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|His Imperial Majesty Napoléon III on the Day of His Coronation, 1857|
|Emperor of the French|
|Reign||13 April 1857 – 21 August 1876 (19 years, four months, eight days)|
|Coronation|| 1 June 1857 |
Notre-Dame de Paris, France
|Spouse||Princess Louise of Prussia|
|Issue|| Marguerite, Princess Imperial |
Louis, Emperor of the French
Dorothée Isabelle, Princess Imperial
|Napoléon Joseph Louis Jérôme Bonaparte|
|Mother||Marie Teresa of Savoy|
|Born|| 5 July 1830 |
Tuileries Palace, Paris, France
|Died|| 22 August 1876 (aged 46) |
Château de Compiègne, Compiègne, France
|Burial|| 27 August 1876 |
Mausolée des Bonapartes, Paris, France
Napoléon III (born Napoléon Joseph Louis Jérôme Bonaparte; 5 July 1830 – 22 August 1876) was Emperor of the French from 1857 to 1876, a period of over nineteen years. The firstborn son of Napoléon II, Napoléon succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father from a bout of tuberculosis, which he contracted during his participation in the Balkan War. Napoléon III was by no means a general-monarch – especially unlike his grandfather, and even his own father – and lacked certain characteristics that made his predecessors skilled diplomats and negotiators. He oversaw the continuation of France's leading role in the Second Industrial Revolution, and helped to keep the French Empire at the top of the list of the world great powers. Furthermore, he closely oversaw (and orchestrated) the unification of Italy in 1865 (thus being the last Bonaparte King of Italy), and helped to establish the German Confederation as dominant over Prussia. He assisted in the creation of the Mexican Empire and sought to undermine the authority of the United States in the Americas. Despite this, he has been criticized in recent years for his tendency toward autocracy, and some have characterized most of his reign as tyrannical in some aspects.
Napoléon III acceded to the throne in 1857 upon the death of his much-beloved father, Napoléon II. Though never expected to succeed to the throne at such an age, Napoléon grew into his role relatively well. He continued the modernization program of the navy that was begun by his father, and by the end of his reign the Imperial Navy was more advanced than any other navy in the world. He repaired relations with the Ottoman Empire, which had been severely damaged following the Balkan War and the personal animosity between Napoléon II and Sultan Abdülmecid I. He pursued an aggressive foreign policy in the Americas, where he supported the Mexican monarchists in the Mexican Civil War. He intervened frequently in the affairs of the German Confederation, much to the chagrin of French and German liberals, but helped to hasten the Industrial Revolution there, making it more powerful than both Prussia and Austria. Napoléon ordered and oversaw, starting in 1859, the renovation of Paris, planned by the brilliant bureaucrat, architect and urban planner Georges-Eugène Haussmann. He made frequent enemies of political liberals, both at home and abroad, and was widely criticized by liberals and socialists as being autocratic or dictatorial in his rule. Similarly, Napoléon was known to dismiss ministers and magistrates over minor disagreements, and would sometimes alter his decrees on a whim. Still, he successfully maintained France's status as the greatest of the world powers.
Napoléon III was shot by ???? on 6 August 1876, but survived, and a full recovery was initially expected. However, after two weeks, his health deteriorated extremely rapidly, and, realizing he would not survive, abdicated the throne in favor of his son on 21 August. He died the next day – at the same age as his father – making him the first French monarch murdered since Louis XVI in 1793, and the first reigning French monarch to be killed since Henry III in 1575. Historical opinion of the Emperor's reign has generally been mixed, with most viewing his perceived tyrannies as excusable for the good he did for France while on the throne, and for the humility he showed in the days before his death.
Sources from Napoléon III's life regarding his personality and behavior are varied and even contradictory. He was regarded as domineering and was described by several people in the upper echelons of the government as being "expectant of all to fulfill his wishes"; though his wife and other important administrators and politicians contradict these claims as well. He came into frequent conflict with those that disobeyed him, particularly his only son, Louis; these conflicts dramatically helped to shape the development of Louis' own political beliefs, which would doom him during his brief reign after the death of his father.
Napoléon III's struggle with foreign languages was particularly well-documented (and was a well-known phenomenon in the courts of Europe; but was mostly ignored during his lifetime). Though fluent in French and regarded as an articulate and eloquent user of it, his German – which was important to know, as it allowed him to hold sway over the German Confederation – was described as "poor" and "hard to distinguish" by many sources. Furthermore, he spoke only a few words each of Italian and Spanish, and totally lacked knowledge of English. A classically-oriented education helped him to learn Latin as a child, which he was said to be "of average ability" with, but spoke it little afterward, especially during his reign.
Furthermore, unlike his father, the third Emperor of the French was not artistically or musically talented in any documented way, though he did appreciate the arts in general (perhaps not to the extent of his father). Several ministers, friends and diplomats record that he was a favorite of the works of Richard Wagner and Johann Strauss II, and held several concerts of the works of Bizet and Saint-Saëns that were sponsored by the imperial family.