Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte

[Napoleon Bonaparte III]

Biography of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) was the first President of the French Republic and, as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. Elected President by popular vote in 1848, he initiated a coup d'état in 1851, before ascending the throne as Napoleon III on 2 December 1852, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon I's coronation. He ruled as Emperor of the French until 4 September 1870. He holds the distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France.

Napoleon III is primarily remembered for an energetic foreign policy which aimed to jettison the limitations imposed on France since 1815 by the Concert of Europe and reassert French influence in Europe and the French colonial empire. Napoleon stood opposed to the reactionary policies imposed at Vienna in 1815 and instead was an exponent of popular sovereignty, and a friend of nationalism.

In the Near East, Napoleon III spearheaded allied action against Russia in the Crimean War and restored French presence in the Levant, claiming for France the role of protector of the Maronite Christians. A French garrison in Rome likewise secured the Papal States against annexation by Italy, defeating the Italians at Mentana and winning the support of French Catholics for Napoleon's regime.

In the Far East, Napoleon III established French rule in Cochinchina and New Caledonia. French interests in China were upheld in the Second Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion; an abortive campaign against Korea was launched in 1866 while a military mission to Japan failed to prevent the restoration of Imperial rule. French intervention in Mexico was also unsuccessful and was terminated in 1867 due to mounting Mexican resistance and American diplomatic pressure.

Domestically, Napoleon was balanced between the conservatives and liberals, and year by year moved bit by bit toward the liberal element. It was an era of prosperity and industrialization in France. This facilitated a major renovation of Paris under Haussmann that created the outline of the modern city. The Second French Empire was overthrown three days after Napoleon's disastrous surrender at the Battle of Sedan in 1870, which resulted in the proclamation of the French Third Republic and his exile in England, where he died in 1873.

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