The title emphasized that the emperor ruled over "the French people", the nation, and not over France, the republic. The title was purposefully created to preserve the appearance of the French Republic and to show that after the French Revolution the feudal system was abandoned and a nation state was created, with equal citizens as the subjects of their emperor. (After 01 January 1809, the state was officially referred to as the French Empire.) The title of "Emperor of the French" was supposed to demonstrate that Napoleon's coronation was not a restoration of monarchy, but an introduction of a new political system: the Empire of the French ('Empire des Français'). Napoleon's reign lasted until 22 June 1815 when he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, exiled and imprisoned on the island of Saint Helena, where he died on 05 May 1821. His reign was interrupted by the Bourbon Restoration of 1814 and his own exile to Elba, from where he escaped less than a year later to reclaim the throne, reigning as Emperor for another 94 days before his final defeat and exile.
Less than a year following the French coup of 1851 by Napoleon's Nephew Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, which ended in the successful dissolution of the French National Assembly, the Second French Republic was transformed into the Second French Empire, established by a referendum on 07 November 1852. President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, elected by the French people, officially became Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, from the symbolic and historic date of 02 December 1852.
His reign persisted to the fourth of September, 1870, although he became captured at the Battle of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War. He was then forced into exile through England until he died on 09 January 1873.
Since the early death of his only son Louis Napoléon in 1879, the House of Bonaparte has had a number of claimants to the French throne.
The current claimant is Jean Christophe, who became head of the house of Bonaparte on 03 May 1997.