200 years ago, 18 June 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte suffered a final defeat at Waterloo. The battle took place during Napoleon’s attempt to defend the French throne, lost after the war against the coalition of the largest European countries and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the country. His triumphant return of power in France was called the One Hundred Days of Napoleon. However, European monarchs refused to recognize Napoleon’s power over France and organized the VII anti-French coalition. This war was unjust, since the French people supported Napoleon and hated the Bourbon regime. Napoleon lost the war to the strongest European powers and was exiled to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.
France after Napoleon
After the revolution and during the reign of Napoleon, the Bourbons were almost forgotten. They were on the periphery of social and political life. Only small royalists, mainly in emigration, cherished the hope of restoring their power. It is clear that there was no hatred anymore. Since the execution of Louis XVI lived a whole generation. The old generation did not recall the former dynasty, and the new generation knew about it only from stories. To most people, the Bourbons seemed like a distant past.
During the 1813-1814 campaigns. Napoleon's army was defeated, Russian troops entered Paris. Napoleon was exiled as an honorary exile to Elba Island in the Mediterranean. For Napoleon kept the title of emperor, he was the owner of the island. Napoleon felt quite at ease. He and his family were provided with fairly high content. The honorary entourage of Napoleon was made up of several generals and several companies of the Old Guard (numbering about the battalion). Several other units were also subordinate to him: the Corsican battalion, the Elba battalion, horse rangers, Polish lancers and an artillery battery. Also at the disposal of Napoleon was a few ships.
Napoleon's Farewell to the Imperial Guard 20 on April 1814
The winners determined the future of France. When the French minister Talleyrand, the master of intrigue who betrayed Napoleon, offered to return the throne to the Bourbons, the Russian emperor Alexander Pavlovich reacted negatively to this idea. Alexander was inclined initially in favor of Eugene Beauharnais or Bernadotte. There was a possibility of transferring the throne to any member of the Bonaparte dynasty or another dynasty, not the Bourbons. The Viennese court and the cunning Metternich were not averse to the regency of Maria Louise of Austria. However, this contradicted the interests of England and Russia.
As a result, Talleyrand was able to achieve the transfer of the throne to the Bourbons. He began to insist on the principle of legitimacy, the legitimacy of power. “Louis XVIII is a principle,” said Talleyrand. The principle of legitimacy came to the soul of both Alexander, and the Prussian king, and the Austrian emperor. 3 May 1814, a new monarch Louis XVIII of Bourbon entered Paris, surrounded by a large retinue of émigrés who returned from exile.
Unfortunately, the brother of the executed king was not the best monarch. He wandered for twenty years in different parts of Europe, lived on the maintenance of either the Russian tsar, or the Prussian king, or the English government, grew old in fruitless hopes of returning to the throne, and suddenly, when almost all hopes were exhausted, he returned to Paris. An elderly, painful and passive king, seated on the French throne with the help of foreign bayonets, could not win the sympathy of the people. He could at least not cause hatred of people, not stir up old insults.
However, his energetic brother, Count d'Artois, the future King Charles X, leader of the party of extreme royalists, from the first days of the restoration gained great influence at the court. The Duchess of Angouleme, the daughter of the executed Louis XVI, was a match for him. Royalists wanted revenge, places of honor and money. The internal policy of the cabinet of Louis XVIII was largely determined by the returned emigrants and became reactionary, despite the relatively liberal Charter of 1814 of the year. Adherents of the emperor and the republic, as well as Protestants were persecuted, freedom of the press existed only formally. The elite of Napoleon’s empire was relegated to the background, feeling deprived. The peasantry began to fear that the lands would be taken away, feudal and church taxes would be returned.
As a result, it began to seem that a relatively small group of people, long cut off from their homeland, wants to return the past. If it depended only on the entourage of Louis XVIII, it is possible that a tough tyrannical regime would be established in France. However, the Russian Tsar Alexander, and other allies, restrained radical sentiments, because they did not want to repeat stories at first. The French king was made to understand that he would have to recognize the main changes that occurred after the revolution.
Louis XVIII had to reckon with the people who helped him to ascend the throne. The first government was led by Talleyrand. War Minister was Marshal Sult. Most of the Napoleonic generals retained command positions. However, gradually, strengthened and felt the taste for power, the royalists began to crowd the Napoleonic elite. Top positions were filled with emigrants and their relatives who did not possess any talents and did not have any merit to France. Step by step, the Catholic Church strengthened its positions, occupied leading positions in society, which irritated the intelligentsia. Glorified with victory, the tricolor banner popular in the army — the banner of the French Revolution — was replaced by the white banner of the Bourbons. The three-colored cockade was replaced with a white lily-colored cockade.
People first with surprise, and then with irritation and hatred, followed the activities of the new masters of the country. These embittered people, many of whom have long lived in the hallways and doorways of various European capitals, loved money very much. They eagerly clung to the state pie. The king distributed to the right and to the left posts, ranks which brought the big income and were not connected with intense service. But they were not enough. The general requirement of the royalists was the return of the former possessions, the property that was transferred to the new owners. The royal ordinance that part of the national property, which were previously confiscated and did not have time to sell, returned to the former owners.
However, this was not enough for them. Preparing the next step - the alienation of possessions that have passed into new hands, and the transfer to the old owners. It was a very dangerous step, as he dealt a blow at a significant layer of people who had gained from the revolution. The events of the royalists, which affected the material results of the revolution and the Napoleonic era, caused great anxiety and public irritation. Talleyrand, the cleverest of all those who betrayed Napoleon and helped the Bourbons to take the throne, almost immediately noted: "They have not forgotten and learned nothing." The Russian Tsar Alexander I expressed the same thought in a conversation with Kolenkur: “The Bourbons have not been corrected and are incorrigible”
Only a few months passed, and the new government not only did not get close to the people, on the contrary, caused discontent among almost all the main strata. New owners were afraid for their possessions, their rights were questioned. There was a threat of a new redistribution of property, already in the interests of the royalists. The peasants were afraid that the old seniors and churchmen would take away their land, restore tithes and other hated feudal levies. The army was offended by disregard and contempt for its former exploits. Many military generals and officers were gradually dismissed. Their places were occupied by noble emigres who not only did not distinguish themselves in the battles for France, but often fought against it. It was obvious that soon the Napoleonic military elite would press even more.
The bourgeoisie was initially initially overwhelmed by the fall of Napoleon's empire. Endless wars ended that harmed trade, freed sea routes blocked by the British fleet, recruits to the army ceased (in the last years of Napoleon’s empire, the rich simply could not insert hired deputies instead of their sons, since the men simply ended). However, a few months after the fall of the empire and the lifting of the continental blockade, commercial circles noted with chagrin that the royal government did not even think of starting a decisive customs war with the British.
The intelligentsia, people of liberal professions, lawyers, writers, doctors, etc., also initially sympathized with the Bourbons. After the iron dictatorship of Napoleon, it seemed that freedom had come. A moderate constitution was a boon. However, soon educated people, educated in the spirit of the French Revolution, began to resent the domination of the church. The church began to actively occupy dominant positions in the public life of the country, suppressing the Voltairian spirit. Religious fanatics were especially violent in the provinces, where many officials were appointed on the recommendation of the church.
Less than half a year since the restoration of the Bourbons, as in Paris there was widespread opposition. Even the former Napoleon’s Minister of Police Fouche entered it, several times he offered his services to the new government, warned about the danger of Napoleon’s proximity to France. But his services were rejected. Then he joined the anti-government opposition. However, not everyone wanted Napoleon to return to power. Someone wanted to establish the power of Eugene Beauharnais, others offered to transfer the highest power to Lazar Carnot.
Flight of the Eagle
Napoleon carefully watched the political situation in France. He had reason to complain. Not all obligations to him were fulfilled. He was separated from his wife, Maria Louise and son. The Austrians feared that the son of Napoleon would take the French throne and continue the dynasty of Bonapartes, hostile to the Austrian Empire. Therefore, it was decided to turn the son of Napoleon into an Austrian prince. His father was to be replaced by his grandfather, the Austrian emperor, in whose palace the future Duke of Reichstadt was brought up from 1814. Napoleon was insulted. He did not know if his wife left him, or if she was not allowed to come to him.
Nor did Josephine’s first wife, whom he once passionately loved, come to him. She died in her palace in Malmaison, near Paris, a few weeks after Napoleon arrived on Elba Island, 29 in May 1814. The Emperor received this news with great sadness.
However, it was not personal motives that influenced Napoleon’s decision, but politics. This great man was eager to return to the Big Game. He closely followed the events in France and became increasingly convinced that the power of the Bourbons annoyed the people and the army. At the same time, news reached him that in Vienna they want to send him further, to St. Helena or to America.
Napoleon was a man of action, he was 45 years old, he was not yet tired of life. It was a political player. After some thought, he decided to act. 26 February 1815 Napoleon left Port-Ferio. He happily passed all the guard ships. 1 March 1815 of the year to the deserted coastline of the Juan Bay on the southern coast of the French kingdom stuck several small ships. With him came a small detachment. The whole "army" of Napoleon at this time consisted of only one thousand one hundred people. Arriving customs officers welcomed the emperor. Cannes and Grasse recognized the power of the returning emperor without any attempt at resistance. Napoleon issued a manifesto to the French, then appeals were issued to the inhabitants of Gap, Grenoble and Lyon. These appeals were of great importance, the people believed that their emperor was back.
By rapid march a small detachment of mountain paths went to the north. To avoid resistance, Napoleon chose the most difficult path - through the Alpine foothills. The emperor wanted to succeed, to conquer France, without firing a single shot. Napoleon did not want to fight the French, the path to the throne was supposed to be bloodless. He gave the order not to open fire, not to resort to arms under any circumstances. The detachment made great transitions and spent the night in the villages where Napoleon was sympathetically greeted by the peasants. Napoleon’s tactic was to avoid collisions at the first stage, winding along little-known roads and mountain paths, where it was possible to walk only in single file.
I must say that the peasants actively supported Napoleon. Thousands of thousands of peasants accompanied him from village to village. In a new place, they passed the emperor to a new group of peasants. Rumors about the return of land to their former owners were very disturbed. And the church behaved very arrogantly. The churchmen openly preached that the peasants who once bought the confiscated land would suffer the wrath of God.
7 March Napoleon went out to Grenoble. In Paris, that Napoleon left the Elbe, learned 3 of March, then all of France found out about it. The whole country was shocked, and then Europe. French troops in the south of France were commanded by old marshal Massena. True to the oath, Massena, upon learning of the landing of Napoleon, ordered General Mioliss to locate and arrest the Napoleonic squad. General Mioliss served for a long time under Napoleon’s command and at one time enjoyed his complete confidence. However, it turned out that the squad of Napoleon was ahead of the troops of Mioliss. Either Napoleon’s soldiers marched very quickly, or Mioliss was in no hurry. But, anyway, they did not meet on a narrow path.
Meanwhile, in Paris, already panicked. The royal government took quick measures to eliminate the threat. War Minister Soult gave the order 30-th. Army move against the detachment of Bonaparte. However, Soult seemed too unreliable to a suspicious royal court. Clark replaced him. Count d'Artois himself hurried to Lyon to stop the "Corsican monster," as Napoleon called the ruling clique. Many were in turmoil. They did not like the Bourbons, but did not want a new war. France was exhausted by previous wars. The French were afraid that the success of Napoleon would again lead to a big war.
In Grenoble there was a significant garrison under the command of General Marchand. Avoid collision was impossible. At the village of Lafre, government troops blocked the entrance to the gorge. Here stood the vanguard under the command of Captain Random. Napoleon led the soldiers towards rapprochement with the royal troops. When they were in sight, he ordered the soldiers to shift the gun with the right to the left hand. That is, they could not shoot. One of the emperor's closest associates, Colonel Mallet was in despair and tried to convince Napoleon of this insane, in his opinion, act. But Napoleon took this deadly risk.
Without slowing down, the French emperor calmly approached the royal soldiers. Then he stopped his squad and went alone, without protection. Coming close, he unbuttoned his coat and said: “Soldiers, will you recognize me? How many of you want to shoot at your emperor? I'm getting under your bullets. ” In response, the command of the captain of the government forces sounded: “Fire!” However, Napoleon correctly calculated everything. He was always loved in the army. "Long live the emperor!" - exclaimed the French soldiers, and the detachment in full force went over to the side of Napoleon. Napoleon was supported by local peasants, the working outskirts who broke the city gates. The emperor occupied Grenoble without a fight. Now he had six regiments with artillery.
Napoleon continued the triumphal procession to the north. He already had an army, into which peasants, workers, soldiers of various garrisons and townspeople joined. People felt in Napoleon fortitude. Thanks to popular support, Napoleon’s campaign ended in victory. March 10 Napoleon's army approached the walls of Lyon. The proud earl of d'Artois fled from the second largest city of France, transferring command to MacDonald. He saw that it was dangerous for him to remain in the city. The whole city of Lyon and its garrison went over to the side of their emperor.
Then against Napoleon moved the most illustrious Marshal Michel Ney. He promised Louis XVIII to bring Napoleon dead or alive, preventing civil war. The royal court had high hopes for Ney. The army was much stronger than Napoleon's troops. However, Napoleon knew his former comrade well. Ney was one of Napoleon's "Iron Guard", the "bravest of the brave" could not fight with his emperor. She was sent a short note: “Her! Come meet me at Chalon. I will receive you the same way as the day after the battle of Moscow. ” Supporters of Napoleon urged Ney that not all foreign powers support the Bourbons, for good reason the British released the emperor from the Elbe. Nei hesitated. 17 March, when both armies met, Ney snatched the sword from its scabbard and shouted: “Officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers! The case of the Bourbons perished forever! ”And the whole army, without a single shot, went over to the side of the emperor.
Now nothing could stop the powerful, unstoppable stream. It was in those days that a hand-written poster “Napoleon to Louis XVIII.” Appeared on the Vendome column. King, my brother! Do not send me more soldiers, I have enough of them. Napoleon. This ironic record was true. Almost the whole army went over to the side of Napoleon. He was supported by the common people, peasants, townspeople and workers.
On the night of 19 on 20 March, the French king and his family fled in panic along the road to Lille. Napoleon’s army was only approaching Fontainebleau, and in the capital, the White Banner was already torn from the Tuileries Palace and replaced with a tricolor. The people spilled out onto the street. Parisians sincerely rejoiced, let the sharp wits in the direction of the runaway king and royalists. The remaining royalists hurriedly hid, tore off white cockades. The power of the Bourbons collapsed.
20 March Napoleon entered the Tuileries, met by enthusiastic people. Thus, twenty days after the landing on the French coast, Napoleon without a single shot entered Paris and became again the head of France. It was a brilliant victory.
Already 20 March new government began work. It included Napoleon’s old comrades-in-arms: Kolenkurk was Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fouchet was Minister of Police, Carnott was Minister of the Interior, Davout was Governor General of Paris and War Minister, Mare was Secretary (he was one of the first secretaries of the First Consul).
It was a happy day for Napoleon. After long failures and defeats, he again won a brilliant victory. What happened in France was perceived by contemporaries as a miracle. A handful of people in three weeks, without firing a single shot, without killing a single person, captured the whole country. It was, apparently, one of the most exciting adventures of Napoleon. No wonder he was later called the "flight of the eagle." We must pay tribute to the courage, determination, ability to take risks and knowledge of the policies of Napoleon. He went to an unparalleled enterprise and achieved success.
Napoleon's triumph is due to two main factors. First, it is the uniqueness of Napoleon’s personality. He calculated everything perfectly and went for a reasonable risk. As a result, a small squad that did not use weapons, within three weeks, defeated a huge kingdom with a large army. The immense popularity of Napoleon among the people and the army played a role.
Secondly, it is parasitism and the anti-national essence of the Bourbon regime. The royal power in the shortest possible time was able to incite to itself the hatred of the widest sections of the people. The army, which was peasant in its composition, went over to the side of the emperor. When taking Grenoble, Lyon and in several other cities of Napoleon, the workers actively supported. The urban poor actively moved to the side of the emperor in Paris. Much of the officers and generals, the elite of Napoleon's empire went over to his side. The bourgeoisie and intellectuals were annoyed by the policies of the royal court. No one remained on the side of the Bourbons.
To be continued ...