The First Restoration
When the allied armies occupied Paris, they issued a declaration under the name of the Austrian commander-in-chief, Schwartzenburg, refusing to deal with Napoleon or any member of his family and inviting the Senate to form a provisional government. For the first time in public at any rate, the allies proclaimed the overthrow of the Empire as one of their aims. This made a restoration of the Bourbons inevitable. There had to be a new constitution. This was the work of the Senate which contributed five of its number to the provisional government and twenty members to a constitutional commission. That is, the body which took responsibility for deposing Napoleon on 2 April was composed of men from the old revolutionary legislatures, the dignitaries of the Empire, imperial officials, officers and the like. The conceptions of government of all these men reflected their backgrounds as revolutionary and Napoleonic politicians and officials. There would be a bicameral legislature responsible for consenting to taxes, an independent judiciary, equality of opportunity, an amnesty for all political opinions, freedom of religion and the press, fiscal and legal equality, irrevocable guarantees for owners of biens nationaux, and recognition of both the Old Regime and imperial nobilities. Although this was changed later, it was even said that Louis XVIII was `called’ to the throne by `the French people’, in other words, the nation, not the king, was sovereign. Strangely, many members of the Senate who drafted this document were from the annexed territories that were eventually split off from France itself. In a sense, therefore, the Charter was a European document, imposed upon the French without so much as a referendum to endorse it. All the other constitutions, except that of 1791, had been placed before the electorate. It should not be surprising that the `Charter’ resembled the Constitution of 1791. The self-appointed constitutional committee liter- ally had a copy available to consult.
If the `men of 1789′ were to triumph, it was essential to get Louis XVI’s brothers to accept the Charter. In the event, it was forced on them. When the comte d’Artois arrived in Paris in early April in the uniform of the National Guard no less, the Senate was extremely reluctant to recognize his title of lieutenant-general until he accepted the Charter. Tsar Alexander also insisted that he recognize it. Thus the emergence of a parliamentary regime in France depended upon a completely unelected body and upon the most despotic of the European monarchs. With nowhere to turn, Artois conceded. As long ago as 1805, his brother the Pretender had interred the Declaration of Verona which had promised an integral restoration of the Old Regime. Instead, the Pretender accepted the existing judicial, military and administrative structure but said nothing about a legislature with powers over taxation. Another declaration issued from his English residence at Hartwell on 1 February 1813 reiterated these points and expressed the hope that the issue of biens nationaux could be settled by `transactions’ among the present and former owners. Privately, he disliked the notion of the state paying Protestant ministers.
In the circumstances of 1814 he too would have to bend and, recognizing reality with none of Artois’s bad grace, he waited until the eve of his entry to Paris to publish the Declaration of Saint Ouen on 3 May which accepted the principles of the Senate’s project but not the actual document. A new commission set to work on a new charter which differed from the old only in that the Senate was replaced with a Chamber of Peers nominated by the king, the `senatoreries’ were abolished, and the most restricted franchise of the entire period was adopted for the Chamber of Deputies. This put electoral power overwhelmingly in the hands of big landowners. Finally, the preamble to the Charter did not recognize national sovereignty; instead the Charter was said to be `granted’ by the king. Thus were planted the seeds of the revolution of 1830.
The fact that the Restoration was effected the way it was ensured that it would not be counterrevolutionary. None of the elements of opposition to the Empire the clergy, the malcontents in the army, the intelligentsia or the royalists of the Chevaliers de la Foi – played- a crucial role. Nor had the out-and-out reactionaries. In 1790, Artois and the emigres had planned to effect the counterrevolution by a combination of a military conspiracy and popular insurrection. Yet in 1814, the officers had remained loyal almost to the last and many of the troops were Bonapartist. In fact there had been no great royalist upsurge. Even the royalists of Bordeaux were probably a minority. At its most optimistic, the little royalist Bordelais army never numbered more than 800 in a city of 70,000. Elsewhere, violent royalism was rare. The Chevaliers de la Foi tried to seize Rodez but the leaders called it off when only 200 `knights’ showed up. There was a royalist riot at Marseille on 14 April in which Provencal-speaking crowds vainly attacked the prefecture. This showed that popular royalism still existed but such disturbances were almost unique. Even the old Vendee militaire and the chouans north of the A Loire had not risen, an indication of just how effective the imperial government’s policy of disarming the west had been. Instead, the young men had responded by trying to avoid conscription, and by the spring there were signs of a general breakdown of law and order as brigand bands roamed the countryside. But this was only a pale shadow of the great days of 1793.
There were even pro-Bonapartist demonstrations. Peasants in Lorraine, goaded beyond endurance by requisition or outright pillage, formed partisan units. One of them was actually led by a parish priest whose men showed considerable skill in guerrilla attacks. There are numerous examples of country people killing allied stragglers or observation troops or picking up muskets from allied dead on the battlefield and turning them over to imperial soldiers or coming forward to help troops move heavy cannon through the muddy roads of Champagne. In mid-April, soldiers stationed in Clermont-Ferrand countered the prefect’s reading of the de- position decree with cries of `Vive l’Empereur!’, while a crowd of cavalrymen led by junior officers broke down the door of the cathedral to harass a priest who had unfurled the white flag of the Bourbons. In the countryside of Auvergne, there were rumours that a restoration presaged the re-imposition of the tithe and feudal dues, while later that summer in a few communes peasants paraded an effigy of the king on an ass. In Strasbourg, soldiers almost rebelled when they were told to wear the royalist white cockade. Almost everywhere there was a general refusal to pay taxes, and in some places there were anti-rscal rebellions. In the Haute-Garonne, Gironde, Vendee, Seine-Inferieure, Pas-de-Calais and at Marseille, A A Rennes, Cahors, Chalon-sur-Saone and Limoges, officials of the droits reunis and the octroi were attacked and their registers burned. Royalist A agents and a proclamation of the Prince de Conde had led people to believe A that those taxes would be abolished or much reduced. In some regions like Anjou, people acted on this propaganda, reasoning that since the war was over no taxes at all were necessary ± a remarkable example of the survival of medieval notions of fiscality. When Louis XVIII maintained the droits reunis, disappointment was sharp.
Given time, the restored Bourbons might have been able to assuage these fears, but from the top down experience soon showed that reconciling the servants and loyalists of the imperial and royalist regimes would be far from easy. As major instruments in overthrowing Napoleon, the senators did exceptionally well. Only 37 of the French senators were excluded from the 155-member Chamber of Peers, 12 because they were conventionnels, while 84 were included, each with a magnificent pension of 36,000 francs. To the end, they had known how to look after themselves. The continuity of personnel among the upper courts was also great but other institutions suffered more. Since it was so closely identified with the Emperor, it is not surprising that 40 per cent of the members of the Council of State were eliminated. There was no thoroughgoing purge of the prefectoral corps but 28 of 87 were fired outright because they had been revolutionaries or imperialist zealots, while of the 36 new appointments which the first Restoration made, one third were former emigres. The number of nobles in the corps as a whole nearly doubled – a significant indication of whom the regime thought its friends were. Much of this was to be expected and the purges were not very great in comparison to those of the previous twenty-five years, but the voluble courtiers around the comte d’Artois let it be known that this was only the beginning of a vast settling of accounts. Intelligent and indolent, Louis XVIII could not muzzle his dim and impetuous brother.
A careless historiography usually blames the Bourbons themselves and the utterances of careless ministers for what happened next. This is far too simple. Whatever gaffes various ministers committed, public opinion did not turn against the First Restoration overnight. Instead, opinion remained totally loyal to the Emperor.
In the constitutional scheme of things, the common people counted for nothing so nothing was done to wean them from the shock of Napoleon’s defeat. Thus the Emperor retained much of his popularity well after his abdication. The old Napoleonic bric-a-brac – playing cards, medallions, A statuettes, broadsheets, dinner plates, and so on – continued to circulate with the addition of mawkish engravings of the Emperor coming the King of Rome to the care of the National Guard who supposedly represented the French people. Enterprising printers put out other drawings depicting a sleeping eagle with the caption, `He will return!’ Prisoners of war returned with a grudge. Those who returned from the ghastly hulks of English prison ships were looking for revenge. Prisoners from Germany, whom the allies had overrun, knew they had not been defeated. Soldiers like these would welcome a second chance.
Indeed, there were rumours from the beginning of the Restoration that he already had returned or had escaped to raise an army in Turkey. The docks in the lower courts were jammed with unfortunate individuals being prosecuted for having shouted `Vive l’Empereur!’ within earshot of a gendarme. During the Second Restoration especially, there were many who predicted that his third coming would be a prelude to the end of days or that he returned secretly and spoke only to those who really believed or to innocent children.
Many simply refused to believe the Emperor had gone. Many believed that somehow Napoleon had been betrayed. Even defeat did not convince soldiers from Spain who marched through the streets of Grenoble shouting `Vive l’Empereur! Vive Le Roi de Rome!’
The Second Restoration
The Bourbon restoration was a time of political instability with the country constantly on the verge of political violence.
The army was committed to a defense of the Spanish monarchy in 1824, achieving its aims in six months, but did not fully withdraw until 1828, in contrast to the earlier Napoleonic invasion this expedition was rapid and successful.
Taking advantage of the weakness of the bey of Algiers France invaded in 1830 and again rapidly overcame initial resistance, the French government formally annexed Algeria but it took nearly 45 years to fully pacify the country. This period of French history saw the creation of the Armée d’Afrique, which included the French Foreign Legion. The Army was now uniformed in dark blue coats and red trousers, which it would retain until the First World War.
The news of the fall of Algiers had barely reached Paris in 1830 when the Bourbon Monarchy was overthrown and replaced by the constitutional Orleans Monarchy, the mobs proved too much for the troops of the Maison du Roi and the main body of the French Army, sympathetic to the crowds, did not become heavily involved.
The Royal Army of the Second Bourbon Restoration
The Blue was reestablished in the Infantry with the Regiments in 1820 when the Departemental Légions were disbanded, actually these Légions had only one or two then 2 or 3 Infantry Battalions, a very small number had really Scouts companies and the Artillery company existed only in one Légion.
It was an (nearly)all-blue uniform with red collar for all the régiments and after 1822 various regimental colours for the collar and cuffs and white trousers for warm weather, so adopted before the first campaigns outside France since 1815 (Spain in 1823, Greece, Algiers, Belgium…)
The famous garance trousers were adopted in 1829 under Charles X even if many people in France think that it was the Monarchy of July who introduced it.
The 6 Swiss Regiments (2 of the Guard & 4 others) disbanded in 1830 kept their traditional red uniforms.
6. France: a) Fusilier, Departmental Legion 1816.
b) Trooper, 11th Chasseurs a Cheval (Régt de l’Isere), 1818.
Details of French infantry uniform changed a number of times after the Bourbon Restoration, with often considerable delays in the adoption of new patterns. A Bourbon shako-plate, issued to some units in the middle of 1814, was replaced upon Napoleon’s return by the old Imperial pattern (where possible), which was itself replaced after Waterloo. After the second Restoration came more drastic changes – the new Royal Guard continued to wear blue, but the line regiments were completely reorganised into numbered ‘Departmental Legions’ each of three battalions, wearing a uniform of the 1812 pattern but in white with coloured facings, each of the eighty-six Legions having a different arrangement of the colouring on collar, lapels and cuffs. The facing colours were, for the 1st to 10th royal blue; 11th-20th yellow, 21st-30th red, 31st-40th deep pink, 41st-50th carmine, 51st-60th orange, 61st-70th light blue, 71st-80th dark green, and 81st-86th violet. The jacket turnbacks and shako-plumes distinguished the various companies, fusiliers having turnback-badges of the fleur-de-lys, voltigeurs of hunting- horn, chasseurs of hunting-horn and fleur-de-lys, and grenadiers of the traditional bursting grenade. Initially, the 1812 shako was worn with the 1814 Bourbon plate, but in March 1816 a narrower-topped shako was introduced, and in 1818 metal instead of white cloth cockades were adopted. A padded cloth disc was worn on fusilier shakos, of blue for the 1st battalion, red for the and, and green for the 3rd (until 1819 when extra battalions were added; then the 3rd took yellow discs and the 4th green) with a brass company numeral on the disc. Grenadiers and voltigeurs had pompoms of red and yellow respectively.
Chasseur a Cheval uniform changed considerably over the years, these light cavalry troops in 1816 wearing lapelled jackets, having Hussar-style braid by 1822 and becoming single- breasted in 1831. The tall, cylindrical shakos had black plumes tipped with the facing colour, later changed to falling black plumes, though pom- poms were also worn alone; in 1845 the busby was adopted at the same time as the red epaulettes (worn since 1831) were changed to white.
Under the Bourbons, regiments again assumed titles as well as numbers. Chasseur a Cheval regiments were organised in groups of three, the first in the group having both collar and collar-piping in the facing colour, the second with green collar and coloured piping, and the third with coloured collar and green piping. In 1818 regimental names and facing colours were:
In 1822 this scheme changed, with regiments being grouped in fours, the first two in each group having coloured collars with green piping, and the last two in each group having green collars with coloured piping. Facing colours at this time were: Ist-4th red 5th-8th yellow, 9th-12th carmine, 13th-16th blue, 17th-20th deep pink, 21st-24th orange.
An interesting feature of the uniform illustrated-taken from a contemporary print by Canu is the elaborate method of wearing the shako-cords.
7. France: a) Grenadier, 7th Regt, Garde Royale (1st Swiss), Full Dress, 1817
b) Musician, 8th Regt, Garde Royale (and Swiss), Full Dress, 1817.
It was traditional for the French Royal Guard to include Swiss units, these troops being ranked among the King’s closest bodyguard prior to the Revolution. Upon the first Restoration, a company of Cent-Suisses was established, but not revived after the Waterloo campaign. Instead, of the eight Guard infantry regiments raised upon the second Restoration, the 7th and 8th were composed of Swiss and alternatively titled the 1st and 2nd Swiss Regiments. Unlike the other six regiments (which wore blue uniforms) the Swiss units continued to wear their traditional scarlet uniform, a colouring which had been used during the Ancien Régime and by Napoleon’s Swiss corps; whereas the grenadiers of the other Royal Guard regiments wore red epaulettes (voltigeurs orange, centre companies white and chasseurs green), to prevent a clash of colour between jacket and epaulettes the grenadiers of the Swiss regiments continued to wear the white epaulettes of Napoleon’s day. All Royal Guard infantry wore the lace loops on the breast; the fur cap was reserved for grenadiers, the remainder wearing shakos.
Musicians (in every army) were traditionally distinguished by unusual costume, the most frequent variation being that the body of the uniform was of a different colour to that of the remainder of the regiment. The uniform illustrated is no exception, being in the classic ‘reversed colours’ style (i. e. the body of the coat in the regimental facing colour and the collar and cuffs in the usual coat-colour). An interesting feature of this uniform is the shako, being reminiscent of the Russian ‘kiwer’ pattern, but of a greater height. Shako-plates for musicians were frequently of a more elaborate form than those of the remainder, in this case being a representation of the Royal Arms with a trophy of flags around. The ‘trefoil epaulettes were a common musicians’ distinction, dating from the Napoleonic period.
8. France: a) Trooper, Cuirassiers of the Garde Royale, 1820.
b) Trumpeter, 3rd Dragoons, (Régt La Garonne), 1818.
In 1815 a new helmet with caterpillar crest was adopted by the French Dragoons, but was replaced by a pattern with horsehair mane authorised in July 1821; but it seems likely that in some cases it was as late as 1825 before the new pattern was issued. The green uniform-colour associated with the Napoleonic period was retained, regiments being allotted names and facing-colours in a similar style to that of the Chasseurs a Cheval, described in Plate 6. Names, numbers and facing-colours were as shown in the chart.
The uniform illustrated, however, shows an interesting variation; an ornate trumpeter’s uniform with yellow helmet-crest (instead of the usual black), and a blue uniform bearing regimental facings but with the musicians’ lace of white with interwoven crimson ovals. The facing-colour was also borne on the shabraque.
Though Napoleon’s Imperial Guard had included no cuirassiers, the Bourbon Royal Guard did; two regiments, wearing almost identical uniforms, strongly reminiscent of the cuirassiers of the Empire. The helmets were of the old pattern, but with the horsehair mane replaced by a cater- pillar plume, and the cuirass emblazoned with the Royal arms. Otherwise, the costume might have belonged to a regiment of Napoleon’s. Both regiments had white helmet- plumes, but the and had a red ball-tuft at the base. These helmets were replaced in 1826 by a pattern lacking the skin turban, though the and Regiment did not receive theirs until 1827
Other Guard cavalry regiments also wore uniforms based upon those of their Imperial predecessors the Dragoons had brass helmets with leopard-skin turbans, caterpillar crests and white plumes, green coatees with rose-pink facings; the Horse Grenadiers had fur caps with white plumes for the 1st Regiment and red-and- white for the 2nd, dark blue coats with white lace bars on the breast, with red facings for the 2nd Regiment; and the Garde du Corps a helmet similar to that of the old Gendarmes, with a red-faced blue uniform, each company being distinguished in a singular manner, by coloured squares on the pouch-belt. The first four companies to be raised had white, green, blue and yellow belts respectively, and the 5th (when formed) scarlet.
15. France: a) Private, Marines, Undress, 1829.
b) Trooper, 8th Dragoons, 1827.
This plate illustrates the Dragoon helmet (also issued in steel to the cuirassiers) which was authorised in 1821 but in some cases probably not adopted until 1825, succeeding that shown in Plate 8. Of a most unusual pattern, of the traditional Dragoon brass, it had a horsehair mane and aigrette, and a hair ‘brush’ along the top of the crest. In 1826 squadron-identification in the form of a coloured ball placed at the bottom of the plume was added, in blue for the 1st squadron of every regiment, crimson for the 2nd, green for the 3rd, sky-blue for the 4th, rose-pink for the 5th and yellow for the 6th. This helmet lasted until 1840, when it was replaced by a more conventional pattern with ordinary mane and leopard-skin turban. The jackets remained the traditional dragoon green in colour, but by 1823 new facing-colours had been introduced, of deep rose for the 1st-4th Regiments 5th-8th yellow, and crimson for the 3th and 10th. Trousers were grey with piping of the facing colour, later changed to plain red for dismounted wear and red with leather reinforcing for mounted duty, but it appears that there were variations in this rule; the print from which this plate is taken shows red trousers with piping of the facing colour!
The French Marines- organised in five divisions in May 1829- wore a most singular uniform in both full and undress. The full-dress helmet was an odd-shaped item, with a spherical black leather skull and brim like a bowler, with a narrow brass crest supporting a black woollen crest, a brass front plate and brass bosses on the side, embossed with fleur-de-lys motif, and brass chinscales. The full-dress jacket was short, of dark blue with brass buttons and shoulder- scales, worn with plain blue trousers black gaiters and the same girdle as worn in undress. The undress uniform (chiefly remarkable for the striped cap-band and chinscales) was worn with the same equipment as full dress, having a black leather cartridge- box with brass anchor badge worn at the rear of the girdle, in the middle of the back. Bayonet and brass-hilted sword were worn in both orders of dress. The Divisions of Brest, Toulon and (until 1832) Rochefort each maintained a band, the first two of great repute; the drum-majors’ uniform included plumed busby, sash, mace, and a special pattern of sabre The full dress helmet was abolished for wear at sea in 1832, but remained in use for shore duty until 1840.
16. France a) Officer, 8th Regt, Garde Royale (and Swiss), 1829.
b) Drum-Major, 7th Regt, Garde Royale (1st Swiss), 1830
c) Bugler, Light Company, Infantry, 1828.
The Departmental Legions (Plate 6) were replaced in 1822 by numbered infantry regiments in the previous manner, wearing single-breasted dark blue jackets, white trousers for summer and blue for winter, and red epaulettes for grenadiers, yellow for voltigeurs, and shoulder-straps for fusiliers. In May 1822 facing colours were allocated to all 6o regiments, a different combination of collar, cuffs, piping and turnbacks identifying the individual corps. These colours were white for regiments 1-4, 5-8 crimson, 9-12 yellow, 13-16 rose-pink, 17-20 orange, 21-24 light blue, 25-28 buff, and 29-32 green, the colour-sequence repeating from the 33rd to 60th; regiments 61 to 64 were raised in February 1823. Another new shako- plate was introduced in 1821, and a new shako n 1825, which had grenadiers and voltigeurs distinguished by double pompoms of red and yellow respectively. In 1828 facing-colours were abolished, all line regiments taking red facings, and light infantry yellow.
Musicians as usual disregarded the official regulations as shown by the bugler in this plate; in 1827 the lace chevrons on the arms were abolished, but are worn, though the authorised collar-and cuff-lace is not musicians of fusilier companies often wore the epaulettes and plumes officially reserved for flank companies while in many cases drum-majors still wore the fur busby.
The two Swiss regiments of the Garde Royale illustrated show the progression in costume from those shown in Plate 7. The musicians wore reversed colours of blue with red facings, the bandsmen (though not drummers and fifers attached to companies who wore the appropriate shako or grenadier cap) having busbies; the jackets, now single- breasted, retained the bars of lace on the breast. The drum major’s uniform illustrated was typical of the opulent, lace-covered dress traditionally associated with French musicians.
Other Royal Guard infantry units adopted the infantry-pattern jacket in 1822, retaining their distinctive lace and grenadiers their bearskin caps, The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments had cuffs and turnbacks of crimson, rose- pink and yellow respectively, the 4th 5th and 6th having the same facing-colour sequence but with blue cuffs, the facing colour showing on the cuff- flaps and turnbacks only. Epaulettes were white for all regiments, as were the shako- and grenadier cap-cords.
37 France: b) Private, Artillery Train, Garde Royale, 1824.
The uniform of the Artillery Train of the Royal Guard illustrated is strongly reminiscent (in colouring) of its equivalent in Napoleon’s army. The helmet, bearing the Royal arms on the front, was a development of the style adopted immediately after Waterloo, being similar to the 1792 fur-crested helmet originally copied from the British Tarleton.
Revolt in Spain
In January 1820, a liberal revolt led by Spanish troops under General Rafael del Riego compelled absolutist King Ferdinand VII to implement the Spanish constitution of 1812. That constitution – full of goodies like universal suffrage (at least for men) and freedom of the press – had been drafted by the Spanish national assembly (the Cortes) when they were trying to rid the country of King Joseph Bonaparte and Napoleon’s troops during the Peninsular War. Upon the constitution’s resurrection, Ferdinand became a de facto prisoner of the Cortes. He retired to Aranjuez, south of Madrid. When a counter-revolt by extreme royalists in July 1822 failed to liberate him, Ferdinand called on the other European monarchs to come to his assistance.
The issue was taken up at the Congress of Verona in late 1822. The Holy Alliance (Russia, Prussia and Austria) was concerned about the threat posed by revolutionary movements such as that in Spain, and Russian Tsar Alexander I was keen to intervene. The British – represented at the Congress by the Duke of Wellington – were opposed to intervention. Austrian Foreign Minister Clemens von Metternich was in favour of restoring legitimate monarchs, but did not want to give Russia an excuse to extend its power.
France was in an awkward position. As Ferdinand VII was a member of the House of Bourbon, French ultra-royalists were pressuring King Louis XVIII to rescue his distant cousin. Louis, however, disapproved of Ferdinand’s brand of absolutism, and neither he nor Prime Minister Joseph Villèle favoured sending troops into Spain. War would be expensive, the army was not well organized, and the loyalty of the troops was questionable. As a compromise, the government had already deployed soldiers along the border with Spain, ostensibly to prevent the spread of yellow fever into France. This “cordon sanitaire” became an observation corps.
France’s representative at the Congress of Verona, Foreign Minister Mathieu de Montmorency, was on the side of the ultra-royalists. He ignored Villèle’s instructions to limit discussion of the Spanish question. Arguing that turmoil in Spain posed a threat to all of Europe, and especially to France, Montmorency told the Congress that circumstances might force France to recall her ambassador from Madrid, leading the Spanish Cortes to declare war on France. He then asked whether, if France were compelled to engage in a defensive war with Spain, she could count on the support of her allies. Russia, Austria and Prussia agreed to provide moral and possibly material support. Britain would not provide support. Instead, she offered to mediate between France and Spain. The offer was refused. Amidst much hand-wringing over the assault on Spanish liberty, Britain ultimately adopted a position of neutrality.
Though the way was paved for unilateral French intervention in Spain, Villèle – backed by Louis XVIII – refused to go along with the plan. Montmorency resigned. His replacement, François-René de Chateaubriand, also favoured intervention, arguing that it would give France an opportunity to regain great power status. There were fierce debates in the Chamber of Deputies. Ultra-royalist pressure forced Villèle and the king to give in. On January 28, 1823, Louis XVIII told the Chambers:
I have done every thing to ensure the security of my subjects, and to preserve Spain from the extreme of misfortune. The blindness with which the propositions, sent to Madrid, have been rejected, leaves little hope of peace.
I have ordered the recall of my minister, and one hundred thousand Frenchmen, commanded by a prince of my family, are about to march and invoke the God of Saint Louis to preserve the throne of Spain for a descendant of Henri IV, to save that fine kingdom from ruin, and to reconcile her to Europe.
The Army of the Pyrenees, mobilized for the invasion – actually numbered around 60,000. The problem of ensuring soldiers’ loyalty without compromising their efficiency was dealt with by giving primary commands to former Napoleonic generals (who had the necessary experience) and secondary commands to royalists (who were unlikely to mutiny). Louis XVIII’s nephew, the Duke of Angoulême was made commander-in-chief, despite his lack of military experience. He was not keen on the appointment, but agreed to it as an honourary post, leaving the army’s actual military direction to General Armand Guilleminot, who had served under Napoleon.
The government hoped that victory over the revolutionary forces in Spain would break the spirit of those who were conspiring against the Bourbons in France. Many French political refugees, including some who had fled to the United States and participated in the Vine and Olive Colony or the Champ d’Asile, fought on the side of the Spanish constitutionalists. Among them was the indomitable Charles Lallemand, who organized a Legion of French Refugees in Spain.
At the beginning of February 1823, police spies reported they had heard that:
Before the end of the month, Spain will have organized an army of one hundred and eighty thousand men to oppose the French invasion; this army will have for its vanguard a French legion, which will march under tri-coloured flags; this legion will nominate a French regency with Prince Eugène Beauharnais at its head….
The French army will be the scorn of all Europe; it can hope for no success when commanded by a prince…who has no claim on the confidence of true Frenchmen….
The first shot fired at the Pyrenees shall be the signal for the downfall of the Bourbons in France, Spain and Naples. Such are the hopes and prayers of the liberals in all countries.
On April 6, 1823, the question of the army’s allegiance was answered. A group of insurgents led by Colonel Charles Fabvier tried to subvert the French forces at the Bidassoa River who were preparing to enter Spain. Fabvier’s group hoisted the tricolour flag, sang “La Marseillaise” and urged the soldiers to desert the Bourbons. Instead the French troops obeyed General Louis Vallin’s orders to open fire on Fabvier and his men.
The next day, the French army entered Spain. They met little resistance. As an Irish visitor to the country reported:
The Constitution, no matter what may be its excellence or imperfection, has certainly not succeeded in gathering around it the sentiments and good wishes of a majority of the people of that country. … [A]pathy, to use the mildest expression, prevailed in all the towns through which we passed after leaving Madrid. From my own observations, and those of others, I can safely state that the great majority of the people on the line of that route desired nothing so much as peace. They have been vexed and injured by repeated contributions and conscriptions, and latterly, by anticipations of the current year’s taxes, their means of complying with them being extremely limited. … However ardent may be an Englishman’s wish that Spain may enjoy liberal institutions (and if he were without a wish of this nature he would be undeserving of his country); still, when he saw that the idea of civil liberty was carried in that nation to an extreme which promised no durability, and that this extreme, supported only by bayonets and by official employes, was the inviolable system which England was called upon to assist with her mighty arm, he cannot but rejoice that that assistance was refused, and that the strength of his country was reserved for more worthy purposes. …
In the villages where I had occasion to stop, I encountered no person who did not, at least, say that he was glad that the French had entered Spain. The poor people I heard it more than once observed, never liked the Constitution, because they never gained any thing by it. Since it was established, they had known no peace, and they liked the French, because they paid them well for every thing they consumed. It was also observed, that since the establishment of the Constitution, this part of the country was overrun with robbers; but that all that was now over, as the robbers had disappeared since the French came.
The French soon controlled Navarre, the Asturias and Galicia. Andalusia, the site of Cádiz (the constitutionalists’ provisional capital, to which they had carried Ferdinand), took longer to subdue. On August 31, in the only significant battle of the campaign, the French took the fortress of Trocadero and turned its powerful guns toward Cádiz. The city surrendered on September 30. The Cortes dissolved itself and released Ferdinand VII, who rejected the 1812 constitution, restored absolute monarchy and took revenge on his opponents. In November, the Duke of Angoulême returned to France, leaving behind an occupying force of 45,000. The last French soldiers were not withdrawn until 1828.
French assault on Fort Trocadero
The expedition was considered a great triumph for the Restoration. Chateaubriand wrote:
When I entered upon the foreign department, legitimacy was about, for the first time, to launch its thunders under the drapeau blanc, to strike its first coup de canon after those coups de l’empire, which will resound to the latest posterity. If she recoiled, she was lost: if crowned with mediocre success, she became ridiculous. But at one step to stride over the Spains – to succeed where Bonaparte had been baffled – to triumph upon that very soil whereon his armies had met with reverse – to do in six months what he could not do in seven years – here is a true prodigy!
Villèle exploited the rush of grateful patriotism by appointing a new batch of ultra-royalist peers and calling a general election for early 1824. The left and centre were decimated, giving the ultra-royalists a clear majority.
Louis XVIII, King (1755-1824)
When Bonaparte seized power in 1799, royalists hoped he would pave the way for a restoration of the Bourbon dynasty, in the person of the pretender Louis XVIII. In the event, this younger brother of the unfortunate Louis XVI would only succeed to the throne in 1814, after Napoleon’s first abdication. By the time of his belated accession, contrary to the famous jibe that he lived in the past, Louis XVIII had finally learned a little and forgotten something of the old regime. His recent sojourn in Britain had perhaps mellowed him, for under the Revolution there were few hints of any moderation.
One of the first émigrés to leave France, in 1789, the comte de Provence, as he was then known, was a die-hard reactionary who refused to compromise with the principles of liberté, égalité, et fraternité. Indeed, on the eve of the Revolution he urged his older brother to yield nothing to the mounting opposition. Not surprisingly, the declaration he issued from his exile in Verona (after having taken the title Louis XVIII on the death of Louis XVI’s ten-year-old son, Louis XVII, in 1795) was a traditional defense of throne and altar. Only a return to the absolutist and aristocratic system that had served France so well for almost a thousand years, he argued, could save the country from its dire predicament.
In the wake of the Terror, the moment for restoration appeared ripe. Yet such an unbending appeal to the past disappointed most resurgent royalists, who desired nothing more than a return to the constitutional monarchy of 1791. Though the Republic seemed unworkable, the extremism exhibited by Louis appeared equally unviable. Hence the attraction of Napoleon, who was quick to quash rumors that he might be the French equivalent of General Monck (restorer of Charles II in seventeenth-century England) by stating that Louis would only march to power over thousands of French corpses.
The degree of internal stability that Napoleon achieved and, above all, the reestablishment of the Catholic Church, ensured that Louis remained isolated. The extrajudicial murder in 1804 of the duc d’Enghien-a member of the House of Bourbon-closely followed by the creation of the hereditary Empire, banished all hopes of a monarchical restoration to a post-Napoleonic future, which materialized only with Napoleon’s defeat in 1814.
Even then the elderly, and rather portly, Louis had to endure the indignity of scurrying back into exile when Napoleon launched the adventure of the Hundred Days in 1815. It was still more difficult for Louis to shrug off the accusation that he had returned in the baggage train of the victorious Allies, a beneficiary of French defeat. There was also a severe political backlash when Louis was restored for a second time, but he resisted pressure from the so-called ultra-royalists and began to consolidate a liberal parliamentary monarchy. It was the more reactionary policies of his younger brother and successor, Charles X, that brought the Bourbons crashing down for good in 1830.
References and further reading Dallas, Gregor. 2001. 1815: The Road to Waterloo. London: Pimlico. Mansel, Philip. 1981. Louis XVIII. London: Blond and Briggs.