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Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, born at Paris, 20th April, 1808, was the third son of Louis, King of Holland, the third brother of Napoleon I., and Hortense Beauharnais, daughter of the Empress Josephine, by her first marriage with the Vicomte de Beauharnais.
Napoleon I himself being then childless, it had been ordained by a senatus consultum of 1804, that, failing direct issue of the Emperor, the succession should fall to the decendants of his brothers Joseph and Louis.
After the Bourbons were re-established, Hortense and her children went to Augsbury, where for eight years Louis studied at the Gymnasium. From thence in 1824, Hortense removed to Switzerland, where she finally settled down at the Chateau of Arenenberg, in the Canton of Thurgan. Louis also studied in the Military College of Thun. In the revolution of July, 1830, he offered his sword to Louis Philippe, who declined his services. In the outbreak in Italy, of 1831, he and his brother joined the insurgents, and became sworn members of the Carbonari. He was invited to place himself at the head of the Poles. Between 1832 and 1836 he published his "Political Reveries, a Project of a Constitution," "Political and Military Considerations on Switzerland," "A Manual of Artillery," etc. On the 30th October, 1836, at Strasburg, he made an unsuccessful attempt to rouse the French on his behalf. For this he was sent to America; he returned after six months residence there, to see his mother who died 5th October, 1837.
He took refuge in London, August, 1838, sooner than put the Swiss republic to any misunderstanding with the French Government; his motto was still "Ce qui est écrit, est écrit," backed up by the maxim that " everything comes to hi:n who waits," so fixed was his faith in the star of his destiny.
On the 5th August, 1840, he, along with about 60 companions, made another unsuccessful attempt at insurrection at Boulogne. For this offence he was, on the 9th October, 1840, imprisoned in the fortress of Ham, until 1846, when he escaped disguised as a workman,
On the 10th April, 1848, Prince Louis Napoleon did duty as a special constable in King-street, St. James's, during the anticipation of a Chartist outbreak.
On the dissolution of Louis Philipe's Government he was in June, 1848, elected by the people of Paris as their representative in the National Assembly, which he resigned and returned to London. He again returned in September, 1848, and was elected on the 10th December for the Presidency of the Republic by above six millions of votes over General Cavaignac.
On the 2nd December, 1851, occurred the coup d'etat, which placed the whole of the power in Napoleon's hands, as Prince President, after much bloodshed; the Plébiscite was duly voted on the 20th and 21st December, yielding 7,439,219 ayes to 640,737 noes.
On the 1st December, 1852, he was elected by 7,824,189 ayes to 253,145 noes, to the Imperial Crown as Napoleon III.
On the 29th and 30th June, 1853, he married Eugénie de Montijo, Countess of Teba, a Spanish lady, of Scottish blood (that of the Kirkpatrick's, of Closeburn); first at the Tuileries, and afterwards at Nôtre Dame; and from that event flowed perhaps a greater concern on the part of the Imperial Government for the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church than would have been the case but for the influence of the dévote and enthusiastic Empress. For more than three years there was no issue from the union; but in March, 1856, only a few days before the conclusion of the treaty which ended the Russian war, Napoleon Eugéne Louis Jean Joseph, the Prince Imperial, was born.
Austria having invaded Sardinia, the Emperor sent an expedition to assist the Italians, and in conjunction with them gained the victories of Magenta and Solferino, at the latter of which he commanded in person.
His work on Cæsar was published 1867.
War declared by France against Prussia, 15th July, 1870.
On 28th July, Napoleon III. and his son left Paris (the former never to return) and proceeded to Metz, the Emperor assuming the nominal command of the French forces.
After many reverses, young Louis was sent through Belgium to England; Bazaine was shut up in Metz; and Napoleon III., with MacMahon, retreated northwards until they were brought to bay at the ill-fated fortress of Sedan by the armies of the Crown Prince of Prussia, the Crown Prince of Saxony, and the King of Prussia, on the 1st September, 1870.
At 6 a.m. the battle began, the French being gradually driven into the town; late in the afternoon a regular stampede of the French took place, and the Germans began to bombard Sedan. About 6 p.m. the King of Prussia sent an envoy to demand the capitulation of the Emperor and his army. He was received by the Emperor himself, who handed him the well-known reply, “Not being able to die at the head of my army, I lay my sword at the feet of your Majesty." When the officer had left, the Emperor sank into a chair, and remained buried in grief, with his head in his hands.
Shortly afterwards the Emperor started for the Château of Wilhelmshöhe, which had been designated as the place of his confinement. Paris, versatile Paris, received the news of the disaster at Sedan with a cry for dethronement; the Assembly was invaded, and on the 4th September the Republic was once morc declared. The Empress had just time to make her escape to Normandy, whence she crossed over to the Isle of Wight in a yacht belonging to Sir John Burgoyne and thence went to Hastings to join her son, who had preceded her some days before the capitulation of Sedan.
On the conclusion of peace between France and Germany the Imperial captive was left free to quit his prison.
On the 19th March, 1871, he left for England, and rejoined his wife and son who had been residing at Camden Place, Chiselhurst (see calendar for July). There he remained until September, 1871, when, for the benefit of his health, he went to Torquay. In 1872 he also went to Bognor and the Isle of Wight.
Once only during his residence in England did he venture on an explanation of the events of the war. In May, 1872, he published a letter vindicating the honor of the army at Sedan, and claiming the entire responsibility of the capitulation. "The immolation of 60,000 men could not have saved France," he wrote, "and the sublime devotion of her chiefs and soldiers would have been uselessly sacrificed. We obeyed a cruel but inexorable necessity. My heart was broken, but my conscience was tranquil."
The painful internal disorder to which he finally succumbed had long necessitated an operation, but it was only on the 2nd of January that he could be persuaded to undergo one. It was duly performed by Sir Henry Thompson, and on the following Monday he submitted to a second, under the influence of chloroform. A third had been projected for Thursday, the 9th of January, and in the morning early the state of the Ex-Emperor, who had passed the night under the influence of a strong narcotic, appeared to be in every way satisfactory. Suddenly, however, a change took place in the patient. His pulse, which had been hitherto regular, became alarmingly feeble.
The Empress was immediately sent for, and a carriage dispatched to Woolwich, where the young Prince was pursuing his studies. Unfortunately, however, he arrived too late to see his father alive. The Empress kissed her husband, who seemed to be slightly conscious, and he made signs that he wished to return the embrace-a moment later-fled the spirit of Napoleon III.
He was buried, temporarily, at St. Mary's Chapel, Chiselhurst, on Wednesday, 15th January, 1873.