Louis XVIII


Louis XVIII
(1755–1824)
   Installed by the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis, Comte de Provence, became king of France as Louis XVIII. He was born at Versailles on November 17, 1755, to dauphin Louis, son of Louis XV, and Maria Josepha of Saxony. In June 1791, he had fled France and become the leader of the émigrés, seeking help of European monarchs in the royal conspiracy against the French Revolution. He assumed the title of regent of France in 1792 after Louis XVI was guillotined and Louis XVII died in prison, and he styled himself as Louis XVIII with a manifesto of restoration of monarchy, aristocracy, and the Church. As king, he would have liked to rule with absolute power, but he knew well that return to the prerevolutionary ancien régime was impossible. Nationalism and democratic ideas had taken roots. The Royal Charter of 1814 retained religious toleration, equality before law, the Bank of France, and the Napoleonic Code. Although Royal prerogative was asserted, monarchy was to be constitutional. When Napoleon entered Paris in March 1815, Louis XVIII had to flee for the duration of the Hundred Days. After the Battle of Waterloo, he again returned to France “in the baggage of the allies” to rule France from July 1815. The ultras, more Royalist than the king, controlled the Chamber of Deputies after the elections. The ultras pursued a program of repressive measures against political opponents and settled many scores with old enemies from the Revolutionary days. Alarmed at the “White Terror,” Louis XVIII dissolved the Chamber in September, and liberals got an upper hand. The moderate ministries undertook the task of reconstruction in an admirable way. The ultras were seething with anger at the policy of moderation and got their chance after the heir apparent Duke of Berri, nephew of Louis XVIII, was assassinated. The events of neighboring Spain in 1820 had generated antirevolutionary fear in France, so the ultras secured control of the Chamber of Deputies in November 1820 and instituted a reactionary program. The ministry of Comte de Villèle was a victory of aristocracy over bourgeoisie and ancien régime over the Revolutionary era. It sent troops to quell the Spanish revolutionaries, muzzle the press, create a ministry of Church affairs, and public instruction. In the elections of February–March 1824, the ultras returned with a thumping majority and the liberal opposition was in a minority. In foreign policy Louis deferred to the judgment and diplomatic skills of Talleyrand who set France in a course of rehabilitation as a legitimate Great Power. He died on September 16, 1824, at Paris and Charles X continued the reactionary tendency.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Lever, E. Louis XVIII. Paris: Fayard, 1988;
    Macaulay, Thomas B. Napoleon and the Restoration of the Bourbons. New York: Columbia University Press, New Edition, 1977;
    Mansel, Philip. Louis XVIII. New York: Sutton Publishing, 1999.
   PATIT PABAN MISHRA

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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