Napoleon III of France

Napoleon III of France

* Mathilde Bonaparte, his cousin and fiancee;
* Alexandrine Éléonore Vergeot, laundress at the prison at Ham, mother of his sons Alexandre Louis Eugène and Louis Ernest Alexandre. [cite web
title=Les enfants de Napoléon et Eléonore Vergeot
publisher=Société d'Histoiredu Vésinet
language=fr icon

* Elisa Rachel Felix, the "most famous actress in Europe";
* Harriet Howard, (1823-1865) wealthy and a major financial backer;
* Virginia Oldoini, Countess de Castiglioni, (1837-1899) sent by Camillo Cavour to influence his politics;
* Marie-Anne Waleska, a possible mistress, wife of Count Alexandre Joseph Count Colonna-Walewski, his relative and foreign minister;
* Justine Marie Le Boeuf, also known as Marguerite Bellanger, actress and acrobatic dancer;
* Countess Louise de Mercy-Argenteau, (1837-1890), likely a platonic relationship, author of "The Last Love of an Emperor", her reminiscences of her association with the emperor.

His wife, Eugenie, was able to resist his advances prior to marriage. She was coached by her mother and her friend, Prosper Mérimée. "What is the road to your heart?" Napoleon demanded to know. "Through the chapel, Sire." was supposedly her answer Yet, after marriage, it took not long for him to stray as Eugenie found sex "disgusting". It is doubted that she allowed further approaches by her husband once she had given him an heir.

By his late forties, Napoleon started to suffer from numerous medical ailments, including kidney disease, bladder stones, chronic bladder and prostate infections, arthritis, gout, obesity, and the effects of chronic smoking. In 1856 Dr. Robert Ferguson, a consultant called from London, diagnosed a "nervous exhaustion" that had a "debilitating impact upon sexual ... performance". and reported this also to the British government.


An important legacy of Napoléon III's reign was the rebuilding of Paris. Part of the design decisions were taken in order to reduce the ability of future revolutionaries to challenge the government by capitalizing on the small, medieval streets of Paris to form barricades. However, this should not overlook the fact that the main reason for the complete transformation of Paris was Napoléon III's desire to modernize Paris based on what he had seen of the modernizations of London during his exile there in the 1840s. With his characteristic social approach to politics, Napoléon III desired to improve health standards and living conditions in Paris with the following goals: build a modern sewage system to improve health, develop new housing with larger apartments for the masses, create green parks all across the city to try to keep working classes away from the pubs on Sunday, etc. Large sections of the city were thus flattened down and the old winding streets were replaced with large thoroughfares and broad avenues. The rebuilding of Paris was directed by Baron Haussmann (1809–1891; Prefect of the Seine "département" 1853–1870). It was this rebuilding that turned Paris into the city of broad tree-lined boulevards and parks so beloved of tourists today.

With Prosper Mérimée, Napoleon III continued to seek the preservation for numerous medieval buildings in France, which had been left disregarded since the French revolution (a project Mérimée had begun during the July Monarchy). With Viollet-le-Duc acting as chief architect, many buildings were saved, including some of the most famous in France : - Notre Dame Cathedral, Mont Saint Michel, Carcassonne, Pierrefonds, Roquetaillade castle and others.

Napoléon III also directed the building of the French railway network, which greatly contributed to the development of the coal mining and steel industry in France, radically changing the nature of the French economy, which entered the modern age of large-scale capitalism. The French economy, the second largest in the world at the time (behind the United Kingdom), experienced a very strong growth during the reign of Napoléon III. Names such as steel tycoon Eugène Schneider or banking mogul James de Rothschild are symbols of the period. Two of France's largest banks, Société Générale and Crédit Lyonnais, still in existence today, were founded during that period. The French stock market also expanded prodigiously, with many coal mining and steel companies issuing stocks. Although largely forgotten by later Republican generations, which only remembered the non-democratic nature of the regime, the economic successes of the Second Empire are today recognized as impressive by historians. The emperor himself, who had spent several years in exile in Victorian Lancashire, was largely influenced by the ideas of the Industrial Revolution in England, and he took particular care of the economic development of the country. He is recognized as the first ruler of France to have taken great care of the economy; previous rulers considering it secondary.

His military adventurism is sometimes considered a fatal blow to the Concert of Europe, which based itself on stability and balance of powers, whereas Napoleon III attempted to rearrange the world map to France's favor even when it involved radical and potentially revolutionary changes in politics.


The question of his paternity remains ambiguous, as his parents were estranged and Hortense had her lovers. However, the parents met briefly between 23 June and 6 July 1807, eight months prior to his birth. Speculation on this topic was a favorite of his detractors.


Napoléon III, to this day, has not enjoyed the prestige that Napoléon I enjoyed. Victor Hugo portrayed him as "Napoléon the small" ("Napoléon le Petit"), a mere mediocrity in contrast with Napoléon I "The Great", presented as a military and administrative genius. In France, such arch-opposition from the age's central literary figure, whose attacks on Napoléon III were obsessive and powerful, made it impossible for a very long time to assess his reign objectively. Karl Marx, in "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon", mocked Napoléon III by saying that historical facts and personages often appear twice: "The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Napoléon III has often been seen as an authoritarian but ineffectual leader who brought France into dubious, and ultimately disastrous, foreign military adventures.

Historians have also emphasized his attention to the fate of working classes and poor people. His book "Extinction du paupérisme" ("Extinction of pauperism"), which he wrote while imprisoned at the Fort of Ham in 1844, contributed greatly to his popularity among the working classes and thus his election win in 1848. Throughout his reign the emperor worked to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, on occasion breaching the nineteenth-century economic orthodoxy of complete laissez-faire and using state resources or interfering in the market. Among other things, the Emperor granted the right to strike to French workers in 1864, despite intense opposition from corporate lobbies.

The Emperor also ordered the creation of three large parks in Paris (Parc Monceau, Parc Montsouris, and Parc des Buttes Chaumont) with the clear intention of offering them for poor working families as an alternative to the pub ("bistrot") on Sundays, much as Victoria Park in London was also built with the same social motives in mind.


*"Les Idees Napoleoniennes" - an outline of Napoleon III's opinion of the optimal course for France, written before he became Emperor.
* "History of Julius Caesar", a historical work he wrote during his reign. He drew an analogy between the politics of Julius Caesar and his own, as well as those of his uncle.
* Napoleon III wrote a number of articles concerning military matters (artillery), scientific issues (electromagnetism, pro and con of beet versus cane sugar), historical topics (The Stuart kings of England), and on the feasibility of the Nicaragua canal. His pamphlet "On the Extinction of Pauperism" helped his political advancement.



*Thompson, J.M. "Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire." Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965.

Further reading

: Among the leading comprehensive histories of the Second Empire include:
* De la Gorce, "Histoire du second empire", (four volumes, Paris, 1885-98), and
* Taxile Delord, "Histoire du second empire", (six volumes, Paris, 1869-76).
* Bernhard Simson, "Ueber die Beziehungen Napoleond III. zu Preussen und Deutschland", (Freiburg, 1882)
* Adolf Ebeling, "Napoleon III. und sein Hof", (Cologne, 1891-94)
* Thirra, "Napoléon III avant l'empire", (Paris, 1895)
* E. Ollivier, "L'Empire libéral", (Paris, 1895-1909)
* A. L. Imbert de Saint-Amand, "Napoleon III at the Height of his Power", (New York, 1900)
* T. W. Evans, "Memoirs of the Second French Empire", (New York, 1905)
* Fenton Bresler, "Napoleon III: A Life", (London, 1999)
* David Harvey, "Paris: Capital of Modernity", (New York: Routledge, 2003)
*Marie-Clotilde-Elisabeth Louise de Riquet, comtesse de Mercy-Argenteau, "The Last Love of an Emperor": reminiscences of the Comtesse Louise de Mercy-Argenteau, née Princesse de Caraman-Chimay, describing her association with the Emperor Napoléon III and the social and political part she played at the close of the Second Empire (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Page & Co., 1926)

Movie portrayals

* Leon Ames played him in "Suez" (1938), although Loretta Young as Eugenie is much more highlighted.
* Claude Rains shows him in "Juarez" (1939) as a weak man ready to betray Maximilian in Mexico.
* Jerome Cowan plays Napoleon III in "The Song of Bernadette" (1943).
* Guy Bates Post plays Louis Napoleon in "Maytime" (1936).

ee also

* History of France
* Bonaparte
* Second French Empire

External links

* [ "Napoleonic ideas. Des idées napoléniennes (1859)" at]
* [ "History of Julius Caesar" vol. 1 at MOA]
* [ "History of Julius Caesar" vol. 2 at MOA]
* [ "Histoire de Jules César (Volume 1) " in French at]
* [ Editorial cartoons of the Second Empire]
* [ Historic Farnborough]


NAME = Napoléon III
SHORT DESCRIPTION = First President of the French Republic and last monarch of France
DATE OF BIRTH = 20 April 1808
PLACE OF BIRTH = Paris, France
DATE OF DEATH = 9 January 1873
PLACE OF DEATH = Chislehurst, London, England

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