Louis XVIII

Summary

Louis XVIII of France (Palace of Versailles, November 17, 1755-Paris, September 16, 1824), also called by his supporters as “the Desiree” (le Désiré), was king of France and Navarre between 1814 and 1824, being the first monarch of the Bourbon restoration in France, except for the period known as the “Hundred Days” in which Napoleon I briefly regained power.

From his youth, and until the beginning of the French Revolution, he held the title of Count of Provence. However, on September 21, 1792, the National Convention abolished the monarchy and all noble titles related to the Ancien Régime, so Louis XVI was deposed from the throne, and later he would be tried, condemned, and executed at the guillotine. When the young Louis XVII, the son of Louis XVI, died in prison in June 1795, Louis XVIII succeeded his nephew as “titular” king of France in exile.

Louis XVIII spent twenty-three years in exile (1791-1814). During that period he traveled throughout Europe, passing through Prussia, the Russian Empire, and finally ended up settling in Great Britain, where he remained until his return to France in 1814, when -helped by the Sixth Coalition-, he recovered his position as monarch, a position that both he and his supporters considered part of his divine right. However, Napoleon escaped from Elba with the intention of restoring his empire, so the Bourbon monarch was forced to flee from Paris. A Seventh Coalition was formed, which declared war on Bonaparte, defeating him completely at Waterloo and definitively restoring Louis XVIII to the throne of France.

Louis XVIII ruled as king for a little less than a decade, and in whose reign he focused on consolidating the position of the Bourbons as a monarchical government, and trying to restore the deteriorated image of his family before the French people; at the same time, he had to deal with an uncontrollable lower house -and later with many factions opposed to each other-, support his political allies such as the Bourbons in Italy, and intervene militarily in favor of Ferdinand VII, whom he helped to quell a revolution against him. His form of government was a constitutional monarchy, unlike the Ancien Regime, which was an absolutist monarchy, so the royal prerogative of Louis XVIII was substantially reduced thanks to the Charter that he promulgated as a kind of Constitution for France. Louis XVIII died childless in 1824, so the crown passed to his brother Charles, Count of Artois. Louis XVIII would be the last French monarch to exercise the government until his death.

At the beginning of his reign and during most of it, he displayed an attitude of national conciliation between his monarchist supporters, -and its most radical side, the “ultras”-, with his republican and Bonapartist opponents, even respecting certain aspects that arose in the Revolution. Despite the lack of support from his brother Charles and his opponents, Louis XVIII”s policy of conciliation was successful until his death.

Louis Stanislas Xavier was born on November 17, 1755 at the palace of Versailles, the sixth son of Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie Josephine of Saxony, and grandson of King Louis XV. He received the title of Count of Provence, but after his brother”s accession to the throne he was generally known as “Monsieur”, the title usually applied to the eldest brother (the “eldest” of the “minors”) of the King of France. He was baptized Louis Stanislas Xavier six months after his birth, in accordance with the tradition of the Bourbon family, being unnamed, prior to his baptism. By this act, he also became a knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit. The name Louis was given because it was the typical name of a prince of France; Stanislaus was chosen in honor of his maternal great-grandfather King Stanislaus Leszczynski of Poland, and Xavier was chosen for St. Francis Xavier, whom his mother”s family had as one of their Patron Saints.

At the time of his birth, Louis Stanislaus was fourth in line to the throne of France, behind his father and his two older brothers: Louis Xavier of France, Duke of Burgundy, and Louis Auguste, Duke of Berry. The first of the brothers died in 1761, and his father the Dauphin in 1765. The two deaths elevated Stanislaus to second place in the line of succession, while Louis Auguste acquired the title of Dauphin.

Stanislaus found comfort in his governess, Madame de Marsan, who exercised the role of “Governess of the Royal Sons”, as he was considered a favorite among his brothers.Stanislaus was separated from his governess at the age of seven, fulfilling the time when the education of children of royal blood and nobility was given to men for their new instruction. Antoine de Quélen de Stuer de Caussade Duke of La Vauguyon, a friend of his father, was appointed his instructor.

Luis Estanislao as a young man proved to be an intelligent boy, excelling in classical subjects. His education was of the same quality and consistency as that of his older brother, Luis Augusto, even though he was the heir. Stanislaus” education was quite religious in nature, many of his teachers being ecclesiastics. La Vauguyon instilled in the young man and his brothers, the way princes should act, they should “know how to withdraw by themselves, and like to work” and “know how to reason correctly”.

In April 1771, Stanislaus” education formally concluded, he later established his own household, which astonished his contemporaries by its extravagance. By 1773, he had 390 domestic servants. In the same month that he established his household, he was granted several titles by his grandfather, Louis XV which were: Duke of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Perche, and Count of Senoches, although he was mainly known by the title of Count of Provence.

On December 17, 1773, Louis Stanislaus was named Grand Master of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem.

On May 14, 1771, Louis Stanislaus married Princess Maria Josephine of Savoy (1753-1810), daughter of Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, -future king of Sardinia-, and his wife Maria Antonia of Bourbon. Her brother Charles married Princess Maria Teresa, sister of Maria Josephine, so both marriages were strongly related.

The wedding took place quite luxuriously on May 20, 1771. However, Stanislaus found his wife repugnant, whom he considered ugly, tedious and ignorant of the customs of the court of Versailles. The marriage went on for years without consummation. Biographers of Louis XVIII do not agree on the reason. According to the biographer Antonia Fraser, the Count of Provence suffered from a supposed impotence, or that his unwillingness to sleep with his wife was due to her lack of personal hygiene. Josephine never brushed her teeth, or groomed her eyebrows, or even used perfume. At the time of their marriage, Stanislaus was already obese, wiggling instead of walking. He never exercised to remedy this and continued to eat enormous amounts of food.

Although Stanislaus was not in love with his wife, he boasted that he and his wife enjoyed vigorous conjugal relations, although such statements were little believed by the courtiers at Versailles, and he also claimed that his wife was pregnant, which he said simply to annoy his older brother and his wife Marie Antoinette, who had not yet consummated their marriage. He also claimed that his wife was pregnant, which he said simply to annoy his older brother and his wife Marie Antoinette, who had not yet consummated their marriage. The Dauphin and Stanislaus did not enjoy a harmonious relationship and often quarreled. In 1774 Stanislaus finally managed to impregnate his wife, after having overcome his differences with her. However, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. A second pregnancy in 1781 also had a miscarriage and the couple never had children.

On April 27, 1774, Louis XV fell ill after contracting smallpox and died the following May 10. The dauphin, Louis Auguste, succeeded his grandfather as King Louis XVI. Louis Stanislaus longed for political influence. He tried to be admitted to the king”s council in 1777, but failed, so he was left in political limbo, which he called “a gap of 12 years of my political life.” Louis XVI granted his brother income with the duchy of Alençon in December 1774. The duchy was given to him to enhance his personal wealth, however it only brought in revenues of 300,000 livres a year, which was far less than the duchy had brought in during its heyday in the 14th century.

Louis Stanislaus traveled more throughout France than other members of the royal family, who rarely left the capital. In 1774, he accompanied his sister Clotilde to Chambéry on the trip to meet her husband Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Piedmont, heir to the throne of Sardinia. In 1775, he visited Lyon and also his aunts Marie Adelaide of France and Victoria of France when they were taking the waters in Vichy. The four provincial tours that Stanislaus took before 1791 amounted to a total time of three months.

On May 5, 1778, Dr. Lassonne, Marie Antoinette”s private physician, confirmed her pregnancy. On December 19, 1778, the Queen gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Maria Theresa Charlotte of France and received the honorary title “Madame Royale”.The birth of a girl came as a relief to the Count of Provence, who retained his position as heir to Louis XVI, as the Salic law excluded women from acceding to the throne of France.However, Stanislaus did not remain heir to the throne much longer. On October 22, 1781, Marie Antoinette gave birth to the dauphin Louis Joseph.The Count of Provence and his brother, the Count of Artois, served as godparents alongside Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, the queen”s brother.Marie Antoinette gave birth to her second son, Louis Charles, who was born in March 1785.Stanislaus remained one place lower in the line of succession.

In 1780, Anne Nompar de Caumont, Countess de Balbi, entered the service of Marie Josephine. Louis Stanislaus soon fell in love with his wife”s new lady-in-waiting and made her his mistress, resulting in a further cooling of their relationship as a couple. Stanislaus commissioned a pavilion for his mistress on a plot of land that became known as the Parc Balbi at Versailles.

The Count of Provence maintained a quiet, sedentary lifestyle as he had little to do due to his self-proclaimed political exclusion in 1774. He kept busy with his extensive library of more than 11 000 books in the Balbi pavilion, devoting himself to reading for several hours every morning. In the early 1780s, he also incurred huge debts totaling 10 million livres, which were paid by his brother Louis XVI.

An Assembly of Notables, whose members consisted of magistrates, mayors, the nobles and the clergy, was held in February 1787 to ratify the financial reforms requested by the comptroller general of Finance Charles Alexandre de Calonne, which provided the Count of Provence, who abhorred the radical reforms proposed by Calonne, with the opportunity he had always been waiting for to establish himself in politics. This provided the Count of Provence, who abhorred the radical reforms proposed by Calonne, the opportunity he had always been waiting for to establish himself in politics. The reforms proposed the implementation of a new property tax, and new elected provincial assemblies that would have to declare on local taxes. Calonne”s reforms were flatly rejected by the notables, and as a result, Louis XVI dismissed him. The archbishop of Toulouse, Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, took Calonne”s place. Brienne tried to save Calonne”s reforms, but in the end failed to convince the notables to approve them. A frustrated Louis XVI dissolved the assembly.

Brienne”s reforms were then submitted to the Parliament of Paris in the hope that they would be approved. That parliament was responsible for ratifying the king”s edicts, and although each province had its own parliament, the one in Paris was considered the most important of all. The Parliament of Paris refused to accept Brienne”s proposals and made it clear that any new impositions would have to be approved by the Estates General, which served as a nominal parliament of France. Louis XVI and Brienne took a hostile stance against this refusal, and Louis XVI had to implement a lit de justice, which automatically registered an edict with the Paris Parliament, to ratify the desired reforms. On May 8, two of the principal members of the Paris parliament were arrested. There were riots in Brittany, Provence, Burgundy and Béarn in reaction to the arrests. This discontent was engineered by local magistrates and nobles, who attracted people to revolt against the system of justice established by the king, which was quite unfavorable to the nobles and magistrates. The clergy also joined the provincial cause, and condemned the fiscal reforms of Brienne, who acknowledged his defeat in July and agreed to call the Estates General to meet in 1789. He resigned from office in August and was replaced by the Swiss magnate Jacques Necker.

In November 1788 a second Assembly of Notables, convened by Necker, was called to consider the composition of the next Estates General.The Parliament of Paris recommended that the Estates should be the same as they were at the last assembly, held in 1614.This meant that the clergy and the nobility would have more representation than the Third Estate.The notables rejected the proposal of “double representation”.On the other hand, Louis Stanislaus was the only notable who voted in favor of increasing the Third Estate.The notables disagreed with the criticisms of the notables. The notables rejected the “double representation” proposal.On the other hand, Louis Stanislaus was the only notable who voted in favor of increasing the Third Estate.Necker disagreed with the criticisms of the notables and convinced Louis XVI to grant the additional representation. Louis duly obliged on December 27.

Outbreak of the Revolution

The Estates General were convened in May 1789 to ratify the financial reforms. The Count of Provence favored an unconditional position against the Third Estate and its demands for tax reform. On June 17, the Third Estate declared a National Assembly, an Assembly not of the States, but of the people.

The Count of Provence urged the king to act harshly against the declaration, while the king”s popular minister Jacques Necker urged him to commit himself to the new assembly. Louis XVI was characteristically indecisive. On July 9, the assembly declared itself a “National Constituent Assembly” which sought to give France a new constitution. On July 11, Louis XVI dismissed Necker, an act that led to widespread riots throughout Paris. On July 12, the charge of a cavalry regiment of Prince de Lambesc Charles Eugene de Lorraine charged a crowd gathered in the Tuileries gardens, thus provoking the storming of the Bastille two days later.

On July 16, the Count of Artois left France with his wife and children, along with many other courtiers. Charles settled with his family in Turin, the capital of his father-in-law”s Kingdom of Sardinia, with the family of the count”s princes.

The Count of Provence decided to stay in Versailles. The royal family had planned to elope from Versailles to Metz, but Stanislaus advised the king not to leave the palace, a suggestion the king accepted.

The royal family was forced to leave the palace of Versailles one day after the women”s march to Versailles, on October 5, 1789. They were relocated to Paris, where the Count of Provence and his wife stayed at the Luxembourg Palace, while the rest of the royal family stayed at the Tuileries Palace. There, the Count of Provence and his wife stayed at the Luxembourg Palace, while the rest of the royal family stayed at the Tuileries Palace. In March 1791, the National Assembly created a law designating the regency of Louis Charles in case his father died, the dauphin being still too young to reign. This law granted the regency of Louis Charles to his closest male relative in France, being at that time the Count of Provence, followed by the Duke of Orleans and bypassing the Count of Artois for having fled France. If the Duke of Orleans was not available, the regency would stand for election.

The Count of Provence and his wife fled to the Austrian Netherlands at the same time as the failed escape from Varennes by the royal family in June 1791.

The first years

When the Count of Provence arrived in the Netherlands – then known as Holland – he proclaimed himself de facto regent of France. He set forth a document that he and Louis XVI had written before the latter”s failed escape to Varennes. The document granted him the regency in the event of his brother”s death or inability to carry out his role as king. He joined the other princes in exile in Koblenz shortly after the escape. It was there that he, the Count of Artois, and the Prince of Condé proclaimed their goal of invading France. Meanwhile in Paris, Louis XVI was greatly annoyed by the behavior of his brothers. Provence sent emissaries to various European courts asking for financial aid, soldiers and ammunition. Artois secured a castle for the court in exile in the electorate of Trier, where his maternal uncle, Clement Wenceslas of Saxony, was the Archbishop-Elector. The activities of the émigrés bore fruit when the rulers of Prussia and the Holy Roman Empire met in Dresden. They launched the Declaration of Pillnitz in August 1791, which urged Europe to intervene in France if Louis XVI or his family were threatened. Provence”s support for the declaration was not well received in France, neither by ordinary citizens nor by Louis XVI himself.

In January 1792, the assembly declared all émigrés to be “traitors” to France, and their property and titles were confiscated. The French monarchy was abolished by the National Convention on September 21, 1792, and the First French Republic was established in its place.

Louis XVI was executed at the guillotine in January 1793. This left his young son, Louis Charles, as “titular king.” The princes in exile proclaimed him King Louis XVII of France. The princes in exile proclaimed him as King Louis XVII of France. The Count of Provence declared himself regent for his nephew, as the latter was too young to be head of the House of Bourbon.

Louis XVII died in June 1795. His only living relative was his sister Marie-Thérèse, who was not considered for the throne because of France”s traditional adherence to the Salic Law. Thus on June 16, the princes in exile declared the Count of Provence to be “King Louis XVIII”, and he accepted their declaration shortly thereafter. Louis XVIII undertook the drafting of a manifesto in response to the death of his nephew. The manifesto, known as “The Declaration of Verona”, was Louis XVIII”s attempt to introduce the French people to his politics. With this declaration, the Bourbon monarch urged France to return again to the arms of the absolutist monarchy, “which for fourteen centuries had been the glory of France”.

Louis XVIII negotiated the release of Marie Therese from her Paris prison in 1795. He desperately wanted her to marry his first cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, son of the Count of Artois. Louis XVIII deceived his niece by telling her that her parents” last wish was that she marry Louis Antoine, and she duly acceded to her uncle”s wishes.

Louis XVIII was forced to leave Verona when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the Republic of Venice in 1796.

1796-1807

Louis XVIII had been vying for custody of his niece Maria Theresa since her release from the tower of the Temple in December 1795. Which she succeeded in doing when Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, agreed to relinquish custody of her in 1796. She had been living in Vienna with her relatives from the Habsburg household since January 1796. Louis XVIII moved to Blankenburg in the Duchy of Brunswick after his departure from Verona. He lived in a modest two-bedroom apartment in a workshop. Louis XVIII was forced to leave Blankenburg when King Frederick William II of Prussia died. In light of this, Maria Theresa decided to wait a little longer before joining her uncle.

In 1798, Tsar Paul I of Russia offered Ludwig the use of the Jelgava Palace in Curland (present-day Latvia), Paul also guaranteed Ludwig”s safety and granted him a generous pension. Paul also guaranteed Louis”s safety and granted him a generous pension. However, the tsar later disregarded this benefit. Marie Therese finally met Louis XVIII in Jelgava in 1799. In the winter of 1798-1799, Louis XVIII wrote a biography of Marie Antoinette, entitled Réflexions Historiques sur Marie Antoinette (in English “Historical Reflections on Marie Antoinette”). He tried to recreate the life of the court of Versailles in Jelgava, where many old courtiers lived the revival of all court ceremonies, from Le lever du Roi to Le coucher du Roy (ceremonies that accompanied the vigil and bedding, respectively).

Maria Theresa married her cousin Louis Antoine on June 9, 1799, at the Jelgava Palace. Louis XVIII ordered his wife to attend the marriage ceremony in Curland without her long-time friend – and supposed lover – Marguerite de Gourbillon. Queen Marie Josephine was living separately from her husband, in Schleswig-Holstein. Louis XVIII was desperately trying to show the world that they were a united family. The queen refused to abandon her friend, with unpleasant consequences that rivaled weddings of notoriety. Louis XVIII knew that his nephew Louis-Antoine was not compatible with Maria Theresa. Despite this, he continued to press for the realization of the marriage, which turned out to be very unhappy and they had no children.

Louis XVIII attempted to correspond with Napoleon Bonaparte (now first consul of France) in 1800. He urged Bonaparte to restore the Bourbon monarchy, but the future emperor proved immune to Louis” requests and continued to consolidate his position as ruler of France. He also encouraged his niece to write her memoirs, wishing to use them as Bourbon propaganda. In 1796 and 1803, Louis also used the diaries of Louis XVI”s last attendants in the same way. In January 1801, Tsar Paul I told Louis XVIII that he could no longer live in Russia. The court in Jelgava had become so low on funds that they had to auction off some of their possessions to pay for the trip out of Russia. Maria Theresa even sold a diamond necklace that Paul I had given her as a wedding gift.

Maria Theresa persuaded Queen Ludwig of Prussia to give her family refuge in Prussian territory. Louis agreed, but the Bourbons were forced to assume pseudonyms. Louis XVIII used the titles of Comte d”Isle-the name of his estate in Languedoc-and Comte de Lille. He and his family took up residence in Warsaw, then part of the province of South Prussia, in the Łazienki Palace, from 1801 to 1804, after an arduous journey from Jelgava. According to the memoirs of Wirydianna Fiszerowa, a contemporary noblewoman residing at the time, the local Prussian authorities, who wished to honor them upon their arrival, did so by means of music, and wishing to give it a national and patriotic character, chose La Marseillaise, the anthem of the First French Republic, with very unfavorable allusions to the Bourbons. Later, they apologized for their mistake.

Very soon after their arrival, they learned of the death of Paul I. Louis hoped that Paul”s successor, Alexander I, would repudiate his father”s banishment of the Bourbons, which later happened. Louis XVIII tried to leave for the Kingdom of Naples. The Count of Artois asked Louis to send his son Louis Anthony and his daughter-in-law Maria Theresa with him to Edinburgh, but they did not do so at that time. The Count d”Artois had been admitted by King George III, and he sent some money for Louis XVIII, whose court in exile was being spied on by the French police. Financed mainly by the interest owed by Francis II on the valuables of his aunt, Marie Antoinette, which were extracted from France, Louis XVIII had to cut his expenses significantly.

In 1803, Napoleon tried to force Louis XVIII to renounce his right to the throne of France, but Louis refused. In May 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself Emperor of the French. Louis XVIII and his nephew left for Sweden in July for a conference of the Bourbon family where Louis XVIII, the Count of Artois and the Duke of Angoulême issued a declaration condemning Napoleon”s decision to proclaim himself emperor. The King of Prussia issued a proclamation saying that Louis XVIII would have to leave the territory of Prussia, which meant leaving Warsaw. Alexander I of Russia invited him to resettle again in his residence in Jelgava, where Louis XVIII had to live in much less advantageous conditions than those he enjoyed under Paul I, and intended to embark for England as soon as possible.

As time passed, Louis XVIII realized that France would never accept an attempt to return to the ancien régime. Accordingly, he created another policy in 1805, with a view to regaining his throne: a declaration that was far more liberal than his former writings. Rejecting his declaration of Verona, he promised to abolish compulsory military service, retain Napoleon I”s administrative and judicial system, reduce taxes, eliminate political prisons, and guarantee amnesty to all who did not oppose a Bourbon Restoration. The views expressed in the declaration were largely those of Antoine Louis François de Bésiade, Count of Avaray, a close associate of Louis in exile.

Louis XVIII was once again forced to leave Jelgava when Alexander I of Russia informed him that his safety was not guaranteed in continental Europe. In July 1807, he went up in a Swedish frigate to Stockholm, taking with him only the Duke of Angoulême. Louis did not stay in Sweden for long; he arrived in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, in November 1807, and took up residence at Gosfield Hall, leased to him by Richard Temple-Nugent-Grenville, Marquis of Buckingham.

England

Louis brought his wife and queen, Mary Josephine from the European continent in 1808. Louis” stay at Gosfield Hall did not last long; he soon moved to Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, where over a hundred courtiers were housed. The king paid £500 in rent each year for the landlord, Sir George Lee. The Prince of Wales – the future George IV – was very charitable to the exiled Bourbons. As Prince Regent, he granted them permanent right of asylum and very generous allowances.

The Count of Artois did not join the court in exile at Hartwell, preferring to continue his frivolous life in London. Louis” friend, Count d”Avaray left Hartwell for Madeira in 1809, and died there in 1811. Louis replaced Avaray with Pierre Louis Jean Casimir de Blacas as his chief political advisor. Queen Marie Josephine died on November 13, 1810. In that same winter, Louis suffered a particularly severe case of gout, which was a recurring problem for him at Hartwell, and had to be placed in a wheelchair.

During this time, Napoleon I embarked on the invasion of Russia in 1812. This war became a turning point in his fortunes, the expedition failed miserably and Napoleon was forced to retreat with his army in rags.

While at Hartwell, Louis XVIII issued another declaration in 1813. The “Declaration of Hartwell” was even more liberal than his “Declaration of 1805,” stating that all those who served Napoleon or the Republic would suffer no consequences for their actions, and that the original owners of the Biens nationaux – the lands confiscated from the nobility and clergy during the Revolution – should be compensated for their losses.

The allied troops entered Paris on March 31, 1814. Louis, however, could not walk, and so he sent his brother to France in January 1814. Louis XVIII issued patents naming the Count of Artois “Lieutenant General of the Kingdom” in the event that the Bourbon monarchy was restored. Napoleon abdicated on April 11. Five days later, the French Senate invited the Bourbons to resume their place on the throne of France.

First reign

The Count of Artois ruled as lieutenant until the arrival of his brother in Paris on May 3. On his return, the king showed himself to his subjects by a procession through the city. He took up residence at the Tuileries Palace on the same day. His niece, the Duchess of Angoulême, fainted at the sight of the Tuileries, where she had lived during the time of the French Revolution.The viability of the Restoration was in doubt, but the appeal of peace to a war-weary French public and demonstrations of support for the Bourbons in Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles and Lyon helped to reassure the powers that be.

Napoleon”s Senate called Louis XVIII to the throne on the condition that he accept a constitution that implied recognition of the Republic and the Empire, a bicameral parliament elected every year, and the tricolor flag of the above regimes. Louis XVIII showed his opposition to the Senate”s constitution and began what for him was “the dissolution of the present Senate in all the crimes of Bonaparte, and appealing to the French people.” The senatorial constitution was burned in a royalist theater in Bordeaux, and the Municipal Council of Lyon voted in favor of a speech in which he defamed the Senate.

The great powers occupying Paris demanded that Louis XVIII implement a constitution. The monarch responded with the Charter of 1814, which included many progressive provisions: freedom of religion, a legislature composed of a “Chamber of Deputies” and a “Chamber of Peers”, a press that could enjoy a certain degree of freedom, and a provision that the Biens nationaux would remain in the hands of their current owners. The Constitution had 76 articles. Taxation was to be voted on by the chambers. Catholicism was again the official religion of France. To be eligible as a member of the Chamber of Deputies, one had to pay more than 1000 francs per year in taxes, and be over forty. The king would appoint his peers to the Chamber of Peers on a hereditary basis, or for life at his discretion. Deputies would be elected every five years, with one-fifth of them up for election each year. There were 90,000 citizens entitled to vote.

Louis XVIII signed the Treaty of Paris on May 30, 1814. The treaty allowed France to keep the frontiers won in 1792, which extended east of the Rhine. It did not have to pay any war indemnities, and the occupying armies of the Sixth Coalition instantly withdrew from French soil. These generous terms would be reversed in the next treaty that the monarch would be forced to sign after the Hundred Days campaign.

Louis XVIII admitted the Comte d”Artois and his nephews the Dukes of Angoulême and Berry to the king”s council in May 1814, since its creation. The council was informally headed by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand. Louis XVIII took a great interest in the comings and goings of the Congress of Vienna (created to redraw the map of Europe after Napoleon”s abdication). Talleyrand represented France in the proceedings. Louis was horrified by Prussia”s intention to annex the Kingdom of Saxony, which he rejected as his mother had been born a Saxon princess and he was also concerned about Prussia”s claims to dominate Germany. He also desired the restoration of the Duchy of Parma in favor of the Parma Bourbons, and not the Empress Marie Louise of France, as suggested by the allies.

Louis also protested the inaction of the allies in Naples, where he wanted to eliminate the Napoleonic usurper Joachim Murat in favor of the Neapolitan Bourbons. On behalf of the Allies, Austria agreed to send a force to the Kingdom of Naples to depose Murat in February 1815, when Murat was suspected of corresponding with Napoleon, which was explicitly forbidden by a recent treaty. Murat never actually wrote to Napoleon, but Louis, intent on restoring the Neapolitan Bourbons at any price, forged the correspondence, and subsidized the Austrian expedition with 25 million francs.

Louis XVIII achieved the restoration of the Neapolitan Bourbons in the kingdom of Naples. But the Duchy of Parma was granted to the former Empress Maria Luisa for life, and the Parma Bourbons were given the Duchy of Lucca until the death of Maria Luisa.

One Hundred Days

On February 26, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from his prison on the island of Elba and sailed for France. He arrived with a force 1000 soldiers near Cannes on March 1. Louis XVIII was not particularly concerned about Bonaparte”s excursion as such, because he believed that a small number of troops could easily overcome him. However, there was a major problem for the Bourbons. Louis XVIII had not purged the army of Bonapartist troops, so there were many desertions in the army from the Bourbons to Bonaparte. Moreover, Louis XVIII could not join the campaign against Napoleon in the south of France, as he was suffering from a further case of gout. The Minister of War, Marshal Soult, sent the Duke of Orleans, the Count of Artois, and Marshal MacDonald to stop Napoleon.

The king”s underestimation of Bonaparte proved disastrous. On March 19, the army stationed outside Paris deserted in favor of Bonaparte, leaving the city vulnerable to attack. That same day, Louis XVIII left the capital with a small escort at midnight. The monarch decided to go first to Lille, and then crossed the border to Holland, staying in Ghent. The other leaders, among the most prominent Alexander I of Russia, debated whether in the case of a second victory over Bonaparte, they should proclaim Louis-Philippe d”Orleans king instead of Louis XVIII.

Napoleon did not rule France for long, however, because he suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of the armies of the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18. A tired and weak Napoleon decided to abdicate again in favor of his son Napoleon II. However, the coalition powers reached the consensus that Louis XVIII should return to the throne of France.

Second reign

Louis XVIII promptly returned to France after Napoleon”s defeat to secure his second restoration in “the enemy”s baggage train,” that is, with Wellington”s troops. The Duke of Wellington used the person of King Louis to make his way to Paris, as some fortresses refused to surrender to the Allies, but agreed to do so for their king. Louis XVIII arrived at Cambrai on June 26, where a proclamation was issued declaring that all who served the emperor in the Hundred Days would not be persecuted, except for the “instigators”. It was also acknowledged that the government of Louis XVIII may “have made mistakes during the First Restoration.” On June 29, a delegation of five from the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Peers approached the Duke of Wellington suggesting that he place a foreign prince on the throne of France. Wellington rejected their requests outright, declaring that “Louis XVIII is the best way to preserve the integrity of France.” Wellington ordered the deputies to support the king”s cause. Louis XVIII entered Paris on July 8 greeted by a boisterous reception: the gardens of the Tuileries Palace were crowded with passers-by, and, according to the Duke of Wellington, the cheering of the crowd was so loud that no conversation with the king was possible that night.

After the Hundred Days, Louis XVIII”s role in politics was voluntarily reduced; he relinquished most of his duties to his council. He and his ministry embarked on a series of reforms during the summer of 1815. The king”s council, an informal group of ministers who advised Louis XVIII, was dissolved and replaced by a small private council, the so-called Ministère de Roi. The dukes of Artois, Berry, and Angoulême were dropped from the new Ministère and Talleyrand was appointed as the first Président du Conseil, i.e., prime minister of France. On July 14, the ministry disbanded the army units deemed “rebellious.” The hereditary nobility was reestablished at the behest of Louis by the minister.

In August, the elections for the Chamber of Deputies ended with unfavorable results for Talleyrand. The minister wanted moderate deputies, but the electorate voted almost exclusively for the ultra-royalists, giving rise to the so-called Chambre introuvable. The Duchess of Angoulême and the Count of Artois pressured King Louis to dismiss his minister. Talleyrand presented his resignation on September 20. Louis XVIII chose the Duke of Richelieu as his new Prime Minister. Richelieu was chosen because he was accepted by Louis” family and the reactionary Chamber of Deputies.

Anti-Napoleonic sentiment was high in southern France, and this gave it a prominent place in the White Terror, which saw the purge of all important officials of the Napoleonic government and the execution of others. The French committed barbaric acts against some of these officials. Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (a Napoleonic marshal) was savagely murdered, and his remains thrown into the Rhone River. Louis XVIII deplored these illegal acts, but vehemently showed his support for the persecution of those marshals who aided Napoleon in the Hundred Days. Louis XVIII”s government executed Napoleon”s most important marshal, Marshal Ney, in December 1815 for treason. His confidants Charles François, Marquis de Bonnay, and the Duke de La Chatre advised him to inflict firm punishments on the “traitors”. After a period in which the local authorities were unable to stop the violence, the king and his ministers sent their own officials to restore order.

The king was reluctant to spill blood, and this strongly irritated the ultra-monarchist faction in the Chamber of Deputies, who felt that Louis XVIII was not acting sufficiently. The government issued a proclamation of amnesty to the “traitors” in January 1816, but the trials that had already begun were terminated in due course. That same declaration also prohibited any member of the House of Bonaparte from owning property, or entering France. It is estimated that between 50 000-80 000 officials were purged from the government during what is known as the Second White Terror.

In November 1815, the government of Louis XVIII had to sign another treaty of Paris that formally ended Napoleon”s Hundred Days. The previous treaty had been quite favorable to France, but this one took a harder line. France”s borders were reduced to their extent in 1790. France had to pay for an army to occupy it for at least five years, at a cost of 150 million francs per year. France also had to pay a war indemnity of 700 million francs to the Allies.

In 1818, the Chambers passed a military law that increased the size of the army by more than 100,000 men. In October of the same year, the Prime Minister, the Duke of Richelieu, succeeded in convincing the powers to withdraw their armies promptly in exchange for a sum of more than 200 million francs.

Louis XVIII chose many centrist cabinets, because he wanted to appease the population to the displeasure of his brother, the ultra-royalist Count of Artois. Louis always feared that after his death, his brother and heir, would abandon the centrist government for an ultra-royalist autocracy, which would not bring favorable results to the Bourbons, which actually happened.

The king did not like the prince of blood, Louis Philippe d”Orleans, and took every opportunity to snub him, such as denying him the title of Royal Highness, partly because of the role that the duke”s father had in the French Revolution by voting in favor of the execution of Louis XVI, something that caused personal resentment in Louis XVIII. The Duke of Berry, nephew of Louis XVIII, was assassinated at the Paris Opera House on February 14, 1820. The royal family was very affected by the tragedy and Louis XVIII broke an old tradition by attending the funeral of his nephew, because the kings of France could not have any form of association with death. The death of the Duke of Berry meant that the House of Orleans would be more likely to accede to the throne.

Berry was the only member of the family who succeeded in fathering children. His wife gave birth to a posthumous son in September, Henry, Duke of Bordeaux, nicknamed Dieudonné (given by God) by the Bourbons because they believed that with him they had secured the future of the dynasty. However, the Bourbon succession was still in doubt. The Chamber of Deputies proposed to modify the Salic law to allow the Duchess of Angoulême to accede to the throne. On June 12, 1820, the Chambers ratified a law increasing the number of deputies from 258 to 430. The additional deputies were to be elected by the richest quarter of the population in each department. These individuals now effectively had two votes.

Around the same time that the “law of the two vows” was established, Louis XVIII began to receive visits every Wednesday from a lady named Zoé Talon, and ordered that no one should disturb him while he was with her. It was rumored that the king inhaled tobacco from her breasts, which earned him the nickname of tabatière (snuffbox).

In 1823, France embarked on a military intervention in Spain, where there had been a revolt against King Ferdinand VII. France succeeded in crushing the rebellion, through reinforcements led by the Duke of Angoulême.

Death and succession

In his later years, Louis XVIII”s problems with diabetes and gout increased to the point that it was extremely difficult for him to move, so the king had to walk with crutches, and he was often transferred in a wheelchair in his apartments, so he called himself the king of the armchair. Towards the end of his life, he developed generalized arteriosclerosis, gangrene increased in his body, which left him impotent and heavy with dropsy. By the end of August 1824, gangrene spread in one foot and the lower spine, causing a large suppurative wound in his lower back that rendered him unrecognizable. With great pride, he refused to lie down, repeating the words of Vespasian: “An emperor must die standing up”, although on September 12, his terrible suffering forced him to lie down. In his agony, he began to decompose alive and emitted such a foul smell that his family could not stay by his bedside, he lost one of his eyes, the valet, wanting to move the body, tore off the pieces of his right foot, the bones of one leg were decayed, the other leg is just a wound, and his face turned black and yellow.

He finally died on September 16, 1824 at four o”clock in the morning, in his room at the Tuileries Palace. On the 20th of that same month, he was buried in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, but not before being embalmed by the pharmacist Antoine Germain Labarraque who had to spray the body with a solution of lime chloride to stop the advance of decomposition, so he was the last king of France to be autopsied and embalmed. His brother, the Count of Artois, succeeded him as Charles X. This was the only normal succession of power in the head of state of France in the entire 19th century.

Charles X and Louis Philippe were overthrown by two revolutionary insurrections respectively. With the fall of the latter, the Second Republic was formed, which ended with a self-coup d”état orchestrated by Napoleon III, who proclaimed himself emperor and established the Second French Empire. Napoleon III was defeated in the Franco-Prussian war which led to the proclamation of the Third Republic by the assembly. No president of the Third Republic was able to carry out his mandate until Émile Loubet was succeeded by Armand Fallières in 1906.

Louis XVIII has some appearances in novels. For example, the French monarch is mentioned in the works Le Bal de Sceaux and Le Lys dans la vallée, both by Honoré de Balzac; in other works, he has some participation in the plot, as in the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

In his work Les Miserables, Victor Hugo often describes Louis XVIII, -almost always in a negative way-, representing the monarch as someone lazy who likes to run fast in his carriage because he is unable to walk, in the same way as the most virulent Bonapartists, and part of the French people, calling him “big pig” (Gros Cochon) or “pig XVIII” (cochon XVIII). According to the French historian Annie Duprat, “the image of the great appetite and the strong corpulence of the Bourbons, beyond a simple joke, refers to all the writings and all the representations of ogre kings, cannibals and devourers of the people through taxes and war”; although she also mentions that the popular caricature images towards Louis XVIII were less original and diversified than those dedicated to his brother and successor Charles X.

Film and television

Louis XVIII has been played by some actors, both on television and in the movies, almost always as a supporting character in films and series related to Napoleon, Marie Antoinette or the French Revolution, although Orson Welles” performance in Waterloo stands out among them. He also appeared (always as a supporting character) in Sofia Coppola”s film Marie Antoinette, which makes the historical mistake of mentioning the Duke of Angoulême as the son of Louis XVIII when in fact he was his nephew.

Sources

  1. Luis XVIII de Francia
  2. Louis XVIII
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