HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
From the Pre-Revolutionary period to the 3rd Republic 1770-1870 - Part VI
12 April 2023
Napoleon III and Eugénie:
Splendor and Decadence of the Second Empire, 1851-1870
with Chris Boïcos
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the nephew of Napoleon I and grandson of Empress Josephine, third son of Napoleon’s brother, Louis, and Josephine’s daughter, Hortense, the former King and Queen of Holland.
After his uncle’s dramatic fall from power in 1814-15 he spent most of his life in exile in Switzerland and Italy. The death of Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt, and his older brother made him heir- presumptive to the Bonaparte dynasty in 1832. After various tragicomic attempts at coups d’états against the July Monarchy and time in prison, he finally managed to get himself elected president of the French Second Republic in 1848. Following on his uncle’s steps he then declared the second Bonaparte empire in 1851. A notorious, unmarried womanizer he had, at that point, to find a suitable aristocratic wife as Empress and chose a charming, Irish-Spanish noblewoman from Madrid, Eugenia de Montijo, whom he married in 1853.
Our lecture will follow the extraordinary careers of Louis-Napoleon and Eugénie through the transformation of Paris into the most modern and glamorous city in the world, the creation of a sumptuous imperial court in the Tuileries and Compiègne, the first great world’s fairs of Paris and the foreign adventures from Italian unification, the Crimean war and the disasters of the Mexican and Franco-Prussian wars that will ring the death knell of an increasingly shaky Second Empire.
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