|Succession:||1st President of the French Republic|
|Reign:||20 December 1848– |
2 December 1852
as Head of the State and of the Government
|Succession1:||Emperor of the French|
|Reign1:||2 December 1852– |
4 September 1870
|Predecessor1:||Second French Republic|
Himself as President of the French Republic
Louis Philippe III, Duke of Orléans was previous monarch as King of the French
Third French Republic
Louis Jules Trochu as Chairman of the Government of National Defense
|Spouse:||Eugénie de Montijo|
|Issue:||Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial|
|Full Name:||Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte|
|House:||House of Bonaparte|
|Father:||Louis I of Holland|
|Mother:||Hortense de Beauharnais|
|Birth Date:||20 April 1808|
|Birth Place:||Paris, French Empire|
|Death Place:||Chislehurst, Kent, England, UK|
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 1808 9 January 1873) was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. Elected President by 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 unusual 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 abroad. A brief war against Austria in 1859 largely brought an end to the process of Italian unification. 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.
Domestically, Napoleon's reign was a major period of industrialization for the French economy. He also oversaw a major renovation of Paris that created the outline of the modern city. The Second French Empire was overthrown three days after Napoleon's disastrous surrender at the Battle of Sedan in 1870, which resulted in both the proclamation of the French Third Republic and the cession of the territory of Alsace-Lorraine to the newly formed German Empire.
Napoleon III, known as "Louis-Napoléon" prior to becoming Emperor, was the nephew of Napoleon I by his brother Louis Bonaparte, who married Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter by the first marriage of Napoleon's wife Joséphine de Beauharnais. The Empress Joséphine proposed the marriage as a way to produce an heir for the Emperor, who agreed, as Joséphine was by then infertile. Louis-Napoléon's paternity has been brought into question (see Ancestry). Louis-Napoléon also harboured a lifelong suspicion about his legitimacy, although most historians have concluded that he was conceived by Louis Bonaparte and Hortense.
During Napoleon I's reign, Louis-Napoléon's parents had been made king and queen of a French puppet state, the Kingdom of Holland. After Napoleon I's military defeats and deposition in 1815 and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France, all members of the Bonaparte dynasty were forced into exile. Louis-Napoléon was brought up in Switzerland, living with his mother in Arenenberg Castle in the canton of Thurgau, and in Germany, receiving his education at the gymnasium school at Augsburg, Bavaria. As a young man, he settled in Italy, where he and his elder brother Napoléon Louis espoused liberal politics and became involved with the Carbonari, an organization fighting Austria's domination of northern Italy. On 17 March 1831, while fleeing Italy due to a crackdown on revolutionary activity by Papal and Austrian troops, Louis-Napoléon's brother, suffering from measles, died in his arms. His experiences in Italy later had a profound effect on his foreign policy. Louis-Napoléon travelled on to France where he was quickly arrested and quietly sent to England.
Meanwhile, France had again become a monarchy, both under the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy. Under the latter emerged a Bonapartist movement that wanted to restore a Bonaparte to the throne. According to the law of succession established by Napoleon I when he was Emperor, 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 and his sons. Since Joseph had no male children, and because Louis-Napoléon's own elder brother had died in 1831, the death of the Duke of Reichstadt in 1832 made Louis-Napoléon the Bonaparte heir in the next generation. His uncle and his father, relatively old men by then, left to him the active leadership of the Bonapartist cause.
Louis-Philippe had established the July Monarchy in 1830, and was confronted with opposition from the Legitimists, the Independents, and the Bonapartists (he had especially angered the Bonapartists by confiscating all the remaining family assets in France). Louis-Napoléon returned to France in October 1836, trying to emulate the start of the Hundred Days by initiating a Bonapartist coup at Strasbourg, calling on the local garrison to join him in restoring the Empire. The local troops instead arrested him and Louis-Napoléon returned to exile in Switzerland. When Louis-Philippe demanded his extradition, the Swiss refused to hand over a man who was a citizen and a member of their armed forces. In order to avoid a war, Louis-Napoléon left Switzerland of his own accord.
Between 1838 and 1839, Louis-Napoléon stayed at No. 6 Clarendon Square, Royal Leamington Spa. The building is now called "Napoleon House" and has a 'Blue plaque'. He secretly returned to France and attempted yet another coup in August 1840, sailing with some fifty hired soldiers to Boulogne-sur-Mer, taking the train to Lille and repeating the failure of the Strasbourg coup. This time, he was not exiled but sentenced to emprisonnement perpétuel, albeit in relative comfort, in the fortress of the town of Ham in the Somme département.
While in the Ham fortress, his eyesight reportedly became poor. During his years of imprisonment, he wrote essays and pamphlets that combined his claim to be emperor with progressive, mildly socialist economic proposals, published as L'extinction du paupérisme, which he came to define as Bonapartism. In 1844, his uncle Joseph died, making him the heir apparent to the Bonaparte claim. He finally escaped in May 1846 by exchanging clothes with a mason working at the fortress. His enemies would later derisively nickname him "Badinguet", the name of the mason whose identity he assumed. He eventually made it to Southport, England. A month later, his father Louis died, making Louis-Napoléon the clear heir to the Bonaparte legacy in France.
Louis-Napoléon lived within the borders of the United Kingdom until the revolution of February 1848 in France deposed Louis-Philippe and established a Republic. He was now free to return to France, which he immediately did. The provisional government, however, judged him an unnecessary distraction and requested his departure. Back in England, he volunteered to be a special constable in the event of Chartist rioting.  In the same month, April, he ran for, and won a seat in the French Constituent Assembly elected to draft a new constitution. He did not make a great contribution and, as a mediocre public orator, failed to impress his fellow members. Some even thought that, having lived outside of France almost all his life, he spoke French with a slight German accent. His temporary exile in 1848 proved to be a blessing in disguise for the December presidential election, as it meant he played no part in the June Days, and was able to enhance his image as "all things to all men" against his main opponent, Louis-Eugène Cavaignac, who had led the repression against the working-class of Paris.
When the constitution of the Second Republic was finally promulgated and direct elections for the presidency were held on 10 December 1848, Louis-Napoléon won a surprising landslide victory, with 5,587,759 votes (around 75% of the total); his closest rival, Cavaignac, received only 1,474,687 votes. Louis-Napoléon had no long political career behind him and was able to depict himself as "all things to all men". The Monarchist right (supporters of either the Bourbon or Orléanist royal households) and much of the upper class supported him as the "least bad" candidate, as a man who would restore order, end the instability in France which had continued since the overthrow of the monarchy in February and prevent a proto-communist revolution (in the vein of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels) A good portion of the industrial class, on the other hand, were won over by Louis-Napoléon's vague indications of progressive economic views. His overwhelming victory was above all due to the support of the non-politicized rural masses, to whom the name of Bonaparte meant something, as opposed to the other, little-known contenders. Louis-Napoléon's platform was based on the restoration of order, strong government, social consolidation, and national greatness. He appealed with all the credit of his name, that of France's national hero, Napoleon I, who in popular memory was credited with raising the nation to its pinnacle of military greatness and establishing social stability after the turmoil of the French Revolution. During his term as President, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte styled himself the Prince-President (Le Prince-Président).
Despite his landslide victory, Louis-Napoléon was faced with a Parliament dominated by monarchists, who saw his government only as a temporary bridge to a restoration of either the House of Bourbon or of Orléans. Louis-Napoléon governed cautiously during his first years in office, choosing his ministers from among the more "centre-right" Orleanist Parti de l'Ordre monarchists, and generally avoiding conflict with the conservative assembly. He courted Catholic support by assisting in the restoration of the Pope's temporal rule in Rome, although he tried to please secularist conservative opinion at the same time by combining this with peremptory demands that the Pope introduce liberal changes to the government of the Papal States, including appointing a liberal government and establishing the Code Napoleon there, which angered the Catholic majority in the assembly. He soon made another attempt to gain Catholic support, however, by approving the Loi Falloux in 1851, which restored a greater role for the Church in the French educational system.
Because, according to the new constitution of 1848, Louis Bonaparte's term of office as president would end on the second Sunday in May 1852 and because the constitution did not allow any person to succeed himself as president for a second term, Louis Bonaparte, in the third year of his four-year mandate, began to seek an amendment to the constitution to allow him to succeed himself as president. Accordingly, President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte asked the National Assembly for a revision of the constitution to enable the president to run for re-election, arguing that four years were not enough to fully implement his political and economic program. The Constitution of the Second Republic stated that the Presidency of the Republic was to be held for a single term of four years, with no possibility of re-election, a restriction written in the Constitution for fear that a President would abuse his power to transform the Republic into a dictatorship with a president for life. The National Assembly, dominated by monarchists who wished to restore the Bourbon dynasty, refused to amend the Constitution.
The National Assembly passed a new election law on 31 May 1850. This new law placed restrictions on universal male suffrage, imposing a three-year residency requirement. It prevented a large proportion of the lower class, which was itinerant, from voting. In spite of his limited powers forcing him to acquiesce to this law, Louis-Napoléon was able to seize the opportunity and break with the Assembly and the conservative ministers opposing his projects in favour of the dispossessed. He surrounded himself with lieutenants completely loyal to him, such as Morny and Persigny, secured the support of the army, and toured the country making populist speeches condemning the assembly and presenting himself as the protector of universal male suffrage.
After months of stalemate, and using the money of his mistress, Harriet Howard, he staged a coup d'état and seized dictatorial powers on 2 December 1851, the 47th anniversary of Napoleon I's crowning as Emperor, and also the 46th anniversary of the famous Battle of Austerlitz (hence another of Louis-Napoléon's nicknames: "The Man of December", "l'homme de décembre"). The coup was later declared to have been approved by the French people in a national referendum, the fairness and legality of which has been questioned by Napoleon III's detractors ever since. The coup of 1851 alienated the reactionary and careerist elements in the Assembly. Victor Hugo, who had hitherto shown support for Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, decided to go into exile after the coup, and became one of the harshest critics of Napoleon III, despite the amnesty of political opponents in 1859. Recognizing the reactionary classes in society as being the gravest threat to his position, Louis Bonaparte moved on 22 January 1852 to confiscate all the property of the House of Orleans. Citizen King Louis-Phillipe, who had been deposed by the Revolution of February 1848, had been a member of the Orleans family. Additionally, the House of Orleans had formed a major part of the "Party of Order" in the National Assembly, and later the Constituent Assembly, which acted in opposition to the Louis Bonaparte during his term as the elected President of France from 1848 until the coup on 2 December 1851.
New constitutional statutes were passed which officially maintained an elected Parliament and re-established universal male suffrage. However, the Parliament now became irrelevant as real power was completely concentrated in the hands of Louis-Napoléon and his bureaucracy. Exactly one year after the coup, on 2 December 1852, after approval by another referendum, the Second Republic was officially ended and the Empire restored, ushering in the Second French Empire. President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became Emperor Napoleon III. The numbering of Napoleon's reign treats Napoleon II, who never actually ruled, as a true Emperor (he had been briefly recognized as emperor from 22 June to 7 July 1814). That same year, Napoleon III began shipping political prisoners and criminals to penal colonies such as Devil's Island or (in milder cases) New Caledonia.
The emperor, hitherto a bachelor, began quickly to look for a wife to produce a legitimate heir-apparent. Most of the royal families of Europe were unwilling to marry into the parvenu Bonaparte family, and after rebuffs from Princess Carola of Sweden and from Queen Victoria's German niece Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Napoleon decided to lower his sights somewhat and "marry for love", choosing the Countess of Teba, Eugénie de Montijo, a Spanish noblewoman of partial Scottish ancestry who had been brought up in Paris. In 1856, Eugénie gave birth to a legitimate son and heir-apparent, Louis Napoléon, the Prince Impérial.
Two assassination attempts were orchestrated against Napoleon III, one in April 1855 and the other in January 1858.
Until about 1861, Napoleon's regime exhibited decidedly authoritarian characteristics, using press censorship to prevent the spread of opposition, manipulating elections, and depriving the Parliament of the right to free debate or any real power.
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. Scale program of public works, 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 he 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, Legitimate, Orleanists, protectionists and even some republicans. Napoleon's position was further undermined during the 1860s by his failures in foreign policy.
The French economy was rapidly modernized under Napoleon III, who desired a legacy as a reform-minded social engineer. 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". 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 Persigny, believed that the budget deficits that the state incurred due to its high contributions would be offset by subsequent high profits. 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. The steady rise of prices caused by the increase of the money supply encouraged company promotion and investment of capital. Rail mileage 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 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. 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 Muslim tradition, and they had to reject the competence of religious 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.
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.
See main article: Crimean War.
Napoleon's challenge to Russia's claims to influence in the Ottoman Empire led to France's successful participation in the Crimean War (March 1854 – March 1856). 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.
In 1857, Napoleon III provided his assistance in negotiations to end the Anglo-Persian War, leading to the March 1857 Treaty of Paris. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Despite the incursion of troops into Italy on behalf of the reactionary forces, Louis Bonaparte remained attached to 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. 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 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. 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). French troops remained in Rome to protect the Pope until the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
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, in the form of Maximillian I in Mexico, and increasing French trade throughout Latin America. The third point involved control over Mexico with the creation of a large buffer state from the Rio Grande to the Baja California peninsula.
See main article: French intervention in Mexico and Second Mexican Empire. 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 50 years,  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.
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.
See main article: France in the American Civil War. 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, Napoleon III positioned France to intervene in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. The United States repeatedly warned that this meant war but the emperor inched steadily toward officially recognizing the Confederacy, 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.  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.
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. 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. In part the reason for the Emperor's blunder must be laid on his deteriorating health during this period—he had begun to suffer from a bladder stone that caused him great pain, even preventing him from riding a horse.
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).
Napoleon III paid the price for his failure to help defend Austria from Prussia. In 1870, when goaded by the diplomacy of the Prussian Prime Minister (and chancellor of the North German Confederation, and soon of the new German Empire) Otto von Bismarck, he began the Franco-Prussian War. This war proved disastrous for France, and was instrumental in giving birth to the German Empire, which would take France's place as the major land power in continental Western Europe until the end of World War I. In battle against Prussia in July 1870, the Emperor was captured at the Battle of Sedan (September 2) and was deposed by the forces of the Third Republic in Paris two days later.
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. 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?")
The Emperor died during a multistage process to break up a bladder stone. The surgeon Sir Henry Thompson, sounded the emperor and detected a bladder stone. Surgery was performed on January 2 and 6 under chloroform anaesthesia delivered by Joseph Thomas Clover. The cause of death was reportedly kidney failure and septicaemia. Clover and Thompson signed the post-mortem report with four other physicians; however, it has long been suspected that the operation was botched due to the arrogance of Thompson, resulting in the Emperor's untimely death.
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.
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." 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. Among his numerous love affairs and mistresses were:
His wife, Eugenie, 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. Yet, after marriage, it took not long for him to stray as Eugenie found sex with him "disgusting". It is doubtful that she allowed further approaches by her husband once she had given him an heir.
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 effects of chronic smoking. In 1856, Dr. Robert Ferguson, a consultant called from London, diagnosed a "nervous exhaustion" that had a "debilitating impact upon sexual ... performance" and reported this also to the British government.
An important legacy of Napoleon III's reign was the rebuilding of Paris. Part of the design decisions were taken in order to reduce the ability of future revolutionaries to challenge the government by capitalizing on the small, medieval streets of Paris to form barricades. However, this should not overshadow the fact that the main reason for the complete transformation of Paris was Napoleon III's desire to modernize Paris based on what he had seen of the modernizations of London during his exile in the 1840s, when he lived in the small village of Chislehurst, just outside the city. With his characteristic social approach to politics, Napoleon III desired to improve health standards and living conditions in Paris with the following goals: to build a modern sewerage system to improve health, to develop new housing with larger apartments for the masses, and to create green parks all across the city. The Emperor ordered the creation of three large parks in Paris (Parc Monceau, Parc Montsouris, and Parc des Buttes Chaumont) with the clear intention of offering them for poor working families as an alternative to the pub (bistrot) on Sundays, much as Victoria Park in London was also built with the same social motives in mind. Large sections of the city were thus flattened and the old winding streets replaced with large thoroughfares and broad avenues. The rebuilding of Paris was directed by Baron Haussmann, turning Paris into the city of broad tree-lined boulevards and parks so beloved of tourists today.
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. The French economy, the second largest in the world at the time (behind the United Kingdom), 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.
Napoleon III to this day lacks the favourable historical reputation that Napoleon I enjoyed. 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.
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 nineteenth-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. According to Therborn, such a form of rule, ossified upon the point of crisis, proves fatal to such regimes once major external crises emerge.
Emperor of the French
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Speculation about his paternity was a favorite topic of his detractors, 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.