In politics, evils should be remedied not revenged.
~ Napoleon III


Napoleon III (Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte; 20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873), the nephew of Napoleon I and cousin of Napoleon II, was the first president of France from 1848 to 1852, and the last French monarch from 1852 to 1870. First elected president of the French Second Republic in 1848, he seized power in 1851, when he could not constitutionally be re-elected, and became the emperor of the French.

He founded the Second French Empire and was its only emperor until the defeat of the French army and his capture by Prussia and its allies in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. With the Third Republic's declaration, the 1361 year old monarchy as a whole was abolished for the final time. Napoleon III went into exile in England, where he died in 1873.

During his reign, Napoleon worked to rebuild the economy, and also commissioned a grand reconstruction of Paris, which was carried out by his prefect of the Seine, Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann.

Early Life

Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, later known as Louis Napoleon and then Napoleon III, was born in Paris on the night of 19–20 April 1808. His father was Louis Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made Louis the King of Holland from 1806 until 1810. His mother was Hortense de Beauharnais, the only daughter of Napoleon's wife Joséphine de Beauharnais by her first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais.

As empress, Joséphine proposed the marriage as a way to produce an heir for the Emperor, who agreed, as Joséphine was by then infertile. Louis married Hortense when he was twenty-four and she was nineteen. They had a difficult relationship and only lived together for brief periods. Their first son Napoléon Charles Bonaparte died in 1807 and—though separated and parents of a healthy second son, Napoléon-Louis Bonaparte—they decided to have a third child. They resumed their marriage for a brief time in Toulouse in July 1807, and Louis was born prematurely, two weeks short of nine months. Louis Napoleon's enemies, including Victor Hugo, spread the gossip that he was the child of a different man, but most historians agree today that he was the legitimate son of Louis Bonaparte.

Charles-Louis was baptized at the Palace of Fontainebleau on 5 November 1810, with Emperor Napoleon serving as his godfather and Empress Marie-Louise as his godmother. His father stayed away, once again separated from Hortense. At the age of seven, Louis Napoleon visited his uncle at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Napoleon held him up to the window to see the soldiers parading in the courtyard of the Carousel below. He last saw his uncle with the family at the Château de Malmaison, shortly before Napoleon departed for the ill-fated Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, where his uncle suffered his final defeat.

All members of the Bonaparte dynasty were forced into exile after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and the Bourbon Restoration of monarchy in France. Hortense and Louis Napoleon moved from Aix to Bern to Baden, and finally to a lakeside house at Arenenberg in the Swiss canton of Thurgau. He received some of his education in Germany at the gymnasium school at Augsburg, Bavaria. As a result, for the rest of his life, his French had a slight but noticeable German accent. His tutor at home was Philippe Le Bas, an ardent republican and the son of a revolutionary and close friend of Robespierre. Le Bas taught him French history and radical politics.

Heroic Acts

  • He sought the preservation of many medieval buildings, including Notre Dame Cathedral, Mont Saint-Michel, Carcassonne, and etc.
  • He also directed the building of the French railway network, ultimately contributing to the Coal Mining and steel industries in France, with the advance and indirect change of the economy.
  • He commissioned a reconstruction of Paris, which saw the demolition of Medieval neighborhoods deemed overcrowded and unhealthy. Wide avenues, parks, and squares were built, with the construction of new sewers, fountains, and aqueducts. After Haussmann's dismissal in 1870, the project would continue for at least 57 more years, where it was finally finished in 1927.
  • He allied with Britain in the Crimean War and defeated the Russian Empire, of which it would take decades for the Russians to recover, also resulting in them seeking rapid modernization of the country.
  • He fought in the Second Italian War of Independence, which played a crucial role in Italian Unification.
  • He initiated several social reforms which allowed giving French workers the right to go on strike, and the right to organize. Napoleon also increased education opportunities for women.
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