Lous XVI had two younger brothers, Louis-Stanlslas, count of Provence (b. 1755) and Charles-Philippe, count of Artois (b. 1757), who had been in exile since 1791. Following the death of the little dauphin (‘Louis XVII) in 1795 Provence claimed the title Louis XVIII. At the time of Napoleon’s fall both brothers were living in England.
On 12 March 1814 Anglo-Portuguese forces entered Bordeaux and the city proclaimed Louis XVIII. This convinced the Allies that there was genuine support for a Bourbon restoration. On 31 March allied armies entered Paris. A provisional government was set up under Talleyrand and throughout France towns spontaneously proclaimed Louis XVIII. On 24 April Louis, now known as ‘le Desiré’ arrived back in France.
On 4 June 1814 he introduced a constitution, the Charter, which recognized the fundamental principles of equality before the law, and a reasonable liberty of the press. Trial by jury and an independent judiciary were established. All senior officers and officials were to be appointed by the King. There were to be two chambers on the British model: the Chamber of Peers (appointed by the King, who could be either hereditary or life peers) and the Chamber of Deputies of 268 members, who had to pay more than 1,000 francs in taxes; a fifth were to be elected every year by every man who paid more than 300 francs a year in direct taxes . Catholicism was recognized as the state religion, but Protestant ministers were to be paid a salary.
The Charter was liberal in many ways, but it placed power in the hands of the propertied classes. Only 90,000 people out of a population of 39 million had the vote. However, religious minorities (Protestants and Jews) had more rights than Catholics in Britain and at least in the early years of the Restoration there were no political prisoners. There was some censorship of the press, but this was mild compared to the rigid censorship of the Napoleonic era. Many who had served the Napoleonic regime kept their jobs and their titles. For all its limitations, the Charter enabled many liberals to support the regime.
‘For all these powerful restrictions, the restoration political system did have one major advantage to its name. It introduced France to modern parliamentary government, and for long enough for it to take root. These roots have never been torn up since, despite two serious subsequent attempts to do so, first by Napoleon III and then by Vichy…The restoration may have lacked the gaudy plumage of other post-revolutionary French regimes, but it left a more lasting constitutional legacy .' Munro Price, The Perilous Crown: France between Revolutions (Macmillan, 2007), 91.Duchess of Angoulême (left).
The Hundred Days
This constitutional experiment was cut short by the return of Napoleon from Elba on 1 March 1815. As he advanced north, he was joined by veterans of his army. On 19 March the royal family fled the capital for Ghent in Belgium. Only the duchess d’Angoulême remained, to stir up resistance in Bordeaux. Two days later Napoleon entered Paris in triumph but after his defeat at Waterloo on 21 June,
The Second Restoration
Louis returned to Paris in what is known as the Second Restoration. He was greeted with enthusiasm but his prestige had suffered. Though he wished for reconciliation, the south of France fell into the grip of a ‘White Terror’. The new Chamber of Deputies, the ‘Chambre Introuvable’ or ‘Incredible Chamber’ was too conservative even for the king and his ministers. In the provinces, up to 300 religious dissidents, supporters of Napoleon and former Jacobins were rounded up and murdered, Marshall Ney was executed by firing squad in December 1815.
Under pressure from the Ultras, Louis’ government took measures against ex-Bonapartists and reintroduced censorship. Nonetheless his subjects continued to enjoy more legal protection of their rights than did most other Europeans. One of the government’s chief achievements was its speedy paying off of the war indemnity, so that the occupation of France ended in 1818.
The assassination of the Duc de Berri
As Louis had no children the succession rested with the sons of Artois. Angoulême was childless, but in June 1816 the Duc de Berri married Marie-Caroline of Naples, whose mother had been Nelson's patron and Marie-Antoinette's favourite sister. On 13 February the duke was stabbed at the opera by a fanatical Bonapartist and died in the early hours of the following morning. In the ensuing reaction, Louis was forced to dismiss his more liberal ministers. Censorship was intensified and the electoral franchise was restricted. On 29 September the duchess de Berri gave birth to a posthumous son, Henri duc de Bordeaux, ‘l’enfant du miracle’.
In 1823 a French army under Angloulême invaded Spain to reinstate the deposed Ferdinand VII. It occupied Madrid and seized the fortress of Trocadero, off Cadiz. By this time the monarchy was strong. Even though the Ultras were in power, there was no return to the ancien regime, and France remained a relatively liberal country. But by the following year it was clear that Louis XVIII was dying. He died on 16 September.
Charles X, hero of the Ultras. His elaborate medieval coronation at Reims (right) set the tone for his reign. His actions (such as the new law on sacrilege and compensation for émigrés) aroused a liberal opposition, resulting in the election of an unprecedentedly large number of deputies in 1827. In 1829 he appointed a government ministry consisting entirely of ultras, led by the Prime Minister, Jules, Prince de Polignac.
At the beginning of 1830 Polignac sent an army to conquer Algeria – thus ensuring that the monarch’s best troops were out of the country. In the spring the king refused the demand of the majority of deputies that Polignac should be dismissed and instead dissolved Parliament and called new elections. But these elections returned a substantial majority of oppositionists. On 26 July the king issued four ordinances dissolving Parliament and imposing censorship of the press.
'At exactly the same moment as the British political system, under pressure from social and economic change and a growing popular movement, was about to extend its base beyond the nobility and the landed interest with the 1832 reform bill, Charles X and his ministers were moving in precisely the opposite direction.' Munro Price, The Perilous Crown, 140.This led to street demonstrations in Paris, the building of barricades and the unfurling of the revolutionary tricolour. The street fighting lasted from 27 to 29 July, the ‘three glorious days’. The king fled Paris. On 1 August he abdicated in favour of his grandson the duc de Bordeaux. A group of opposition deputies chose instead his cousin Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orléans, the 'Citizen King', who described himself as 'King of the French' rather than 'King of France'.