Having been forced out of Moscow by a resurgent Russian army is retreating through the Russian countryside. While retreating across the River Berezina with what is left of his Grand Armee Napoleon Bonaparte falls from his horse into the freezing river. He develops hypothermia and dies within a few days. As the remnants of the Grand Armee return home the joyous news spreads throughout Europe. Napoleon’s widow, Marie Louise attempts to have their son declared Napoleon II but she does not even get much support from her father, Emperor Francis I of Austria. Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI travels back from exile and reclaims the throne for his family. The French people are sick and tired of twenty years of almost constant war and if Louis means peace then they are more than willing to accept him. The more politically astute among them realise that any form of regency for Napoleon II would lead to renewed war.
A peace conference is held in Vienna. Representatives of nearly all European states attend and the borders of post-Napoleon Europe are settled:
1. France is allowed to keep her borders as they stood in 1792 with the addition of the French- speaking southern half of Belgium.
2. Russia gains the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a state Napoleon created out of part of Poland.
3. Austria keeps the former Venetian Republic and gains Lombardy. It also maintains its pre-eminent position in most of the rest of Northern Italy through the fact that relatives of the Emperor rule most countries in that area, apart from Sardinia.
4. Prussia keeps the borders it had at the time of Napoleon’s death. As a result of events during the war it is under the thumb of Russia.
5. Britain regains Hanover.
6. Holland reverts to its old eastern borders and gains the northern half of Belgium.
7. Italy - Apart from Naples, where ex-Napoleonic general, Joachim Murat stays as king and Parma where Marie-Louise rules the in the name of her son all the old ruling families return.
8. The Confederation of The Rhine. This collection of German states was a French satellite state but at this conference it gains real independence.
Britain is still fighting a war with America and many regiments that had been fighting against the French transfer to this front. Leading these troops is the Duke of Wellington.
In France Louis XVIII grants a political constitution based on the British system. A two-chamber parliament is set up. However all legislative power is in the hands of the executive that is answerable only to the King. In elections the Ultra-Royalists (who want a return to the status quo pre-1789) gain a narrow majority. Thus the government is forced the crack down on the ‘White Terror’ (violent attacks on Republicans and Bonapartists)
In Spain Ferdinand VII returns to the throne and accepts the liberal constitution proclaimed by the Central Junta (a provisional govt that fought against the French) the previous year.
The Portuguese royal family return from Brazil where they had been in exile since 1807. However, Pedro, the heir to the throne decides to remain in Brazil.
The member states of the Confederation of the Rhine meet in Frankfurt to carve out the rules governing the organisation.
1. All important decisions are to be put to a permanent Council of Ambassadors in Frankfurt. Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemburg, Hanover and Saxony each have two votes whereas the smaller states have one vote each.
2. A military attack on any members state is automatically assumed to be an attack on all member states.
3. Customs duties between all member states are abolished.
The Comte D'Artois, brother and heir to King Louis XVIII of France develops tetanus from a scratch he gained while out hunting. He dies a few weeks later and is succeeded as heir by his own son the Duc De Berry.
Unrest grows in Spain over the unsuccesful attempts to regain control of the American colonies. Ferdinand VII is blamed for this and for the abdication of his father Carlos IV in 1808. Opposition to Ferdinand coalesces around his younger brother, Don Carlos.
The ordinary subjects of Austrian dominated begin to look to Piedmont as an example of a free and independent Italy. In Naples King Joachim grants a constitution which allows for a parliamentary system not unlike that of Britain.