Napoléon III

(1808-1873) (Charles-Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte)
   emperor of the French
   The emperor of the French (1852-70), Charles-Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was born in Paris, the third son of louis bonaparte and hortense de beauharnais. He was raised in Arenenberg, Switzerland, after the fall of the first empire (1815) and was educated there and in Bavaria. His mother schooled him in the glories of the Napoleonic legend and set his course toward the recovery of family power. After attending the College of Augsburg and the military school at Thoune, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became an artillery officer and, in 1831, took part in a liberal uprising in Romagna, Italy. With the death of the duke of Reichstadt (napoléon ii), he was considered the leader of the Bonapartists. After the failure of the Strasbourg Conspiracy (1836), in which Louis-Napoléon sought to seize power, he went into exile in Brazil, the united States, then England. A second attempt at gaining power in Boulogne in 1840, on the occasion of the return of his uncle's remains to France, also failed. imprisoned in the fortress of Ham, he escaped to England (1846) disguised as a mason named Badin-guet (a surname that he kept). Upon his return to France after the revolution of 1848, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly (April 1848). Louis-Napoléon had already outlined his political ideas— "democratic caesarism"—and his economic theories in his writings (Idées napoléoniennes, 1839; L'Extinction du paupérisme, 1846), largely influenced by the works of Henri de saint-simon. Nostalgia for the Napoleonic legend, but more also the bourgeois fear of the "red peril," after the June Days of 1848, assured that Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte would be able to play his role in maintaining the established order by being a candidate for the presidency of the second republic.
   On December 10, 1848, he was elected president by a large majority vote. He then moved cleverly, letting the conservatives in the Legislative Assembly carry out reactionary policies (the invasion of Rome, 1849; the Falloux Law, suppressing universal suffrage, 1850), while promoting himself in turn as the champion of universal suffrage and protector of workers and of religion. unable to obtain the revision of the constitution that would have allowed his reelection in 1852, he carried out the coup d'état of December 2, 1851. The constitution of January 1852, which greatly restricted the legislative powers in favor of the executive, eventually allowed the restoration of the Empire which was proclaimed on December 2, 1852, after a plebiscite. Now known as Napoléon III ("Napoléon le Petit"— victor hugo), in 1853 he married a Spanish countess, eugénie de montijo, who in 1856 gave birth to their son Eugène-Louis-Napoléon (1856-79). At first, Napoléon ruled as a dictator and, during the second empire, which was characterized by a growth in finance, industry, and commerce, the Emperor, after initial pacifist declarations ("L'Empire, c'est la paix"), practiced a warlike foreign policy. Abrogating the treaties of 1815, he reaffirmed militaristic Napoleonic policies (crimeanwar, campaign in Italy, invasion of Mexico). The campaign in Italy far from satisfied his italian allies and aroused the hostility of French Catholics toward his foreign policy with regard to the papacy. During this period (1859-60), Napoléon III began to make concessions to liberalize his regime. The attempt to establish a parliamentary empire (beginning in 1870) succeeded only in increasing the opposition, despite a plebiscite apparently in favor of the Emperor (May 1870).
   Against prudent counsel, Napoléon III decided to declare war on Prussia in July 1870 (see franco-prussian war). After the initial defeats suffered by the French army, the Emperor ordered a new cabinet (August 9), which could not, however, resolve the military situation. After the French defeat and surrender at Sedan (September 2, 1870), Napoléon III was taken prisoner. On September 4, the National Assembly proclaimed the end of his reign, and he went into exile in England. viewed as both a tyrant and something of a democrat, Napoléon III embodied certain contradictions in his personality and in his domestic and foreign policies.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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