Return of the Bourbons, 1814-1815
In April 1814 the French Senate invited Louis XVIII to take the throne of France provided he agreed to a Constitution that would recognise the Republic and the Empire. Among other stipulations were that the tricolor should remain as the national flag.
Louis XVIII was the brother of the guillotined Louis XVI and uncle of Louis XVII. His nephew had never in fact been formally crowned before he died in prison in 1795, Louis XVII’s sister was ignored for the succession because France still followed the Salic Law.
Louis XVIII had lived in exile in a number of locations (including the Austrian Netherlands, Latvia and Britain) where he had fashioned himself as Regent of France given his nephew’s imprisonment and later death.
He arrived to take up his crown with a grand procession through the city, ending up at the Tuileries Palace where he had decided to live.
He promptly rejected the Senate’s constitution and instead proposed the Charter of 1814. This established a bicameral government consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Peers; deputies would be elected to five-year terms, a fifth of their number re-elected each year, peers would be appointed by the king for life or as a hereditary grant.
There were 76 articles in the Charter that established the official religion as Roman Catholic, he freed some of the controls on the press,
The king signed the Treaty of Paris with the Sixth Coalition powers, France’s borders returned to their 1792 position, which meant it extended eastwards to the Rhine. The Coalition forces promptly left French soil and France were not faced with any reparation payments.
His administration soon started to create opposition. He had promised to abolish unpopular taxes on salt, tobacco and wine but when he was appraised of the 75 million franc debts he had inherited from Napoleon he relented on his promise. For 1815 he slashed the spending on the military which had been 55% of the total budget in 1814.
He also meddled in the Congress of Vienna that had been convened to redefine Europe following the Napoleonic wars. He was concerned that if Prussia annexed Saxony that it would become all-powerful in Germany. He tried to stop Napoleon’s wife, Marie Louise, from being given the Duchy of Parma, lobbying for it to be held by Bourbons, he failed in this. He also wanted the removal of Napoleon’s appointee as King of Naples, Joachim Murat, again favouring a Bourbon king. In this latter he succeeded when the Austrians sent a force to eject Murat who had been accused of communicating with Napoleon in his exile.