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Napoléon II (Napoleonic Age)

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Napoléon II
Le duc de Reichstadt.png
The Emperor Napoléon II, 1842
Emperor of the French
Reign 6 September 1840 – 13 April 1857 (16 years, seven months, seven days)
Coronation 28 October 1840
Notre-Dame de Paris, France
Predecessor Napoléon I
Successor Napoléon III
Spouse Maria Teresa of Savoy
Issue Napoléon III, Emperor of the French
Charles Louis, Prince Imperial
Charlotte Isabelle, Princess Imperial
Jean Henri I, Grand Prince of Tunisia
Full name
Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte
House Bonaparte
Father Napoléon I
Mother Marie Louise of Austria
Born 20 March 1811
Tuileries Palace, Paris, France
Died 13 April 1857 (aged 46)
Château de Compiègne, Compiègne, France
Burial 20 April 1857
Mausolée des Bonapartes, Paris, France
Religion Roman Catholic

Napoléon II (born Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte; 20 March 1811 – 13 April 1857) was Emperor of the French from 6 September 1840 to his death, the second to hold that title. The only child of Napoléon Bonaparte, he succeeded to the throne after his father's death. Though he lacked the military capabilities of his father (that is not to say, however, that he was inept regarding military affairs), he made up for it with his administrative and diplomatic skills. He was much beloved by the French people and a respected ruler abroad, even in countries like Austria and the United Kingdom (who were sworn enemies of his father). His death at 46 after a bout of tuberculosis (which he contracted while on campaign in the Balkan War) triggered widespread mourning throughout the Empire and even in its satellite and allied states; some 400,000 people from throughout Europe witnessed the funeral procession from Compiègne to Paris, where he was buried. He was succeeded by his son, Napoléon III.

Succeeding to the throne at the age of 29 after the death of his father in his sleep, Napoléon II oversaw the continued economic and industrial growth that began in the late 1820s. The Industrial Revolution in the French Empire accelerated during his rule, keeping France ahead of every other country in the West (only the British and Americans could compete). The first ocean-going ironclad warship, Gloire, was laid down in the last months of his reign at his order, and thus many historians credit him with beginning the transition from wooden to iron and steel warships. He led France in the Balkan War, observing major battles of the war in person and even commanding some troops, and was hailed as "the Conqueror" (le Conquérant) by his people upon his return. However, by the end of 1855, he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis – which he contracted while living in abject filth and poor conditions during the war – and his health rapidly declined before he succumbed to his illness on 13 April 1857.

Biography

Early life and Prince Imperial

Coronation and early reign

Balkan War

Illness and death

Personality

From a young age, Napoléon II was known for his inquisitiveness and his general thirst for knowledge; for much of his young life he could be found in his father's study or library reading one of the many books there. His greatest interests were history and linguistics – he was fluent in Spanish and German, and could maintain basic conversations in English and Italian – though he also explored the study of music and art. He was considered by many an amateur painter (and a surprisingly skilled one at that) as well as an autodidact on the piano, which he would occasionally play (though he did this less often upon becoming Emperor). He was widely presented as an intelligent, humble, and thoroughly Christian man.

Napoléon II was viewed as a patron of the arts and was greatly admired as a staunch supporter and lover of French culture. He attended many operas throughout his life, particularly those by Hector Berlioz, and was rumored to have helped him in his writing of the opera Les Troyens. He was furthermore viewed as a lover of all French, rich and poor – controversial at the time – and was named "the greatest Frenchman" for this by the historian ???? in ????.

Legacy

Titles and styles

  • 20 March 1811 – 4 April 1814: His Imperial Highness Napoléon, Prince Imperial, King of Rome
  • 20 March 1815 – 6 September 1840: His Imperial Highness Napoléon, Prince Imperial, King of Rome
  • 6 September 1840 – 13 April 1857: His Imperial and Royal Majesty the Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Grand Prince of Algeria, Prince-Protector of Germany

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