain shortages provoked bread riots and misery spread through many parts. French Catholics shared the anger other faithful believers felt about Napoleon’s treatment of the Pope. Napoleon was losing support among the notables, his main pillar of support, although opposition was mute.
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