Originally it was intended for Napoleon Bonaparte, but on hearing about his proclamation as Emperor, Beethoven withdrew the dedication.
Inspiration for the "Eroica"
The inspiration to write a symphony about Napoleon Bonaparte probably came from General Bernadotte, the then French Ambassador in Vienna. Jean Baptiste Bernadotte (1763 - 1844), Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General in the French Revolutionary Wars, was made Prince of Pontecorvo by Napoleon I (in 1806), elected Crown Prince by the Swedish Diet and adopted by the Swedish King Charles XIII. It was he who made Sweden join the adversaries of Napoleon and commanded the Northern army during the Wars of Liberation. Beethoven was enthusiastic about Napoleon’s personality and saw in him the political figure that would implement the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity throughout Europe. He considered him a successor to those Roman consuls who had once brought freedom to Rome and founded the Roman Empire.
Bernadotte offered to hand the finished score to Bonaparte. The title-page already bore the note "intitolata Bonaparte" by "Luigi van Beethoven", when the news arrived that Napoleon had himself proclaimed Emperor of the French. The vote of the Senate about the transformation of France into a hereditary Empire was approved in a referendum. After Pope Pius VII had anointed him, Napoleon crowned himself and his wife Josephine Beauharnais in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
Beethoven’s reaction to this news has come down to us through his pupil and confidant Ferdinand Ries.
"Is he, too, nothing but an ordinary human? Now he will trample upon all human rights, indulge in his ambition, will put himself above all others and become a tyrant!"
So he changed his dedication - to Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz, in whose palace the first performance took place.