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François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand

briandFrançois-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand ( September 4, 1768 in Saint-Malo – July 4, 1848 in Paris) was a French writer, politician, diplomat, and historian, who is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature. Descended from an old aristocratic family from Brittany, Chateaubriand was a royalist by political disposition; in an age when a number of intellectuals turned against the Church, he authored the Génie du christianisme in defense of the Catholic faith. His autobiography Mémoires d’outre-tombe (“Memoirs from Beyond the Grave'”, published posthumously in 1849–1850), is nowadays generally considered his most accomplished work.

Born in Saint-Malo, the last of 10 children, Chateaubriand grew up in his family’s castle in Combourg, Brittany. His father, René de Chateaubriand (1718–86), was a former sea captain turned ship owner and slave trader. His mother’s maiden name was Apolline de Bedée. Chateaubriand’s father was a morose, uncommunicative man, and the young Chateaubriand grew up in an atmosphere of gloomy solitude, only broken by long walks in the Breton countryside and an intense friendship with his sister Lucile.

Combourg by Targut - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Combourg by Targut – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Chateaubriand was educated in Dol, Rennes and Dinan. For a time he could not make up his mind whether he wanted to be a naval officer or a priest, but at the age of seventeen, he decided on a military career and gained a commission as a second lieutenant in the French Army based at Navarre. Within two years, he had been promoted to the rank of captain. He visited Paris in 1788 where he made the acquaintance of Jean-François de La Harpe, André Chénier, Louis-Marcelin de Fontanes and other leading writers of the time. When the French Revolution broke out, Chateaubriand was initially sympathetic, but as events in Paris became more violent he decided to journey to North America in 1791. He was given the idea to leave Europe by Chrétien-Guillaume de Lamoigon de Malesherbes, who also encouraged him to do some botanical studies.

In Voyage en Amérique, published in 1826, Chateaubriand writes that he arrived in Philadelphia on July 10, 1791. He visited New York, Boston and Lexington, before leaving by boat on the Hudson River to reach Albany. He then followed the Mohawk trail up the Niagara Falls where he broke his arm and spent a month in recovery in the company of a Native American tribe. Chateaubriand then describes Native American tribes’ customs, as well as zoological, political and economic consideration. He then lets believe throughout few pages that a raid along the Ohio River, the Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida took him back to Philadelphia, where he embarked on the Molly in November to go back to France.

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This experience provided the setting for his exotic novels Les Natchez (written between 1793 and 1799 but published only in 1826), Atala (1801) and René (1802). His vivid, captivating descriptions of nature in the sparsely settled American Deep South were written in a style that was very innovative for the time and spearheaded what later became the Romantic movement in France. As soon as 1916, scholarship has cast doubt on Chateaubriand’s claims that he was granted an interview with George Washington and that he actually lived for a time with the Native Americans he wrote about. The veracity of entire sections of the itinerary Chateaubriand pretended to follow are questioned, notably his passage through the Mississippi valley, Louisiana and Florida.

Chateaubriand returned to France in 1792 and subsequently joined the army of Royalist émigrés in Coblenz under the leadership of Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé. Under strong pressure from his family, he married a young aristocratic woman, also from Saint-Malo, whom he had never previously met, Céleste Buisson de la Vigne. In later life, Chateaubriand was notoriously unfaithful to her, having a series of love affairs. His military career came to an end when he was wounded at the siege of Thionville, a major clash between Royalist troops and the French Revolutionary Army. Half-dead, he was taken to Jersey and exile in England, leaving his wife behind.

François-René de Chateaubriand by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, sometime after 1808.
François-René de Chateaubriand by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, sometime after 1808.

Chateaubriand spent most of his exile in extreme poverty in London, scraping a living offering French lessons and doing translation work, but a stay in Suffolk (Beccles) was more idyllic. Here Chateaubriand fell in love with a young English woman, Charlotte Ives, but the romance ended when he was forced to reveal he was already married. During his time in Britain, Chateaubriand also became familiar with English literature. This reading, particularly of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (which he later translated into French prose), had a deep influence on his own literary work.

His exile forced Chateaubriand to examine the causes of the French Revolution, which had cost the lives of many of his family and friends; these reflections inspired his first work, Essai sur les Révolutions (1797). An attempt in 18th Century style to explain the French Revolution, it predated his subsequent, romantic style of writing and was largely ignored. A major turning point in Chateaubriand’s life was his conversion back to the Catholic faith of his childhood around 1798.

Chateaubriand took advantage of the amnesty issued to émigrés to return to France in May, 1800 (under the French Consulate), Chateaubriand edited the Mercure de France. In 1802, he won fame with Génie du christianisme (“The Genius of Christianity”), an apology for the Catholic Christian faith which contributed to the post-revolutionary religious revival in France. It also won him the favour of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was eager to win over the Catholic Church at the time.

Appointed secretary of the legation to the Holy See by Napoleon, he accompanied Cardinal Fesch to Rome. But the two men soon quarrelled and Chateaubriand was nominated as minister to Valais (in Switzerland). He resigned his post in disgust after Napoleon ordered the execution in 1804 of Louis XVI’s cousin, Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc d’Enghien. Chateaubriand was, after his resignation, completely dependent on his literary efforts. However, and quite unexpectedly, he received a large sum of money from the Russian Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna. She had seen him as a defender of Christianity and thus worthy of her royal support.

Chateaubriand lends his name to the famous beef dish supposedly created by his personal chef, possibly in 1811.
Chateaubriand lends his name to the famous beef dish supposedly created by his personal chef, possibly in 1811.

Chateaubriand used his new-found wealth in 1806 to visit Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt and Spain. The notes he made on his travels later formed part of a prose epic, Les Martyrs, set during the Roman persecution of early Christianity. His notes also furnished a running account of the trip itself, published in 1811 as the Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem). The Spanish stage of the journey inspired a third novella, Les aventures du dernier Abencérage (The Adventures of the Last Abencerrage), which appeared in 1826.

On his return to France, he published a severe criticism of Napoleon, comparing him to Nero and predicting the emergence of a new Tacitus. Napoleon famously threatened to have Chateaubriand sabered on the steps of the Tulieries Palace for it, but settled for merely banishing him from the city. Chateaubriand retired to a modest estate he called La Vallée aux Loups (“Wolf Valley”), in Châtenay-Malabry, 11 km (6.8 mi) south of central Paris. Here he finished Les Martyrs, which appeared in 1809, and began the first drafts of his memoirs. He was elected to the Académie française in 1811, but, given his plan to infuse his acceptance speech with criticism of the Revolution, he could not occupy his seat until after the Bourbon Restoration. His literary friends during this period included Madame de Staël, Joseph Joubert and Pierre-Simon Ballanche.

After the fall of the French Empire, Chateaubriand rallied to the Bourbons. On 30 March 1814, he wrote a pamphlet against Napoleon, titled De Buonaparte et des Bourbons, of which thousands of copies were published. He then followed Louis XVIII into exile to Ghent during the Hundred Days (March–July 1815), and was nominated ambassador to Sweden.

After Napoleon’s defeat, Chateaubriand became peer of France and state minister (1815). In December 1815 he voted for Marshal Ney’s execution. However, his criticism of King Louis XVIII, after the Chambre introuvable was dissolved, got him disgraced. He lost his function of state minister, and joined the opposition, siding with the Ultra-royalist group supporting the future Charles X, and becoming one of the main writers of its mouthpiece, Le Conservateur.

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Charles Ferdinand d’Artois, Duke of Berry (24 January 1778 – 14 February 1820) was the youngest son of the future King of France, Charles X. He was assassinated at the Paris Opera in 1820 by Louis Pierre Louvel, an anti-royal Bonapartist.

Chateaubriand sided again with the Court after the murder of the Duc de Berry (1820), writing for the occasion the Mémoires sur la vie et la mort du duc. He then served as ambassador to Prussia (1821) and the United Kingdom (1822), and even rose to the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs (28 December 1822 – 4 August 1824). A plenipotentiary to the Congress of Verona (1822), he decided in favor of the Quintuple Alliance’s intervention in Spain during the Trienio Liberal, despite opposition from the Duke of Wellington. Although the move was considered a success, Chateaubriand was soon relieved of his office by Prime Minister Jean-Baptiste de Villèle, the leader of the ultra-royalist group, on 5 June 1824.

Consequently, he moved towards the liberal opposition, both as a Peer and as a contributor to Journal des Débats (his articles there gave the signal of the paper’s similar switch, which, however, was more moderate than Le National, directed by Adolphe Thiers and Armand Carrel). Opposing Villèle, he became highly popular as a defender of press freedom and the cause of Greek independence. After Villèle’s downfall, Charles X appointed him ambassador to the Holy See in 1828, but he resigned upon the accession of the Prince de Polignac as premier (November 1829).

The title page for an 1849 edition of  Mémoires d'outre-tombe.
The title page for an 1849 edition of Mémoires d’outre-tombe.

In 1830, after the July Revolution, his refusal to swear allegiance to the new House of Orléans king Louis-Philippe put an end to his political career. He withdrew from political life to write his Mémoires d’outre-tombe (“Memoirs from Beyond the Grave'”, published posthumously in 2 volumes in 1849–1850), which is considered his most accomplished work, and his Études historiques (4 vols., designed as an introduction to a projected History of France). He also became a harsh critic of the “bourgeois king” and the July Monarchy, and his planned volume on the arrest of the duchesse de Berry caused him to be unsuccessfully prosecuted.

Chateaubriand, along with other Catholic traditionalists such as Ballanche or, on the other side of the political board, the socialist and republican Pierre Leroux, was then one of the few to attempt to conciliate the three terms of Liberté, égalité and fraternité, beyond the antagonism between liberals and socialists concerning the interpretation to give to the seemingly contradictory terms.[7] Chateaubriand thus gave a Christian interpretation of the revolutionary motto, stating in the 1841 conclusion to his Mémoires d’outre-tombe:

Far from being at its term, the religion of the Liberator is now only just entering its third phase, the political period, liberty, equality, fraternity

In his final years, he lived as a recluse in an apartment 120 rue du Bac, Paris, only leaving his house to pay visits to Juliette Récamier in l’Abbaye-aux-Bois. His final work, Vie de Rancé, was written at the suggestion of his confessor and published in 1844. It is a biography of Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, a worldly seventeenth-century French aristocrat who withdrew from society to become the founder of the Trappist order of monks. The parallels with Chateaubriand’s own life are striking. Chateaubriand died in Paris during the Revolution of 1848 and was buried, as he had requested, on the tidal island Grand Bé near Saint-Malo, accessible only when the tide is out.

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“St-Malo Tombe Chateaubriand 2010” by Photo: JLPC /  Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – mm

For his talent as much as his excesses, Chateaubriand may be considered the father of French Romanticism. His descriptions of Nature and his analysis of emotion made him the model for a generation of Romantic writers, not only in France but also abroad. For example, Lord Byron was deeply impressed by René. The young Victor Hugo scribbled in a notebook, “To be Chateaubriand or nothing.” Even his enemies found it hard to avoid his influence. Stendhal, who despised him for political reasons, made use of his psychological analyses in his own book, De l’amour.

George Brandes, in 1901, compared the works of Chateaubriand to those of Rousseau and others:

The year 1800 was the first to produce a book bearing the imprint of the new era, a work small in size, but great in significance and mighty in the impression it made. Atala took the French public by storm in a way which no book had done since the days of Paul and Virginia. It was a romance of the plains and mysterious forests of North America, with a strong, strange aroma of the untilled soil from which it sprang; it glowed with rich foreign colouring, and with the fiercer glow of consuming passion.

“We are convinced that the great writers have told their own story in their works”, wrote Chateaubriand in Génie du christianisme, “one only truly describes one’s own heart by attributing it to another, and the greater part of genius is composed of memories.” This is certainly true of Chateaubriand himself. All his works have strong autobiographical elements, overt or disguised. Perhaps this is the reason why today Mémoires d’outre-tombe are regarded as his finest achievement.

Images and information from wikipedia.com

 

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Louis XVI: Last King of France

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste de France (23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793) ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1774 until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792. Suspended and arrested during the Insurrection of 10 August 1792, he was tried by the National Convention, found guilty of treason, and executed on 21 January 1793. His execution signaled the end of absolute monarchy in France and would eventually bring about the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Although he was beloved at first, his indecisiveness and conservatism led some elements of the people of France to eventually hate him as a symbol of the perceived tyranny of the Ancien Régime. After the abolition of the monarchy in 1792, the new republican government gave him the surname Capet (a reference to the nickname of Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian dynasty, which the Revolutionaries wrongly interpreted as a family name), and forced him to be called Louis Capet in an attempt to discredit his status as king. He was also informally nicknamed Louis le Dernier (Louis the Last), a derisive use of the traditional nicknaming of French kings. Today, historians and Frenchmen in general have a more nuanced view of Louis XVI, who is seen as an honest man with good intentions but who was probably unfit for the Herculean task of reforming the monarchy, and who was used as a scapegoat by the Revolutionaries.

Early Life

The future king Louis XVI was born Louis-Auguste at the Palace of Versailles on 23 August 1754 to the heir to the French throne, the dauphin Louis (1729–65), who was the only son of the King Louis XV and his consort, Queen Maria Leszczynska. Louis-Auguste’s father died at the age of thirty-five and never ascended the French throne. Louis-Auguste’s mother was Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, the Dauphin’s second wife, and the daughter of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.

Louis-Auguste was the oldest surviving son out of eight children, three of whom died young. He had a difficult childhood because his parents for the most part neglected him, favoring his older brother Louis Duc de Bourgogne, who died at the age of ten in 1761. This caused his parents to turn their back on Louis-Auguste even more. A strong and healthy boy, despite being very shy, Louis-Auguste excelled in the school room and had a strong taste for English history and astronomy. He enjoyed working on locks and hunting with his grandfather King Louis XV and playing with his younger brothers Louis-Stanislas, Comte de Provence (the future King Louis XVIII) and Charles-Philip, Comte d’Artois (the future King Charles X). The boys’ father died on 20 December 1765, which dealt their mother, Marie-Josèphe, a devastating blow from which she never recovered, sinking into a deep depression for the rest of her life. With his father dead, eleven-year-old Louis-Auguste was now the Dauphin of France and next-in-line to the French throne, which at the time was known as the “Finest” kingdom in Europe; but it was a job his grandfather, Louis XV, failed to prepare him for, a job which he himself did not feel capable of doing. Louis Auguste’s mother died two years after his father on 13 March 1767, leaving young Louis-Auguste and his younger siblings orphans. For the first year after the death of his mother he was cared for by his grandmother, Queen Maria Leszczynska, who died the next year, in 1768; and after that he was taken into the care of his spinster aunts Adélaïde, Victoire, Sophie, and Louise-Marie, known collectively as Mesdames Tantes.


Family Life

On 16 May 1770, at the age of fifteen, Louis-Auguste married the fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria (better known by the French form of her name, Marie Antoinette), the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife, the formidable Empress Maria Theresa. The marriage was initially amiable but distant – Louis-Auguste’s shyness meant that he failed to consummate the union, much to his wife’s distress, whilst his fear of being manipulated by her for Imperial purposes caused him to behave coldly towards her in public. Over time, the couple became closer, and the marriage was consummated in July 1773.Subsequently, the Royal couple had four children:

  • Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851)
  • Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François (22 October 1781 – 4 June 1789)
  • Louis-Charles (the future titular King Louis XVII of France) (27 March 1785 – 8 June 1795)
  • Sophie-Hélène-Béatrix (9 July 1786 – 19 June 1787)

Personality
Louis XVI was characterized for a long time as a little simpleton, handled by his advisers, with crazes for iron work and hunting. This image is partly due to his attitude towards the court.

The “thoughtlessness” that was sometimes attributed to him is explained partly by a strong myopia which isolated him from the world, and in particular, enabled him only with difficulty to recognize his interlocutors. Louis XVI was a studious prince and scholar. In addition to his known passion for iron work, he was set on history, geography, navy and sciences. He made the navy a priority of France’s foreign politics, and was anxious to thwart the British projections overseas, and to take revenge for the disastrous Treaty of Paris. This powerful navy strongly contributed to the success of the American Revolutionary War. He had moreover a theoretical knowledge of the navy so pointed that he was likely, when he saw the sea for the first time, to make remarks whose relevance astounded his interlocutors.

Since Louis XIV, the nobility had been “mainly domesticated” by the structure of the royal court. The configuration of the court governed the life of the nobles by making the king the center of a very strict and complex set of ceremonies in which he was attended by the nobles in a way regimented by rigid etiquette. By constructing this system, Louis XIV aimed to eliminate the effect of the often rebellious, and always threatening, nobility toward the royal power. Within the court, the nobility saw its participation in the life of the king organized as if in a vase, enclosed in a subtle system of dependencies, hierarchies, and rewards, so that its inclinations for autonomy with respect to the royal authority definitely became much reduced.

Louis XVI inherited this system: nobility was seen as being in service to the king, and nobles judged their status upon the rewards and honours derived from him. Even if the majority of the nobility did not have the means of living at the court, the texts show an attachment of provincial noblemen to the role of the court, and the importance with which they attached a “presentation” at court.

Like Louis XV, Louis XVI entered this system with great sadness. This was not for lack of education: he was the first French monarch who spoke fluent English, and nourished philosophers of the Enlightenment. He sought to divorce himself from the royally authoritarian image of Louis XIV. To do this, he tried to develop an image for himself as a simple man, an image more in keeping with that of the “enlightened despots” of Europe, like Frederick II of Prussia.

Louis’s refusal to fully immerse himself in the court system explains the bad reputation that he eventually gained with the nobles. By depriving the nobility of its ceremonial role, the king deprived it of its accepted social role and protections. Initially created to control the nobility, the court system gradually ended up controlling the king as well.

Gradually, the image of the king during Louis’s reign became degraded. Poor management by Louis of the royal court, the refusal of the parlements (where the nobility and a part of the upper middle classes expressed themselves) to pass any meaningful reforms, and the often frivolous and capricious image of the Queen combined to tarnish the image of the king and monarchy. Many lampooners ridiculing Louis came from a part of the nobility that had a lot to lose, describing him not as “simply the king”, but as a “simpleton king.”


Absolute Monarch of France: 1774-1789

When Louis XVI succeeded to the throne in 1774 he was 20, as his father, the son of the previous king, Louis XV, had died in 1765. He had an enormous responsibility, as the government was deeply in debt, and resentment towards ‘despotic’ monarchy was on the rise. Louis therefore appointed an experienced advisor, Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas who, until his death in 1781 would take charge on many important ministerial decisions.

Radical financial reforms by Turgot and Malesherbes disaffected the nobles and were blocked by the parlements who insisted that the King did not have the legal right to levy new taxes. So Turgot was dismissed in 1776 and Malesherbes resigned in 1776 to be replaced by Jacques Necker. Necker supported the American Revolution, and progressed upon a policy of taking out large international loans instead of raising taxes. This, Louis hoped, would reduce France’s deficit and fund the American Revolutionary War, in which France participated from 1778 onward. When this policy failed miserably, Louis dismissed him, and replaced him with Charles Alexandre de Calonne, in 1783, who increased public spending to ‘buy’ the country’s way out of debt. Again this failed, so Louis convoked the Assembly of Notables in 1787 to discuss a revolutionary new fiscal reform of Calonne’s. When the nobles were told the extent of the debt, they were shocked into rejecting the plan. This signalled that Louis had lost his legitimacy to rule as an absolute monarch, and he fell into depression.

As power drifted from him, there were increasingly loud calls for him to convoke the Estates-General, and in May 1789 he did so, bringing it together for the first time since 1614 in a last-ditch attempt to get new monetary reforms approved. This convocation was one of the events that transformed the general economic and political malaise of the country into the French Revolution, which began in June 1789, when the Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly; Louis’ attempts to control it resulted in the Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume, 20 June), and the declaration of the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July. Hence, the legitimate power of King Louis had been undermined and became transferred to the elected representatives of the people’s nation. The storming of the Bastille on 14 July symbolised the victory of democratic constitutional monarchy over King Louis XVI’s absolute power.

Revolutionary Constitutional Reign: 1789-1792

On 5 October 1789, an angry mob of women from the Parisian underclass who had been incited by revolutionaries marched on the Palace of Versailles, where the royal family lived. During the night, they infiltrated the palace and attempted to kill the Queen, who was associated with a frivolous lifestyle that symbolized much that was despised about the Ancient Regime. After the situation had been diffused, the King and his family were brought back by the crowd to Paris to live in the Tuileries Palace.

Initially, after the removal of the royal family to Paris, Louis maintained a high popularity and was obliging to the social, political, and economic reforms of the Revolution. Unbeknownst to the public, however, recent scholarship has concluded that Louis began to suffer at the time from severe bouts of clinical depression, which left him prone to paralyzing indecisiveness. During these indecisive moments, his wife, the unpopular Queen, was essentially forced into assuming the role of decision-maker for the Crown.

The Revolution’s principles of popular sovereignty, though central to democratic principles of later eras, marked a decisive break from the absolute monarchical principle of throne and altar that was at the heart of traditional French government. As a result, the Revolution was opposed by many of the rural people of France and by practically all the governments of France’s neighbors. As the Revolution became more radical, several leading figures in the initial revolutionary movement themselves eventually began questioning the principles of popular control of government. Some, notably Honoré Mirabeau, secretly plotted to restore the power of the Crown in a new constitutional form.

However, Mirabeau’s sudden death, and Louis’s depression, fatally weakened developments in that area. Louis was nowhere near as reactionary as his right-wing brothers, the Comte de Provence and the Comte d’Artois, and he sent repeated messages publicly and privately calling on them to halt their attempts to launch counter-coups (often through his secretly nominated regent, former minister de Brienne). However, he was alienated from the new democratic government both by its negative reaction to the traditional role of the monarch and in its treatment of him and his family. He was particularly irked by being kept essentially as a prisoner in the Tuileries, where his wife was forced humiliatingly to have revolutionary soldiers in her private bedroom watching her as she slept, and by the refusal of the new regime to allow him to have Catholic confessors and priests of his choice rather than ‘constitutional priests’ created by the Revolution.

On 21 June 1791, Louis attempted to flee secretly with his family from Paris to the royalist fortress town of Montmédy on the northeastern border of France in the hope of forcing a more moderate swing in the Revolution than was deemed possible in radical Paris. However, flaws in the escape plan caused sufficient delays to enable the royal refugees to be recognized and captured along the way at Varennes. Supposedly Louis was captured while trying to make a purchase at a store, where the clerk recognized him. According to the legend, Louis was recognized because the coin used as payment featured an accurate portrait of him. He was returned to Paris, where he remained indubitably as constitutional king, though under effective house-arrest.

The other monarchies of Europe looked with concern at the developments in France, and considered whether they should intervene, either in support of Louis or to take advantage of the chaos in France. The key figure was Marie Antoinette’s brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, who had initially looked on the Revolution with equanimity, but became more and more disturbed as the Revolution became more radical, although he still hoped to avoid war. On 27 August, Leopold and King Frederick William II of Prussia, in consultation with émigré French nobles, issued the Declaration of Pilnitz, which declared the interest of the monarchs of Europe in the well-being of Louis and his family, and threatened vague but severe consequences if anything should befall them. Although Leopold saw the Pillnitz Declaration as a way of taking action that would enable him to avoid actually doing anything about France, at least for the moment, it was seen in France as a serious threat and was denounced by the revolutionary leaders.

In addition to the ideological differences between France and the monarchical powers of Europe, there were continuing disputes over the status of Austrian estates in Alsace, and the concern of members of the National Constituent Assembly about the agitation of emigré nobles abroad, especially in the Austrian Netherlands and the minor states of Germany.

In the end, the Legislative Assembly, supported by Louis, declared war on the Holy Roman Empire first, voting for war on 20 April 1792, after a long list of grievances were presented to it by the foreign minister, Charles François Dumouriez. Dumouriez prepared an immediate invasion of the Austrian Netherlands, where he expected the local population to rise against Austrian rule. However, the Revolution had thoroughly disorganized the army, and the forces raised were insufficient for the invasion. The soldiers fled at the first sign of battle, deserting en masse and in one case, murdering their general.

While the revolutionary government frantically raised fresh troops and reorganized its armies, a mostly Prussian allied army under Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick assembled at Koblenz on the Rhine. In July, the invasion commenced, with Brunswick’s army easily taking the fortresses of Longwy and Verdun. Brunswick then issued on 25 July a proclamation, written by Louis’ émigré cousin, the Prince of Condé, declaring the intent of the Austrians and Prussians to restore the King to his full powers and to treat any person or town who opposed them as rebels to be condemned to death by martial-law.

Contrary to its intended purpose of strengthening the position of the King against the revolutionaries, the Brunswick Manifesto had the opposite effect of greatly undermining Louis’ already highly tenuous position in Paris. It was taken by many to be the final proof of a collusion between Louis and foreign powers in a conspiracy against his own country. The anger of the populace boiled over on 10 August when a mob — with the backing of a new municipal government of Paris that came to be known as the “insurrectionary” Paris Commune — besieged the Tuileries Palace. The King and the royal family took shelter with the Legislative Assembly.

Arrest and Execution: 1792-1793

Louis was officially arrested on 13 August and sent to the Temple, an ancient Paris fortress used as a prison. On 21 September, the National Convention declared France to be a republic.

Louis was tried (from 11 December 1792) and convicted of high treason before the National Convention. He was sentenced to death (21 January 1793) by guillotine by a very tight vote of 361 to 360, of which 72 effective abstentions.

Stripped of all titles and honorifics by the egalitarian, republican government, Citizen Louis Capet was guillotined in front of a cheering crowd on 21 January 1793. Executioner Charles Henri Sanson testified that the former King had bravely met his fate.

Historical information supplied by Wikipedia.

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Marie Antoinette: Last Queen of France

Born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Maria Antonia was the daughter of Francis Stephen and Empress Maria Theresa; she was described as “a small, but completely healthy Archduchess.” Known at court as “Madame Antoine”, a French variation of her name, she was the fifteenth child, and the last daughter, born in the family.

The laxity of Vienese court life was compounded by the “private” life which was developed by the Habsburgs, which centered around certain castles (mainly Schönbrunn Palace) that were almost entirely off-limits to the rest of the court. In their “private” life, the family could dress in bourgeois attire with no reproach, played games with “normal” (non-royal) children, had their schooling, and were treated to gardens and menageries. Marie would later attempt to “re-create” this atmosphere through her renovation of the Petit Trianon.

Marriage to Louis Auguste; 1767-1770

The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when Francis I died of a stroke in August of that year, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her son and heir, Emperor Joseph. By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Marie Antoinette’s sisters had been started, with Archduchess Maria Josepha to King Ferdinand of Naples, and Don Ferdinand of Parma was to tentatively marry one of the remaining eligible females. This was done to begin the cementing of various complex alliances that Maria Theresa had entered into in the 1750s, climaxing with the Seven Years’ War, which included Parma, Naples, Russia, and more importantly Austria’s traditional enemy, France. (Maria Christina, who had successfully lobbied with her mother for a love match, had married Prince Albert of Saxony by this time; the eldest surviving daughter, Archduchess Maria Anna was crippled and considered unsuitable for marriage.)

Then, in 1767, a smallpox outbreak hit the family; Antoine was one of the few who were immune due to already having it at a young age. Emperor Joseph’s wife, Josephe, died first; Maria Theresa herself caught it and nearly died. Maria Josepha then caught it from her sister-in-law’s improperly-sealed tomb , dying quickly afterwards; Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, another older sister, caught it, and though she did not die her looks were destroyed and she was rendered ineligible for marriage. To compensate for the loss, Maria Theresa replaced Maria Josepha in the Naples marriage with another daughter, Marie Caroline. Archduchess Maria Amalia, the eldest remaining candidate for marriage, was then married to Don Ferdinand of Parma.

This ultimately left twelve-year-old Antoine as the potential bride for the fourteen-year-old Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste. Working painstakingly to process the marriage between the respective governments of France and Austria, the dowry was set at 200,000 crowns; portraits and rings were eventually exchanged as was custom. Finally, Antoine was married by proxy on April 19, 1770, in the Church of the Augustine Friars; her brother Ferdinand stood in as the bridegroom. She was also officially restyled as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France. Before leaving Maria Theresa reminded her of her duty to her home country; that she shouldn’t forget she was Austrian, and thus had to promote the interests of Austria even as she was to be the future Queen of France.

The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place on May 16, 1770, in the palace of Versailles.

Life as Dauphine: 1770-1774

The inital reaction concerning the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste was decidedly mixed. On the one hand, the Dauphine herself was popular among the people at large; her first official appearance in Paris on June 8, 1773 at Tuileries was considered by many royal watchers a resounding success, with a reported 50,000 people crying out to see her. A visit to the opera for a court performance was also reported a success, with the Dauphine herself leading the applause. She was also widely commemorated for her acts of charity; in one incident, she personally attended to a dying man and arranged for his family to receive an income in his wake.

In the court, however, the match was not so popular, due to the long-standing tensions between Austria and France, which had only so recently been mollified. Many courtiers had promoted a match with various Saxon princesses; while others accused her of trying to sway the king to Austria’s thrall, destroying long-standing traditions (such as appointing people to posts due to friendship and not to peerage) and laughing at the influence of older women in court. Many other courtiers, such as the Comtesse du Barry, had a more or less tenuous relationship with the Dauphine.

Marie Antoinette also still had to contend with her mother, who wrote to her daughter regularly and who received secret reports from the Mercy d’Argenteau on her daughter’s behavior. The Dauphine was constantly criticized for her inability to “inspire passion” in her husband, who rarely slept with her and had no interest in doing so, and was told again to promote the interests of Austria and the House of Lorraine, which Marie Antoinette was a member of through her late father. The Empress also criticized the Dauphine’s pastime of horseback riding, though paradoxically the Empress’s favorite portrait of her daughter was one of her in riding garb. The Empress would even go so far as to insult her daughter directly, telling her she was no longer pretty and had no talent, and was thus a failure.

To make up for the lack of affection from her husband and the endless criticism of her mother, Marie Antoinette began to spend more on gambling, with cards and horse-betting, as well as trips to the city and new clothing, shoes, pomade and rouge; the purchase of which, while extravagant (causing her to go into debt) and somewhat neglectful of her royal duties (a portion of the Dauphine’s allowance was supposed to go to charities), was not as much as critics accused her of spending. She was also expected by tradition to spend money on her attire, so as to outshine other women in the court, being the leading example of fashion in Versailles (the previous queen, Maria Leszczyska, having died several years prior to Antoinette’s arrival).

Marie Antoinette also began to form deep friendships with various ladies in her retinue. Most noted were the sensitive and “pure” widow Princesse de Lamballe, whom she appointed as Superintendent of the Household, and the fun-loving Gabrielle, Comtesse de Polignac, who would eventually form the cornerstone of the Queen’s Private Society (Société Particulière de la Reine). Polignac later became the Royal Governess, and was liked as a friend by Louis Auguste. Others taken into her confidence at this time included the Comte d’Artois; a younger sister of Louis Auguste, Madame Elisabeth; the Comtesse de Provence; and Christoph Willibald Gluck, her former music teacher, who fell under her patronage upon his arrival in France and supported his new work.

It was a week after the première of Gluck’s opera, Iphigénie en Aulide, which had secured the Dauphine’s position as a patron of the arts, that Louis XV began to fall ill on April 27, 1774. After several days of sickness, he sent Comtesse du Barry to a castle in Rueil on May 4; on May 10, at 3 pm, the king died of smallpox at the age of sixty-four.

Coronation and Reign: 1775-1793

Louis Auguste (re-styled Louis XVI) was officially crowned on June 11, 1775 at Rheims Cathedral. Marie Antoinette was not crowned alongside him, instead merely accompanying him during the coronation.

1775-1778: The Early Years From the outset, despite how she was portrayed by contemporary libellistes, the new queen had very little political influence with her husband. Louis, who had been influenced as a child by anti-Austrian sentiments in the court, blocked many of her candidates, including the Duc de Choiseul, from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count of Maurepas and Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes. All three were anti-Austrian, and were wary of the potential repercussions of allowing the queen – and, through her, the Austrian empire – to have any say in French policy.

Marie Antoinette’s situation became more precarious when, on August 6, 1775, her sister-in-law, Marie Thérèse, the wife of the Comte d’Artois, gave birth to a son, Louis Antoine, immediately titled the Duc d’Angoulême. He would be the heir to the French throne for seven years. This caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, simply to enjoy herself. On one famed occasion, she played for three days straight with players from Paris, straight up until her 21st birthday. She also began to attract various male admirers whom she accepted into her inner circles, including the Baron de Besenval, the Duc de Choigny, and Count Valentin Esterhazy.

She was given free reign to renovate the Petit Trianon, which was given to her as a gift by Louis XVI on August 27 1775; she concentrated mainly on horticulture, redesigning the garden in the English mode. Though the castle was built in Louis XV’s reign, the Petit Trianon became associated with Marie Antoinette’s perceived extravagance; rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.[

Though the queen was criticized for her expenditures, in truth, her spending amounted to little in comparison to the debt incurred by France during the Seven Years’ War, still unpaid. It would be further exacerbated by Vergennes’ prodding Louis XVI to get involved in Great Britain’s war with its North American colonies, due to France’s traditional hatred of England.

In the midst of preparations for sending aid to France, and in the atmosphere of first wave of libelles, Emperor Joseph came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on April 18, 1777, the subsequent six-week visit a part of the attempt to figure out why their marriage had not been consummated. It was due to Joseph’s intervention that on August 30, 1777, that the marriage was officially consummated. Eight months later, in April, it was suspected that the queen was finally pregnant; this was confirmed on May 16, 1778.

Motherhood and Modes: 1778-1781

In the middle of her pregnancy, two events which would mark the queen’s later life occurred; the return of the Swedish ladykiller and the Queen’s eventual reputed lover, Count Axel von Fersen to Versailles for the subsequent two years, and the disgrace of the Duc de Chartres in the wake of his questionable conduct during the Battle of Ouessant against the British.

The emperor Joseph also began to make succession claims for Bavaria through his late second wife, and Marie Antoinette’s pleading for the French to help intercede on behalf of Austria was rebuffed by the king and his ministers. The Peace of Teschen, signed on May 13, 1779, would later end the brief conflict, but the incident once more showed the limited influence that the queen had in politics.

Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Marie Thérèse Charlotte, known affectionately as “Madame Royale” (Madame Fille du Roi) was finally born at Versailles after a particularly difficult labor on December 19, 1778, followed by an ordeal in the afterbirth where the Queen literally collapsed from suffocation and hemorrhaging; the room was packed with courtiers watching the birth and the doctor aiding her supposedly caused the excessive bleeding by accident. The windows had to be torn out to revive her; just as it had been forbidden at the Austrian court, the queen banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labors.

The baby’s paternity was contested in the libelles and most notably by the Comte de Provence, who had always been open about his desire to become King through various means; however, it was never contested by the king himself, who was close to his daughter. However, the pressure to have a male heir continued to be applied, and Antoinette wrote about her worrisome health, which might have contributed to a miscarriage in the summer of 1779.

Meanwhile, the queen began to institute changes in the modes of court, with the approval of the king. Some changes, such as the abolition of segregated dining spaces, had already been instituted for some time and had been met with disapproval from the older generation; more importantly was the abandonment of the wide-hooped panniers and heavy make-up for less make-up and plainer clothing, such as polonaises and, more famously, the muslin dresses which were captured by a 1783 Lebrun portrait of the queen. She also began to participate in amateur theatrics, starting in 1780, in a theatre built for her and other courtiers who wished to indulge in singing and acting.

Later that year, Empress Maria Theresa’s health began to give way due to dropsy and an unnamed respiratory problem; she died on November 29, 1780, aged sixty-three in Vienna; she was mourned throughout Europe. Though Marie Antoinette was worried that the death of her mother would jeopardize the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), Emperor Joseph reassured her through his own letters (as the empress had not stopped writing to Marie Antoinette until shortly before her death) that he had no intention of breaking the alliance.

Three months after the empress’ death, it was rumored that Marie Antoinette was pregnant again, which was confirmed in March of 1781. Another royal visit from Joseph II in July, partially to reaffirm the Franco-Austrian alliance and also a means of seeing his sister again, was tainted with rumors that Marie Antoinette was siphoning treasury money off to him, which were false.

The queen would give birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, titled the Duc de Bretagne, on October 22, 1781. The reaction to finally giving birth to an heir was best summed up by the words of Louis XVI himself, as he wrote them down in his hunting journal: “Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of Dauphin”. He would, according to courtiers, try to frame sentences to put in the phrase “my son the Dauphin” in the weeks to come. It also helped that, three days before the birth, the fighting in the conflict in America had been concluded with the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Declining Popularity: 1782-1785

Despite the general celebration over the birth of the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette’s political influence, such as it was, did not increase to the benefit of Austria, as it had been hoped. When accused of being a “dupe” by her brother for her supposed inactivity, Marie Antoinette responded that she had little power; the king rarely talked to her about policy, and his anti-Austrian-tinted education as a child fortified his refusals in allowing his wife any participation in his cabals; as a result, she had to pretend he told her in order to get information from his ministers, and so that the public believed she had more power than she did. As she wrote,”Would it be wise of me to have scenes with his (Louis XVI’s) ministers over matters on which it is practically certain the King would not support me?”.

Marie Antoinette’s temperament was more suited to her children, whose education and upbringing she personally saw to. This was against the mode of Versailles, where the queen usually had little say over the “Children of France”, as royal children were called, and they were instead handed over to various courtiers who fought over the privilege. In particular, after the Royal Governess at the time of the Dauphin’s birth, the Princesse de Rohan-Guéméné, went bankrupt and was forced to resign, and Marie Antoinette appointed the Duchess de Polignac to replace her. This met with disapproval from the court, as the duchess was considered to be of too “immodest” a birth to occupy the position; on the other hand, both the king and queen trusted her entirely, and the duchess had children of her own to whom the queen had become attached.

In 1784, the queen was occupied with the creation of a “model village” of twelve cottages and a mill at the Petit Trianon (nine cottages of which still stand today); this caused another uproar, and the actual price of the hameau were once again inflated by her critics. In truth, it was copied from another, far grander “model village” from the Prince de Condé; the Comtesse de Provence’s version even included windmills and a marble dairyhouse. She became an avid reader of historical novels, was also a witness to the launching of hot air balloons, and briefly had in her confidence various personages such as William Pitt and the Duke of Dorset.

Despite the many things which she did in her time, the primary concern at the time was the health of the Dauphin, which was beginning to fail. The possibility of the Dauphin not lasting through his childhood was commonly accepted, and it was rumored that the king and queen were attempting to have another child as a result. During this time, also, The Marriage of Figaro was premiered in Paris; after having banned it due to its portrayal of the nobility, it was ironically allowed because of its overwhelming popularity in secret readings with the nobility.[48]

On March 27, 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who was created the Duc de Normandie. He was noticeably stronger in constitution, even at birth, in comparison with the sickly Dauphin, and was affectionately nicknamed the queen’s chou d’amour. This naturally led to suspicions of illegitimacy once more, and this time – due to the combination of years of continued publications of the libelles, court intrigues, the actions of Joseph II in the unresolved “Scheldt Affair”, and the purchase of St. Cloud – the queen’s enemies were beginning to shape popular opinion towards the queen, and the image of a licentious, spendthrift, empty-headed Habsburg queen who ruled France was emerging in the French psyche.

Real Political Influence: 1786-June 1789

The continuing dissipation of the financial situation in France, though cutbacks in the royal retinue had been made, ultimately forced the king, in collaboration with his current Minister of Finance, Charles Alexandre Calonne, to call the Assembly of Notables, after an absence of 160 years, to try and pass some of the reforms needed to alleviate the situation when the Parlements refused to cooperate. The first meeting of the Assembly took place on February 22, 1787, at which Marie Antoinette was not present and was afterwards accused of trying to undermine the process.

However, the Assembly was a failure with or without the queen, as they did not pass any reforms and instead fell into a pattern of defying the king, demanding other reforms and for the acquicence of the Parlements. As a result, the king to dismiss Calonne on April 8, 1787; Vergennes died on February 13 and the king, once more ignoring the queen’s pro-Austrian candidate (which she had half-heartedly endorsed) appointing a childhood friend, the Comte de Montmorin, to replace him as Foreign Minister.

The Assembly of Notables was then dissolved on May 25 because of their inability to get things done. The lack of solutions, as a result, would cause the blame of the entire situation – which was really a result of successive wars, a too-large royal family who were given astronomical allowances (as every individual royal had their own household, and some, for example the Comte de Provence and Mesdames Tantes, spent far more frivolously than the queen ever had), and the unwillingness of ministers and other non-royal nobles to help defray the costs – to fall on the queen. She would earn her famous nickname of “Madame Deficit” in the summer of 1787 as a result of her perceived destroying of the French government.

The queen attempted to fight back with her own propaganda that portrayed her as the mother of the Children of France, most notably with the portrait of her and her children done by Vigée-Lebrun, which was to premiere at the Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787. It was eventually dropped, however, due to the death of Sophie, the youngest child, due to convulsions from her baby teeth coming in, and also due to the unpopularity of the queen.

The political situation in 1787 began to worsen when Parlement was exiled and culminated on November 11, when the king used a lit de justice to try and force legislation through. He was unexpectedly challenged by the Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc de Chartres, now the Duc d’Orléans, who publicly protested the move, and was subsequently exiled. The May Edicts issued on May 8, 1788, also a lit de justice, were also opposed by the public. Finally, on July 8 and August 8, the king announced a preliminary hearing, and then his official intentions, respectively, to bring back the Estates General, an elected government body that had not been convened since 1614.

The queen was not directly involved with the exile of Parlement, the May Edicts or with the announcement regarding the Estates General. Her primary concern of late 1787 and 1788 was the betterment of Louis Joseph, who suffered from tuberculosis, which in his case twisted and curved his spinal column severely. He was sent to the castle at Meudon in hopes that he would be able to recover; unfortunately, the move did little to alleviate the Dauphin’s condition, which gradually continued to deteriorate. She was, however, present with Madame Royalle, when Tippu Sahib of Mysore visited Versailles for help against the British; more importantly she was the reason for the recall of Jacques Necker as Finance Minister on August 26, a popular move, even though she herself was worried that the recall would again go against her if Necker was unsuccessful.

Her prediction began to come true when the bread prices began to rise due to the severe 1788-1789 winter. The Dauphin’s condition worsened even more, riots broke out in Paris in April, and on March 26, Louis XVI himself almost died from a fall off the roof. “Come, Léonard, dress my hair, I must go like an actress, exhibit myself to a public that may hiss me” was her line to her hairdresser when she was preparing for the Mass celebrating the return of the Estates General on May 4, 1789 in which the Duc d’Orleans, flaunting that he had given money and bread to the people during the winter, was popularly acclaimed by the crowd. The Estates General convened the next day.

During the month of May, as the Estates General began to fissure between the more radical Third Estate comprised of the bourgeois and radical nobility) and the nobility of the Second Estate, while the king’s brothers began to become more hardline and the queen’s influence once more gave way to nothing. Instead, she turned to the care of the dying Dauphin, who finally passed at Meudon, with the queen at his side, on June 4, aged seven. His death, which would have normally been nationally mourned, was virtually ignored by the French people, who were instead preparing for the next meeting of the Estates General and the solution to the bread prices. As the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly and took the Tennis Court Oath, and others listened to rumors that their queen wished to bathe in their blood, as she went into mourning.

The French Revolution: July 1789-1792

The situation began to escalate violently in July as the National Assembly began to demand more rights and Louis XVI began to lean back towards the nobility’s demands to suppress the Third Estate. Then, on July 11, Necker was dismissed. Paris was besieged by riots at the news, which culminated in the famous Storming of the Bastille on July 14.

In the weeks that followed, many of the influential conservative aristocrats, including the Comte d’Artois and the Duchesse de Polignac (who had briefly returned to France several months prior), fled France. Marie Antoinette, who was probably most in danger and plagued with threats of immurement and the exclusion of her as the Queen Regent should her husband die, stayed behind in order to help the king promote stability, even as his power was gradually taken away by the National Assembly, who now ruled Paris, and were conscripting men to serve in the National Guard.

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man (La Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen) was adapted, which officially created the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in France. Despite this, the king was still required to perform court ceremonies, even as the situation in Paris started to worsen due to the bread shortage in September. In October, a dinner conducted for the royal bodyguards was turned into an orgy by revolutionary newspapers, and on October 5, on the beliefs that the king and queen were withholding bread, a bevy of market- women marched on Versailles to demand their voices be heard. The next day, they stormed the castle, killing several bodyguards in lieu of meeting the king, threatening Marie Antoinette’s life in the process.

The riot prompted the royal family – who also consisted of the Comte and Comtesse de Provence and the king’s sister Madame Elisabeth – to move to Paris under guard of the National Guard; they stayed at the Tuileries under a lax house arrest. After this Marie Antoinette conveyed to her friends that she did not intend to involve herself any further in French politics, as everything, whether or not she was involved, would inevitably be attributed to her anyway and she feared the repercussions of further involvement.

Despite the situation, Marie Antoinette was still required to perform charitable functions and certain religious ceremonies, which she did, though outside of this most of her time was dedicated to her children once more. Meanwhile, she was not privy to the creation of the French Constitution, which was further weakening the king’s authority, creating a constitutional monarchy. She nevertheless hoped for a future where her son would be able to rule, convinced that the violence would soon pass.

She was, however, subjected to several different confidences that involved her fleeing France on her own, which she rejected because she wished to stay with the king. Other attempts to rescue the king in the early days of their residence in the Tuileries were ultimately rejected by the king through his indeciciveness. The king’s indecisiveness also played an important role in the poor execution of an elaborate attempt to escape from Paris to the fortress town of Montmédy conducted in 1791 with the aide of Count von Fersen. Initially, the queen rejected the plan because it required her to leave with only her son. She wished instead for the rest of the royal family to accompany her. The king ended up blundering on the subject of accompaniment, the date of departure, and also the route of the escape. The escape ultimately occurred on June 21, 1791, and was a failure; the entire family was captured twenty-four hours later at Varennes and taken back to Paris within the week.

The result was a decline in popularity for both the king and queen, which correlated with the rise of the Jacobin party in French politics, who called for the end to all monarchy in France. Though the Constitution was accepted on September 14, Marie Antoinette hoped through the end of 1791 that the Constitution would prove unworkable and, also, that perhaps her brother, Leopold (who had succeeded Emperor Joseph upon his death from tuberculosis on February 20, 1790) would send an armed congress to liberate them, as opposed to the king’s brothers, who she felt would cause trouble. However, she was unaware that Leopold was more interested in taking advantage of France’s state of chaos for his own personal gain rather than help her or her family.

The result of Leopold’s aggressive tendencies – and those of his son Francis II, who succeeded him in March – was that war was declared between France and Austria on April 20, 1792. This caused the queen to be viewed as an enemy, even though she was personally against Austrian claims on French lands. The situation became compounded in the summer when French armies were continually defeated and the king vetoed several measures that would have restricted his power even further, which caused Marie Antoinette to receive the nickname “Madame Veto”. On June 20, a mob broke into the Tuileries and demanded the king wear the tricolor to show his loyalty to France. On July 31, the king’s unpopularity was so great that the National Assembly officially suspended his power with the words, “Louis XVI is no longer the King of the French”.

The vulnerability of the abolished king was exposed on August 10, when a clash between Swiss Guards and republican forces forced the royal family to take refuge with the Assembly; several hundred died in the standoff. The royal family was moved to the tower of the Marais Temple on August 13, which was considerably harsher than their previous conditions. A week later, many of the family’s attendants were taken in for interrogation by the Paris Commune; the Princesse de Lamballe was among them, and was found guilty and executed on September 2, her head affixed on a pike that was paraded around the city (Marie Antoinette did not see the head, but fainted upon learning what had happened). Then, on September 21, the monarchy was officially ended, and the National Convention was installed as the legal authority of France, and the royal family was re-styled as the non-royal “Capets”; preparations for trying the king also went underway.

Charged with undermining the republic, Louis was separated from his family and tried in December. He was found guilty by the Convention, lead by the Jacobins who rejected the idea of keeping him as a hostage. However, the sentence would not come until a month later, when he was condemned to execution by the guillotine.

“Widow Capet”; Death 1793

Louis was executed on January 21, 1793, aged thirty-eight. The result was that Antoinette Capet, as the former queen was called after the abolition of the monarchy, plunged into deep mourning; she refused to eat or take any exercise. Nor did she proclaim her son as Louis XVII, unlike the Comte de Provence, who in exile proclaimed himself regent for the boy. Her health rapidly deteriorated in the following months. By this time she suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer, which caused her to hemorrhage frequently.

Despite her condition, the debate as to her fate was the central question of the National Convention after Louis’s death. There were those who had been advocating her death for some time, while some had the idea of exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America. Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert were beginning to call for Antoinette’s trial; by the end of May the Girondins had been chased out of power and arrested.Other calls were made to “retrain” the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. This was carried out when Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on July 3, and given to the care of a cobbler. On August 1, she herself was taken out of the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280. Despite various attempts to get her out, such as the Carnation Plot in September, Capet refused when the plots to free her were brought to her attention.

She was finally tried by revolutionary tribunal on October 14. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defense, the queen’s trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given (less than one day) and the Jacobin’s misogynistic view of women in general. Among the things she was accused of (most, if not all, the accusations were untrue and probably lifted from rumors began by libelles) included orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the Duc d’Orleans, declaring her son to be the new King of France and orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792.

The most serious charge, however, was that she had abused her son. This was according to Louis Charles, who, through his coaching by Hebert and his guardian, accused his mother. The accusation caused Antoinette to protest so emotionally that the females present in the courtroom – the market women who had stormed the palace for her entrails in 1789 – ironically also began to support her. However, in reality the outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered, and she was declared guilty in the early morning of October 16, after two days of proceedings. She was executed later that day, at 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-ninth birthday. Though initially buried in an unmarked grave in the rue d’Anjou, her body was recovered in 1815 and re-buried at St. Denis Cathedral.

From Wikipedia the online encyclopedia.

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Joséphine: First Empress of France

Joséphine de Beauharnais (nee Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie June 23, 1763 – May 29, 1814) was the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and thus the first Empress of the French.

Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, to a slave-owning family that owned a sugar plantation. She was a daughter of Joseph-Gaspard de Tascher, chevalier, seigneur de la Pagerie, lieutenant of infantry of the navy, and his wife, the former Rose-Claire des Vergers de Sanois, whose maternal grandfather was English.

The family struggled financially when hurricanes destroyed their estate in 1766. Edmée, Joséphine’s paternal aunt, had been the mistress of François, vicomte de Beauharnais, a French aristocrat. When Francois’ health began to fail, Edmée arranged the advantageous marriage of her niece Catherine-Désirée to François’ son, Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais. This marriage would be highly beneficial for the Tascher family, because it would keep the de Beauharnais money in their hands. However, 12-year-old Catherine died on October 16, 1777, before even leaving Martinique for France. In service to their aunt Edmée’s goals, Catherine was replaced by her older sister Joséphine.

In October 1779, Joséphine went to Europe with her father. She married Alexandre on December 13, 1779, in Noisy-le-Grand. Although their marriage was not extremely happy, they had two children: a son, Eugène de Beauharnais (1781–1824), and a daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783–1837), who married Napoleon’s brother Louis Bonaparte in 1802.

On March 2, 1794, during the Reign of Terror, the Committee of General Security ordered the arrest of her husband. He was jailed in the Carmes prison. Considering Joséphine as too close to the counter-revolutionary financial circles, the Committee ordered her arrest on April 19, 1794. A warrant of arrest was issued against her on 2 Floréal, year II (April 21, 1794), and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until 10 Thermidor, year II (July 28, 1794). She was freed thanks to the trial of Robespierre. Her husband, accused of having poorly defended Mainz in 1793, and considered an aristocratic “suspect”, was sentenced to death. He was guillotined on July 23, 1794, one year after the Siege of Mainz, together with his brother Augustin, on the Place de la Révolution (today’s Place de la Concorde) in Paris.

On July 27, 1794 (9 Thermidor), Tallien arranged the liberation of Thérèse Cabarrus, and soon after that of Joséphine. In June 1795, thanks to a new law, she was allowed to recover the possessions of Alexandre.

As a widow, Joséphine de Beauharnais reportedly was mistress to several leading political figures, supposedly including Paul François Jean Nicolas Barras. She met General Napoleon Bonaparte, who was six years younger than she, in 1795, when their romance began. He wrote in a letter to her in December “I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.” Joséphine was a renowned spendthrift and Barras may have encouraged the relationship with Napoleon in order to get her off his hands.

In January 1796, Napoleon proposed to her and they married on March 9, 1796. Until meeting Napoleon, she had always been Rose. Instead of calling her this name, which he apparently disliked, he called her ‘Joséphine,’ which she adopted from then on. Soon after the wedding, Napoleon left to lead the French army in Italy, but sent her many intensely romantic love letters. Many of his letters are still intact today, while very few of hers have been found; it is not known whether this is due to their having been lost or to their initial scarcity.

Joséphine had a pug named Fortune, and he was used by Joséphine to send Napoleon secret messages. It is also said that on their wedding night Napoleon refused to allow Fortune to sleep with them in the bed, and Fortune then bit him. Joséphine said, “If the pug doesn’t sleep in our bed, neither do I!” From then on, Napoleon shared his bed with Joséphine and her pug.

Joséphine, less in love than Napoleon, is rumoured to have begun an affair with high society playboy Hippolyte Charles in 1796. There is no way of knowing whether or not this is the case, but regardless of the truth of the matter, the rumours so infuriated and hurt Napoleon that his love changed entirely. Around this time he took as his own mistress Pauline Bellisle Foures, the wife of a junior officer who became known as “Napoleon’s Cleopatra”, the affair having begun during the Egyptian campaign of 1798. The relationship between Joséphine and Napoleon was never the same after her affair. His letters became less loving. No subsequent lovers of Joséphine are recorded, but Napoleon continued to take on mistresses. In 1804 he said “power is my mistress.”


Shortly before their coronation, there was an incident at the Château de Saint-Cloud that nearly sundered the marriage between the two. Josephine caught Napoleon in the bedroom of her lady-in-waiting, Elisabeth de Vaudey, and Napoleon threatened to divorce her as she had not produced an heir. This was impossible for Joséphine, who was infertile, due either to the stresses of her imprisonment during the Terror triggering menopause or to injuries she suffered in a fall from a collapsing balcony in 1799. Eventually, however, through the efforts of Joséphine’s daughter Hortense, the two were reconciled and Napoleon and Joséphine were crowned Emperor and Empress of the French in 1804 in the Notre-Dame cathedral.

When it was clear they would not have children, she agreed to be divorced so he could remarry in the hopes of having an heir to succeed him. The divorce took place on 10 January 1810.

On 11 March 1810, Napoleon married Marie Louise of Austria by proxy; the formal ceremony took place at the Louvre on 1 April. They had one child, Napoleon II of France, who was born in 1811.

After her divorce, Joséphine lived at the Château de Malmaison, near Paris. She remained on good terms with Napoleon, who once said that the only thing to come between them was her debts.

When she died in 1814, she was buried not far from Malmaison, at the St. Pierre and St. Paul church in Rueil. Her daughter Hortense is interred near her.

Napoleon claimed to a friend, whilst in exile on Saint Helena, that “I was really in love with Josephine, but I did not respect her.” Despite their numerous affairs, eventual divorce, and Napoleon’s remarrying, the Emperor’s last words on the Island of St. Helena were “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Josephine.”

Hortense’s son became Napoleon III of France. Her granddaughter Josephine, daughter of Eugène, married King Oscar I of Sweden, the son of Napoleon’s one-time fiancée, Désirée Clary. Through her, Josephine is a direct ancestor of the present heads of the royal houses of Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden.

From Wikipedia The Online Encyclopedia.

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George III: King of Great Britain and Ireland

I had just left off writing and put on my things for walking to Alton, when Anna and her friend Harriot called in their way thither, so we went together. Their business was to provide mourning against the King’s death, and my mother has had a bombasin bought for her. I am not sorry to be back again, for the young ladies had a great deal to do, and without much method in doing it.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 6, 1811

George III was king of England for Jane Austen’s entire life. When incapacitated by illness in 1811 (with his death predicted at every turn) power was transferred from the King to the Prince of Wales, thereby making the future George IV Regent and giving the era the name “The Regency”. In reality, George III would linger on for another nine years, outliving Jane Austen, herself, who died in 1817.

George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) (New Style dates) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. He was concurrently Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and thus Elector (and later King) of Hanover. The Electorate became the Kingdom of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, and the first of Hanover to be born in Britain and speak English as his first language. In fact, he never visited Germany.

It was during George III’s reign that Great Britain lost many of its colonies in North America in the wake of the American Revolution. These colonies would eventually become the United States. Also during his reign the realms of Great Britain and Ireland were joined together to form the United Kingdom.

Later in his reign George III suffered from recurrent and, eventually, permanent mental illness. This baffled medical science at the time, although it is now generally thought that he suffered from the blood disease porphyria. Recently, owing to studies showing high levels of the poison arsenic in King George’s hair, arsenic is also thought to be a possible cause of King George’s insanity and health problems. After a final relapse in 1810, George’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. Upon George’s death, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father as George IV.

 

Early Life

His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales was born in London at Norfolk House and was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the grandson of George II. Prince George’s mother was Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. As Prince George was born two months premature and was thought unlikely to survive, he was baptised the same day by the Rector of St James’s. He was publicly baptised by the Bishop of Oxford, Thomas Secker, at Norfolk House on 4 July 1738 (New Style). His godparents were the King of Sweden (for whom Lord Baltimore stood proxy), the Duke of Saxe-Gotha (for whom the Duke of Chandos stood proxy) and the Queen of Prussia (for whom Lady Charlotte Edwin, a daughter of the Duke of Hamilton, stood proxy).

George grew into a healthy child but his grandfather George II disliked the Prince of Wales and took little interest in his grandchildren. However, in 1751 the Prince of Wales died unexpectedly from a lung injury, and Prince George became heir apparent to the throne. He inherited one of his father’s titles and became the Duke of Edinburgh. Now more interested in his grandson, three weeks later the King created George Prince of Wales. In the spring of 1756, as George approached his eighteenth birthday, the King offered him a grand establishment at St James’s Palace, but George refused the offer, guided by his mother and her confidante, Lord Bute, who would later serve as Prime Minister. George’s mother, now the Dowager Princess of Wales, mistrusted her father-in-law and preferred to keep George separate from his company.

Marriage

In 1759 George was smitten with Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, but Lord Bute advised against the match and George abandoned his thoughts of marriage. “I am born for the happiness and misery of a great nation,” he wrote, “and consequently must often act contrary to my passion.” Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Princess Sophia Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother.

The following year, George inherited the Crown when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on 25 October 1760. The search for a suitable wife intensified. On 8 September 1761, the King married in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he met on their wedding day. A fortnight later, both were crowned at Westminster Abbey. George remarkably never took a mistress (in contrast with both his Hanoverian predecessors and his sons), and the couple enjoyed a genuinely happy marriage. They had 15 children — nine sons and six daughters.

Early Reign

The first few years of George’s reign were marked by political instability, largely generated as a result of disagreements over the Seven Years’ War. The favouritism which George initially showed towards Tory ministers led to his denunciation by the Whigs as an autocrat in the manner of Charles I. In May 1762, George replaced the incumbent Whig ministry of the Duke of Newcastle with one led by the Tory Lord Bute. The following year, after concluding the Peace of Paris ending the war, Lord Bute resigned, allowing the Whigs under George Grenville to return to power. Later that year, the British government under George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that placed a boundary upon the westward expansion of the American colonies. The Proclamation’s goal was to force colonists to negotiate with the Native Americans for the lawful purchase of the land and, therefore, to reduce the costly frontier warfare that had erupted over land conflicts. The Proclamation Line, as it came to be known, was extremely unpopular with the Americans and ultimately became another wedge between the colonists and the British government that would eventually lead to war. With the American colonists generally unburdened by British taxes, the government found it increasingly difficult to pay for the defence of the colonies against native uprisings and the possibility of French incursions. In 1765, Grenville introduced the Stamp Act, which levied a stamp duty on all documents in the British colonies in North America. Meanwhile, the King had become exasperated at Grenville’s attempts to reduce the King’s prerogatives, and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade William Pitt the Elder to accept the office of Prime Minister. After a brief illness, which may have presaged his illnesses to come, George settled on Lord Rockingham to form a ministry, and dismissed Grenville.

Lord Rockingham, with the support of Pitt, repealed Grenville’s unpopular Stamp Act, but his government was weak and he was replaced in 1766 by Pitt, whom George created Earl of Chatham. The actions of Lord Chatham and George III in repealing the Act were so popular in America that statues of them both were erected in New York City. Lord Chatham fell ill in 1767, allowing the Duke of Grafton to take over government, although he did not formally become Prime Minister until 1768. His government disintegrated in 1770, allowing the Tories to return to power.

The government of the new Prime Minister, Lord North, was chiefly concerned with discontent in America. To assuage American opinion most of the custom duties were withdrawn, with the exception of the tea duty, which in George’s words was “one tax to keep up the right [to levy taxes]”. In 1773, a Boston mob threw 342 crates of tea, costing approximately £10,000, into Boston Harbour as a political protest, an event that became known as the Boston tea party. In Britain, opinion hardened against the colonists, with Chatham now agreeing with North that the destruction of the tea was “certainly criminal”. Lord North introduced the Punitive Acts, known as the Coercive Acts or the Intolerable Acts by the colonists: the Port of Boston was shut down and legislative elections in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay were suspended. Up to this point, in the words of Professor Peter Thomas, George’s “hopes were centred on a political solution, and he always bowed to his cabinet’s opinions even when sceptical of their success. The detailed evidence of the years from 1763 to 1775 tends to exonerate George III from any real responsibility for the American Revolution.”

American Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War began when armed conflict between British regulars and colonial militiamen broke out in New England in April 1775. A month later, delegates of the thirteen British colonies drafted a peace proposal known as the Olive Branch Petition. The proposal was quickly rejected in London because fighting had already erupted. A year later, on July 4, 1776 (American Independence Day), the colonies declared their independence from the Crown and became a new nation, the “United States of America”. The Declaration was a long list of grievances against the British King, legislature, and populace. Amongst George’s other offences, the Declaration charged, “He has abdicated Government here… He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.” George was indignant when he learned of the opinions of the colonists. In the war the British captured New York City in 1776, but the grand strategic plan of invading from Canada failed with the surrender of the British Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. In 1778, France (Great Britain’s chief rival) signed a treaty of friendship with the new United States. Lord North asked to transfer power to Lord Chatham, whom he thought more capable. George, however, would hear nothing of such suggestions; he suggested that Chatham serve as a subordinate minister in Lord North’s administration. Chatham refused to cooperate, and died later in the same year. Great Britain was then at war with France, and in 1779 it was also at war with Spain.

George III obstinately tried to keep Great Britain at war with the rebels in America, despite the opinions of his own ministers. Lord Gower and Lord Weymouth both resigned rather than suffer the indignity of being associated with the war. Lord North advised George III that his (North’s) opinion matched that of his ministerial colleagues, but stayed in office. Eventually, George gave up hope of subduing America by more armies. “It was a joke,” he said, “to think of keeping Pennsylvania”. There was no hope of ever recovering New England. But the King was determined “never to acknowledge the independence of the Americans, and to punish their contumacy by the indefinite prolongation of a war which promised to be eternal.” His plan was to keep the 30,000 men garrisoned in New York, Rhode Island, in Canada, and in Florida; other forces would attack the French and Spanish in the West Indies. To punish the Americans the King planned to destroy their coasting-trade, bombard their ports, sack and burn towns along the coast (like New London, Connecticut), and turn loose the Indians to attack civilians in frontier settlements. These operations, the King felt, would inspire the Loyalists; would splinter the Congress; and “would keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse” and they would beg to return to his authority. The plan meant destruction for the Loyalists and loyal Indians, and indefinite prolongation of a costly war, as well as the risk of disaster as the French and Spanish were assembling an armada to invade the British isles and seize London.

The surrender of British Major General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, 1781

In 1781, the news of Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at the Siege of Yorktown reached London; Lord North’s parliamentary support ebbed away and he subsequently resigned in 1782. After Lord North persuaded the king against abdicating, George III finally accepted the defeat in North America, and authorised the negotiation of a peace. The Treaty of Paris and the associated Treaty of Versailles were ratified in 1783. The former treaty provided for the recognition of the United States by Great Britain. The latter required Great Britain to give up Florida to Spain and to grant access to the waters of Newfoundland to France. When John Adams was appointed American Minister to Britain in 1785, George had become resigned to the new relationship between his country and the United States, “I was the last to consent to the separation; but” he told Adams, “I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.”

With the collapse of Lord North’s ministry in 1782, the Whig Lord Rockingham became Prime Minister for the second time, but died within months. The King then appointed Lord Shelburne to replace him. Charles James Fox, however, refused to serve under Shelburne, and demanded the appointment of the Duke of Portland. In 1783, the House of Commons forced Lord Shelburne from office and his government was replaced by the Fox-North Coalition. The Duke of Portland became Prime Minister; Fox and Lord North, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary respectively, really held power, with Portland acting as a figurehead.

George III was distressed by the attempts to force him to appoint ministers not of his liking, but the Portland ministry quickly built up a majority in the House of Commons, and could not easily be displaced. He was, however, extremely dissatisfied when the government introduced the India Bill, which proposed to reform the government of India by transferring political power from the Honourable East India Company to Parliamentary commissioners. Immediately after the House of Commons passed it, George authorised Lord Temple to inform the House of Lords that he would regard any peer who voted for the bill as his enemy. The bill was rejected by the Lords; three days later, the Portland ministry was dismissed, and William Pitt the Younger was appointed Prime Minister, with Temple as his Secretary of State. On 17 December 1783, Parliament voted in favour of a motion condemning the influence of the monarch in parliamentary voting as a “high crime” and Temple was forced to resign. Temple’s departure destabilised the government, and three months later the government lost its majority and Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave Pitt a firm mandate.

For George III, Pitt’s appointment was a great victory. The King felt that the scenario proved that he still had the power to appoint Prime Ministers without having to rely on any parliamentary group. Throughout Pitt’s ministry, George eagerly supported many of his political aims. To aid Pitt, George created new peers at an unprecedented rate. The new peers flooded the House of Lords and allowed Pitt to maintain a firm majority. During Pitt’s ministry, George III was extremely popular. The public supported the exploratory voyages to the Pacific Ocean that he sanctioned. George also aided the Royal Academy with large grants from his private funds. The British people admired their King for remaining faithful to his wife, unlike the two previous Hanoverian monarchs. Great advances were made in fields such as in science and industry.

However, by this time George III’s health was deteriorating. He suffered from a mental illness, now widely believed to be a symptom of porphyria. A study of the King’s hair samples reveal high levels of arsenic, a possible trigger for the disease. The King may have previously suffered a brief episode of the disease in 1765, but a longer episode began in the summer of 1788. George was sufficiently sane to prorogue Parliament on 25 September 1788, but his condition worsened and in November he became seriously deranged, sometimes speaking for many hours without pause. With his doctors largely at a loss to explain his illness, spurious stories about his condition spread, such as the claim that he shook hands with a tree in the mistaken belief that it was the King of Prussia. When Parliament reconvened in November, the King could not, as was customary, communicate to them the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. According to long-established practice, Parliament could not begin the transaction of business until the King had made the Speech from the Throne. Parliament, however, ignored the custom and began to debate provisions for a regency.

Charles James Fox and William Pitt wrangled over the terms of which individual was entitled to take over government during the illness of the Sovereign. Although both parties agreed that it would be most reasonable for George III’s eldest son and heir-apparent, the Prince of Wales, to act as Regent, they disagreed over the basis of a regency. Fox suggested that it was the Prince of Wales’s absolute right to act on his ill father’s behalf; Pitt argued that it was for Parliament to nominate a Regent. Proceedings were further delayed as the authority for Parliament to merely meet was questioned, as the session had not been formally opened by the Sovereign. Pitt proposed a remedy based on an obscure legal fiction. As was well-established at the time, the Sovereign could delegate many of his functions to Lords Commissioners by letters patent, which were validated by the attachment of the Great Seal. It was proposed that the custodian of the Great Seal, the Lord Chancellor, affix the Seal without the consent of the Sovereign. Although such an action would be unlawful, it would not be possible to question the validity of the letters patent, as the presence of the Great Seal would be deemed conclusive in court. George III’s second son, the Prince Frederick, Duke of York, denounced Pitt’s proposal as “unconstitutional and illegal”. Nonetheless, the Lords Commissioners were appointed and then opened Parliament. In February 1789, the Regency Bill, authorising the Prince of Wales to act as Prince Regent, was introduced and passed in the House of Commons. But before the House of Lords could pass the bill, George III recovered from his illness under the treatment of Dr Francis Willis. He confirmed the actions of the Lords Commissioners as valid, but resumed full control of government.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

After George recovered from his illness, his popularity, and that of Pitt, greatly increased at the expense of Fox and the Prince of Wales. The French Revolution, in which the French monarchy had been overthrown, worried many British landowners. France subsequently declared war on Great Britain in 1793, and George soon represented the British resistance. George allowed Pitt to increase taxes, raise armies, and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the war attempt.

As well-prepared as Great Britain may have been, France was stronger. The First Coalition (which included Austria, Prussia, and Spain) was defeated in 1798. The Second Coalition (which included Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire) was defeated in 1800. Only Great Britain was left fighting Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul of the French Republic. Perhaps surprisingly, a failed assassination attempt of May 15, 1800 was not political in origin but motivated by the religious delusions of his assailant, James Hadfield, who shot at the King in the Drury Lane Theatre during the playing of the national anthem.

Soon after 1800, a brief lull in hostilities allowed Pitt to concentrate on Ireland, where there had been an uprising in 1798. Parliament then passed the Act of Union 1800, which, on 1 January 1801, united Great Britain and Ireland into a single nation, known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George used the opportunity to drop the claim to the Throne of France, which English and British Sovereigns had maintained since the reign of Edward III. It was suggested that George adopt the title “Emperor of the British and Hanoverian Dominions”, but he refused. A. G. Stapleton writes that George III “felt that his true dignity consisted in his being known to Europe and the world by the appropriated and undisputed style belonging to the British Crown.”

As part of his Irish policy, Pitt planned to remove certain legal disabilities that applied to Roman Catholics after the Union. George III claimed that to emancipate Catholics would be to violate his coronation oath, in which Sovereigns promise to maintain Protestantism. The King declared, “Where is the power on Earth to absolve me from the observance of every sentence of that oath, particularly the one requiring me to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion? … No, no, I had rather beg my bread from door to door throughout Europe, than consent to any such measure. I can give up my crown and retire from power. I can quit my palace and live in a cottage. I can lay my head on a block and lose my life, but I cannot break my oath.” Faced with opposition to his religious reform policies from both the King and the British public, Pitt threatened to resign. At about the same time, the King suffered a relapse of his previous illness, which he blamed on worry over the Catholic question. On 14 March 1801, Pitt was formally replaced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington. As Addington was his close friend, Pitt remained as a private advisor. Addington’s ministry was particularly unremarkable, as almost no reforms were made or measures passed. In fact, the nation was strongly against the very idea of reform, having just witnessed the bloody French Revolution. Although they called for passive behaviour in the United Kingdom, the public wanted strong action in Europe, but Addington failed to deliver. In October 1801, he made peace with the French, and in 1802 signed the Treaty of Amiens.

George did not consider the peace with France as “real”; in his view it was an “experiment”. In 1803, the two nations once again declared war on each other. In 1804, George was again affected by his recurrent illness; on his recovery, he discovered that public opinion distrusted Addington to lead the nation in war, and instead favoured Pitt. Pitt sought to appoint Fox to his ministry, but George III refused as the King disliked Fox, who had encouraged the Prince of Wales to lead an extravagant and expensive life. Lord Grenville perceived an injustice to Fox, and refused to join the new ministry.

Pitt concentrated on forming a coalition with Austria, Russia, and Sweden. The Third Coalition, however, met the same fate as the First and Second Coalitions, collapsing in 1805. An invasion by Napoleon seemed imminent, but the possibility was extinguished after Admiral Lord Nelson’s famous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

The setbacks in Europe took a toll on William Pitt’s health. Pitt died in 1806, once again reopening the question of who should serve in the ministry. Lord Grenville became Prime Minister, and his “Ministry of All the Talents” included Charles James Fox. The King was conciliatory towards Fox, after being forced to capitulate over his appointment. After Fox’s death in September 1806, the King and ministry were in open conflict. The ministry had proposed a measure whereby Roman Catholics would be allowed to serve in all ranks of the Armed Forces. George not only instructed them to drop the measure, but also to make an agreement to never set up such a measure again. The ministers agreed to drop the measure then pending, but refused to bind themselves in the future. In 1807, they were dismissed and replaced by the Duke of Portland as the nominal Prime Minister, with actual power being held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Spencer Perceval. Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave the ministry a strong majority in the House of Commons. George III made no further major political decisions during his reign; the replacement of the Duke of Portland by Perceval in 1809 was of little actual significance.

In 1810, already virtually blind with cataracts and in pain from rheumatism, George III became dangerously ill. In his view the malady had been triggered by the stress he suffered at the death of his youngest and favourite daughter, Princess Amelia. As the Princess’s nurse reported, “the scenes of distress and crying every day…were melancholy beyond description.” By 1811, George III had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death. He accepted the need for the Regency Act 1811, to which the Royal Assent was granted by the Lords Commissioners, appointed under the same irregular procedure as was adopted in 1788. The Prince of Wales acted as Regent for the remainder of George III’s life.

Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812 (the only British Prime Minister to have suffered such a fate) and was replaced by Lord Liverpool. Liverpool oversaw British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The subsequent Congress of Vienna led to significant territorial gains for Hanover, which was upgraded from an electorate to a kingdom.

Meanwhile, George’s health deteriorated, eventually he became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He never knew that he was declared King of Hanover in 1814, or of the death of his wife in 1818. Over Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. On 29 January 1820, he died at Windsor Castle. His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him. His death came six days after that of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent. George III was buried on 15 February in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

George was succeeded by two of his sons George IV and William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to their niece, Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover and the only legitimate child of the Duke of Kent.

George lived for 81 years and 239 days and reigned for 59 years and 96 days — in each case, more than any other English or British monarch until that point. This record has been surpassed only twice, by George’s granddaughter Queen Victoria and by Elizabeth II, who was 81 years old as of 2007. George III’s reign was longer than the reigns of all three of his immediate predecessors (Queen Anne, King George I and King George II) combined.

While tremendously popular in Britain, George was hated by rebellious American colonists (approximately one-third of the population in the colonies). The grievances in the United States Declaration of Independence were presented as “repeated injuries and usurpations” that he had committed to establish “an absolute Tyranny” over the colonies. The Declaration’s wording has contributed to the American public’s perception of George as a tyrant. Another factor that exacerbated American resentment was the King’s failure to intercede personally on the colonists’ behalf after the Olive Branch Petition. George was hated in Ireland for the atrocities carried out in his name during the suppression of the 1798 rebellion. British historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Trevelyan, promoted hostile interpretations of George III’s life, however, scholars of the later twentieth century, such as Butterfield and Pares, and Macalpine and Hunter, are more inclined to be sympathetic, seeing him as a victim of circumstance and illness. Today, the long reign of George III is perceived as a continuation of the reduction in the political power of monarchy, and its growth as the embodiment of national morality.

The British Agricultural Revolution reached its peak under George III. The period provided for unprecedented growth in the rural population, which in turn provided much of the workforce for the concurrent Industrial Revolution. George III has been nicknamed Farmer George, for “his plain, homely, thrifty manners and tastes” and because of his passionate interest in agriculture.

From Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

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Napoleon I of France

“The mightiest breath of life which ever animated human clay. ”
Chateaubriand

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution, and the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from 11 November 1799 to 18 May 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des Français) and King of Italy under the name Napoleon I from 18 May 1804 to 6 April 1814, and again briefly from 20 March to 22 June 1815.

Napoleon developed a number of innovative military strategies that led to many successful campaigns and surprising victories, as well as some spectacular failures. Over the c=ourse of little more than a decade, he fought virtually every European power and acquired control of most of the western and central mainland of Europe by conquest or alliance until his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, followed by defeat at the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in October 1813, which led to his abdication several months later. He staged a comeback known as the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours), but was again defeated decisively at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium on June 18, 1815, followed shortly afterwards by his surrender to the British and his exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he died.

Aside from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code. He is considered to have been one of the “enlightened despots”.

Napoleon appointed several members of the Bonaparte family as monarchs. Although their reigns did not survive his downfall, a nephew, Napoleon III, ruled France later in the nineteenth centur

Early Life and Military Career

He was born Napoleone Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione) in the city of Ajaccio on Corsica on 15 August 1769, only one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon Bonaparte.

His family was of minor Corsican nobility. His father, Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI of France in 1778, where he remained for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon’s childhood was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino. Her firm discipline helped restrain the rambunctious Napoleon as a boy, nicknamed Rabullione (the “meddler” or “disrupter”).

Napoleon’s noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. At age ten, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes, on 15 May 1779. He had to learn to speak French before entering the school, which he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life, and never learned to spell properly. He earned high marks in mathematics and geography, and passable grades in other subjects. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the two year course of study in only one year. Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire. Upon graduation in September, 1785, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery, and took up his new duties in January 1786, at the age of 16.

Napoleon served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 (although he took nearly two years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period). He spent most of the next several years on Corsica, where a complex three-way struggle was played out among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction, and gained the position of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family were forced to flee to France in June 1793.

Through the help of fellow Corsican Saliceti, he was appointed as artillery commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen in revolt against the Terror and was occupied by British troops. He formulated a successful plan: he placed guns at Point l’Eguillete, threatening the British ships in the harbour with destruction, thereby forcing them to evacuate. A successful assault of the position, during which Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh, led to the recapture of the city and a promotion to brigadier-general. His actions brought him to the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, and he became a close associate of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. As a result, he was briefly imprisoned following the fall of the elder Robespierre in 1794, but was released within two weeks.

The ‘Whiff of Grapeshot

In 1795, Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries organized an armed protest against the National Convention on 3 October. Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, who later became his brother-in-law. He utilized the artillery the following day to repel the attackers. He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a “whiff of grapeshot”. This triumph earned him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory, particularly that of its leader, Barras. Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras’s former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he married on March 9, 1796.

The Italian Campaign

Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French “Army of Italy”, leading it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Lodi, he gained the nickname of “The Little Corporal” (le petit caporal), a term reflecting his camaraderie with his soldiers, all of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States. Because Pope Pius VI had protested the execution of Louis XVI, France retaliated by annexing two small papal territories. Bonaparte ignored the Directory’s order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. It was not until the next year that General Berthier captured Rome and took Pius VI prisoner on February 20. The pope died of illness while in captivity. In early 1797, Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced that power to sue for peace. The resulting Treaty of Campo Formio gave France control of most of northern Italy, along with the Low Countries and Rhineland, but a secret clause promised Venice to Austria. Bonaparte then marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending over 1,000 years of independence. Later in 1797, Bonaparte organized many of the French dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.

His remarkable series of military triumphs were a result, in part, of his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his infantry. As he described it: “I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning.” Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian campaign depict his use of the world’s first telecommunications system, the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception. He often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments.

While campaigning in Italy, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as well. In May 1797 he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris, entitled Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux. Elections in mid-1797 gave the royalist party increased power, alarming Barras and his allies on the Directory. The royalists, in turn, began attacking Bonaparte for looting Italy and overstepping his authority in dealings with the Austrians. Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d’etat and purge the royalists on 4 September (18 Fructidor). This left Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent on Bonaparte’s military command to stay there. Bonaparte himself proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, then returned to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force in government, far more popular than any of the Directors.

The Egyptian Expedition

In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed an expedition to colonize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain’s access to India. The Directory, although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from the centre of power.

An unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of a large group of scientists assigned to the invading French force: among the other discoveries that resulted, the Rosetta Stone was found. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered by some an indication of Bonaparte’s devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda obfuscating the true imperialist motives of the invasion. In a largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations casting himself as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praising the precepts of Islam.

Bonaparte’s expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June 9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding (temporarily) pursuit by the Royal Navy. Although Bonaparte had massive success against the native Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids (his 25,000 man strong invading force defeated a 100,000 man army), his fleet was largely destroyed by Nelson at The Battle of the Nile, so that Bonaparte became land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated nationalist uprisings.

In early 1799 he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria, now modern Israel, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease and poor supplies. He was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was forced to retreat to Egypt in May. On 25 July, he defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir. Eventually Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Egypt in 1801, under constant British and Ottoman attacks.

Ruler of France

While in Egypt, Bonaparte had kept a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly. On 23 August, he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading French coastal ports.

Although he was later accused by political opponents of abandoning his troops, his departure actually had been authorized by the Directory, which had suffered a series of military defeats to the forces of the Second Coalition, and feared an invasion.

By the time he returned to Paris in October, the military situation had improved thanks to several French victories. The Republic was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was more unpopular with the French public than ever.

Bonaparte was approached by one of the Directors, Sieyès, seeking his support for a coup to overthrow the constitution. The plot included Bonaparte’s brother Lucien, then serving as speaker of the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, and Talleyrand. On 9 November (18 Brumaire), and the following day, troops led by Bonaparte seized control and dispersed the legislative councils, leaving a rump to name Bonaparte, Sieyès, and Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government. Although Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmanoeuvred by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul. This made him the most powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which made him First Consul for life.

The First Consul

Bonaparte instituted several lasting reforms including centralized administration of the départements, higher education, a tax system, a central bank, law codes, and road and sewer systems. He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, seeking to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime. His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code or Civil Code, has importance to this day in many countries. The Code was prepared by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, who held the office Second Consul from 1799 to 1804; Bonaparte, however, participated actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised the drafts. Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although contemporary standards may consider these procedures as favoring the prosecution, when enacted they sought to preserve personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts.

An Interlude of Peace

In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered during his absence in Egypt. He and his troops crossed the Alps in spring (although he actually rode a mule, not the white charger on which David famously depicted him). While the campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually routed in June at Marengo, leading to an armistice. Napoleon’s brother Joseph, who was leading the peace negotiations in Lunéville, reported that due to British backing for Austria, Austria would not recognize France’s newly gained territory. As negotiations became more and more fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result the Treaty of Lunéville was signed in February 1801, under which the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased; the British signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, which set terms for peace, including the division of several colonial territories.

The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The “legitimate” monarchies of Europe were reluctant to recognize a republic, fearing that the ideas of the revolution might be exported to them. In Britain, the brother of Louis XVI was welcomed as a state guest although officially Britain recognized France as a republic. Britain failed to evacuate Malta and Egypt as promised, and protested against France’s annexation of Piedmont, and Napoleon’s Act of Mediation in Switzerland (although neither of these areas was covered by the Treaty of Amiens).

In 1803, Bonaparte faced a major setback when an army he sent to reconquer Santo Domingo and establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Recognizing that the French possessions on the mainland of North America would now be indefensible, and facing imminent war with Britain, he sold them to the United States—the Louisiana Purchase—for less than three cents per acre ($7.40/km²). The dispute over Malta provided the pretext for Britain to declare war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.

Emporor of France

In January 1804, Bonaparte’s police uncovered an assassination plot against him, ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbons. In retaliation, Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Duc d’Enghien, in a violation of the sovereignty of Baden. After a hurried secret trial, the Duke was executed on 21 March. Bonaparte then used this incident to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France, with himself as Emperor, on the theory that a Bourbon restoration would be impossible once the Bonapartist succession was entrenched in the constitution.

Napoleon crowned himself Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Claims that he seized the crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII during the ceremony in order to avoid subjecting himself to the authority of the pontiff are apocryphal; in fact, the coronation procedure had been agreed upon in advance. After the Imperial regalia had been blessed by the Pope, Napoleon crowned himself before crowning his wife Joséphine as Empress. Then at Milan’s cathedral on 26 May 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

By 1805 Britain instigated a Third Coalition against Napoleon. Napoleon knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and therefore arranged to lure the British fleet away from the English Channel so that a joint Spanish and French fleet could regain control of the Channel for twenty-four hours, enough for French armies to cross to England. However, with Austria and Russia preparing an invasion of France and its allies, he had to change his plans and turn his attention to the continent. The newly born Grande Armee secretly marched towards Germany. On 20 October 1805 it surprised the Austrians at Ulm. The next day, however, at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), Britain gained lasting control of the seas. A few weeks later, Napoleon secured a major victory against Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (2 December), forcing Austria yet again to sue for peace.

A Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806). He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland, and was attacked at the bloody Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807. After a major victory at Friedland he signed a treaty at Tilsit in East Prussia with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, dividing Europe between the two powers. He placed puppet rulers on the thrones of German states, including his brother Jerome as king of the new state of Westphalia. In the French part of Poland, he established the Duchy of Warsaw with King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813 Napoleon also served as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.

Ludwig van Beethoven initially dedicated his third symphony, the Eroica (Italian for “heroic”), to Napoleon in the belief that the general would sustain the democratic and republican ideals of the French Revolution, but in 1804, as Napoleon’s imperial ambitions became clear, renamed the symphony as the “Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il Sovvenire di un grand Uomo”, or in English, “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”.

The Peninsular War

In addition to military endeavors against Britain, Napoleon also waged economic war, attempting to enforce a Europe-wide commercial boycott of Britain called the “Continental System”. Although this action hurt the British economy, it also hurt the French economy and was not a decisive factor.

Portugal did not comply with this Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon sought Spain’s support for an invasion of Portugal. When Spain refused, Napoleon invaded Spain as well. After mixed results were produced by his generals, Napoleon himself took command and defeated the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then defeated a British army sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast and forcing withdrawal from Iberia (in which its commander, Sir John Moore, was killed). Napoleon installed one of his marshals and brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, as the King of Naples, and his brother Joseph Bonaparte, as King of Spain.

The Spanish, inspired by nationalism and the Catholic Church, and angry over atrocities committed by French troops, rose in revolt. At the same time, Austria unexpectedly broke its alliance with France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on the Danube and German fronts. A bloody draw ensued at Aspern-Essling (May 21-22, 1809) near Vienna, which was the closest Napoleon ever came to a defeat in a battle with more or less equal numbers on each side. After a two month interval, the principal French and Austrian armies engaged again near Vienna resulting in a French victory at Battle of Wagram (6 July).

Following this a new peace was signed between Austria and France and in the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie-Louise married Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.

Invasion of Russia

Although the Congress of Erfurt had sought to preserve the Russo-French alliance, by 1811 tensions were again increasing between the two nations. Although Alexander and Napoleon had a friendly personal relationship since their first meeting in 1807, Alexander had been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break off the alliance with France.

The first sign that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing of the application of the Continental System in Russia, angering Napoleon. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested the possibility of an invasion of the French Empire (and the recapture of Poland).

Large numbers of troops were deployed to the Polish borders (reaching over 300,000 out of the total Russian army strength of 410,000). After receiving the initial reports of Russian war preparations, Napoleon began expanding his Grande Armée to a massive force of over 600,000 men (despite already having over 300,000 men deployed in Iberia). Napoleon ignored repeated advice against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared his forces for an offensive campaign.

Napoleon, in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, termed the war the “Second Polish War” (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria). Polish patriots wanted the Russian part of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, although this was rejected by Napoleon, who feared it would bring Prussia and Austria into the war against France. Napoleon also rejected requests to free the Russian serfs, fearing this might provoke a conservative reaction in his rear.

The Russians under Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly were unable to successfully defeat Napoleon’s huge, well-organized army and retreated instead. A brief attempt at resistance was offered at Smolensk (August 16-17), but the Russians were defeated in a series of battles in the area and Napoleon resumed the advance. The Russians then repeatedly avoided battle with the Grande Armée, although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically hesitated to attack when the opportunity presented itself.

Criticized over his tentative strategy of continual retreat, Barclay was replaced by Kutuzov, although he continued Barclay’s strategy. Kutuzov eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September. Losses were nearly even for both armies, with slightly more casualties on the Russian side, after what may have been the bloodiest day of battle in history – the Battle of Borodino (see article for comparisons to the first day of the Battle of the Somme). Although Napoleon was far from defeated, the Russian army had accepted, and withstood, the major battle the French hoped would be decisive. After the battle, the Russian army withdrew, and retreated past Moscow.

The Russians retreated and Napoleon was able to enter Moscow, assuming that the fall of Moscow would end the war and that Alexander I would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city’s military governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, fearing loss of control back in France, Napoleon left Moscow.

Napoleon's Retreat From Moscow by Adolf Northern
Napoleon's Retreat From Moscow by Adolf Northern

The French suffered greatly in the course of a ruinous retreat; the Army had begun as over 650,000 frontline troops, but in the end fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River (November 1812) to escape. In total French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand civilian deaths.

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to the German states to rejoin the expanding force there – numbering 130,000 with the reinforcements from Poland. This force continued to expand, with Napoleon aiming for a force of 400,000 French troops supported by a quarter of a million German troops.

Heartened by Napoleon’s losses in Russia, Prussia soon rejoined the Coalition that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and soon inflicted a series of defeats on the Allies culminating in the Battle of Dresden on August 26-27, 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000).

Despite these initial successes, however, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the Battle of Nations (October 16-19) at Leipzig. Some of the German states switched sides in the midst of the battle, further undermining the French position. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost both sides a combined total of over 120,000 casualties.

After this Napoleon withdrew in an orderly fashion back into France, but his army was now reduced to less than 100,000 against more than half a million Allied troops. The French were now surrounded (with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the Coalition forces moving in from the German states) and vastly outnumbered. The French armies could only delay an inevitable defeat.

Exile in Elba, Return and Waterloo

Paris was occupied on March 31, 1814. At the urging of his marshals, Napoleon abdicated on 6 April in favour of his son. The Allies, however, demanded unconditional surrender and Napoleon abdicated again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean 20 km off the coast of Italy.

In France, the royalists had taken over and restored King Louis XVIII to power. Separated from his wife and son (who had come under Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours that he was about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic, Napoleon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the mainland on 1 March 1815. King Louis XVIII sent the Fifth Regiment, led by Marshal Michel Ney who had formerly served under Napoleon in Russia, to meet him at Grenoble. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within earshot of Ney’s forces, shouted “Soldiers of the Fifth, you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor, he may do so now”. Following a brief silence, the soldiers shouted “Vive L’Empereur!” and marched with Napoleon to Paris. He arrived on 20 March, quickly raising a regular army of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000 and governed for a Hundred Days.

Napoléon’s final defeat came at the hands of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815.

Off the port of Rochefort, Napoléon made his formal surrender while on board HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815.

Exile in Saint Helena and Death

Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea) from 15 October 1815. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers, he dictated his memoirs and criticized his captors. Sick for much his time on Saint Helena, Napoleon died, on 5 May 1821. His last words were: “France, the Army, head of the Army, Joséphine”.

Napoléon had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine, but was buried on Saint Helena. In 1840, his remains were taken to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and entombed in Les Invalides, Paris. Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date.

The cause of Napoleon’s death has been greatly disputed. Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon’s personal physician, listed stomach cancer as the reason for Napoleon’s death in his death certificate.

The diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoleon’s valet, have led some (most notably Sten Forshufvud and Ben Weider) to conclude that Napoleon was killed by arsenic poisoning, although whether he was murdered or ingested arsenic in some accidental way (it was used in wallpaper, as a pigment, and in some medicines) is still disputed. In 2001, Pascal Kintz, of the Strasbourg Forensic Institute in France, added credence to this claim with a study of arsenic levels found in a lock of Napoleon’s hair preserved after his death that were seven to thirty-eight times higher than normal (although this is disputable, because another use of arsenic at the time of Napoleon’s death was to preserve samples of hair).

Legacy

Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other states eventually followed.

In France, Napoleon is seen by some as having ended lawlessness and disorder in France, and that the Napoleonic Wars also served to export the Revolution to the rest of Europe; the movements of national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably in Italy and Germany, may have been precipitated by the Napoleonic rule of those areas.

The Napoleonic Code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained in force after Napoleon’s defeat. Professor Dieter Langewiesche of the University of Tübingen describes the code as a “revolutionary project” which spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by expanding the right to own property and breaking the back of feudalism. Langewiesche also credits Napoleon with reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire made up of more than 1,000 entities into a more streamlined network of 40 states providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.

In mathematics Napoleon is traditionally given credit for discovering and proving Napoleon’s theorem, although there is no specific evidence that he did so. The theorem states that if equilateral triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle (all outward or all inward), the centres of those equilateral triangles themselves form an equilateral triangle. See the discussion in about the significance of the theorem.

Critics of Napleon argue that his true legacy was a loss of status for France and many needless deaths:

After all, the military record is unquestioned—17 years of wars, perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas colonies lost. And it was all such a great waste, for when the self-proclaimed tête d’armée was done, France’s “losses were permanent” and she “began to slip from her position as the leading power in Europe to second-class status—that was Bonaparte’s true legacy.

Contrary to popular belief (perpetuated by the above-mentioned caricatures), Napoleon was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in Imperial (British) feet, or 1.686 meters, making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 19th century. The metric system was introduced during his lifetime, so it was natural that he would be measured in feet and inches for much of his life. A French inch was 2.71 centimetres, an Imperial inch is 2.54 centimetres. In addition to this miscalculation, his nickname ‘le petit caporal’ adds to the confusion, as non-francophones mistakenly take petit literally as meaning “small”; in fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers. He also surrounded himself with soldiers, his elite guard, who were always six feet tall or taller.

From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, online.

 

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Eliza de Feuillide: Jane Austen’s ‘Outlandish Cousin’

Eliza Hancock was born 22nd December 1761 in Calcutta, India, to her mother Philadelphia Austen and her father Tysoe Saul Hancock, a physician with the East India Company. Philadelphia was George Austen’s sister, making Eliza Jane’s first cousin.

Philadelphia Austen had traveled to India in January 1752 without a dowry and in search of a husband. She met and married Tysoe six months after her arrival. By 1759, they were still childless and it was assumed that this indicated that they had a bad marriage. It was around this time that they moved house, met and befriended Warren Hastings; it was rumored that Philadelphia had been Hasting’s mistress. Eliza, or as she was known in childhood, Betsy, was born two years later and the true identity of her father is still questioned. Regardless of his possible paternity, Hasting’s became Eliza’s godfather, giving her £10,000 in trust, and later took the position of Governor General of India.

In 1768, Eliza and her mother traveled to England whilst her father remained in India. He chose to stay in India in order to finance their lifestyle at the expense of being with his wife and daughter. He died in 1775 and in 1777, Philadelphia took Eliza to live in Paris, France where it was cheaper. They enjoyed a fortunate lifestyle here, often attending royal events and at age 20, Eliza married a French Army captain called Jean-François Capot de Feuillide who became a French count. In 1786, a very pregnant Eliza set out for England to visit the Austen’s but did not make it past Calais before giving birth to a boy, Hastings de Feuillide, who was thought to have learning difficulties. Eliza and Philadelphia continued with the baby and arrived in Steventon just before Christmas 1786. At this time it is thought that Eliza made quite an impression on the young Jane who had just turned 11 years old; she aided Jane to feel comfortable and more confident around strangers. During this visit, Eliza and Jane’s beloved brother Henry became very close and flirted constantly despite Henry being 10 years her junior. Eliza’s husband was guillotined in 1794 during the reign of terror and Eliza, Hastings and Philadelphia returned to live in England at this time.

After settling in London, Eliza married Henry Austen in 1797. During this time Eliza and Jane communicated a lot through letters; they were both well-educated, intelligent and witty and took great delight in observing others and describing how they perceived the world. Eliza had traveled the world and this allowed a maturity in knowledge that no doubt intrigued Jane. From reading Eliza’s existing letters (mainly written to her cousin, Phylly Walter whom she was extremely close to), many historians have been unsure on how to judge the character of Eliza; at times she seems incredibly self- centred and confident but there is certainly also a very caring nature. She once described herself as an ‘outlandish cousin’ which serves to give us an impression of the character of Eliza. She suffered many disappointments and heartaches in life and yet remained very optimistic. Humour was very characteristic of her letters; she once wrote to her cousin Phylly: ‘where the Princess of Wales & myself took an Airing—We were however so unsociable as to go in different Carriages.’

It has also been assumed that she persuaded Henry to go into banking, although she did not live to see this venture become a complete failure. Hastings died in 1801 from what is speculated to have been epilepsy. Twelve years later, 25 April 1813, Eliza died after suffering a long illness. It is known that Jane visited Sloane Street (Eliza and Henry’s home) regularly and helped to nurse her during her final years. Eliza is buried with her mother and son in a cemetery in Hampstead, North London.

Deirdre Le Faye has done a fantastic job in editing Jane Austen’s Letters. Her book is called the 3rd or New Edition as R.W Chapman edited Jane’s letters to provide us with the 1st and 2nd Editions. Through Le Faye’s analysis of Jane Austen and her letters, it has been considered that perhaps Jane may have based the character Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park on Eliza. This notion is based on many facts; including that both Eliza and Mary enjoyed amateur acting throughout life, played the harp and enjoyed life in London in comparison to the country. Jon Spence agreed with this position and developed it further through stating that ‘at last Jane was able to convey her ambiguous feelings about Eliza de Feuillide and the unsettling experience of knowing her.’

We actually have a cross stitch pattern remembering Eliza de Feuillide, have a look here.


This Biography of Eliza de Feuillide was written by Rachel Kingston for the Becoming Jane Fansite. It is adapted here with the author’s permission.

Pic 1: Eliza de Feuillide (and Henry Austen), taken from Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen (2003)

Pic 2: Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters), Eliza (Lucy Cohu), Jane (Anne Hathaway) and Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin)in Becoming Jane.

Pic 3: Eliza (Lucy Cohu) and Henry (Joe Anderson) in Becoming Jane, taken from Jane Austen’s Regency World, issue 26.

Pic 4: There are many books which deal with Jane Austen’s relationship to Eliza, including Dearest Cousin Jane (Jill Pitkeathley), Jane and the Barque of Frailty (Stephanie Barron) and Jane Austen’s ‘Outlandish Cousin’: The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide (Deirdre Le Faye)

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Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

“So prettily done! Just as your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws so well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is, that she seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her shoulders — and it makes one think she must catch cold.”
-Emma

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (Marie Élisabeth Louise; 16 April 1755 – 30 March 1842) was a French painter, and is recognized as the most famous woman painter of the 18th century. Her style is generally considered Rococo and shows interest in the subject of neoclassical painting. Vigée Le Brun cannot be considered a pure Neoclassist, however, in that she creates mostly portraits in Neoclassical dress rather than the History painting. In her choice of color and style while serving as the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette, Vigée Le Brun is purely Rococo.

Early Life

Born in Paris on 16 April 1755, Marie Élisabeth Louise Vigée was the daughter of a portraitist and fan painter, Louis Vigée, from whom she received her first instruction. Her mother was a hairdresser. She was sent to live with relatives in Épernon until the age of 6 when she entered a convent where she remained for five years. Her father died when she was 12 years old following an infection from surgery to remove a fish bone lodged in his throat. In 1768, her mother married a wealthy jeweler, Jacques-Francois Le Sèvre and the family moved to the rue Saint-Honoré close to the Palais Royal. She was later patronised by the wealthy heiress Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, wife of Philippe Égalité. During this period Louise Élisabeth benefited by the advice of Gabriel François Doyen, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Joseph Vernet, and other masters of the period.

By the time she was in her early teens, Louise Élisabeth was painting portraits professionally. After her studio was seized, for practising without a license, she applied to the Académie de Saint Luc, which unwittingly exhibited her works in their Salon. On 25 October 1783, she was made a member of the Académie.

 

Marie Antoinette

On 12 February 1780, Vigée Le Brun gave birth to a daughter, Jeanne Julie Louise, whom she called “Julie”.On 7 August 1775 she married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer. (Her husband’s great uncle was Charles Le Brun, first Director of the French Academy under Louis XIV.) Vigée Le Brun painted portraits of many of the nobility of the day and as her career blossomed, she was invited to the Palace of Versailles to paint Marie Antoinette.

So pleased was the queen that during a period of six years, Vigée Le Brun would paint more than thirty portraits of the queen and her family, leading to her being commonly viewed as the official portraitist of Marie Antoinette. While beneficial during the reign of the Bourbon royals, this label was to prove problematic later.

In 1781 she and her husband toured Flanders and the Netherlands where seeing the works of the Flemish masters inspired her to try new techniques. There, she painted portraits of some of the nobility, including the Prince of Nassau.

On 31 May 1783, Vigée Le Brun was accepted as a member of France’s Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. She submitted numerous portraits along with an allegorical history painting which she considered her morceau de réception—La Paix qui ramène l’Abondance (Peace Bringing Back Prosperity). The Academy did not place her work within an academic category of type of painting—history or portraiture.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard also was admitted on the same day. The admission of Vigée Le Brun was opposed on the grounds that her husband was an art dealer, but eventually they were overruled by an order from Louis XVI because Marie Antoinette put considerable pressure on her husband on behalf of her painter. The admission of more than one woman on the same day to the Académie encouraged comparisons among the works of the women instead of one woman contrasted with the existing members, who were men.

In 1789, she was succeeded as court painter to Marie Antoinette by Alexander Kucharsky.

French Revolution

After the arrest of the royal family during the French Revolution Vigée Le Brun fled France with her young daughter Julie. She lived and worked for some years in Italy, Austria, and Russia, where her experience in dealing with an aristocratic clientele was still useful. In Rome, her paintings met with great critical acclaim and she was elected to the Roman Accademia di San Luca.

In Russia, she was received by the nobility and painted numerous aristocrats including members of the family of Catherine the Great. Although the French aesthetic was widely admired in Russia there remained some cultural differences in what was deemed acceptable. Catherine was not initially happy with Vigée Le Brun’s portrait of her granddaughters, Elena and Alaxandra Pavlovna, due to the area of bare skin the short sleeved gowns revealed. In order to please the Empress, Vigée Le Brun added sleeves giving the work its characteristic look. This tactic seemed effective in pleasing Catherine as she agreed to sit herself for Vigée Le Brun (although Catherine died of a stroke before this work was due to begin).

While in Saint Petersburg, Vigée Le Brun was made a member of the Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Petersburg.

Much to Vigée Le Brun’s dismay, her daughter Julie married a Russian nobleman.

After a sustained campaign by her ex-husband and other family members to have her name removed from the list of counter-revolutionary émigrés, Vigée Le Brun was finally able to return to France during the reign of Emperor Napoleon I. In spite of being no longer labeled as émigrée, her relationship with the new regime was never totally harmonious, as might be expected given that she was a strong royalist and the former portraitist of Marie Antoinette.

Much in demand by the élite of Europe, she visited England at the beginning of the 19th century and painted the portrait of several British notables including Lord Byron. In 1807 she traveled to Switzerland and was made an honorary member of the Société pour l’Avancement des Beaux-Arts of Geneva.

She published her memoirs in 1835 and 1837, which provide an interesting view of the training of artists at the end of the period dominated by royal academies. Her portrait of fellow neoclassical painter, Hubert Robert, is in Paris at Musée National du Louvre.

Still very active with her painting in her fifties, she purchased a house in Louveciennes, Île-de-France, and lived there until the house was seized by the Prussian Army during the war in 1814. She stayed in Paris until her death on 30 March 1842 when her body was taken back to Louveciennes and buried in the Cimetière de Louveciennes near her old home.

Her tombstone epitaph states “Ici, enfin, je reposé…” (Here, at last, I rest…).

Vigée Le Brun left a legacy of 660 portraits and 200 landscapes. In addition to private collections, her works may be found at major museums in Europe and the United States.


From Wikipedia.