Napoleon III

(Napoleon III of France)


Napoleon III
Napoleon III holds the interesting distinction of being both the first president and the last emperor of France. Born Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, he was the nephew of Napoleon. He was elected to the French presidency in 1848, but when his requests to serve a second term were refused by the National Assembly, he organized a coup d'etat in 1851 and took control as dictator. Despite his unorthodox methods of gaining power, however, he proved to be a temperate and just emperor, even asking the people later to justify his ascension to power, to which the majority agreed. Hoping to be remembered as a socially-concerned reformer, he is most well-known for his renovation of Paris, particularly the widening of once-narrow alleys that allowed for easier transportation and a higher degree of sanitation in the city. Throughout his reign as monarch, he improved the economy through investment banking as well as railroad construction, and he appealed to the lower classes by advocating the formation of labor unions. In 1870, he created a new constitution that established a parliamentary regime with a monarchial head-of-state, a system closely similar to democracy.

He also led the French in several major wars and battles, notably the Crimean War, the Taiping Rebellion, and the Franco Prussian War. His greatest mistake came in attacking the German states. Alarmed by newly united Prussiaís exponential growth in power under the clever leadership of Otto von Bismarck, the emperor made the rash decision to plunge into a war with his eastern neighbors. Under the pretense of a struggle over the Spanish throne, France heartily went to battle against Prussia, but the enemy was well-equipped and the French decisively defeated. Napoleonís army was crushed at Sedan and he himself publicly humiliated. Additionally, the French territory of Alsace-Lorraine was ceded to the German Empire. While the war was not yet over, all hope of a French victory was lost from that point onward. Napoleon spent his last years in exile in England with his wife, Eugenie, and their only son. After his death, presidential elections were once again instituted under the establishment of the Third Republic

Key events during the life of Napoleon III:

Elected President of France by universal male suffrage under the Second Republic
Initiated coup d'etat before taking control as Emperor
Granted working class right to form unions and to strike
Alarmed by growth of Germany, decided to attack them and cut off their power
Created new French constitution with a government structure similar to democracy
Captured during the Franco-Prussian War
Died in England with many regrets over the terrible loss at Sedan

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Birth of Louis Napoleon  in  Hortense  by  John S. C. Abbott
Letter from Louis Napoleon  in  Hortense  by  John S. C. Abbott
Napoleon Bonaparte  in  Stories from French History  by  Lena Dalkeith
Later Days  in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Brave Archbishop  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
The Man of Sedan  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Prussian War and the Paris Commune  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Ambition of Louis Napoleon  in  Nations of Europe and the Great War  by  Charles Morris
The Franco-Prussian War  in  Nations of Europe and the Great War  by  Charles Morris
Franco-German War  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  M. B. Synge
Solferino  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood
France Invaded  in  The History of Prussia  by  John S.C. Abbott

Image Links

The Little Prince Charles Napoleon
 in Hortense

Hortense and her Children
 in Hortense

The Study of Louis Napoleon.
 in Hortense

The Arrest
 in Hortense

After the Battle of Sedan; First meeting of Napoleon III and Bismarck
 in Boys' Book of Battles

Napoleon III and Bismarck at Sedan
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Napoleon III and Bismarck on the morning after the battle of Sedan
 in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire

Chairs were brought that Napoleon and the minister might sit out of doors
 in The Story of France

Napoleon the Third
 in Eugenie, Empress of the French

The two Emperors.
 in  Emperor William First

Short Biography
Empress Eugenie Wife of Napoleon III and Empress of France. Influential figure in society and fashion as well as politics.
Victor Emmanuel II Became first king of a United Italy after Garibaldi handed over control of Naples. Previously Savoyard King of Sardinia.
Otto von Bismarck Prussian statesman and mastermind of German Unification. Strategically provoked wars against Austria and France.