In 1870 Napoleon III is deposed as emperor and France finally returns to becoming a Republic almost 100 years after its revolution.
After the ‘Seven Years War’ and aiding America in their War of Independence, France was ruined financially. Their King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette continued to live a life of luxury as the poor starved and a revolution began that would affect the entire continent of Europe. When The King and his wife were captured by revolutionaries, Marie Antoinette’s brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, and the King of Prussia, Frederick William II issued the ‘Declaration of Pilintz’ which decreed that if King Louis and his wife were harmed than the monarchies of Europe would inflict severe reprisals on the revolutionaries. After growing disputes between France and the Monarchs of Europe, on the 20th of April 1792 France declared war on Austria and within a few weeks Prussia had allied with Austria. The French army marched on the Austrian Netherlands but without sufficient organisation they ran at the first signs of battle. But France had great victories in Italy and Austria. When they executed Louis XVI on the 21st of January 1793 many of the European powers united against the French republic and on the 1st of February France declared War on Britain and the Netherlands as well as Spain soon after. France fought with vigour and great and formidable military leader emerged in Napoleon Bonaparte who quickly rose to power. On the 9th of November 1799 a coup made Napoleon the leader of France and on the 24th of December a new constitution was signed giving Bonaparte the powers of a Dictator. The French revolution was over and on the 18th of May 1804 and France had swapped a king for an emperor.
The new Emperor made many changes, including the return of slavery in their colonies and continued to build his empire in the name of France. He was a skilled military leader who had many victories in Europe, but also led some very campaigns which saw the defeat of the largest army the world had ever seen when he attempted to invade Russia and the defeat of the largest naval invasion force at the hands of the British.
On the 20th of March 1811 Napoleon’s son, Napoleon Francois Charles Joseph, was born. As Napoleon’s only heir he was destined to take up the throne and rule the French Empire. Between the 30th and 31st of March 1814 the sixth coalition forces made up of Russia, Austria and Prussia defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Paris. On the 2nd of April the French Senate passed an act declaring the deposition of Napoleon. Despite being deposed as emperor he abdicated himself on the 4th of April in favour of his three year old son. His young son ruled as emperor for seven days before Napoleon was forced to sign the Treaty of Fontainebleau which stated that Napoleon and his heirs must give up his sovereignty of France and other territories.
But Napoleon Bonaparte refused to accept his defeat. One year later Napoleon returned to France and amassed an army only to be defeated once more by Wellington at the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ on the 18th of June 1815. Once again Napoleon abdicated his throne in favour of his son but his attempts to continue a monarchic rule of France was never recognised by the French government. Napoleon was exiled as a British prisoner to the Island of Saint Helena and died on this day in 1821. On the 9th of August 1830 Louis Philippe became the new French King.
Napoleon’s son, Francois, fled to Austria to live with his grandfather, the Austrian emporer, Francis I. He feared returning home but thanks to his grandfather he led a privillaged life in Vienna. In 1832 Francois fell ill with tuberculosis and died on the 22nd of June 1832.
Napoleon I’s brother Louis, whom he had placed on the Spanish throne, had as son also named Louis Bonaparte. Young Louis lived with his mother in Switzerland and from a young age he had delusions of grandeur believing, as Napoleon’s only living heir, it was his destiny to return to France and become the new emperor. He planned to march into Paris, as his uncle had in 1815, and rally the people behind him. He began his march in Strasbourg on the 29th of October 1836 but he was quickly stopped and exiled from France. He spent many years living in England and became very wealthy on the death of his mother. He never gave up the idea of becoming emperor and in 1840 he bought some weapons, men and a ship. On the 6th of August 1840 he and his crew set sail for Boulogne. They managed to land before being captured and Louis was imprisoned. His cell was a lavish room in the fortress of Ham and his visitors were allowed to come and go as they pleased. On the 25th of May 1846 he escaped from prison and returned to England.
On the 23rd of February 1848 a second French Revolution broke out and on the 23rd of June the revolution had reached Paris. Louis saw his chance and returned to France. He successfully became elected as the first president of the Second French Republic on the 20th of December 1848. As president he led a campaign of repression of those who opposed his political views. According to the constitution he was also not allowed to sit as president for a second term and he fought for many years to change this law but was unsuccessful. So on the 2nd of December 1851 he began a coup d’etat to overthrow the government and change the constitution just as his uncle had. One year later on the 2nd of December 1852 he proclaimed himself Emperor of France and reigned until he was deposed on the 4th of September 1870.