French Restoration

   The return of the Bourbon dynasty to the throne of France in 1814 in the wake of the collapse of the empire of Napoleon I. Despite a brief interruption in their control of government after Napoleon’s escape from exile on Elba in 1815, the Bourbons regained control of France until the Revolution of 1830. The period of 1814 to 1830 was characterized by a sharp conservative reaction to the ideas of the French Revolution, which had overthrown the Bourbon monarchy. Louis XVIII, whose brother Louis XVI had been executed during the French Revolution, assumed the French throne in 1814 and ruled until 1824. Louis XVIII was forced to grant a written constitution, known as the Charter of 1814, guaranteeing a bicameral legislature with an appointive Chamber of Peers and an elected Chamber of Deputies. Only men of exceptional wealth, property, and education were eligible to vote. The king argued over the constitution’s preamble, steadfastly arguing that his right to rule derived from providence rather than the people.
   Although the monarch’s return was initially popular, the nostalgia surrounding it dissipated as Louis XVIII’s efforts to reverse the changes of the French Revolution mounted. In 1815, Napoleon escaped from his exile on Elba and landed in France, beginning the adventure of the Hundred Days. The king fled to Ghent as Napoleon regained control of the government. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Bourbon dynasty was restored a second time. What followed was the White Terror, a bloody purge of Bonapartists, who supported Napoleon, and antimonarchists in France conducted by reactionary supporters of the monarchy. Louis XVIII was a cautious king who relied primarily on moderate ministers to run the government. As a result of the elections of 1815, the Chamber of Deputies became dominated by ultraroyalists, or ultras, staunch conservatives who supported the monarchy and the Catholic Church. The Chamber proved difficult for the king’s ministers. Liberals gained control of the Chamber from 1816 to 1820. In 1820, the assassination of the duc de Berry, son of the king’s brother, the comte d’Artois, who was leader of the Ultras, prompted the fall of the Liberals and the return of the Chamber to the Ultras, who would dominate government throughout the next decade.
   Louis XVIII died in September 1824 and was interred at Saint Denis. His brother, d’Artois, inherited the throne as Charles X. A devout Catholic and defender of the absolutist principles of monarchy, Charles X held an elaborate coronation ceremony at Reims Cathedral in the style of medieval French kings. In 1829, Jules de Polignac became chief minister. From 1827 to 1830, a series of economic downturns led to a growing number of liberal deputies in the Chamber. Although Polignac retained support from much of the aristocracy, the Catholic Church, and the peasantry, he was opposed by workers and upper members of the bourgeoisie. Charles X became frustrated with the Chamber as it filled increasingly with liberal deputies who blocked his legislation and threatened his existing policies. The Charter of 1814 established a constitutional monarchy, granting the king extensive power over policymaking, but the Chamber had to pass his legislation. The charter also granted the Chamber the right to determine the election method for its deputies and their rights within the Chamber. The liberal deputies issued a final no-confidence vote in March 1830, prompting Charles X to overstep his constitutional restrictions by attempting to alter the charter by a series of royal decrees known as the Four Ordinances. The decrees called for the dissolution of the Chamber, new elections based on a new electorate, strict censorship of the press, and restriction of voting rights to only the wealthiest in France. Polignac conceived of the 1830 invasion of Algeria, partly to shore up Charles’ popularity with a foreign triumph reminiscent of Napoleon. In this it failed, but the invasion succeeded, and Algeria became the regime’s most lasting legacy. The decrees led to outcries in the press and urban mobs in Paris mobilized against the king, assembling barricades in the streets. The uprising quickly mounted until it went beyond the means of the monarchy to control. The revolution occurred over three days in 1830, resulting in the abdication of Charles X and his son, the duc d’Angoulême, on July 30, thereby ending the Bourbon monarchy. The liberal, bourgeois Chamber of Deputies refused to recognize Charles X’s grandson, the comte de Chambord, as Henry V. Instead, they declared the throne vacant and elected Louis Philippe, duc d’Orleans, a member of a junior branch of the Bourbon family, king of the French. Louis Philippe ruled the “July Monarchy” from 1830 until 1848, when he too was overthrown in revolution.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Bertier de Sauvigny, Guillaume de. The Bourbon Restoration. Translated by Lynn M. Case. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966;
    Mansel, Philip. Paris between Empires: Monarchy and Revolution, 1814-1852. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003;
    Plibeam, Pamela. The Constitutional Monarchy in France, 1814-1848. New York: Longman, 2000;
    Tudesq, Andre-Jean, and Andre Jardin. Restoration and Reaction, 1815-1848. Translated by Elborg Forster. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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

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