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1815-1830 Bourbon Restoration

"In their exile they had learned nothing,
and forgot nothing." -Napoleon

Louia XVII of France, the second son of Louis XVI, was born in 1785. He became dauphin at the death of an elder brother in 1789, and was recognized as king in January, 1793, by the French royalists and several foreign courts, but was closely confined by the Jacobins. The cruel treatment which he received from his jailers hastened his death, which occurred in prison in June, 1795.

Louis XVIII of France, born at Versailles in November, 1755, was the third son of the dauphin, and younger brother of Louis XVI. He received at his birth the names of Louis Stanislas Xavier, and the title of Count de Provence. He favored the Revolution in its first stages, and by his influence determined that the Third Estate should send to the States-General as many deputies as both of the other orders [which turned out to be a big mistake]. He remained in Paris until the flight of the king to Varennes in June, 1791, when he escaped by another route.

A constitutional indolence and an inability to do without an intimate friend and adviser, whom he could consult on all matters of daily life, were the two great defects of Louis' character. Mentally, he was a man of superior intelligence, with a prodigious memory and with scholarly tastes, which he had cultivated through long days of exile, amidst the snows of Russia.and. Poland, and in the dull but peaceful years in England. From the time when the death of his nephew in the Temple had made him in his own eyes and in those of his followers King of France, he had never ceased to believe in the ultimate triumph of his cause. But before these hopes had come to be realized he had gone through days of direst poverty and had drunk the cup of humiliation to the dregs.

During the republic and empire he resided at Verona, Mitau, Warsaw, and Hartwell, England. In April, 1814, he returned to France and ascended the throne vacated by Bonaparte. He hastened to accept a constitutional charter which his ministers presented. By the escape of Napoleon, his daring march to Paris, and the defection of the army, Louis was forced to fly on the 2Oth of March, 1815, and retired to Ghent.

Louis XVIII was again restored by the allied armies in July, 1815, at one of the most disastrous epochs in French history. "The king must have had," says Lamartine, "great courage or a great thirst of power, to accept a throne and a nation buried under so many ruins." Louis dismissed Talleyrand, and selected for prime minister the Duc de Richelieu; but M. Decazes, minister of police, was his chief favourite. The majority of the Chamber of Deputies were extreme royalists, and maintained an opposition to the ministry. Several Bonapartists were executed, and others banished. On September 5, 1816, the king dissolved the Chamber, and by this coup d'ltat gained much popularity. The next elections resulted in favor of the moderate royalists. The ultra-royalists, with Villele as premier, came into power in February, 1820, and passed an electoral law less favourable to the liberal party. In 1823 the French court sent an army into Spain, and supported the cause of absolutism, as an ally of Ferdinand VII. " His qualities," says Michaud, "were rather brilliant than solid." He had respectable literary attainments and an easy elocution. He is reputed the author of the saying, "Punctuality (exactitude) is the politeness of kings."

Always, since his restoration, infirm from physical causes, Louis XVIII, towards the close of 1823, became almost incapable of any exertion. He could not walk, and was obliged to be conveyed from room to room on a chair or eouch, prepared for the purpose. His disease was both internal and external; he suffered great and almost continuous pains in his chest; whilst boils and sores broke out nearly all over his body, and tried, to the fullest extent, the patience of those who had to dress them : for he became extremely irritable, and the slightest touch caused him considerable suffering. He was frequently driven out, having to be carried to, and lifted into, his coach; and, when seated, his greatest pleasure was in being driven rapidly through the streets, or along the boulevards, as fast as eight horses could convey him. It was evident that nature could not last much longer; and all who sought court favor paid homage to the count d'Artois. The count d'Artois and the duchess d'Angouleme were, in fact, the government. Thus, "the last days of Louis XVIII," it is affirmed, "were a pitiable scene of court intrigue and royal weakness." Louis died in September, 1824, without issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Charles X.

With ostentatious pomp becoming the dignity of a divine-right monarch, Charles X was solemnly crowned. The coronation of the King revealed the temper of the new reign. France was treated to a spectacle of mediaeval mummery that amused and at the same time disgusted a people that had never been known to lack an appreciation of the ridiculous. Charles was anointed on seven parts of his person with sacred oil, miraculously preserved, it was asserted, from the time of Clovis.

Charles X, the count of Artois, had been the leader of the Ultra-Royalists ever since the restoration of his brother, the late king. No family history can be more interesting or instructive than that of the three Bourbon brothers who at different times and under varying Charles X, circumstances were obliged to deal with revolutionary forces in France - Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. The first-named was well-intentioned, religious, but fatally weak and influenced by others, so that he lost his life by the guillotine. The second was hard-hearted, unprincipled, but so clever and astute a politician that in the midst of the struggles of irreconcilable factions he rounded out a not inglorious reign of ten years. The last-named had the political misfortune to resemble more closely the first than the second, save only that he possessed great strength of will and a dogged determination quite distinctive of himself. It had been the count of Artois who, with Marie Antoinette, had engineered the court intrigues against the Revolution in its earliest stages. It had been he who had headed the emigration of the nobles and clergy when their privileges were threatened by the Revolution. He it was who never tired of agitation against the revolutionaries and against Napoleon ; and he it was who, on the triumphant return of his family and of the emigres, encouraged the Ultra-Royalists in acts of retaliation.

The Comte d'Artois was one of those men of limited intelligence naturally disposed to look with approval on small men and small measures. He had, to quote M. Sorel, "all the qualities required for gaily losing a battle or for gracefully mining a dynasty " and none of those needed for "managing a party or for reconquering a Kingdom." Though the new reign, in accordance with custom, began by measures of concession, yet the promotion of the three Bishops of Bourges, Amiens, and Evreux to the House of Peers, and the enforced retirement of the whole body of general officers of the old army, left no doubt as to the intentions of Charles X. His sovereignty claimed to be a government by divine right, supporting and supported by the Church, was an attempt to wean men's minds from the recollection of the Revolution and the Empire.

Charles X entrusted the task and responsibility of governing to the Vicomte de Martignac (January 4, 1828). The task which Martignac was attempting was the maintenance of monarchical authority, strengthened by the fact that it was willing to rid itself betimes of the men and institutions most disliked by a sensitive and uneasy public opinion. The reproach of tacking made against him is unjust. He merely threw overboard such ballast as was necessary. Charles X thus found himself forced in 1829 to make a choice, decisive for the future of his monarchy, between the two parties whose ephemeral coalition had ruined the policy followed by his Ministers ever since 1821. Like Louis XVIII in 1816, he was compelled to declare himself on the side of the no-compromise Royalist party, who were impatient to complete without half-measures or diplomacy the restoration of the old order, of privilege, and of the ultramontane Church, or on the side of men who, like Remusat, had for their program "to defend the Revolution and continue it without the revolutionary spirit." The crisis had not changed after thirteen years ; it was the same at the end as at the beginning.

Defeated and occupied by the enemy, tired of revolutions and of war, France in 1815 hungered less for liberty than for repose. Since then new generations had arisen with the design and the desire to take up once more by teaching and action the national task which France seemed to have abandoned through fatigue. Against the royal will of the Bourbons, restored by means of foreign aid, which had seemed to be the foundation of the Charter they had granted, these younger Liberals put forward the rights of the nation.

On July 26, 1830, the printers and journalists, eager to proclaim the sovereignty of the people against that of the Bourbons, summoned the people of Paris to armed insurrection. By July 28 the people had succeeded in gaining the mastery over the royal troops in the H6tel de Ville; the next day (July 29) the insurgents forced the Duke of Ragusa to evacuate the Louvre, the Tuileries, and before long Paris itself.

The obstinacy of the Royalists, who had attempted this enterprise at first by cunning methods, and afterwards boldly, had inflicted a double injury upon the Crown. In the first place, its fall resulted. But, worse still, it caused men to forget all the services which the restored monarchy had rendered to France since 1815 - the rapid evacuation of a territory occupied by foreign armies, the liquidation of the cost of a long war, financial prosperity favourable to the development of industry and commerce. In short, peace with honor. Nothing was fated to survive of this short-lived regime but the lasting glory of the literary and artistic achievement which testified to a real renaissance of the French genius.

Charles X was the last monarch of France who attempted to oppose his will to the majority of the House. From henceforth not only did the minister require a similar majority so as to retain his office, but also the leaders of the state - king, emperor, or president - were dependent on Parliament, the fiction of an irresponsible leader of the state was forever ended, and the upper house was practically a thing of the past. According to this it was only natural and right that from henceforth all leaders of the state should, if only artificially, seek to assure the majority in the Commons and to accustom themselves to consider every opponent of their minister as their own opponent, views which the nation shared and still shares.

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Page last modified: 18-12-2018 18:41:01 ZULU