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Napoleon III
Preceded by Louis-Eugène Cavaignac
as Head of the State and of the Government
Succeeded by Second French Empire
Himself as Emperor of the French
Preceded by Second French Republic
Himself as President of the French Republic
Louis Philippe III, Duke of Orléans was previous monarch as King of the French
Succeeded by Monarchy abolished
Third French Republic
Louis Jules Trochu as Chairman of the Government of National Defense
Personal details
Born (1808-04-20)20 April 1808
Paris, French Empire
Died 9 January 1873(1873-01-09) (aged 64)
Chislehurst, Kent, England
Spouse(s) Eugénie de Montijo
Religion Roman Catholic

Imperial Standard of Napoleon III

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) was the first President of the French Republic and, as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. Elected President in France's first ever popular vote in 1848, he initiated a coup d'état in 1851, before ascending the throne as Napoleon III on 2 December 1852, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon I's coronation. He ruled as Emperor of the French until 4 September 1870. He holds the distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France.

Napoleon III is primarily remembered for an energetic foreign policy which aimed to jettison the limitations imposed on France since 1815 by the Concert of Europe and reassert French influence in Europe and the French colonial empire. Napoleon stood opposed to the reactionary policies imposed at Vienna in 1815 and instead was an exponent of popular sovereignty, and a supporter of nationalism.[1]

In the Near East, Napoleon III spearheaded allied action against Russia in the Crimean War and restored French presence in the Levant, claiming for France the role of protector of the Maronite Christians. A French garrison in Rome likewise secured the Papal States against annexation by Italy, defeating the Italians at Mentana and winning the support of French Catholics for Napoleon's regime. In the Far East, Napoleon III established French rule in Cochinchina and New Caledonia. French interests in China were upheld in the Second Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion; an abortive campaign against Korea was launched in 1866 while a military mission to Japan failed to prevent the restoration of Imperial rule. French intervention in Mexico was also unsuccessful, and was terminated in 1867 due to mounting Mexican resistance and American diplomatic pressure. Eventually, the French Empire was overthrown three days after Napoleon's disastrous surrender at the Battle of Sedan, part of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1870, which resulted in the proclamation of the French Third Republic and his exile in England, where he died in 1873.

Domestically, Napoleon's reign coincided with an era of prosperity and industrialization. He launched a major reconstruction of Paris, conducted by Baron Haussmann, his prefect of the Seine, building new aqueducts, rebuilding the sewers, creating new boulevards and avenues, and constructing parks, including the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Parc Montsouris and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

Early life

Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, later known as Louis Napoleon and then Napoleon III, was born in Paris on the night of April 20–21, 1808. His father was Louis Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made Louis the King of Holland from 1805 until 1810. His mother was Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter by the first marriage of Napoleon's wife Joséphine de Beauharnais. As empress, Joséphine proposed the marriage as a way to produce an heir for the Emperor, who agreed, as Joséphine was by then infertile.[2] Louis married Hortense when he was thirty and she just nineteen. They had difficult relationship, and only lived together for brief periods. They had a son, and then their second child died in infancy, and, though separated, they decided to have a third. They resumed their marriage for a brief time in Toulouse in July 1807, and Louis was born, premarture, two weeks short of nine months later. His enemies, including Victor Hugo, spread the gossip that he was the child of a different man, but most historians agree today that he was the legitimate son of Louis Bonaparte.[3][4](see Ancestry) .[5]

Charles-Louis was baptised at the Palace of Fontainbleau on November 5, 1810, with the Emperor Napoleon serving as his godfather, and the Empress Marie-Louise as his godmother. His father, once again separated from Hortense, stayed away. At the age of seven, Louis-Napoleon visited his uncle at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. His uncle held him up to the window to see the soldiers parading in the courtyard of the Carousel below. He last saw his uncle with the family at the Château de Malmaison, shortly before Napoleon departed for Waterloo.[6]

After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France, all members of the Bonaparte dynasty were forced into exile. Hortense and Louis-Napoleon wandered from Aix to Berne to Baden, and finally to Switzerland, in a lakeside house at Arenenberg, in the canton of Thurgau, and to Germany, where he received some of his education at the gymnasium school at Augsburg, Bavaria. As a result, for the rest of his life his French had a slight, but noticeable, German accent. His tutor at home was Philippe Le Bas, an ardent republican and the son of a revolutionary and close friend of Robespierre. Le Bas taught him French history and radical politics.[7]

The Romantic revolutionary (1823-1835)

When Louis-Napoleon was fifteen, Hortense moved to Rome, where the Bonapartes had a villa. He passed his time learning Italian, exploring the ancient ruins, and learning the arts of seduction and romantic affairs, which he used often in his later life. He became friends with the French Ambassador, François-René Chateaubriand the father of romanticism in French literature, with whom he remained in contact for many years. He was reunited with his older brother Napoléon Louis, and together they became involved with the Carbonari, secret revolutionary societies fighting Austria's domination of northern Italy. In the spring of 1831, when he was twenty-three, the Austrian and papal governments launched an offensive against the Carbonari, and the two brothers, wanted by the police, were forced to flee. During their flight Napoleon-Louis contracted measles and, on 17 March 1831, died in his brother's arms.[8] Hortense joined her son and together they evaded the police and Austrian army and finally reached the French border.[9]

Hortense and Louis-Napoléon travelled incognito to Paris, where the old regime had just fallen and had been replaced by the more liberal regime of King Louis-Philippe I. They arrived in Paris on May 23, 1831, and took up residence under the name "Hamilton." in the Hotel du Holland on Place Vendôme. Hortense wrote an appeal to the King, asking to stay in France, and Louis-Napoleon offered to volunteer as an ordinary soldier in the French Army. The new King agreed to meet secretly with Hortense; Louis Napoleon had a fever and did not join them. The King finally agreed that Hortense and Louis-Napoleon could stay in Paris as long as their stay was brief and incognito. Louis-Napoleon was told that he could join the French Army if he would simply change his name, something he indignantly refused to do. Hortense and Louis Napoleon remained in Paris until May 5, the tenth anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. The presence of Hortense and Louis-Napoleon in the hotel had become known, and a public demonstration of mourning for the Emperor took place on Place Vendôme in front of their hotel. The same day, Hortense and Louis-Napoleon were ordered to leave Paris. They went to England briefly, and then back into exile in Switzerland.[10]

The Bonaparte Succession and the philosophy of Bonapartism

Ever since the fall of Napoleon in 1815, a Bonapartist movement existed in France, hoping to return a Bonaparte to the throne. According to the law of succession established by Napoleon I, the claim passed first to his son, who, at birth, had been given the title "King of Rome" by his father. Known by Bonapartists as Napoleon II, he was living under virtual imprisonment at the court of Vienna under the name Duke of Reichstadt. Next in line was Napoleon I's eldest brother Joseph Bonaparte, followed by Louis Bonaparte, but neither Joseph nor Louis Bonaparte had any interest in reentering public life. When the Duke of Reichstadt died in 1831, Louis-Napoléon became the heir of the dynasty and the leader of the Bonaparte cause.[11]

In exile with his mother in Switzerland, He enrolled in the Swiss Army, trained to become an officer, and wrote a manual of artillery; his uncle Napoleon Bonaparte had become famous as an artillery officer. He also began writing about his political philosophy; In 1833, at the age of 25, he published his Rêveries politique, or "political dreams", followed in 1834 by Considérations politiques et militaire sur la suisse ("Political and military considerations about Switzerland"), followed in 1839 by Les Idées napoléoniennes ("Napoleonic Ideas"), a compendium of his political ideas, which was published in three editions and eventually translated in six languages. His doctrine was based upon two ideas; universal suffrage and the primacy of the national interest. He called for a "Monarchy which procures the advantages of the Republic without the inconveniences...", a regime "strong without despotism, free without anarchy, independent without conquest." [12]

A failed coup, and exile in London (1836-1840)

"I believe," Louis Napoleon wrote, "that from time to time, men are created whom I call volunteers of providence, in whose hands are placed the destiny of their countries. I believe I am one of those men. If I am wrong, I can perish uselessly. If I am right, then providence will put me into a position to fulfill my mission." [13] He had seen the popular enthusiasm for Napoleon Bonaparte when he was in Paris, and he was convinced that, if he marched to Paris, as Napoleon Bonaparte had done in 1815 during the One Hundred Days, that France would rise up and join him. He began to plan a coup against King Louis-Philippe.

He planned for his uprising to begin Strasbourg. The colonel of a regiment was brought over the cause. On October 29, 1836, Louis Napoleon arrived in Strasbourg, in the uniform of an officer of artillery, and rallied the regiment to his side. The prefecture was seized, and the prefect arrested. Unfortunately for Louis-Napoleon, the general commanding the garrison escaped and called in a loyal regiment, which surrounded the mutineers. The mutineers surrendered and Louis-Napoleon fled back to Switzerland.[14]

Louis-Philippe demanded that the Swiss government return Louis-Napoleon to France, but the Swiss pointed out that he was a Swiss citizen, and refused to hand him over. Louis-Philippe responded by sending an army to the Swiss border. Louis-Napoleon thanked his Swiss hosts, and voluntarily left the country. The other mutineers were put on trial in Alsace, and were all acquitted.

Louis Napoleon traveled first to London, then to Brazil, and then to New York. He moved into a hotel, where he met the elite of New York society, and the writer Washington Irving. While he was traveling to see more of the United States, he received word that his mother was very ill. He hurried as quickly as he could back to Switzerland. He reached Arenenberg in time to be with his mother on October 5, 1837, when she died. She was finally buried in Reuil, in France, next to her mother, on January 11, 1838, but Louis-Napoleon could not attend, because he was not allowed in France.[15]

Louis-Napoleon returned to London for a new period of exile on October 25, 1838. He had inherited a large fortune from his mother, and took a house in a fashionable neighborhood at 1 Carlton Gardens. He established a household with seventeen servants and several of his old friends and fellow conspirators. He was not received at the court of Queen Victoria, because the government did not want to offend the French government, but he was received by London society. He was made an honorary member of the Army Club and Navy Club, and he met the political and scientific leaders of the day, including Benjamin Disraeli and Michael Faraday. He also did considerable research into the economy of Britain; he had a reserved reading space in the British Museum, and traveled to Manchester and Liverpool to see the factories and railroads. He also strolled in Hyde Park, which he later used as a model when he created the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.[16]

A second coup, prison, escape and exile (1840-1848)

Living in the comfort of London, he had not given up the dream of returning to France to complete his destiny. In the summer of 1840 he bought weapons and uniforms and had proclamations printed, gathered a contingent of about sixty armed men, hired a ship called the Edinburgh-Castle, and on August 6, 1840, sailed across the Channel to the port of Boulogne. The attempted coup turned into an even greater fiasco than Strasbourg mutiny. The mutineers were stopped by the customs agents, the soldiers of the garrison refused to join, the mutineers were surrounded on the beach, one was killed and the others arrested. Both the British and French press heaped ridicule on Louis-Napoleon and his plot. The newspaper Le Journal des Débats wrote, "this surpasses comedy. One doesn't kill crazy people, one just locks them up." He was put on trial, where, despite an eloquent defense of his cause, he was sentenced to life in prison in the fortress of Ham in the Somme department of northern France.[17]

The register if the fortress Ham for October 7, 1840 contained a concise description of the new prisoner: "Age: thirty-two years. Height: one meter sixty-six. Hair and eyebrows: chestnut. Eyes: Gray and small. Nose: large. Mouth: ordinary. Beard: brown. Moustache: blond. Chin: pointed. Face: oval. Complexion: pale. Head: sunken in his shoulders, and large shoulders. Back: bent. Lips: thick." [18] Louis Napoleon was kept in an apartment in the fortress which was relatively comfortable. It was decorated with a portrait of his mother, busts of Napolen I and Josephine, and lead toy soldiers of the Imperial Guard. It also contained a large collection of books. He had numerous celebrated visitors, including Alexander Dumas, Chateaubriand, Sir Robert Peel,and the pioneer socialist author Louis Blanc. He even had a mistress, a young woman from the nearby town named Éléonore Vergeot, who gave birth to two of his children.[19]

While in prison, he wrote poems, political essays, an article on Prince William of Orange, a revision of his earlier manual on artillery, a brochure on electricity, a study of the sugar beet industry in France, and a proposal for the construction of a canal through Nicaragua, linking the Pacific and Atlantic, and much more. He contributed articles to regional newspapers and magazines in towns all over France, becoming quite well known as a writer. In his rare spare time, he experimented with chemistry, made electrical machines and crafted wood furniture. His often later referred to things he had leared at The University of Ham."

His most famous literary work was a book entitled L'extinction du pauperism (1844), a study of the causes of poverty in the French industrial working class, with proposals to eliminate it. His conclusion: "The working class has nothing, it is necessary to give them ownership. They have no other wealth than their own labor, it is necessary to give them work that will benefit all....they are without organization and without connections, without rights and without a future; it is necessary to give them rights and a future and to raise them in their own eyes by association, education, and discipline." He proposed various practical ideas for creating a banking and savings system that would provide credit to the working class, and to establish agricultural colonies similar to the kibutzes later founded in Israel.[20] This book was widely reprinted and circulated in France, and played an important part in his future electoral success.

He was busy in prison, but also unhappy and impatient. He was aware that the popularity of Napoleon Bonaparte was steadily increasing in France; the Emperor was the subject of heroic poems, books and plays. Huge crowds had gathered in Paris on December 15, 1840 when the ashes of Napoleon Bonaparte were returned with great ceremony to Paris and handed over to Louis-Napoleon's old enemy, King Louis-Philippe. while Louis Napoleon could only read about it in prison. On May 25, 1846, with this assistance of his doctor and other friends on the outside, he disguised himself as a laborer carrying lumber, and walked out of the prison. His enemies later derisively called him "Badinguet", the name of the laborer whose identity he had assumed. A carriage was waiting to take him to the coast and then by boat to England. A month after his escape, his father Louis died, making Louis-Napoelon the clear heir to the Bonaparte dynasty.[21]

He returned to England, and quickly resumed his place in British society. He lived on King Street in Saint James, went to the theater and hunted, renewed his acquaintance with Benjamin Disraeli, and met Charles Dickens. He went back to his studies at the British Museum. He had an affair with the actress Rachel the most famous French actress of the period, during her tours to England. More important for his future career, he had an affair with the wealthy heiress Harriet Howard (1823-1865). They had met In 1846, soon after his return to England. They began to live together, she took in his two illegitimate children and raised them with her own son, and she provided financing for his political plans so that, when the moment came, he could return to France.[22]

The 1848 Revolution and the birth of the Second Republic

In February 1848, Louis Napoleon learned that a revolution had broken out in Paris, and that Louis-Philippe, faced with opposition within his government and army, had abdicated. Believing that his time had finally come, he set out for Paris on February 27, departing England on the same day that Louis-Philippe left France for his own exile in England. When he arrived in Paris, he found that the Second Republic had been declared, led by a Provisional Government headed by a Commission led by Alphonse de Lamartine, and that different factions of republicans, from conservatives to those on the far left, were competing for power. He wrote to Lamartine announcing his arrival, saying that he "was without any other ambition than that of serving my country." Lamartine wrote back politely but firmly, asking Louis-Napoleon to leave Paris "until the city is more calm, and not before the elections for the National Assembly." His close advisors urged him to stay and try to take power, but he wanted to show his prudence and loyalty to the Republic; while his advisors remained in Paris, he returned to London on March 2, 1848, and watched events from there.[23]

He did not run in the first elections for the National Assembly, held in April 1848, but three members of the Bonaparte family, Napoleon Jerome, Pierre Bonaparte, and Lucien Murat were elected; the name Bonaparte still had political power. In the next elections, on June 4, where candidates could run in multiple departments, he was elected in four different departments; in Paris, he was among the top five candidates, just after the conservative leader Adolphe Thiers and Victor Hugo. His followers were mostly on the left; from the peasantry and working class. His pamphlet on "The Extinction of Pauperism" was widely circulated in Paris, and his name was cheered with those of the socialist candidates, Barbès and Louis Blanc.[24]

The conservative leaders of the provisional government, Lamartine and Cavaignac, considered arresting him as a dangerous revolutionary, but once again he outmaneuvered them. He wrote to the President of the Provisional Government: "I believe I should wait to return to the heart of my country, so that my presence in France will not serve as a pretext to the enemies of the Republic." [25]

In June 1848, a new revolution broke out in Paris, led by the far left, against the conservative majority in the National Assembly. Hundreds of barricades appeared in the working-class neighborhoods. General Cavaignac, the leader of the army, first withdrew his soldiers from Paris to allow the insurgents to deploy their barricades, and then returned with overwhelming force to crush the uprising; from June 24 to 26, there were battles in the streets of the working class districts of Paris. An estimated five thousand insurgents were killed at the barricades; fifteen thousand were arrested, and four thousand deported.[26]

His absence from Paris meant that Louis Napoleon was not connected either with the uprising, or with the brutal repression that had followed. He was still in London on September 17–18, when the elections for the National Assembly were held, but he was a candidate in thirteen departments. He was elected in five departments; in Paris, he received 110,000 votes of the 247,000 cast, the highest number of votes of any candidate. He returned to Paris on September 24, and this time he took his place in the National Assembly. In seven months, he had gone from an political exile in London to a highly-visible place in the National Assembly, as the government finished the new Constitution and prepared for the first election ever of a President of the French Republic.[27]

The Presidential election of 1848

The new constitution of the Second Republic, drafted by a commission including Alexis de Toqueville, called for a strong executive and a president elected by popular vote, through universal male suffrage, rather than chosen by the National Assembly.[28] The elections were scheduled for December 10–11, 1848. Louis Napoleon promptly announced his candidacy. There were four other candidates for the post; General Cavaignac, the Minister of Defense who had led the suppression of the June uprisings in Paris ; Lamartine, the poet-philosopher and leader of the provisional government; Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, the leader of the socialists, and Raspail, the leader of the far left wing of the socialists.[29]

Louis-Napoleon established his campaign headquarters and residence at the Hotel du Rhin on Place Vendôme. He was accompanied by his companion, Harriet Howard, who gave him a large loan to help finance his campaign. He rarely went to the sessions of the National Assembly, and rarely voted. He was not a gifted orator; he spoke slowly, in a monotone, with a slight German accent from his Swiss education. His opponents sometimes ridiculed him, one comparing him "a turkey who believes he's an eagle." [30]

His campaign appealed to both the left and right. His election manifesto proclaimed his support for "religion, the family, property, the eternal basis of all social order." But it also announced his intent "to give work to those unoccupied; to look out for the old age of the workers; to introduce in industrial laws those improvements which don't ruin the rich, but which bring about the well-being of each and the prosperity of all." [31]

His campaign agents, many of them veterans from Napoleon Bonaparte's Army, raised support for him around the country. He won the grudging endorsement of the conservative leader, Adolphe Thiers, who believed he could be the most easily controlled; Thiers called him "of all the candidates, the least bad." [32] He won the backing of l'Evenement, the newspaper of Victor Hugo, which declared, "We have confidence in him; he carries a great name." [33] His chief opponent, General Cavaignac, expected that Louis-Napoleon would come in first, but that he would receive less than fifty percent of the vote, which would mean the election would go to the National Assembly, where Cavaignac was certain to win.

The elections were held on December 10–11, and results announced on December 20. Louis-Napoleon was widely expected to win, but the size of his victory surprised almost everyone. He won 5,572,834 votes, compared with 1,469,156 for Cavaignac. The socialist Ledru-Rollin received 376,834; the extreme left candidate Raspail received 37,106, and the poet Lamartine received only 17,000 votes. Louis-Napoleon won the support of all parts of the population; the peasants unhappy with rising prices; unemployed workers; small businessmen who wanted prosperity and order; and intellectuals such as Victor Hugo. He won the votes of 55.6 percent of all registered voters, and won in all but four of France's departments.[34]

The Prince-President (1848-1851)

Louis Napoléon moved his residence to the Élysée Palace at the end of December 1848, and immediately hung a portrait of his mother in the boudoir and a portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte, in his coronation robes, in the grand salon. Adolphe Thiers recommended that he wear clothing of "democratic simplicity," but, following the model of his uncle, he chose instead the uniform of the General-in-Chief of the Republican Guard, and chose the title of "Prince-President." [35]

He also made his first venture into foreign policy, in Italy, where as a youth he had joined in the patriotic uprising against the Austrians. The previous government had sent an expeditionary force to Rome to help restore the temporal authority of Pope Pius IX, who was being threatened by the troops of the Italian republicans Mazzini and Garibaldi. The French troops came under fire from Garibaldi’s soldiers. The Prince-President, without consulting his ministers, ordered his soldiers to fight if needed in support of the Pope. This was very popular with French Catholics, but infuriated the republicans, who supported Garibaldi.[35] To please the radical republicans, he asked the Pope to introduce liberal reforms and the Code Napoleon his the Papal States. To please the Catholics, he approved the Loi Falloux in 1851, which restored a greater role for the Catholic Church in the French educational system.[36]

Elections were held for the National Assembly on May 13–14, 1849, only a few months after Louis Napoleon had become President, and were largely won by a coalition of conservative republicans, Catholics and monarchists called “The Party of Order,” led by Adolphe Thiers. The socialists and “red” republicans, led by Ledru-Rollin and Raspail, also did well, winning two hundred seats. The moderate republicans, in the middle, did very badly taking just 70-80 seats. The Party of Order had a clear majority, enough to block any initiatives of Louis Napoleon.[37]

On June 11, 1849 the socialists and radical republicans made an attempt to seize power. Ledru-Rollin, from his headquarters in the Conservatory of Arts and Professions, declared that Louis-Napoleon was no longer President and called for a general uprising. A few barricades appeared in the working-class neighborhoods of Paris. Louis Napoleon acted swiftly, and the uprising was short-lived. Paris was declared in a state of siege, the headquarters of the uprising was surrounded and the leaders arrested. Ledru-Rollin fled to England, Raspail was arrested and sent to prison, the republican clubs were closed, and their newspapers closed down.

The National Assembly, now without the red Republicans and determined to keep them out forever, proposed a new election law that placed restrictions on universal male suffrage, imposing a three-year residency requirement. This new law excluded 3.5 out of 9 million French voters, the voters that the leader of the Party of Order, Adolphe Thiers scornfully called "the vile multitude." [38] This new election law was passed in May 1850 by a majority of 433 to 241, putting the National Assembly on a direct collision course with the Prince-President,[39] Louis-Napoléon took the opportunity to break with the Assembly and the conservative ministers opposing his projects in favour of the dispossessed. He secured the support of the army, toured the country making populist speeches condemning the assembly, and presented himself as the protector of universal male suffrage. He demanded that the law be changed, but his proposal was defeated in the Assembly by a vote of 355 to 348.[40]

According to the constitution of 1848, he had to step down at the end of his term, so he sought a constitutional amendment to allow him to succeed himself, arguing that four years were not enough to fully implement his political and economic program. He toured the country and gained support from many of regional governments, and the support of many within the Assembly. The vote in July 1851 was 446 to 278 in favor of changing the law and allowing him to run again, but this was just short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.[41]

The Coup d'etat (December, 1851)

Louis-Napoleon believed that he was supported by the people, and he decided to retain power by other means. His half-brother Morny and a few close advisors began to quietly organize a coup d'état. They brought Major General Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud, a former captain from the foreign legion and a commander of French forces in Algeria, and other officers from the French army in North Africa, to provide military backing for the coup. The date set for the coup was December 2, the anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz, and the anniversary of the coronation of Louis-Napoleon's uncle Napoleon I. On the night of December 1–2, Saint Arnaud's soldiers quietly occupied the national printing office, the Palais Bourbon, newspaper offices, and the strategic points in the city. In the morning, Parisians found posters around the city announcing the dissolution of the National Assembly, the restoration of universal suffrage, new elections, and a state of siege in Paris and the surrounding departments. Sixteen members of the National Assembly were arrested in their homes. When about two-hundred twenty deputies of the moderate right gathered at the city hall of the tenth arrondissement, they were also arrested.[42] On December 3, Victor Hugo and a few other republicans tried to organize an opposition to the coup. A few barricades appeared, and about one thousand insurgents came out in the streets, but the army moved in force with 30,000 troops and the uprisings were swiftly crushed, with the killing of an estimated three to four hundred opponents of the coup.[43] There were also small uprising in the more militant red republican towns in the south and center of France, but these were all put down by December 10.[44]

The coup was followed by a period of repression throughout the country of the opponents of Louis-Napoleon, aimed mostly at the red republicans. About four thousand persons were arrested in Paris, and twenty-six thousand in all of France. The two-hundred thirty nine who were judged most severely were sent to the penal colony in Cayenne.[45] 9,530 folllowers were sent to Algeria, fifteen hundred were expelled from France, and another three thousand were given forced residence away from their homes.[46] Soon afterwards, a commission of revision freed 3,500 of those sentenced. In 1859 the remaining 1800 prisoners and exiles were amnestied, with the exception of the republican leader Ledru-Rollin, who was released from prison but required to leave the country.[47]

Strict controls of the press were also put into place by a decree February 17, 1852. No newspaper dealing with political or social questions could be published without the permission of the government, fines were increased, and the list of press offenses was greatly expanded. After three warnings, a newspaper or journal could be suspended or even permanently closed. Cobban, p. 159</ref>

Louis-Napoleon wished to demonstrate that his new government had a broad popular mandate, so on December 20–21 a national plebiscite was held asking if voters agreed to the coup d'État. Mayors in many regions threatened the publish the names of any electors who refused to vote. When asked if they agreed to the coup d'État. 7,439,216 voters said yes, 641,737 voted no, and 1.7 million voters abstained.[48] The fairness and legality of the referendum was immediately questioned by Louis-Napoleon's critics,[49] but Louis Napoleon was convinced that he had been given a public mandate to rule.

Victor Hugo, who had originally supported Louis Napoléon but had been infuriated by the coup d'état, departed Paris for Brussels by train on December 11, 1851. He became the most bitter critic of Louis Napoleon, rejected the amnesty offered him,and did not return to France for twenty years.[50]

From the Second Republic to the Second Empire

At the beginning of 1852, Louis Napoleon began preparing a new Constitution, based on the Bonapartist model established by his uncle, Napoleon I. The new constitution was officially prepared by a committee of eighty experts, but was actually drafted by a small group of the Prince-President's inner circle. Article Two confided the Government of France for ten years to Louis-Napoléon, with no limit on the number of terms he could serve. He alone was given the authority to declare war, sign treaties, form alliances, to initiate laws. It re-established universal male suffrage, and also retained a National Assembly, but with greatly reduced authority. .[51]

Louis-Napoleon's government imposed new authoritarian measures to control dissent and reduce the power of the opposition. One his first acts was to settle scores with his old enemy, King Louis-Philippe, who had sent him to prison in for life, who had died in 1850. A decree on January 23, 1852 forbade the late King's family to own property in France, and annulled the inheritance he had given to his children before he became King.

The National Guard, whose members had sometimes joined anti-government demonstrations, was re-organized, and largely used only in parades. Government officials were required to wear uniforms at official formal occasions. The Minister of Education was given the power to dismiss professors at the universities, and to review the content of their courses. Students at the universities were forbidden to wear beards, seen as a symbol of republicanism.[52]

New press restrictions were also put in place on February 7, 1852, in addition to those that had been imposed under the Second Republic. New journals, and changes in the administration of existing journals, had to be approved by the Prefect. if the content of an article was not acceptable to the Prefect, the editors would be warned. Three warnings could lead to the closure of the journal for three months; further violations could lead to the permanent closing of the journal.[52]

An election was held for a new National Assembly on February 29, 1852, and all the resources of the government were used on behalf of the candidates backing the Prince-President. Of eight million eligible voters, 5,200,000 votes went to the official candidates, and 800,000 to opposition candidates. About one third of the eligible voters abstained. The new assembly included a small number of opponents of Louis-Napoleon, including 17 monarchists, 18 conservatives, two liberal democrats, three republicans and 72 independents.[53]

Louis-Napoléon followed the election with a triumphal national tour. In Marseille, he laid the cornerstone of a new cathedral, a new stock exchange, and a chamber of commerce. In Bordeaux, on October 9, 1852, he gave his principal speech:

"We have immense unplowed territories to cultivate; roads to open; ports to dig; rivers to be made navigable; canals to finish, a railroad network to complete. We have, in front of Marseille, a vast kingdom to assimilate into France. We have all the great ports of the west to connect with the American continent by modern communications, which we still lack. We have ruins to repair, false gods to tear down, truths which we need to make triumph. This is how I see the Empire, if the Empire is re-established. These are the conquests I am considering, and you around me, who, like me, want the good of our country, you are my soldiers." [54]

When he returned to Paris, the city was decorated with large arches, with banners proclaiming "To Napoleon III, emperior". A meeting of the Senate was held on November 7, 1852, which voted eighty-six to one to reestablish the Empire. Two weeks later, a national plebiscite was held; 7,824,129 votes were cast for declaring the empire, and 253,159 against, with two million abstentions. On December 2, 1852, the anniversary of the battle of Austerlitz, of the coronation of Napoleon I, and of the coup d'état of 1851, Louis Napoleon was officially declared Emperor of the French.

Modernizing the infrastructure and the economy (1853-1869)

One of the first priorities of Napoleon III was the modernization of the French economy, which had fallen far behind that of England and some of the German states. Political economics had long been a passion of the Emperor; while in England he had visited factories and railroad yards, and in prison he had studied and written about the sugar industry and policies to reduce poverty. He wanted the government to play an active, not a passive role in the economy; in 1839, he had written: “Government is not a necessary evil, as some people claim; it is instead the benevolent motor for the whole social organism.” [55] He did not advocate the government getting directly involved in industry; instead the government took a very active role in building the infrastructure for economic growth. the stock market and investment banks to provide credit; building railroads, ports, canals and roads; and providing training and education. He also opened up French markets to foreign goods, such as railroad track from England, forcing French industry to become more efficient and competitive. ” [56]

Beginning in 1852, he encouraged the creation of new banks, such as Crédit Mobilier, which sold shares to the public and provided loans to both private industry and to the government. Crédit Lyonnais was founded in 1863, and Societe Generale These banks provided the funding for Napoléon III’s major projects, from railroads and canals to the rebuilding of Paris. In 1851 France had only 3,500 kilometers of railroads, compared with 10,000 kilometers in England and 800 kilometers in Belgium, a country twenty times smaller than France. Within days of the coup d’etat, Napoléon III’s Minister of Public Works launched a project to build a railroad line around Paris, connecting the different independent lines coming into Paris from around the country. The government provided guarantees for loans to build new lines, and urged railroad companies to consolidate; there were eighteen railroad companies in 1848, and only six at the end of the Empire. By 1870, France had twenty thousand kilometers of railroads, linked to the French ports and to the railroad systems of the neighboring countries, which carried over a hundred million passengers a year and transported the products of France’s new steel mills, mines and factories.[57]

New shipping lines were created and ports rebuilt in Marseille and Le Havre which connected France by sea to the United States, Latin America, North Africa and the Far East. During the Empire the number of steamships tripled, and by 1870 France possessed, after England, the second largest maritime fleet in the world.[58] Napoleon III also backed the greatest maritime project of the age, the construction of the Suez Canal, between 1859 and 1869. The canal was funded by shares on the Paris stock market, and led by a former French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps. It was opened by the Empress Eugenie, with an opera, Aida, written especially for the occasion by Giuseppe Verdi.[59]

Napoleon III launched enormous public works programs, such as the reconstruction of Paris (see below), and similar large scale reconstruction projects in Marseille, Lyon and Toulon.

Napoleon III's program also included reclaiming farmland and reforestation. One such project in the Gironde drained and reforested 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square miles) of moorland, creating the Landes forest, the largest maritime pine forest in Europe.

The search for a wife and an heir

Soon after becoming Emperor, though he was still attached to his companion Harriet Howard, who attended receptions at the Elysee and traveled around France with him, Napoleon III began searching for a wife to give him an heir. Diplomatic delegations were quietly sent to approach the families of Princess Carola, the granddaughter of Gustav IV, the deposed King of Sweden and the Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a German niece of Queen Victoria. The family of Princess Carola declined because of his religion and political uncertainty about his future, and the family of Princess Adelaide were also not enthusiastic for the same reasons, and because of his reputation. But even before Napoleon had received a response from the family of Princess Adelaide, he announced that he had found the right woman, the Countess of Teba, Eugénie de Montijo. Eugénie was twenty-three years old when she met Louis Napoleon at a reception at the Elysee Palace in 1849. She was distantly descended from a King of Spain and a King of Portugal, as well as from Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order Her mother was the daughter of .a Scottish wine merchant. She had been raised and educated in Paris. Louis Napoleon was attracted by her beauty and, as was his custom, tried to seduce Eugénie, but she explained to him that the only way to her heart was through marriage. He continued to court her. When the wives of one of his ministers humiliated her at a reception in January, 1853, she said she was going to leave Paris for good. The next day Napoleon III proposed marriage. The civil ceremony took place at the Tuileries Palace on January 22, 1853, and a much grander ceremony was held a few days later at Notre Dame Cathedral. In 1856, Eugénie gave birth to a son and heir-apparent, Louis Napoléon, the Prince Impérial.[60]

Once the heir was born, Napoleon III resumed his "petites distractions" with other women. Eugénie faithfully performed the duties of an Empress, entertaining guests, and accompanying the Emperor to balls and the opera and theater. She traveled to Egypt to open the Suez Canal, and she was his official representative when he was outside France. She was a fervent Catholic and was conservative on many issues, but she was also a strong advocate of equality for women; she pressured the Ministry of Education to give the first baccalaureate diploma to a woman, and she tried, without success, to have the writer George Sand elected as the first woman in the Academie Francaise.[61]

An Alliance with England and the Crimean War (1853-1856)

From the beginning of the Empire Napoleon III sought an alliance with England; he had lived there in exile, and saw England as a natural partner in the projects he wanted to accomplish. He soon had an opportunity; in early 1853, Czar Nicholas I of Russia put pressure on the weak Turkish government, demanding that Turkey give Russia a protectorate over the Christian countries of the Balkans as well as control over Constantinople and the Dardanelles. Turkey, backed by England and France, refused the Russian demands. A joint British-French fleet was sent to support Turkey. When Russia refused to leave the Romanian territories it had occupied, on March 27, 1854 England and France declared war.[62]

It took France and England six months to organize a full-scale military expedition to the Black Sea. The Anglo-French fleet landed thirty thousand French and twenty thousand British soldiers in the Crimea on September 14, and began to lay siege to the major Russian port of Sebastopol. As the siege dragged on, the French and British armies were reinforced, and troops from Sardinia joined them, reaching a total of 140,000 soldiers, but they suffered terribly from epidemics of typhus, dysentery and cholera. During the 332 days of the siege, the French lost 95,000 soldiers, 75,000 to disease. The suffering of the army in the Crimea was carefully concealed from the French public by press censorship.[63]

The death of Czar Nicholas I on March 2, 1855, and his replacement by Alexander II, changed the political equation. In September, after a massive bombardment, the Anglo-French army of fifty thousand men stormed the Russian positions, and the Russians were forced to evacuate Sevastopol. Alexander II sought a political solution, and negotiations were held in Paris in the new building of the French Foreign Ministry, the Quai D'Orsay, from February 25 to April 8, 1856.[62]

The Crimean War added three new place names to Paris; Alma, named for the first French victory on the river of that name, Sebastopol, and Malakoff,named for a tower in the center of the Russian line captured by the French. It had two important diplomatic consequences; Alexander II became an ally of France, and England and France were reconciled. In April 1855 Napoleon III and Eugenie went to England and were received at Windsor and Buckingham Palace, and from August 17 to 28,1855, Queen Victoria visited Paris, only the second English monarch to do so since Henry VI of England, at the time of Joan of Arc. The Queen and Napoleon III went together to visit the tomb of his uncle, Napoleon I.[64]

Extension of the powers of the legislature

In 1860–61, Napoleon III made more concessions to placate his liberal opponents. He allowed free debates in Parliament to be held and published, relaxed press censorship, and appointed the liberal Émile Ollivier as Prime Minister in 1869. This later period is described by historians as the "Liberal Empire". Napoleon acted because his popularity had declined in the face of the Italian war and a commercial treaty with Britain. He hoped to revive parliamentary life, foster the creation of political parties, and exercise his power indirectly, by working through the parliament. Both major parties seized upon Napoleon's concessions as an opportunity to demand wider powers, and the revival of parliamentary institutions. Napoleon's large-scale program of public works, and his extravagantly expensive foreign policy, had created rapidly mounting government debts; the annual deficit was about fr.100 million, and the cumulative debt had reached nearly fr.1 billion. The Emperor had full control of the budget, but was managing it poorly. He needed to restore the confidence of the business world, and to involve the legislature and sharing responsibility. Therefore, he renounced his right to borrow money when the legislature was not in session, and agreed the budget should be voted on item by item. Nevertheless, he retained the right to change the budget estimates section by section, thereby defeating parliamentary control and angering the parliamentarians. The opposition formed an increasingly powerful coalition, ranging from Catholics outraged by the Papal policies to Legitimists, Orleanists, protectionists and even some republicans. Napoleon's position was further undermined during the 1860s by his failures in foreign policy.[65]

Economic and social policy

The French economy was rapidly modernized under Napoleon III, who desired a legacy as a reform-minded social engineer.[citation needed] The industrialization of France during this period, in general, appealed to members of both the business and working classes. The centre of Paris was renovated by clearing out slums, widening streets, and constructing parks according to Baron Haussmann's plan. Working-class neighbourhoods were moved to the outskirts of Paris, where factories utilized their labour. Some of his main backers were Saint-Simonians, and these supporters described Napoleon III as the "socialist emperor". Saint-Simonians at this time founded a new type of banking institution, the Crédit Mobilier, which sold stock to the public and then used the money raised to invest in industrial enterprises in France. This sparked a period of rapid economic development.

Napoleon's Empire has been said to be the first regime in France to give "distinct priority to economic objectives".[citation needed] Napoleon sought to advance his belief in free trade, cheap credit, and the need to develop infrastructure as ways of ensuring progress and prosperity through government policy. Napoleon, like Haussmann and the Duke of Persigny, believed that the budget deficits that the state incurred due to its high contributions would be offset by subsequent high profits.[66] His regime has also been cited as one of the few in French history to make a concerted effort towards breaking down trade barriers.

As it turned out, this time period was favourable for industrial expansion. The gold rushes in both California and Australia increased the European money supply. In the early years of the Empire, the economy also benefited from the coming of age of those born during the baby boom of the Restoration period.[67] The steady rise of prices caused by the increase of the money supply encouraged company promotion and investment of capital. Rail trackage in France increased from 3,000 to 16,000 km during the 1850s, and this growth allowed mines and factories to operate at higher production rates. The fifty-five small rail lines of France were merged into six major lines, while new iron steamships replaced wooden ships. Between 1859 and 1869, under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Suez Canal Company (Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez), a French company, built the Suez Canal, opening a new chapter in global transportation and trade.


Algeria had been under French rule since 1830. Compared to previous administrations, Napoleon III was far more sympathetic to the native Algerians.[68] He halted European migration inland, restricting them to the coastal zone; moreover, he freed the Algerian rebel leader Abd al Qadir (who had been promised freedom on surrender but was imprisoned by the previous administration) and gave him a stipend of 150,000 francs. He also allowed Muslims to serve in the military and civil service on theoretically equal terms and allowed them to migrate to France. In addition, he gave the option of citizenship; however, for Muslims to take this option they had to accept all of the French civil code, including parts governing inheritance and marriage which might conflict with the Muslim tradition, and they had to reject the competence of religious Sharia courts. This was interpreted by some Muslims as requiring them to give up parts of their religion to obtain citizenship and was resented.

One of the most influential decisions Louis Napoleon made in Algeria was to change its system of land tenure. While ostensibly well-intentioned, in effect this move destroyed the traditional system of land management and deprived many Algerians of land. While Napoleon did renounce state claims to tribal lands, he also began a process of dismantling tribal land ownership in favour of individual land ownership over the course of three generations, though this process was accelerated by later administrations. This process was corrupted by French officials sympathetic to the French in Algeria who took much of the land they surveyed into public domain. In addition, many tribal leaders, chosen for loyalty to the French rather than influence in their tribe, immediately sold communal land for cash.[69]

Education for girls and women, and school reform

Victor Duruy,the Minister of Public Education, created schools for girls in each commune of France. The first woman received a baccalauréat, and women were admitted for the first time to medical school and to the Sorbonne.

Under Napoleon III and his Minister for Public Education, Victor Duruy, significant advances were made widening access to public education to girls and women. In 1861, through the direct intervention of the Emperor and the Empress Eugenie, Julie-Victoire Daubié became the first woman to pass her baccalauréat and receive her diploma.[70] In 1862, the first professional school for young women was opened, and Madeleine Brès became the first women to enroll in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris. He opened schools for girls in each commune with more than five hundred residents, a total of eight hundred new schools. These reforms were bitterly contested by officials of the Catholic Church, who felt that the church should have a monopoly over education.[71]

The ministry created scholastic libraries for fifteen thousand schools, and required that primary schools offer courses in history and geography. Secondary schools began to teach philosophy, which had been banned by the previous regime at the request of the Catholic church. For the first time public schools in France began to teach contemporary history, modern languages, art, gymnastics and music. The results of the school reforms were dramatic; In 1852, over forty percent of army conscripts in France were unable to read or write. By 1869, the number had dropped to 25 percent. The rate of illiteracy among both girls and boys dropped to 32 percent. [71]

At the University level, Napoleon III founded new faculties in Marseille, Douai, Nancy, Clermont-Ferrand and Poitiers, and founded a network of research institutes of higher studies in the sciences, history, and economics. These also were by the criticized by the Catholic Church. The Cardinal-Archbishop of Rouen, Monseigneur Bonnechose, wrote: "True science is religious, while false science, on the other hand, is vain and prideful; being unable to explain God, it rebels against him." [72]

The rebuilding of Paris

The Avenue de l'Opera, one of the new boulevards created by Napoleon III. The new buildings on the boulevards were required to be all of the same height and same basic facade design, and all faced with cream colored stone, giving the city center its distinctive harmony.

Napoleon III began his regime with an enormous public works project: a program to improve the sanitation, water supply and traffic circulation of Paris. Because of the rapidly-growing population, and because of the neglect of the government, the neighborhoods in the center of Paris were notoriously overcrowded, dark, dangerous and unhealthy. The sewers of Paris, vividly portrayed in Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables,, poured directly into the Seine, which, along with Ourq canal, was the city's main water supply. The city had been struck by a cholera epidemic in March and April 1832 which killed 6260 men, 5704 women, and 693 children. Another epidemic in 1849 killed fully five percent of the population of the poorest neighborhoods.[73]

The narrow and winding streets in the medieval quarters of the city were choked with wagons, carriages, horses and people. It took hours to travel from one part of the city to the other. There were gaslights in the city's theaters, but very few on the streets. Those living in the outer parts of the city had no parks or green spacees. Napoleon, who had lived very little of his life in Paris, saw all this and was determined to change it. He brought in the efficient and capable Georges Eugene Haussmann, then the prefect of Bordeaux, to accomplish the task of bringing light, air, water and space to the city.[74]

For the nearly two decades of Napoleon III's reign, and for a decade afterwards, most of Paris was an enormous construction site. His hydraulic engineer, Eugène Belgrand, began a program which built six hundred kilometers between 1865 and 1890. He built a new aqueduct to bring clean water from the Vanne River in Champagne, and a new huge reservoir near the future Parc Montsouris. These two works increased the water supply of Paris from 87,000 to 400,000 cubic meters of water a day.[75]

Under the streets, Belgrand placed hundred of kilometers of pipes to distribute drinking water to the neighborhoods and built new fountains to distribute the water in the neighborhoods. He built a second network, using the less-clean water from the Ourq and the Seine, to wash the streets and water the new park and gardens. He also completely rebuilt the Paris sewers, constructing 340 kilometers of sewers which took the waste far away from the city. Workers under the streets also installed miles of pipes to distribute gas for thousands of new streetlights along the Paris streets.

Meanwhile, on the surface, workers tore down hundreds of old buildings and cut eighty kilometers of new avenues, connecting the central points of the city. Beginning in 1854, a great north-south axis, composed of Boulevard Sebastopol and Boulevard San-Michel, was cut. It was crossed by a new and broader Rue de Rivoli, prolonged from Chatelet to Rue Saint Antoine. Wide new avenues, including Boulevard Haussmann, Boulevard Voltaire, and Boulevard Saint-Germain, Avenue Daumesnil were built to connect all the major points of the city. Where the boulevards intersected, Napoleon III created large squares: Etoile, Nation, Saint-Augustin, L'Alma, Place de la Republique, Bastille and Opera. At Etoile, twelve new streets were cut, radiating out into the neighborhoods around it, Buildings along these avenues were required to be the same height and in a similar style, and to be faced with cream-colored stone, creating the signature look of Paris boulevards.

To connect the city with the rest of France, Napoleon III built two new railroad stations: the Gare de Lyon (1855) and the Gare du Nord (1865). To connect those stations with the other stations, he built the Rue de Rennes and other new streets, as well as a railroad line around the city. .

The new chief gardener of the city, Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, was also busy. By 1868 his men had planted 102,154 trees, using special wagons designed for that purpose, to decorate the main avenues and the banks of the Seine, along with 8,248 benches for strollers to rest. Barlillet-Deschamps constructed two complexes of enormous greenhouses simply to provide flowers and trees for the city's new parks and gardens.[76]


The Palais Garnier, or Paris Opera house, the centerpiece of the reconstruction of Paris. Garnier described the style simply as "Napoleon the Third."

Napoleon III instructed Haussmann to "aerate, unify and embellish" Paris ( "d'aerer, unifier et embellir la ville"),.[77] The embellishment was done by Napoleon's city architect, Gabriel Davioud, who built new city halls for each of the city's twenty new arrondissements. He also built two new theaters across from each other on the new Place du Chatelet, which was created by the construction of the boulevards, and he built monumental new fountains, including the Fontaine Saint-Michel, to decorate the new boulevards.

Other civic architecture built by Napoleon III included Les Halles, the great iron in glass produce market in the center of the city. Many of the crumbling medieval buildings on the Ile de la Cite were torn down, and replaced by a large municipal hospital, the Hotel Dieu; and the building which later became the Prefecture of Police. He also oversaw the building of four large new churches, including the Eglise Saint Augustin. But the signature architectural landmark was the Paris Opera, the largest theater in the world, designed by Charles Garnier, crowning the center of Napoleon III's new Paris. When the Empress Eugenie saw the model of the opera house, and asked the architect what the style was, Garnier said simply, "Napoleon the Third." [78]

Parks and gardens

The Bois de Boulogne, built by Napoleon III between 1852 and 1858, was designed to give a place for relaxation and recreation to all the classes of Paris.

Napoleon III was determined to build new parks and gardens for the recreation and relaxation of the Parisians. When he became Emperor, there were only four large public parks in the city; the Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg, the gardens of the Palais-Royale, and the Jardin des Plantes, all located in the center. There were no parks or green spaces in the new neighborhoods of the expanding city. Working with Baron Haussmann, he created the first Service of Promenades and Plantations to build new parks for the growing population.[79]

His new parks were largely inspired by his memories of the parks in London, especially Hyde Park, where he had strolled and promenaded in a carriage while in exile; but he wanted to build on a much larger scale. Working with Haussmann and Jean-Charles Alphand, the engineer who headed the new Service of Promenades and Plantations, he laid out a plan for four major parks at the cardinal points of the compass around the city. Between 1852 and 1858, on the western edge of the city, he took a scrubby royal forest where the Russian army had once camped during their occupation of Paris, and donated it to the City. The engineers and gardeners of Alphand dug lakes, built cascades, planted lawns, flowerbeds and thousands of trees, constructed chalets, and grottoes, and created an entire landscape, in the style of an English landscape garden. Within the park he built a race course, cafes, riding trails, roads for carriages, paths for strolling, and lakes for boating. The Bois de Boulogne instantly became a popular success with Parisians of all social classes.

To the east of Paris, between 1860 and 1865, he built a similar and even larger park, the Bois de Vincennes, around the grounds of a military training ground. To the north, on the site of bare hills and a disused quarry, he built the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (1865-1867); and to the south, also on the land of disused quarry, he built Parc Montsouris (1865-1878).[79]

In addition to building the four large parks, Napoleon had the city's older parks, including Parc Monceau, formerly owned by the Orleans family, and the Jardin du Luxembourg, refurbished and replanted. He also created some twenty small parks and gardens in the neighborhoods, as miniature versions of his large parks. Alphand termed this small parks "Green and flowering salons." The intention of Napoleon's plan was to have one park in each of the eighty neighborhoods of Paris, so that no one was more than a ten minute's walk from such a park.[80]


This bridge to the Ile de la Cité, rebuilt by Napoleon III, still bears the N of his name, but there are no monuments to him or his work in Paris.

During and after his regime, Napoleon III's reconstruction of Paris was criticized; he was accused of displacing the poor from their homes, and of destroying the charms of the old medieval Paris. He was also accused of building the new avenues primarily to make it harder for insurgents to build barricades, and to allow the army to move soldiers more easily through the streets to put down uprisings.

His policies certainly displaced thousands of people; an estimated 350,000 people were displaced, mostly from the overcrowded buildings on the Ile de la Cite and the old medieval quarters. He tore down more than twenty thousand buildings, and built forty three thousand new ones farther from the center. The new streets, aqueducts, sewers and parks measurably improved the health of the population, but did not solve the city's social problems.[81]

Facilitating military movements was one consideration in Haussmann's plan, but it was not the major reason the new streets and squares were built. During the fighting that crushed the Paris Commune in May 1871, he wider streets and squares did make it easier for the army to move in some parts of the city, but they also provided clear lines of fire for the artillery and rifles of the Communards, making it harder to attack them. The Communards themselves demolished many buildings to widen their lines of fire. The army was able to go around barricades in the narrow streets by tunnelling through buildings. The Commune failed not because of Napoleon's III's new boulevards, but because the Communards were outnumbered, isolated, and did not receive military assistance from the rest of France.[82]

Though Napoleon III was the instigator and driving force of the reconstruction of Paris, and Baron Haussmann was, as he modestly described himself years later, just the stage director, ("Metteur-en-scene"), the attacks on Napoleon III and his reputation were so intense that even today there are many books about and references to "Haussmann's Paris" but almost none to "the Paris of Napoleon III." There is a statue and a boulevard named for Haussmann, and statues of Haussmann's assistants, Alphand and of Belgrand, but no monument in Paris to Napoleon III.[83]

The foreign policy of Napoleon III

In a speech at Bordeaux in 1852, Napoleon III famously proclaimed that "The Empire means peace" ("L'Empire, c'est la paix"), reassuring foreign governments that the new Emperor Napoleon would not attack other European powers in order to extend the French Empire. He was, however, thoroughly determined to follow a strong foreign policy to extend France's power and glory, and warned that he would not stand by and allow another European power to threaten its neighbour. He was also a partisan of a "policy of nationalities" (principe des nationalités) re-casting the map of Europe, sweeping away small principalities to create unified nation-states, even when this seemed to have little relevance to France's material interests. In this he remained influenced by the themes of his uncle's policy, as related in the Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, such as Italian unification and a united Europe. These two factors led Napoleon to a certain adventurism in foreign policy, in the opinion of some contemporaries, although this was tempered by pragmatism.[84]

Relations with Britain

Relations with Britain were not close under Napoleon III. Lord Palmerston, the British foreign secretary from 1846 to 1851 and prime minister from 1855 to 1865, sought to maintain the balance of power in Europe; this rarely involved an alignment with France. In 1859 there were fears that France might try to invade the UK.[85] Palmerston did not support Napoleon's aggressive efforts to intervene in the American Civil War (1861–65).[86]

The Crimean War

The final French assault brought about the capture of Sevastopol in September 1855, leading to the end of the Crimean War.

Napoleon's challenge to Russia's efforts to influence in the Ottoman Empire led to France's successful participation in the Crimean War (1854–1856).[87] During this war, Napoleon established a French alliance with Britain, which continued after the war's close. The defeat of Russia and the alliance with Britain gave France increased authority in Europe. This was the first war between European powers since the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, marking a breakdown of the alliance system that had maintained peace for nearly half a century. The war also effectively ended the Concert of Europe and the Quadruple Alliance, or "Waterloo Coalition" that the other four powers had established. The Paris Peace Conference of 1856 represented a high-water mark for the regime in foreign affairs, when Napoleon had followed through with his ideas set out in Des idées napoléoniennes.[88] A lasting result was the encouragement of Napoleon et al. to discuss (and his enemies to fear) the redrawing of the map of Europe in an ambitious and revolutionary manner along nationalist lines.[89]


In 1857, Napoleon III provided his assistance in negotiations to end the Anglo-Persian War, leading to the March 1857 Treaty of Paris.[90]

Napoleon III receiving the Siamese embassy at the palace of Fontainebleau in 1864

In East Asia, Napoleon took the first steps to establishing a French colonial influence in Indochina. He approved the launching of a naval expedition under Charles Rigault de Genouilly in 1858 to punish the Vietnamese for their mistreatment of French Catholic missionaries and force the court to accept a French presence in the country. An important factor in his decision was the belief that France risked becoming a second-rate power by not expanding its influence in East Asia. Deeper down was the sense that France owed the world a civilizing mission.[91]

Capture of Saigon by Charles Rigault de Genouilly on 18 February 1859, painted by Antoine Morel-Fatio.

This eventually led to a full-out invasion in 1861. By 1862, the war was over and Vietnam conceded three provinces in the south, called by the French Cochin-China, opened three ports to French trade, allowed free passage of French warships to Cambodia (which led to a French protectorate over Cambodia in 1863), allowed freedom of action for French missionaries and gave France a large indemnity for the cost of the war. France did not intervene, however, in the Christian-supported Vietnamese rebellion in Bac Bo, despite the urging of missionaries, or in the subsequent slaughter of thousands of Christians after the rebellion.

Looting of the Yuan Ming Yuan by Anglo-French forces in the Second Opium War in 1860.

In China, France took part in the Second Opium War along with Britain, and in 1860 French troops entered Peking. China was forced to concede more trading rights, allow freedom of navigation of the Yangtze, give full civil rights and freedom of religion to Christians, and give France and Britain a huge indemnity. This combined with the intervention in Vietnam set the stage for further French influence in China leading up to a sphere of influence over parts of southern China.[92]

The French military mission to Japan (1867–1868) before its departure in 1866.

In 1866, French naval troops attacked Korea in response to the execution of French missionaries there. Though the campaign against Korea was primarily the work of the ranking French diplomat in China and not formally authorized by the French government, its failure nevertheless resulted in the decline of French influence in the region. In 1867, a military mission to Japan played a key role in modernizing the troops of the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, and even participated on his side against Imperial troops during the Boshin war.[93]


As President of the Republic, Louis-Napoléon sent French troops to help restore Pope Pius IX as ruler of the Papal States in 1849 after his rule had been overthrown by the revolutionaries led by Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi who had proclaimed the Roman Republic (although as a Carbonaro he had been involved in plotting a similar revolt in the Papal States during his youth in Italy). This won him support of Catholics in France. However, the Constituent Assembly saw the unilateral intervention by Bonaparte in Italy as a violation of Section V of the Constitution and on 11 June 1849, Alexandre Ledru-Rollin introduced a bill of impeachment against President Bonaparte and his ministers.[94] Although many Catholics supported the Italian intervention, they nonetheless remained supporters of the Bourbon monarchy at heart and tended to support anything that would weaken Bonaparte's polictial position. Still Bonaparte's growing popularity in France meant that the bill of impeachment was defeated on 12 June 1849.[95]

Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino in 1859.

Despite the incursion of troops into Italy on behalf of the reactionary forces, Louis Bonaparte remained attached to the ideal of Italian nationalism which he had embraced in his youth. Accordingly, he sent an emissary to negotiate with the revolutionary Italian nationalist Mazzini. The Catholic Encyclopedia observes: "In this way the difficulties of the future emperor reveal themselves from the beginning; he wished to spare the religious susceptibilities of French Catholics" and yet to support "the national susceptibilities of the Italian revolutionists—a double aim which explains many an inconsistency" in his policy.[96] Pragmatically, Louis Bonaparte supported Italian nationalist aspirations because he wished particularly to end Austrian rule in Lombardy and Venice: he always nursed a dislike for Austria as the incarnation of reactionary, legitimist monarchy, and as the great barrier to the reconstruction of Europe on nationalist lines. As Emperor, Napoleon dreamed of doing this, and thus satisfying his own inclinations and winning over liberal and left-wing opinion in France (which was passionately in favour of Italian unification) while at the same time supporting the Pope in Rome and thus maintaining conservative and Catholic support in France. These contradictory desires were evident in his policy in Italy.

In April–July 1859 Napoleon made a secret deal with Cavour, Prime Minister of Piedmont, for France to assist in expelling Austria from the Italian peninsula and bringing about a united Italy, or at least a united northern Italy, in exchange for Piedmont ceding to France Savoy and the Nice region (which was destined to become the so-called French Riviera). He went to war with Austria in 1859 and won victories at Magenta and Solferino, which resulted in the ceding of Lombardy to Piedmont by Austria (and in return received Savoy and Nice from Piedmont as promised in 1860). After this had been done, however, Napoleon decided to end French involvement in the war. This early withdrawal, however, failed to prevent central Italy, including most of the Papal states, being incorporated into the new Italian state.[97] This led Catholics in France to turn against Napoleon. Napoleon tried to redress the damage by maintaining French troops in the city of Rome itself, which prevented the new Italian government seizing it from the Pope. However, Napoleon on the whole failed to win back Catholic support at home (and made moves to appeal instead to the anti-Catholic left in his domestic policy in the 1860s, most notably by appointing the anti-clerical Victor Duruy Minister for Education, who further secularized the schooling system).[98] French troops remained in Rome to protect the Pope until the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

Grand Scheme for the Americas

Napoleon III envisioned a "Grand Scheme for the Americas", which would consist of three general points. The first involved recognition of the Confederate States of America and a military alliance with them. The second involved reintroducing monarchical rule to Latin America, and increasing French trade throughout the region. The third point involved control over Mexico with the creation of a buffer state, in the form of the Second Mexican Empire, under Maximilian I.[99] Napoleon hoped Mexico would act as a buffer state between the Confederacy and Latin America.


Siege of Puebla, Mexico.

Another example of Napoleon's adventurism in foreign policy was the French intervention in Mexico (January 1862 – March 1867). Napoleon, using as a pretext the Mexican Republic's refusal to pay its foreign debts, planned to establish a French sphere of influence in North America by creating a French-backed monarchy in Mexico, a project that was supported by Mexican conservatives who resented the Mexican Republic's laicism. The United States was unable to prevent this contravention of the Monroe Doctrine because of the American Civil War; Napoleon hoped that the Confederates would be victorious in that conflict, believing they would accept the new regime in Mexico.

But his imperial dreams would not be so easy to achieve. In Mexico, the French army suffered its first military defeat in 46 years,[100][101] on the Fifth of May, 1862 in Puebla when the Mexican army under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated a much better-equipped French army. The defeat not only surprised the world, but served to revitalize the national spirit of Mexicans, helping to sustain a guerrilla warfare that lasted 5 years. In the end, it remained the Second Mexican Empire.

With the support of Mexican conservatives and French troops, in 1863 Napoleon installed Maximilian I of Mexico, a Habsburg prince, as emperor. Ruling President Benito Juárez and his Republican forces retreated to the countryside and fought against the French troops and the Mexican monarchists.

The combined Mexican monarchist and French forces won victories up until 1865, but then the tide began to turn against them, in part because the American Civil War had ended. The U.S. government was now able to give practical support to the Republicans, supplying them with arms and establishing a naval blockade to prevent French reinforcements arriving from Europe. Due to continued losses inflicted by the Mexican guerrillas loyal to the Republic and the threat of an American military intervention, Napoleon withdrew French troops from Mexico in 1866, which left Maximilian and the Mexican monarchists doomed to defeat in 1867. Despite Napoleon's pleas that he abdicate and leave Mexico, Maximilian refused to abandon the Mexican conservatives who had supported him, and remained alongside them until the bitter end, when he was captured by the Republicans and then shot on 19 June 1867. The complete failure of the Mexican intervention was a humiliation for Napoleon, and he was widely blamed across Europe for Maximilian's death. However, letters have since shown that Napoleon III and Leopold of Belgium both warned Maximilian not to depend on European support. Empress Eugénie has also been largely blamed for the fiasco, the implication being that she tried to meddle in affairs of state in order to get over her husband's affairs of the heart.[102]

Empress Carlota of Mexico visited Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie at Les Tuileries to request financial and military aid to rescue the agonizing empire, but her petitions were rejected. Carlota in turn insulted the Emperor and his wife by mocking their humble origins. She subsequently declined into mental illness.

United States

The Confederacy's last ironclad, Stonewall, was built secretly in France, but did not reach America before the Civil War was over. It ended up fighting in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

In the beginning of the 1860s, the objectives of the Emperor in foreign policy had been met: France scored several military victories in Europe and abroad, the defeat at Waterloo had been exorcised, and France was once again a significant continental military power.

During 1861 to 1862, at the beginning of the American Civil War, Napoleon III considered recognizing the Confederacy. The United States repeatedly warned that this meant war but the emperor kept this option open, especially after the crash of France's cotton textile industry and his successes in Mexico. Through 1862, Napoleon III met unofficially with Confederate diplomats, raising their hopes that he would unilaterally recognize the Confederacy.[103][104] The emperor, however, could do little without the support of Britain, which refused to recognize the Confederacy. In 1863 the Confederacy realized there was no longer any chance of intervention, and expelled the French and British consuls, who were advising their citizens not to enlist in the Confederate Army.[105]


In this portrait by Adlophe Yvon, the French emperor is shown in his prime, two years before the defeat of his forces in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871).[106] The Walters Art Museum.

A far more dangerous threat to Napoleon III, however, was looming. France saw its dominance on the continent of Europe eroded by Prussia's crushing victory over Austria in the Austro-Prussian War in June–August 1866. Due in part to his Carbonaro past, Napoleon was unable to ally himself with Austria, despite the obvious threat that a victorious Prussia would pose to France. Napoleon felt secure in the presumption that the war with Austria would be drawn out, or would result in Austrian victory, when he agreed not to intervene in 1864.[107] Yet, having decided not to prevent the Prussian rise to power by allying against her, Napoleon also failed to take the opportunity to demand Prussian consent to French territorial expansion in return for France's neutrality. Napoleon only requested that Prussia agree to French annexation of Belgium and Luxembourg after Prussia had already defeated Austria, by which time France's neutrality was no longer needed by Prussia. This extraordinary foreign policy failure saw France gain nothing while allowing Prussia's strength to increase greatly. Some historians suggest Napoleon's health was so bad at this point that he was unfit to make decisions.[108]

Napoleon's later attempt in 1867 to re-balance the scales by purchasing Luxembourg from its ruler, William III of the Netherlands, was thwarted by a Prussian threat of war. The Luxembourg Crisis ended with France renouncing any claim to Luxembourg in the Treaty of London (1867).

Franco-Prussian War and final defeat

Political cartoon from the German magazine Kladderadatsch, 1867. While the Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck dreams of a united Germany, Napoleon tries to take Luxembourg

Napoleon III, after his defeat and capture at Sedan in September 1870, with the victorious Bismarck

Napoleon III eventually paid the price for his failure to help defend Austria from Prussia. In 1870, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a cousin of King William I of Prussia, offered his candidacy for the vacant throne of Spain. Napoleon was not about to see France surrounded on both sides by the House of Hohenzollern, and pressured Leopold to withdraw his candidacy. Not content with this, Napoleon demanded that King William, as head of the House of Hohenzollern, promise that no member of his family would seek the Spanish throne again. William dismissed the demands of the French ambassador, Count Vincent Benedetti, in a friendly enough way. However, Bismarck edited the official dispatch of the meeting in a way that made it sound as if both sides behaved in a hostile manner. The Ems Telegram outraged French public opinion, and France declared the Franco-Prussian War.

Napoleon and most French leaders were confident of an outright victory. However, the country was isolated and regarded internationally as the aggressor. In a key strategic misjudgement, Napoleon took personal command of the army, which was poorly organized. He had no skills at this level of military action, and was psychologically despondent most of the time. He ignored sound military advice, and his forces scored only a few local successes, as the better-armed and better-trained German army marched into France. Napoleon refused to return to Paris or turn command over to a more competent general. As a result, he was trapped and captured on 2 September 1870, following the Battle of Sedan. When news of Napoleon's capture reached Paris two days later, the empire was swiftly overthrown and replaced by the Third Republic.[109]

The war proved disastrous for France, but led to the consolidation of the German Empire, which would supplant France's place as the major land power in continental Europe until the end of World War I.

Exile and death

After six months as a prisoner in Germany, Napoleon spent the last few years of his life in exile in England, with Eugénie and their only son. The family lived at Camden Place, Chislehurst, where he died on January 9, 1873 during surgery for a bladder stone; an autopsy showed he also had a fatal kidney disease. He was haunted to the end by bitter regrets and by painful memories of the battle at which he lost everything; Napoleon's last words, addressed to Dr. Henri Conneau standing by his deathbed, reportedly were, "Were you at Sedan?" ("Etiez-vous à Sedan?")[110]

Napoleon III after his death; wood-engraving in the Illustrated London News of January 25, 1873, after a photograph by Mssrs. Downey.

Napoleon was originally buried at St Mary's, the Catholic Church in Chislehurst. However, after his son died in 1879 fighting in the British Army against the Zulus in South Africa, the bereaved Eugénie decided to build a monastery. The building would house monks driven out of France by the anti-clerical laws of the Third Republic, and would provide a suitable resting place for her husband and son. Thus, in 1888, the body of Napoleon III and that of his son were moved to the Imperial Crypt at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Eugénie, who died many years later, in 1920, rests in the same abbey. The caskets can be viewed by visitors to the Abbey during public tours. It was reported in 2007 that the French Government was seeking the return of his remains to be buried in France, but this is opposed by the monks of the abbey.[111] A Royal Society of Arts blue plaque was unveiled in 1875 to commemorate Napoleon at 1c King Street in London's St James's district.[112]

Personal life

Paul Hadol's caricature of Bellanger toying with Napoleon

Louis Napoleon has a historical reputation as a womanizer, yet he referred to his behaviour in the following manner: "It is usually the man who attacks. As for me, I defend myself, and I often capitulate."[113] He had many mistresses. During his reign, it was the task of Count Felix Bacciochi, his social secretary, to arrange for trysts and to procure women for the emperor's favours. His affairs were not trivial sideshows: they distracted him from governing, affected his relationship with the empress, and diminished him in the views of the other European courts.[114] Among his numerous love affairs and mistresses were:[115]

  • Mathilde Bonaparte, his cousin and fiancee
  • Maria Anna Schiess (1812–1880), of Allensbach (Lake Constance, Germany), mother of his son Bonaventur Karrer (1839–1921)[116]
  • Alexandrine Éléonore Vergeot, laundress at the prison at Ham, mother of his sons Alexandre Louis Eugène and Louis Ernest Alexandre[117]
  • Elisa Rachel Felix, the "most famous actress in Europe"
  • Harriet Howard (1823–1865) wealthy and a major financial backer
  • Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione (22 March 1837 – 28 November 1899) Spy, artist and famous beauty, sent by Camillo Cavour to influence the Emperor's politics
  • Marie-Anne Waleska, a possible mistress, who was the wife of Count Alexandre Joseph Count Colonna-Walewski, his relative and foreign minister
  • Justine Marie Le Boeuf, also known as Marguerite Bellanger, actress and acrobatic dancer. Bellanger was falsely rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of a hangman, and was the most universally loathed of the mistresses, though perhaps his favorite[118]
  • Countess Louise de Mercy-Argenteau (1837–1890), likely a platonic relationship, author of The Last Love of an Emperor, her reminiscences of her association with the emperor.

His wife, Eugénie, resisted his advances prior to marriage. She was coached by her mother and her friend, Prosper Mérimée. "What is the road to your heart?" Napoleon demanded to know. "Through the chapel, Sire", she purportedly answered.[113] Yet, after marriage, it took not long for him to stray as Eugenie found sex with him "disgusting".[113] It is doubtful that she allowed further approaches by her husband once she had given him an heir.[114]

By his late forties, Napoleon started to suffer from numerous medical ailments, including kidney disease, bladder stones, chronic bladder and prostate infections, arthritis, gout, obesity, and the chronic effects of smoking. In 1856, Dr. Robert Ferguson, a consultant called from London, diagnosed a "nervous exhaustion" that had a "debilitating impact upon sexual ... performance"[115] and reported this also to the British government.[114]

With Prosper Mérimée, Napoleon III continued to seek the preservation of numerous mediaeval buildings in France, which had been left disregarded since the French revolution (a project Mérimée had begun during the July Monarchy). With Viollet-le-Duc acting as chief architect, many buildings were saved, including some of the most famous in France: Notre Dame Cathedral, Mont Saint-Michel, Carcassonne, Vézelay Abbey, Pierrefonds, and Roquetaillade castle.

Napoleon III also directed the building of the French railway network, which greatly contributed to the development of the coal mining and steel industry in France, thereby radically changing the nature of the French economy, which entered the modern age of large-scale capitalism.[119] The French economy, the second largest in the world at the time (behind the British economy), experienced a very strong growth during the reign of Napoleon III. Names such as steel tycoon Eugène Schneider or banking mogul James de Rothschild are symbols of the period. Two of France's largest banks, Société Générale and Crédit Lyonnais, still in existence today, were founded during that period. The French stock market also expanded prodigiously, with many coal mining and steel companies issuing stocks.

Although largely forgotten by later Republican generations, which only remembered the non-democratic nature of the regime, the economic successes of the Second Empire are today recognized as impressive by historians. The emperor himself, who had spent several years in exile in Victorian Lancashire, was largely influenced by the ideas of the Industrial Revolution in England, and he took particular care of the economic development of the country. He is recognized as the first ruler of France to have taken great care of the economy; previous rulers considered it secondary.

His military adventurism is sometimes considered a fatal blow to the Concert of Europe, which based itself on stability and balance of powers, whereas Napoleon III attempted to rearrange the world map to France's favour even when it involved radical and potentially revolutionary changes in politics. A 12-pound cannon designed by France is commonly referred to as a Napoleon cannon or 12-pounder Napoleon in his honour.

The historical reputation of Napoleon III is far below that of his uncle. Victor Hugo portrayed him as "Napoleon the Small" (Napoléon le Petit), a mere mediocrity, in contrast with Napoleon I "The Great", presented as a military and administrative genius. In France, such arch-opposition from the age's central literary figure, whose attacks on Napoleon III were obsessive and powerful, made it impossible for a very long time to assess his reign objectively. Karl Marx, in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, famously mocked Napoleon III by saying "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historical facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Napoleon III has often been seen as an authoritarian but ineffectual leader who brought France into dubious, and ultimately disastrous, foreign military adventures.[120]

Historians have also emphasized his attention to the fate of the working classes and poor people. His book Extinction du paupérisme ("Extinction of pauperism"), which he wrote while imprisoned at the Fort of Ham in 1844, contributed greatly to his popularity among the working classes and thus his election in 1848. Throughout his reign the emperor worked to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, on occasion breaching the 19th-century economic orthodoxy of complete laissez-faire and using state resources or interfering in the market. Among other things, the Emperor granted the right to strike to French workers in 1864, despite intense opposition from corporate lobbies. Marxist sociologist Göran Therborn has characterized the reign of Napoleon III as the "first modern bourgeois regime", one which combined a movement of mass support with bourgeois rule, albeit through authoritarian statist means.[121] According to Therborn, such a form of rule, ossified upon the point of crisis, proves fatal to such regimes once major external crises emerge.[122]

Napoleon III in films

  • Leon Ames played him in Suez (1938), although Loretta Young as Eugenie is a more prominent character.
  • Claude Rains portrays him in Juarez (1939) as a weak man ready to betray Maximilian in Mexico.
  • Jerome Cowan plays Napoleon III in The Song of Bernadette (1943).
  • Guy Bates Post plays Louis Napoleon in Maytime (1936).

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal styles of
Napoleon III of France
Coat of Arms Second French Empire (1852–1870)-2.svg
Reference style His Imperial Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial Majesty
Alternative style My Lord

Titles and styles

  • 20 April 1808 – 9 July 1810: His Imperial and Royal Highness Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Prince of Holland
  • 20 April 1808 – 25 July 1846: His Imperial Highness Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Prince Imperial of France
  • 10 December 1848 – 2 December 1852: His Excellency Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, President of the French Republic ("Le Prince-President")
  • 2 December 1852 – 4 September 1870: His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French
  • 4 September 1870 – 9 January 1873: His Imperial Majesty the former Emperor of the French

Full title as Emperor

His Imperial Majesty Napoleon the Third, By the Grace of God and the will of the Nation, Emperor of the French.[123]


Speculation about his paternity was a favorite topic of his detractors,[114] as his parents were estranged and his mother Hortense was known to have multiple lovers; however, the parents met briefly between 23 June and 6 July 1807, nine and a half months prior to his birth, and there is no reason to assume that Louis was not his father. Additionally, Article 312 of the Napoleonic Code stated (and still states) that the father of any child born within wedlock is the mother's husband. The meeting prior to his birth meant that there was no "impossibility" of conception, and that the Article 312 designated Louis as the father of the future Napoleon III.[124]


Writings by Napoleon III

  • Les Idees Napoleoniennes – an outline of Napoleon III's opinion of the optimal course for France, written before he became Emperor.
  • History of Julius Caesar, a historical work he wrote during his reign. He drew an analogy between the politics of Julius Caesar and his own, as well as those of his uncle.
  • Napoleon III wrote a number of articles on military matters (artillery), scientific issues (electromagnetism, pro and con of beet versus cane sugar), historical topics (The Stuart kings of Scotland), and on the feasibility of the Nicaragua canal. His pamphlet On the Extinction of Pauperism helped his political advancement.

See also


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  5. Bresler 1999, p. 37
  6. Seguin, Louis Napoleon le Grand, p. 26.
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  8. Bresler 1999, pp. 94–95
  9. Milza, Pierre, Napoleon III, p. 58-72
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  11. Cited in Philippe Seguin, Louis Napoleon le Grand, pp. 55-56.
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  13. Seguin, Philippe, Louis Napoleon le Grand, p. 68
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  15. Milza, Pierre, Napoleon III, pp. 107-108.
  16. Seguin, Philippe, Louis Napoleon le Grand, pp. 74-75.
  17. Milza, Pierre, Napoleon III , p. 122-133
  18. Quoted in Seguin, Louis Napoleon le Grand, p. 81.
  19. Seguin, pg. 83.
  20. Cited in Seguin, Louis Napoleon le Grand, p. 89. Translated by D. Siefkin.
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  28. Seguin, Philippe, Louis Napoleon le Grand, p. 111
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  101. PBS Reports French Army Knew No Defeat for Almost 50 Years. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
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  106. "Portrait of Napoleon III". The Walters Art Museum. 
  107. Markham 1975, p. 203
  108. Bertrand Taithe (1999). Defeated Flesh: Medicine, Welfare, and Warfare in the Making of Modern France. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 29. 
  109. James F. McMillan, Napoleon III (1991) pp 16–64
  110. "Napoleon III Quotes". Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  111. "French seeking emperor's corpse". The Daily Telegraph. London. 9 December 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  112. "NAPOLEON III (1808–1873)". English Heritage. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  113. 113.0 113.1 113.2 Betty Kelen. The Mistresses. Domestic Scandals of the 19th-Century Monarchs. Random Hours, New York (1966). 
  114. 114.0 114.1 114.2 114.3 MFEM Bierman. Napoleon III and His Carnival Empire. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-312-01827-4. 
  115. 115.0 115.1 David Baguley. Napoleon III and His regime. An Extravaganza. Louisiana State University Press (2000), ISBN 0-8071-2624-1. 
  117. "Les enfants de Napoléon et Eléonore Vergeot" (in French). Société d'Histoire du Vésinet. Retrieved 6 February 2008. 
  118. Markham 1975, p. 201
  119. Geoffrey Wawro (2005). The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871. p. 8. 
  120. Stephen E. Hanson (2010). Post-Imperial Democracies: Ideology and Party Formation in Third Republic France, Weimar Germany, and Post-Soviet Russia. Cambridge UP. p. 90. 
  121. Göran Therborn (2008 [1978]). What Does the Ruling Class Do When It Rules?. Verso. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-84467-210-3. 
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  123. "Napoléon's Titles". 26 August 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  124. Napoleon III, Georges Roux


Sources and bibliography

  • Milza, Pierre (2006). "Napoléon III". Paris: Tempus. 
  • Cobban, Alfred (1965). "A History of Modern France: Volume 2: 1799-1871". London: Penguin. 
  • Séguin, Philippe (1990). "Louis Napoléon Le Grand". Paris: Bernard Grasset. ISBN 2-246-42951-X. 
  • McMillan, J. Napoleon III (Longman, 1991)
  • Thompson, J.M. Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965.
  • Plessis, Alain (1989). "The Rise & Fall of the Second Empire 1852–1871". Paris: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Randell, Keith (1991). "Monarchy, Republic & Empire". Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-51805-7. 
  • Markham, Felix (1975). "The Bonapartes". London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-76928-6. 
  • Bresler, Fenton (1999). "Napoleon III: A Life". London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-255787-8. 

Further reading

  • Baguley, David. Napoleon III and His Regime: An Extravaganza (2000)
  • Corley; T. A. B. Democratic Despot: A Life of Napoleon III (1961)
  • Cunningham; Michele. Mexico and the Foreign Policy of Napoleon III (Palgrave, 2001)
  • Duff, David. Eugenie and Napoleon III (Collins, 1978)
  • Gooch, Brison D., ed. Napoleon III – Man of Destiny: Enlightened Statesman or Proto-Fascist?, (1966) excerpt
  • Gooch, Brison D., ed. The Reign of Napoleon III, (1969)
  • Pinkney, David H. "Napoleon III's Transformation of Paris: The Origins and Development of the Idea," Journal of Modern History (1955) 27#2 pp 125–134 in JSTOR
  • Pinkney, David H. Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris (Princeton University Press, 1958) ISBN 0-691-00768-3.
  • Price, Roger. "Napoleon III: 'hero' or 'grotesque mediocrity'?" History Review (2003) pp 14+
  • Price, Roger. Napoleon III and the Second Empire (Routledge, 1997)
  • Price, Roger. The French Second Empire: an anatomy of political power (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • Wawro, Geoffrey. The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870–1871(2005)
  • Wetzel, David A Duel of Giants: Bismarck, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001)
  • Wetzel, David. A Duel of Nations: Germany, France, and the Diplomacy of the War of 1870–1871 (University of Wisconsin Press; 2012) 310 pages
  • Zeldin, Theodore. The Political System of Napoleon III (Oxford University Press, 1958).


  • Campbell, Stuart L. The Second Empire Revisited: A Study in French Historiography (1978)
  • Spitzer, Alan B. "The Good Napoleon III," French Historical Studies (1962) 2#3 pp. 308–329 in JSTOR; praises his domestic policies

Primary sources

  • T. W. Evans, Memoirs of the Second French Empire, (New York, 1905)
  • Marie-Clotilde-Elisabeth Louise de Riquet, comtesse de Mercy-Argenteau, The Last Love of an Emperor: reminiscences of the Comtesse Louise de Mercy-Argenteau, née Princesse de Caraman-Chimay, describing her association with the Emperor Napoleon III and the social and political part she played at the close of the Second Empire (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Page & Co., 1926).

External links

Napoleon III
House of Bonaparte
Born: 20 April 1808 Died: 9 January 1873
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis-Eugène Cavaignac
President of the French Second Republic
20 December 1848 – 2 December 1852
became Emperor
Head of State of France
20 December 1848 – 4 September 1870
Succeeded by
Louis Jules Trochu
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Louis-Philippe of France
as King of the French
Emperor of the French
2 December 1852 – 4 September 1870
Empire dissolved
French Third Republic declared
Preceded by
Co-Prince of Andorra
20 December 1848 – 4 September 1870
Succeeded by
Adolphe Thiers
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Louis Bonaparte
Emperor of the French
25 July 1846 – 2 December 1852
Reason for succession failure:
Bourbon Restoration
became Emperor
Loss of title
French Third Republic declared
Emperor of the French
4 September 1870 – 9 January 1873
Succeeded by
Napoleon IV

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