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Did Palmerston contribute to Louis Philippe's downfall?

Did Palmerston contribute to Louis Philippe's downfall?

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I am reading this book and have come across a slightly puzzling passage on p. 154:

[Palmerston] kept on good terms with Louis Philippe of France until he felt, in 1846, that Louis was taking an unreasonable line about French claims to the Spanish throne. He made his resentment plain, and within two years Louis was an exile in England.

What could have the author had in mind? He seems to ascribe to Palmerston a positive agency of some sort in removing Louis Philippe but I've never seen such a claim in other sources. Perhaps he means that Palmerston failed to support Louis Philippe in his hour of need when revolution against the latter broke out, but then, again, I cannot imagine how Palmerston could have materially helped the French King to hold on to his throne.

So am I missing something or had D. Thomson committed a Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

The passage you quote does not actually say that the British statesman Lord Palmerston's disagreement with King Louis Phillippe of France in 1846 had a causal connection to the King's downfall 2 years' later. I am not certain we should read that in.

Indeed, the very next fact we are given, that after his overthrow the King sought and was granted exile in Britain, rather than any other country, suggests they were not on too bad terms.

I do not know if the context of the passages explains it, or just that the author did not express himself in that sentence as clearly as he might.

Affair of the Spanish Marriages

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Affair of the Spanish Marriages, the political maneuvering surrounding the dual marriages (October 10, 1846) of Queen Isabella II of Spain to her cousin Francisco de Asís de Bourbon, duque de Cadiz, and of her younger sister and heiress to the throne, Luisa Fernanda, to Antoine, duc de Montpensier, the youngest son of King Louis-Philippe of France. The marriages revived dynastic ties between Spain and France but caused the breakdown of friendly relations between England and France.

In 1843 and 1845 the French foreign minister, François Guizot, had assured the British that Isabella would marry within the Spanish or Neapolitan branches of the House of Bourbon and that her sister Luisa would not marry a French prince before the birth of one or more children to Isabella. This agreement was upset when, in June 1846, Viscount Henry John Temple Palmerston returned to the British Foreign Office and revived the idea of a marriage between Isabella and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the cousin of the English prince consort. Palmerston also opposed the French support of the Moderados, Spaniards who created the constitution of 1845. The Spanish and French governments feared the British designs, including possible British support for the Progresistas, who sought restoration of the liberal constitution of 1812, and so they planned and carried out the double marriage. Isabella had to be pressured into accepting her cousin, partly because he was thought to be impotent. Palmerston fruitlessly protested that the marriages were contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which forbade the union of the French and Spanish Bourbons. The effect of the rupture with Britain and the liberal principles it represented was to push Louis-Philippe into closer alliance with the conservatives, led by Guizot, at a time when the liberals were gathering strength. This alliance contributed to Louis-Philippe’s downfall in 1848.

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Louis Philippe I.

LOUIS PHILIPPE I., king of the French (1773–1850), was the eldest son of Louis Philip Joseph, duke of Orleans (known during the Revolution as Philippe Egalité) and of Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon, daughter of the duc de Penthièvre, and was born at the Palais Royal in Paris on the 6th of October 1773. On his father’s side he was descended from the brother of Louis XIV., on his mother’s from the count of Toulouse, “legitimated” son of Louis XIV. and Madame de Montespan. The legend that he was a supposititious child, really the son of an Italian police constable named Chiapponi, is dealt with elsewhere (see Maria Stella , countess of Newborough). The god-parents of the duke of Valois, as he was entitled till 1785, were Louis XVI. and Queen Marie Antoinette his governess was the famous Madame de Genlis, to whose influence he doubtless owed many of the qualities which later distinguished him: his wide, if superficial knowledge, his orderliness, and perhaps his parsimony. Known since 1785 as the duc de Chartres, he was sixteen at the outbreak of the Revolution, into which—like his father—he threw himself with ardour. In 1790 he joined the Jacobin Club, in which the moderate elements still predominated, and was assiduous in attendance at the debates of the National Assembly. He thus became a persona grata with the party in power he was already a colonel of dragoons, and in 1792 he was given a command in the army of the North. As a lieutenant-general, at the age of eighteen, he was present at the cannonade of Valmy (Sept. 20) and played a conspicuous part in the victory of Jemappes (Nov. 6).

The republic had meanwhile been proclaimed, and the duc de Chartres, who like his father had taken the name of Egalité, posed as its zealous adherent. Fortunately for him, he was too young to be elected deputy to the Convention, and while his father was voting for the death of Louis XVI. he was serving under Dumouriez in Holland. He shared in the disastrous day of Neerwinden (March 18, 1793) was an accomplice of Dumouriez in the plot to march on Paris and overthrow the republic, and on the 5th of April escaped with him from the enraged soldiers into the Austrian lines. He was destined not to return to France for twenty years. He went first, with his sister Madame Adelaide, to Switzerland where he obtained a situation for a few months as professor in the college of Reichenau under an assumed name, [1] mainly in order to escape from the fury of the émigrés. The execution of his father in November 1793 had made him duke of Orleans, and he now became the centre of the intrigues of the Orleanist party. In 1795 he was at Hamburg with Dumouriez, who still hoped to make him king. With characteristic caution Louis Philippe refused to commit himself by any overt pretensions, and announced his intention of going to America but in the hope that something might happen in France to his advantage, he postponed his departure, travelling instead through the Scandinavian countries as far north as Lapland. But in 1796, the Directory having offered to release his mother and his two brothers, who had been kept in prison since the Terror, on condition that he went to America, he set sail for the United States, and in October settled in Philadelphia, where in February 1797 he was joined by his brothers the duc de Montpensier and the comte de Beaujolais. Two years were spent by them in travels in New England, the region of the Great Lakes, and of the Mississippi then the news of the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire decided them to return to Europe. They returned in 1800, only to find Napoleon Bonaparte’s power firmly established. Immediately on his arrival, in February 1800, the duke of Orleans, at the suggestion of Dumouriez, sought an interview with the comte d’Artois, through whose instrumentality he was reconciled with the exiled king Louis XVIII., who bestowed upon his brothers the order of the Saint Esprit. The duke, however, refused to join the army of Condé and to fight against France, an attitude in which he persisted throughout, while maintaining his loyalty to the king. [2] He settled with his brothers at Twickenham, near London, where he lived till 1807—for the most part in studious retirement.

On the 18th of May 1807 the duc de Montpensier died at Christchurch in Hampshire, where he had been taken for change of air, of consumption. The comte de Beaujolais was ill of the same disease and in 1808 the duke took him to Malta, where he died on the 29th of May. The duke now, in response to an invitation from King Ferdinand IV., visited Palermo where, on the 25th of November 1809 he married Princess Maria Amelia, the king’s daughter. He remained in Sicily until the news of Napoleon’s abdication recalled him to France. He was cordially received by Louis XVIII. his military rank was confirmed, he was named colonel-general of hussars, and such of the vast Orleans estates as had not been sold were restored to him by royal ordinance. The object may have been, as M. Debidour suggests, to compromise him with the revolutionary parties and to bind him to the throne but it is more probable that it was no more than an expression of the good will which the king had shown him ever since 1800. The immediate effect was to make him enormously rich, his wealth being increased by his natural aptitude for business until, after the death of his mother in 1821, his fortune was reckoned at some £8,000,000.

Meanwhile, in the heated atmosphere of the reaction, his sympathy with the Liberal opposition brought him again under suspicion. His attitude in the House of Peers in the autumn of 1815 cost him a two years’ exile to Twickenham he courted popularity by having his children educated en bourgeois at the public schools and the Palais Royal became the rendezvous of all the leaders of that middle-class opinion by which he was ultimately to be raised to the throne.

His opportunity came with the revolution of 1830. During the three “July days” the duke kept himself discreetly in the background, retiring first to Neuilly, then to Raincy. Meanwhile, Thiers issued a proclamation pointing out that a Republic would embroil France with all Europe, while the duke of Orleans, who was “a prince devoted to the principles of the Revolution” and had “carried the tricolour under fire” would be a “citizen king” such as the country desired. This view was that of the rump of the chamber still sitting at the Palais Bourbon, and a deputation headed by Thiers and Laffitte waited upon the duke to invite him to place himself at the head of affairs. He returned with them to Paris on the 30th, and was elected by the deputies lieutenant-general of the realm. The next day, wrapped in a tricolour scarf and preceded by a drummer, he went on foot to the Hôtel de Ville—the headquarters of the republican party—where he was publicly embraced by Lafayette as a symbol that the republicans acknowledged the impossibility of realizing their own ideals and were prepared to accept a monarchy based on the popular will. Hitherto, in letters to Charles X., he had protested the loyalty of his intentions, [3] and the king now nominated him lieutenant-general and then, abdicating in favour of his grandson the comte de Chambord appointed him regent. On the 7th of August, however, the Chamber by a large majority declared Charles X. deposed, and proclaimed Louis Philippe “King of the French, by the grace of God and the will of the people.”

The career of Louis Philippe as King of the French is dealt with elsewhere (see France : History). Here it must suffice to note something of his personal attitude towards affairs and the general effects which this produced. For the trappings of authority he cared little. To conciliate the revolutionary ​ passion for equality he was content to veil his kingship for a while under a middle-class disguise. He erased the royal lilies from the panels of his carriages and the Palais Royal, like the White House at Washington, stood open to all and sundry who cared to come and shake hands with the head of the state. This pose served to keep the democrats of the capital in a good temper, and so leave him free to consolidate the somewhat unstable foundation of his throne and to persuade his European fellow-sovereigns to acknowledge in him not a revolutionary but a conservative force. But when once his position at home and abroad had been established, it became increasingly clear that he possessed all the Bourbon tenaciousness of personal power. When a “party of Resistance” came into office with Casimir-Périer in March 1831, the speech from the throne proclaimed that “France has desired that the monarchy should become national, it does not desire that it should be powerless” and the migration of the royal family to the Tuileries symbolized the right of the king not only to reign but to rule. Republican and Socialist agitation, culminating in a series of dangerous risings, strengthened the position of the king as defender of middle-class interest and since the middle classes constituted the pays légal which alone was represented in Parliament, he came to regard his position as unassailable, especially after the suppression of the risings under Blanqui and Barbès in 1839. Little by little his policy, always supported by a majority in a house of representatives elected by a corrupt and narrow franchise, became more reactionary and purely dynastic. His position in France seeming to be unassailable, he sought to strengthen it in Europe by family alliances. The fact that his daughter Louise was the consort of Leopold I., king of the Belgians, had brought him into intimate and cordial relations with the English court, which did much to cement the entente cordiale with Great Britain. Broken in 1840 during the affair of Mehemet Ali (q.v.) the entente was patched up in 1841 by the Straits Convention and re-cemented by visits paid by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the Château d’Eu in 1843 and 1845 and of Louis Philippe to Windsor in 1844, only to be irretrievably wrecked by the affair of the “Spanish marriages,” a deliberate attempt to revive the traditional Bourbon policy of French predominance in Spain. If in this matter Louis Philippe had seemed to sacrifice the international position of France to dynastic interests, his attempt to re-establish it by allying himself with the reactionary monarchies against the Liberals of Switzerland finally alienated from him the French Liberal opinion on which his authority was based. When, in February 1848, Paris rose against him, he found that he was practically isolated in France.

Charles X., after abdicating, had made a dignified exit from France, marching to the coast surrounded by the cavalry, infantry and artillery of his Guard. Louis Philippe was less happily situated. Escaping with the queen from the Tuileries by a back entrance, he made his way with her in disguise to Honfleur, where the royal couple found refuge in a gardener’s cottage. They were ultimately smuggled out of the country by the British consul at Havre as Mr and Mrs Smith, [4] arriving at Newhaven “unprovided with anything but the clothes they wore.” They settled at Claremont, placed at their disposal by Queen Victoria, under the incognito of count and countess of Neuilly. Here on the 26th of August 1850, Louis Philippe died.

The character of Louis Philippe is admirably traced by Queen Victoria in a memorandum of May 2, 1855, in which she compares him with Napoleon III. She speaks of his “vast knowledge upon all and every subject,” and “his great activity of mind.” He was, unlike Napoleon, “thoroughly French in character, possessing all the liveliness and talkativeness of that people.” But she also speaks of the “tricks and over-reachings” practised by him, “who in great as well as in small things took a pleasure in being cleverer and more cunning than others, often when there was no advantage to be gained by it, and which was, unfortunately, strikingly displayed in the transactions connected with the Spanish marriages, which led to the king’s downfall, and ruined him in the eyes of all Europe” (Letters, pop. ed., iii. 122).

Louis Philippe had eight children. His eldest son, the popular Ferdinand Philippe, duke of Orleans (b. 1810), who had married Princess Helena of Mecklenburg, was killed in a carriage accident on the 13th of July 1842, leaving two sons, the comte de Paris and the duc de Chartres. The other children were Louise, consort of Leopold I., king of the Belgians Marie, who married Prince Alexander of Württemberg and died in 1839 Louis Charles, duc de Nemours Clementine, married to the duke of Coburg-Kohary François Ferdinand, prince de Joinville Henri Eugène, duc d’Aumale (q.v.) Antoine Philippe, duc de Montpensier, who married the Infanta, younger sister of Queen Isabella of Spain.

Authorities .—F. A. Gruyer, La Jeunesse du roi Louis-Philippe, d’après les pourtraits et des tableaux (Paris, 1909), édition de luxe, with beautiful reproductions of portraits, miniatures, &c. Marquis de Flers, Louis-Philippe, vie anecdotique, 1773–1850 (Paris, 1891) E. Daudet, Hist. de l’émigration (3 vols., Paris, 1886–1890). Of general works on Louis Philippe’s reign may be mentioned Louis Blanc, Hist. de Dix Ans, 1830–1840 (5 vols., Paris, 1841–1844), from the republican point of view J. O. d’Haussonville, Hist. de la politique extérieure de la monarchie de juillet, 1830–1848 (2 vols., Paris, 1850) V. de Nouvion, Hist. de Louis-Philippe (4 vols., Paris, 1857–1861) F. Guizot, France under Louis Philippe, 1841–1847 (Eng. trans., 1865) Karl Hillebrand, Geschichte Frankreichs von der Thronbesteigung Louis Philippes, 1830–1841 (2 vols., Gotha, 1877–1879) V. du Bled, Hist. de la monarchie de juillet (2 vols., Paris, 1887) P. Thureau-Dangin, Hist. de la monarchie de juillet (Paris, 1887, &c.) A. Malet, “La France sous la monarchie de juillet,” in Lavisse and Rambaud’s Hist. Générale, vol. x. ch. x. (Paris, 1898) G. Weill, La France sous la monarchie de juillet (Paris, 1902) Émile Bourgeois, “The Orleans Monarchy,” ch. xv. of vol. x., and “The Fall of Constitutionalism in France,” ch. ii. of vol. xi. of the Cambridge Modern History (Cambridge, 1907 and 1909). Further works will be found in the bibliographies attached by M. Bourgeois to his chapters (vol. x. p. 844, vol. xi. p. 874 the latter including works on the revolution of 1848 and the Second Republic). To the list of published correspondence and memoirs there mentioned may be added the Chronique of the duchesse de Dino (Paris, 1909).

Louis Philippe himself published the Journal du duc de Chartres, 1790–1791 Mon Journal, événements de 1815 (2 vols., 1849) Discours, allocutions et réponses de S. M. Louis-Philippe, 1830–1846 and after his death was issued his Correspondance, mémoire et discours inédits (Paris, 1863). ( W. A. P. )

  1. ↑ As M. Chabaud de la Tour. He was examined as to his fitness before being appointed. Gruyer, p. 165.
  2. ↑ This at least was his own claim and the Orleanist view. The matter became a question of partisan controversy, the legitimists asserting that he frequently offered to serve against France, but that his offers were contemptuously refused. A. Debidour in the article “Louis-Philippe” in La Grande Encyclopédie supports the latter view but see Gruyer, La Jeunesse, and E. Daudet, “Une réconciliation de famille en 1800,” in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Sept. 15, 1905, p. 301. M. Daudet gives the account of the interview left by the comte d’Artois, and he also makes it clear that Louis Philippe, while protesting his loyalty to the head of his house, did not disguise his opinion that a Restoration would only be possible if the king accepted the essential changes made by the Revolution.
  3. ↑ To say that these protestations were hypocritical is to assume too much. Personal ambition doubtless played a part but he must have soon realized that the French people had wearied of “legitimism” and that a regency in the circumstances was impossible.
  4. ↑ There is a vivid account in Mr Featherstonhaugh to Lord Palmerston, Havre, March 3, 1848, in The Letters of Queen Victoria (pop. ed., ii. 156).

Warning: Default sort key "Louis Philippe I" overrides earlier default sort key "Louis Philippe I.".

Fact or Fiction: Inside Episode 1

What’s real history, and what’s just really dramatic in Victoria‘s Season 3 opener? Find out when we separate the fact from the fiction in an episode filled with exciting drama, new characters, and historical accuracies that are sure to surprise and delight!

Fact or Fiction: Victoria had a half-sister named Feodora.

Fact: Add a half-sister to the list of surprising things we’ve learned about Victoria, because she had one, and her name was Feodora! Nine years Victoria’s senior, Feodora was the daughter of Victoria’s mother (the Duchess of Kent) and her first husband, the German nobleman Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen. Carl died in 1814, and her mother married Victoria’s father, Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, in Germany four years later. The family relocated to England the following year, at the end of the Duchess’ pregnancy, so that the (potential) future heir to Britain’s throne—Victoria—would be born on British soil.
Watch this space for more facts and fictions about the royal sisters in future episodes!

Fact or Fiction: Lord Palmerston was a notorious womanizer.

Fact: A quick glance at Google reveals descriptions of Palmerston as a “hottie,” a “dandy,” and a “buck” who “combined office with a rambunctious sexual adventurism.” (The Telegraph) While this certainly backs up Penge’s pearl-clutching warning that “no girl is safe” around the Foreign Secretary, it is perhaps more interesting to Victoria fans that Palmerston’s wife is none other than Emily Cowper, sister of our beloved Lord Melbourne! Palmerston conducted a long affair with the married Lady Cowper until she was widowed and her year of mourning was complete, at which time they married. Their marriage, like their courtship, was anything but conventional…
Stay tuned for more on the Foreign Secretary’s affairs of state…and the heart!

Fact or Fiction: Albert visited London's slums.

Fact: As evidenced by Prince Albert’s call for the abolition of slavery and his enthusiasm for the steam train in Victoria, his interests in technology and justice are legendary. And in Season 3, Albert visits London’s slums to understand the living conditions of the poor, just as he did in real life. In fact, Albert toured London slums with philanthropist and social reformer Lord Shaftesbury, and was the first president of the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes. Through the Society, Albert tasked architect Henry Roberts to design model housing for poor families, which were shown as part of the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Fact or Fiction: A mob marched on the palace and threw a brick through a palace window.

Fact: As Victoria writer, creator, and executive producer told the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast, Yes they did. They did throw a brick. A mob did march through London and did throw a brick wrapped in a French flag through the Buckingham Palace windows, because they were so angry about Louis Philippe staying at the palace because they felt that Victoria shouldn’t be harboring a tyrant.”

Did the shock of that brick really induce Victoria’s labor? Find out: Listen to Daisy Goodwin’s podcast interview, where she answers that question and offers tantalizing hints and insights about what’s coming in Season 3!

Gender and Class Divides

Sophie’s Choice was Made for Her

On Downton Abbey we saw an aristocrat (Lord Grantham) marry for money (Ca-ching Cora), and the union turn out to be a loving one. But Sophie has seen the other side of that coin toss with her husband Monmouth.

Every syllable Monmouth speaks to her seethes with loathing. He is clearly trying to keep her away from their son, William, who pines for his mummy and recoils when his father enters the room. Monmouth repeatedly dismisses her as being from the “grocer class,” and his son will be a Duke. It seems pretty obvious poor Sophie was just a brood mare with a pile of cash.

When Sophie’s carriage is attacked by a mob, Palmerston jumps into action to save the day and escorts her back to the Palace. Given her troubled marriage, will she fall for a man (like Palmerston) offering her any little bit of kindness? And will she be able to get her son away from his horrible father?

The Have-Nots

Albert goes to inspect the troops Wellington is putting into place to protect Parliament and the Palace against the Chartists. He is moved when he sees a child in rags, squatting down to rummage through garbage in the gutter, we assume, for something to eat. Cut to Bertie on the fine palace carpet, feeding the dog Isla petit fours from the good china. This was a great juxtaposition, and we’re looking forward to seeing what Albert does with these scenes he finds disturbing.

The Little Prince

While all the men questioning her judgement causes Victoria to suffer a lapse in confidence, seeing a woman in charge (and having a domineering sister) has the same effect on Bertie. Victoria finds him hiding from his destiny, under a table. She leads a sweet conversation to help him make peace with the fact that he will be King – and a great one.

Female Intuition

After this episode, I’m thinking there should be a Victoria spin-off: Abigail Turner, Victorian Detective, in which our heroine solves crimes by day while organizing panty drawers by night.

After the raid, the Chartist leader asks, where did these working men get the money for 500 rifles? And we ask, why didn’t anyone notice all those crates of guns out back before this? Abigail thinks poor Patrick has been wrongfully accused and goes to the police station only to meet his arrogant undercover alter ego, Inspector Doubly, who pretends he’s never seen her before.

Little does he know that the woman he kissed and dismissed has friends in high places. Abigail runs to Skerrett and Victoria to relay what she’s uncovered. Victoria is now skeptical. Abigail kisses Her Majesty’s hem, and says the words that are magic to Victoria, especially right now: Abigail believes in her, even when she isn’t believing in herself. She knows the Queen wants the best for her people.

Albert doesn’t buy it though, accusing Victoria of delaying their trip to safety in Osborne on the words of a seamstress. Was that a class dig or a gender dig? There is another sort of battle going on within Albert. He insists they still go.

As the Royal convoy is heading out of Dodge with a reluctant Victoria and Wellington’s troops are amassing at the bridge, Victoria calls time out. Not so fast Lord Pam. Her Madge is having second thoughts – or rather summoning the strength to trust her first thoughts, that the Chartists mean to be peaceful. She rescinds the order, Wellington has his troops to stand down, and the convoy of Chartists cross Waterloo Bridge to head for Parliament. Victoria and Abigail save the day. Who runs the world? Girls! (Just don’t tell Bertie.)

Bad Timing

Painting of Prince Albert’s dressing room at Osborne House. At far right is the painting of Hercules and Queen Omphale in his bathroom.

Before they can get in the tub together, Feodora interrupts with news: The Chartists delivered their petition peacefully. Victoria (and Abigail) were right – and the Queen is enraged. She should have stayed in London. She regrets taking the wrong advice instead of listening to Her Royal Gut.

What is Victoria thinking in this week’s parting shot, as she looks out across the big water towards the British mainland? Does that water represent the gulf between her and her people? Her and her husband? Her and her sister? Her own internal conflict? Truly, all could apply.

FYI: Prince Albert bought Hercules and Queen Omphale, the fresco on plaster painting by Joseph Anton Von Gegenbaur, in 1844, and it remains in Prince Albert’s bathroom at Osborne House (learn more about the house in History Tidbits). It depicts the Greek mythological figures of the Queen and Hercules, her sex slave. Hmmm, Albert, you are a dark horse, aren’t you?

Did Lord Palmerston get on with Queen Victoria?

The Queen, Prince Albert and Lord Palmerston were often at loggerheads over Palmerston’s policies in office.

While Victoria and German husband Albert had friends and family in Europe who they had close ties to, Palmerston’s often brash persona and brazen methods caused tensions, with the politician boasting a career stretching back before the Queen was even born.

Palmerston’s personality clashed with Albert’s, with Palmerston’s unpretentious and borderline rude behaviour standing in stark contrast to Albert’s prim and proper demeanour. Palmerston’s off-handed manner and lack of respect towards the monarch and her husband saw Albert and Palmerston constantly argue in each other’s company, with Albert even accusing Palmerston of failing to understand the British constitution.

After a scolding from Prime Minister Lord John Russell, Palmerston said he would consult the Queen on foreign policy – something he quickly went back on when he praised new French President Louis Napoleon for how he handled a coup d’etat when parliament had decided Britain would remain neutral. It was this that contributed to his resignation from the role of Foreign Secretary in 1852.

The Africa, Crimea and Italy Rooms

These are actually seven rooms on the first floor of the North Wing. The first three, reached by a monumental staircase, were, on the personal wishes of Louis-Philippe, dedicated to the illustration of the conquest of Algeria between 1830 and 1847. The so-called 'Constantine' depicts the siege and capture of that city in October 1837. On either side of this room are two other rooms, one dedicated to the taking of the Smalah of Abd-el-Kader on 16 May 1843 (depicted in a huge canvas by Horace Vernet, over 20 metres long and 5 metres high) and the other to French successes in Morocco, which led to the signing of the 1844 Treaty of Tangiers.

After the 1848 Revolution and the fall of Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III decided to extend this set of rooms to celebrate his own military triumphs in the Crimea (taking of Sebastopol, 1855) and in Italy (victory at Solferino, 1859). Finally, the Third Republic concludes this monumental collection with an evocation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 (Charge de Reichshoffen by Aimé Morot, 1887).

Today these rooms are used for temporary exhibitions and can rarely be visited in their entirety.


Until Louis XIV’s time, the town of Versailles comprised but a few houses to the south of the present Place d’Armes. However, land was given to the lords of the court, and new buildings sprang up, chiefly in the north quarter. The Palace of Versailles was declared the official royal residence in 1682 and the official residence of the court of France on May 6, 1682, but it was abandoned after the death of Louis XIV in 1715. In 1722, however, it was returned to its status as royal residence. Further additions were made during the reigns of Louis XV (1715–74) and Louis XVI (1774–92). Following the French Revolution, the complex was nearly destroyed.

With the exception of improvements to the Trianons, Napoleon largely neglected Versailles, and Louis XVIII and Charles X merely kept it up. Louis-Philippe, however, made great alterations, partly with help from patrons in the United States. Perhaps his most-significant contribution to the palace was the creation of the Museum of French History, which was consecrated “to all the glories of France” in an inauguration on June 10, 1837, that marked the first celebration at Versailles since the Revolution. While many of the 6,000 paintings and 3,000 sculptures held by the museum are not available for public viewing, a portion of those holdings are on display throughout the palace. In 1870 and 1871 Versailles was occupied as the headquarters of the German army besieging Paris, and William I of Prussia was crowned German emperor in the Hall of Mirrors on January 18, 1871.

After the peace with Germany and while the Commune was triumphant in Paris, Versailles was the seat of the French National Assembly. It housed the two chambers of the parliament until 1879, and during that period Versailles was the official capital of France. After World War I the treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed in the Hall of Mirrors on June 28, 1919. The Treaty of Trianon, ending the war between the Allies and Hungary, was concluded on June 4, 1920, in the Cotelle Gallery in the Grand Trianon. After World War II the palace was occasionally used for plenary congresses of the French parliament or as housing for visiting heads of state, but its primary utility lay in tourism.

UNESCO designated the palace and its gardens a World Heritage site in 1979. Following a devastating winter storm in 1989, which destroyed more than 1,000 trees on the palace grounds, the French government initiated a wide-ranging project of repair and renovation. A severe windstorm in 1999 caused the loss of some 10,000 trees, including several planted by Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon. The château was also damaged. In 2003 an ambitious restoration and renovation program was launched as the “Grand Versailles” project. With a 17-year schedule and a budget that topped €500 million, the plan was billed as the most-significant expansion of the palace facilities since the reign of Louis-Philippe.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

Napoleon I: Decline and Fall

Great Britain had never submitted, and the Continental System proved difficult to enforce. Napoleon's first signs of weakness appeared early in the Peninsular War (1808–14). The victory of 1809 over Austria had been costly, and the victory of Archduke Charles at Aspern (May, 1809) showed that the emperor was not invincible. Everywhere forces were gathering to cast off the Napoleonic yoke.

Napoleon's decision to invade Russia marked the turning point of his career. His alliance with Czar Alexander I, dating from the treaties of Tilsit and extended at the Congress of Erfurt (1808), was tenuous. When the czar rejected the Continental System, which was ruinous to Russia's economy, Napoleon gathered the largest army Europe had ever seen. The Grande Armée, some 500,000 strong, including troops of all the vassal and allied states, entered Russia in June, 1812. The Russian troops, under Mikhail Kutuzov, fell back, systematically devastating the land.

After the indecisive battle of Borodino (Sept. 7), in which both sides suffered terrible losses, Napoleon entered Moscow (Sept. 14), where only a few thousand civilians had stayed behind. On Sept. 15, fires broke out all over Moscow they ceased only on Sept. 19, leaving the city virtually uninhabitable. With his troops decimated, his prospective winter quarters burned down, his supply line overextended, and the Russian countryside and grain stores empty, Napoleon, after sending an unsuccessful feeler to the czar for peace, began his fateful retreat on Oct. 19. Stalked by hunger, the Grande Armée, now only a fifth of its original strength, reached the Berezina River late in November. After the passage of that river, secured at a terrible sacrifice, the retreat became a rout.

In December Napoleon left his army, returning to Paris to bolster French forces. Of his allies, Prussia was the first to desert a Prussian truce with the czar (Dec. 30) was followed by an alliance in Feb., 1813. Great Britain and Sweden joined the coalition, followed (Aug., 1813) by Austria, and the War of Liberation began. At the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig (Oct. 16–19), Napoleon was forced to retreat. In November the allies offered Napoleon peace if France would return to her natural boundaries, the Rhine and the Alps. Napoleon rejected the offer, and the allies continued their advance. They closed in on Paris, which fell to them on Mar. 31, 1814.

Napoleon abdicated, first in favor of his son and then unconditionally (Apr. 11). He was exiled to Elba, which the allies gave him as a sovereign principality. His victors were still deliberating at the Congress of Vienna (see Vienna, Congress of) when Napoleon, with a handful of followers, landed near Cannes (Mar. 1, 1815). In the course of a triumphant march northward he once more rallied France behind him. King Louis XVIII fled, and Napoleon entered Paris (Mar. 20), beginning his ephemeral rule of the Hundred Days.

Attempting to reconstruct the empire, Napoleon liberalized the constitution, but his efforts were cut short when warfare began again. Napoleon was utterly crushed in the Waterloo campaign (June 12–18). He again abdicated and surrendered himself to a British warship, hoping to find asylum in England. Instead he was shipped as a prisoner of war to the lonely island of Saint Helena, where he spent his remaining years quarreling with the British governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, talking with his ever-dwindling group of followers, and dictating his memoirs., He died May 5, 1821, officially from stomach cancer, but the presence of arsenic in samples of his hair have led some modern researchers to suggest he was poisoned. Napoleon's remains were ordered to be returned to France by Louis Philippe in 1840 and were entombed under the dome of the Invalides in Paris.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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Death and Legacy

Despite their difficult relationship, Louis and Anne welcomed a son, Louis XIV, in 1638. The couple had another son, Philippe (who would later become known as Philippe I, Duke of Orlບns), two years later. Louis had little time to watch his two sons grow up. He died of tuberculosis on May 14, 1643, at the royal estate Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Paris. Louis XIII was only 41 years old at the time of his death. After his passing, his oldest son, Louis XIV, was crowned king.

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