Would you agree that the future of the Bourbon monarchy was doomed from the start? Discuss this with reference to the events of 1814-15?

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Rebecca Johnson                Miss Garvie

October 2004                History Essay

Would you agree that the future of the Bourbon monarchy was doomed from the start? Discuss this with reference to the events of 1814-15?

It is not fair to say that the future of the Bourbon monarchy was doomed from the start, because even though there were immediate drawbacks of association with an unpopular peace, this was more than balanced by the fact that France possessed economic and social potential. The good economy was demonstrated by the fact that much of Europe had suffered dislocation and devastation at the hands of warring armies, but only France had escaped lightly with only a few temporary difficulties.  Also land was productive and populated by skillful peasantry and the industries could meet the demands of the country. Socially many of the tensions that had led to revolution in 1789 had been removed, due to the peasants been free and owning most of their land and so apposing any revolutionary activity, the bourgeoisie were no longer prevented from gaining social and political distinction and so would give support to any regime that would maintain the status quo and finally the church had more influence over the people therefore could teach people that existing social and political role was important. However even though it can be said that the Bourbon monarchy had not been doomed from the start, the events of 1814-15 did begin to question the future of the Bourbon monarchy.  

The first event that occurred was the abdication of Napoleon on the 6th April 1814 and the task of choosing a new monarch. In 1810 France dominated most of Europe, because Napoleon had achieved a lot during his military command. Russia had been the only country, which had power beforehand but Napoleon tried to destroy it as a military force. Therefore Russia, Austria and France had joined together in attempt to restrict Napoleons power to the boundaries of France. Napoleon had to abdicate as a result of the weaknesses within his command. The main one for example was that, he refused to settle for second best even if that was all that was on offer. When a new monarch had to be chosen it was thought that the French would not accept Louis XVIII, because he was perceived, as been narrow mind, selfish and totally apathetic to his country and his people and ‘was not a person to inspire immediate and enthusiastic devotion’. Louis-Philippe was more likely to win acceptance in France, because he had been a supporter of the French Revolution in its early years. A decision could not be made about the new leader therefore it was left up to the French to decide. An important individual at this point was Tallyrand who established himself as head of a provisional government and brought a successful conclusion. Tallyrands task was to show the allies that there was widespread support in France for the restoration of the Bourbons, as they did not agree with the election of a new monarch.  He did this by getting crowds of people to shout ‘Vive le roi’, which means ‘Long live the king’ as the Duke of Wellington led British troops from Spain. Consequently in April 1814 it was agreed amongst the allies that Louis XVIII should return as the King of France. Louis XVIII had been living outside France for 20 years up to this point after he was put into exile and had been surrounded by fellow émigrés all waiting for the time when they could claim what was rightfully theirs. The French did not want to lose what they had gained in the Revolution, but they wanted a sense of security and permanence that had been missing before. The election of Louis XVIII as king to initiate the demands of the French was not a good idea, because he was not a very attractive person as he was obese and gouty and often ferried around in a wheelchair. There was no doubt that he was conscious of his supreme dignity in his station and he was a firm believer in the divine rights of kings and would answer to no one but God.  His loyal supporters praised him continuously, but many people referred him to as a ‘fat pig’ due to his selfish, narrow-minded attitude. Once the decision had been made to make Louis the king, the major issue was whether he could come to terms with the changes that had been made since he had been in exile. He showed himself to the population as been reasonable, but he would not accept any restriction that would be placed on his powers and would not be bound to rules and regulations. This would not gain him loyal support in the long term and would eventually lead to his downfall.  

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The details of the new political, legal and social arrangements were worked out and the Charter was produced on 4th June 1814. The Charter was a guarantee that Louis’s restoration would not mean a purely reactionary return to the Ancien Regime, as it had existed before 1789. Also it was an assurance that the gains of the last twenty-five years would not be swept away by the stroke of a pen. The Charter more importantly established a political system that was more liberal than any other country in mainland Europe. Many people accepted this and the political arrangements of the ...

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