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Napoleon III

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Gender Male
Death149 years ago
Date of birth April 20,1808
Zodiac sign Taurus
Born Paris
Date of died January 9,1873
United Kingdom
Full nameCharles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte
Spouse Eugénie de Montijo
Children Napoléon, Prince Imperial
Alexandre Bure
Eugène Bure
Louis-Napoléon, Prince Imperial
Bonaventur Karrer
Parents Louis Bonaparte
Hortense de Beauharnais
Full nameCharles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte
Place of burialSaint Michaels Abbey, Farnborough, United Kingdom
Deposed dateSeptember 4, 1870
FoundedLatin Monetary Union
Compagnie Générale Des Eaux-Sahide
Compagnie Générale Des Eaux
Cousins Napoleon II
Eugène de Beauharnais
Charles Léon
Amélie of Leuchtenberg
Napoléon Louis Bonaparte
Napoléon Charles Bonaparte
Aunts Pauline Bonaparte
Caroline Bonaparte
Elisa Bonaparte
Date of Reg.
Date of Upd.
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Napoleon III Life story

Napoleon III was the first President of France from 1848 to 1852 and the last monarch of France as Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870. A nephew of Napoleon I, he was the last monarch to rule over France.

Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte; 20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) was the first President of France (as Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte) from 1848 to 1852 and the last monarch of France as Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870. A nephew of Napoleon I, he was the last monarch to rule over France. Elected to the presidency of the Second Republic in 1848, he seized power by force in 1851, when he could not constitutionally be reelected; he later proclaimed himself Emperor of the French. He founded the Second Empire, reigning until the defeat of the French Army and his capture by Prussia and its allies at the Battle of Sedan in 1870. Napoleon III was a popular monarch, who oversaw the modernisation of the French economy and filled Paris with new boulevards and parks. He expanded the French overseas empire and made the French merchant navy the second largest in the world, engaged in the Second Italian War of Independence as well as the disastrous Franco-Prussian War, in which he commanded his soldiers during the fight and was captured.

Napoleon III commissioned a grand reconstruction of Paris carried out by the man he appointed as prefect of the Seine, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. He expanded and consolidated the railway system throughout the nation and modernized the banking system. Napoleon III promoted the building of the Suez Canal and established modern agriculture, which ended famines in France and made the country an agricultural exporter. He negotiated the 1860 Cobden–Chevalier Free Trade Agreement with Britain and similar agreements with France's other European trading partners. Social reforms included giving French workers the right to strike, the right to organize, and the right to be admitted to a French university as a woman.

In foreign policy, Napoleon III aimed to reassert French influence in Europe and around the world. In Europe, he allied with Britain and defeated Russia in the Crimean War (1853–1856). His regime assisted Italian unification by defeating the Austrian Empire in the Franco-Austrian War and later annexed Savoy and Nice through the Treaty of Turin as its deferred reward. At the same time, his forces defended the Papal States against annexation by Italy. He was also favourable towards the 1859 union of the Danubian Principalities, which resulted in the establishment of the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Napoleon III doubled the area of the French colonial empire with expansions in Asia, the Pacific and Africa. On the other hand, the intervention in Mexico, which aimed to create a Second Mexican Empire under French protection, ended in total failure. From 1866, Napoleon III had to face the mounting power of Prussia as its Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought German unification under Prussian leadership. In July 1870, Napoleon III reluctantly declared war on Prussia after pressure by the public. The French Army was rapidly defeated as Napoleon III was captured at Sedan. He was swiftly dethroned and the Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris. He went into exile in England, where he died in 1873.

Childhood and family

Early life

Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, later known as Louis Napoleon and then Napoleon III, was born in Paris on the night of 19–20 April 1808. His father was Louis Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made Louis the king of Holland from 1806 until 1810. His mother was Hortense de Beauharnais, the only daughter of Napoleon's wife Joséphine by her first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais.

As empress, Joséphine proposed the marriage as a way to produce an heir for the Emperor, who agreed, as Joséphine was by then infertile. Louis married Hortense when he was twenty-four and she was nineteen. They had a difficult relationship and only lived together for brief periods. Their first son Napoléon Charles Bonaparte died in 1807 and—though separated and parents of a healthy second son, Napoléon-Louis Bonaparte, they decided to have a third child. They resumed their marriage for a brief time in Toulouse starting from the 12 August 1807 and Louis was born prematurely, (at least) three weeks short of nine months. His mother was known to have lovers and Louis Napoleon's enemies, including Victor Hugo, spread the gossip that he was the child of a different man, but most historians agree today that he was the legitimate son of Louis Bonaparte.Charles-Louis was baptized at the Palace of Fontainebleau on 5 November 1810, with Emperor Napoleon serving as his godfather and Empress Marie-Louise as his godmother. His father stayed away, once again separated from Hortense. At the age of seven, Louis Napoleon visited his uncle at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Napoleon held him up to the window to see the soldiers parading in the courtyard of the Carousel below. He last saw his uncle with the family at the Château de Malmaison, shortly before Napoleon departed for the Battle of Waterloo.All members of the Bonaparte dynasty were forced into exile after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and the Bourbon Restoration of monarchy in France. Hortense and Louis Napoleon moved from Aix to Bern to Baden, and finally to a lakeside house at Arenenberg in the Swiss canton of Thurgau. He received some of his education in Germany at the gymnasium school at Augsburg, Bavaria. As a result, for the rest of his life, his French had a slight but noticeable German accent. His tutor at home was Philippe Le Bas, an ardent republican and the son of a revolutionary and close friend of Robespierre. Le Bas taught him French history and radical politics.

Romantic revolutionary (1823–1835)

When Louis Napoleon was fifteen, his mother Hortense moved to Rome, where the Bonapartes had a villa. He passed his time learning Italian, exploring the ancient ruins and learning the arts of seduction and romantic affairs, which he used often in his later life. He became friends with the French Ambassador, François-René Chateaubriand, the father of romanticism in French literature, with whom he remained in contact for many years. He was reunited with his older brother Napoléon-Louis; together they became involved with the Carbonari, secret revolutionary societies fighting Austria's domination of Northern Italy. In the spring of 1831, when he was twenty-three, the Austrian and papal governments launched an offensive against the Carbonari. The two brothers, wanted by the police, were forced to flee. During their flight, Napoléon-Louis contracted measles. He died in his brother's arms on 17 March 1831. Hortense joined her son and together they evaded the police and Austrian army and finally reached the French border.Hortense and Louis Napoleon traveled incognito to Paris, where the old regime of King Charles X had just fallen and been replaced by the more liberal regime of King Louis Philippe, the sole monarch of the July Monarchy. They arrived in Paris on 23 April 1831, and took up residence under the name "Hamilton" in the Hotel du Holland on Place Vendôme. Hortense wrote an appeal to the King, asking to stay in France, and Louis Napoleon offered to volunteer as an ordinary soldier in the French Army. The new King agreed to meet secretly with Hortense; Louis Napoleon had a fever and did not join them. The King finally agreed that Hortense and Louis Napoleon could stay in Paris as long as their stay was brief and incognito. Louis-Napoleon was told that he could join the French Army if he would simply change his name, something he indignantly refused to do. Hortense and Louis Napoleon remained in Paris until 5 May, the tenth anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. The presence of Hortense and Louis Napoleon in the hotel had become known, and a public demonstration of mourning for the Emperor took place on Place Vendôme in front of their hotel. The same day, Hortense and Louis Napoleon were ordered to leave Paris. They went to Britain briefly, and then back into exile in Switzerland.

Early adult years

Bonapartist succession and philosophy of Bonapartism

Ever since the fall of Napoleon in 1815, a Bonapartist movement had existed in France, hoping to return a Bonaparte to the throne. According to the law of succession established by Napoleon I, the claim passed first to his own son, declared "King of Rome" at birth by his father. This heir, known by Bonapartists as Napoleon II, was living in virtual imprisonment at the court of Vienna under the title Duke of Reichstadt. Next in line was Napoleon I's eldest brother Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), followed by Louis Bonaparte (1778–1846), but neither Joseph nor Louis had any interest in re-entering public life. When the Duke of Reichstadt died in 1832, Charles-Louis Napoleon became the de facto heir of the dynasty and the leader of the Bonapartist cause.In exile with his mother in Switzerland, he enrolled in the Swiss Army, trained to become an officer, and wrote a manual of artillery (his uncle Napoleon had become famous as an artillery officer). Louis Napoleon also began writing about his political philosophy—for as the early twentieth century English historian H. A. L. Fisher suggested, "the programme of the Empire was not the improvisation of a vulgar adventurer" but the result of deep reflection on the Napoleonic political philosophy and on how to adjust it to the changed domestic and international scenes. He published his Rêveries politiques or "political dreams" in 1833 at the age of 25, followed in 1834 by Considérations politiques et militaires sur la Suisse ("Political and military considerations about Switzerland"), followed in 1839 by Les Idées napoléoniennes ("Napoleonic Ideas"), a compendium of his political ideas which was published in three editions and eventually translated into six languages. He based his doctrine upon two ideas: universal suffrage and the primacy of the national interest. He called for a "monarchy which procures the advantages of the Republic without the inconveniences", a regime "strong without despotism, free without anarchy, independent without conquest".

Failed coup, exile in London (1836–1840)

"I believe", Louis Napoleon wrote, "that from time to time, men are created whom I call volunteers of providence, in whose hands are placed the destiny of their countries. I believe I am one of those men. If I am wrong, I can perish uselessly. If I am right, then providence will put me into a position to fulfill my mission." He had seen the popular enthusiasm for Napoleon Bonaparte when he was in Paris, and he was convinced that, if he marched to Paris, as Napoleon Bonaparte had done in 1815 during the Hundred Days, France would rise up and join him. He began to plan a coup against King Louis-Philippe.

He planned for his uprising to begin in Strasbourg. The colonel of a regiment was brought over to the cause. On 29 October 1836, Louis Napoleon arrived in Strasbourg, in the uniform of an artillery officer; he rallied the regiment to his side. The prefecture was seized, and the prefect arrested. Unfortunately for Louis-Napoleon, the general commanding the garrison escaped and called in a loyal regiment, which surrounded the mutineers. The mutineers surrendered and Louis-Napoleon fled back to Switzerland.


King Louis-Philippe demanded that the Swiss government return Louis Napoleon to France, but the Swiss pointed out that he was a Swiss soldier and citizen, and refused to hand him over. Louis-Philippe responded by sending an army to the Swiss border. Louis Napoleon thanked his Swiss hosts, and voluntarily left the country. The other mutineers were put on trial in Alsace, and were all acquitted.

Louis Napoleon traveled first to London, then to Brazil, and then to New York. He moved into a hotel, where he met the elite of New York society and the writer Washington Irving. While he was traveling to see more of the United States, he received word that his mother was very ill. He hurried as quickly as he could back to Switzerland. He reached Arenenberg in time to be with his mother on 5 August 1837, when she died. She was finally buried in Rueil, in France, next to her mother, on 11 January 1838, but Louis Napoleon could not attend, because he was not allowed into France.Louis Napoleon returned to London for a new period of exile in October 1838. He had inherited a large fortune from his mother and took a house with seventeen servants and several of his old friends and fellow conspirators. He was received by London society and met the political and scientific leaders of the day, including Benjamin Disraeli and Michael Faraday. He also did considerable research into the economy of Britain. He strolled in Hyde Park, which he later used as a model when he created the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

Second coup, prison, escape and exile (1840–1848)

Living in the comfort of London, he had not given up the dream of returning to France to seize power. In the summer of 1840 he bought weapons and uniforms and had proclamations printed, gathered a contingent of about sixty armed men, hired a ship called the Edinburgh-Castle, and on 6 August 1840, sailed across the Channel to the port of Boulogne. The attempted coup turned into an even greater fiasco than the Strasbourg mutiny. The mutineers were stopped by the customs agents, the soldiers of the garrison refused to join, the mutineers were surrounded on the beach, one was killed and the others arrested. Both the British and French press heaped ridicule on Louis-Napoleon and his plot. The newspaper Le Journal des Débats wrote, "this surpasses comedy. One doesn't kill crazy people, one just locks them up." He was put on trial, where, despite an eloquent defense of his cause, he was sentenced to life in prison in the fortress of Ham in the Somme department of Northern France.


The register of the fortress Ham for 7 October 1840 contained a concise description of the new prisoner: "Age: thirty-two years. Height: one meter sixty-six. Hair and eyebrows: chestnut. Eyes: Gray and small. Nose: large. Mouth: ordinary. Beard: brown. Moustache: blond. Chin: pointed. Face: oval. Complexion: pale. Head: sunken in his shoulders, and large shoulders. Back: bent. Lips: thick." He had a mistress named Éléonore Vergeot, a young woman from the nearby town, who gave birth to two of his children.While in prison, he wrote poems, political essays, and articles on diverse topics. He contributed articles to regional newspapers and magazines in towns all over France, becoming quite well known as a writer. His most famous book was L'extinction du pauperisme (1844), a study of the causes of poverty in the French industrial working class, with proposals to eliminate it. His conclusion: "The working class has nothing, it is necessary to give them ownership. They have no other wealth than their own labor, it is necessary to give them work that will benefit all....they are without organization and without connections, without rights and without a future; it is necessary to give them rights and a future and to raise them in their own eyes by association, education, and discipline." He proposed various practical ideas for creating a banking and savings system that would provide credit to the working class, and to establish agricultural colonies similar to the kibbutzim later founded in Israel. This book was widely reprinted and circulated in France, and played an important part in his future electoral success.

He was busy in prison, but also unhappy and impatient. He was aware that the popularity of Napoleon Bonaparte was steadily increasing in France; the Emperor was the subject of heroic poems, books and plays. Huge crowds had gathered in Paris on 15 December 1840 when the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte were returned with great ceremony to Paris and handed over to Louis Napoleon's old enemy, King Louis-Philippe, while Louis Napoleon could only read about it in prison. On 25 May 1846, with the assistance of his doctor and other friends on the outside, he disguised himself as a laborer carrying lumber, and walked out of the prison. His enemies later derisively called him "Badinguet", the name of the laborer whose identity he had assumed. A carriage was waiting to take him to the coast and then by boat to England. A month after his escape, his father Louis died, making Louis Napoleon the clear heir to the Bonaparte dynasty.

Return and early affairs

He quickly resumed his place in British society. He lived on King Street in St James's, London, went to the theatre and hunted, renewed his acquaintance with Benjamin Disraeli, and met Charles Dickens. He went back to his studies at the British Museum. He had an affair with the actress Rachel, the most famous French actress of the period, during her tours to Britain. More important for his future career, he had an affair with the wealthy heiress Harriet Howard (1823–1865). They met in 1846, soon after his return to Britain. They began to live together, she took in his two illegitimate children and raised them with her own son, and she provided financing for his political plans so that, when the moment came, he could return to France.

Early political career

1848 Revolution and birth of the Second Republic

In February 1848, Louis Napoleon learned that the French Revolution of 1848 had broken out; Louis Philippe, faced with opposition within his government and army, abdicated. Believing that his time had finally come, he set out for Paris on 27 February, departing England on the same day that Louis-Philippe left France for his own exile in England. When he arrived in Paris, he found that the Second Republic had been declared, led by a Provisional Government headed by a Commission led by Alphonse de Lamartine, and that different factions of republicans, from conservatives to those on the far left, were competing for power. He wrote to Lamartine announcing his arrival, saying that he "was without any other ambition than that of serving my country". Lamartine wrote back politely but firmly, asking Louis-Napoleon to leave Paris "until the city is more calm, and not before the elections for the National Assembly". His close advisors urged him to stay and try to take power, but he wanted to show his prudence and loyalty to the Republic; while his advisors remained in Paris, he returned to London on 2 March 1848 and watched events from there.He did not run in the first elections for the National Assembly, held in April 1848, but three members of the Bonaparte family, Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte, Pierre Napoléon Bonaparte, and Lucien Murat were elected; the name Bonaparte still had political power. In the next elections, on 4 June, where candidates could run in multiple departments, he was elected in four different departments; in Paris, he was among the top five candidates, just after the conservative leader Adolphe Thiers and Victor Hugo. His followers were mostly on the left, from the peasantry and working class. His pamphlet on "The Extinction of Pauperism" was widely circulated in Paris, and his name was cheered with those of the socialist candidates Barbès and Louis Blanc.The Moderate Republican leaders of the provisional government, Lamartine and Cavaignac, considered arresting him as a dangerous revolutionary, but once again he outmaneuvered them. He wrote to the President of the Provisional Government: "I believe I should wait to return to the heart of my country, so that my presence in France will not serve as a pretext to the enemies of the Republic."In June 1848, the June Days Uprising broke out in Paris, led by the far left, against the conservative majority in the National Assembly. Hundreds of barricades appeared in the working-class neighborhoods. General Cavaignac, the leader of the army, first withdrew his soldiers from Paris to allow the insurgents to deploy their barricades, and then returned with overwhelming force to crush the uprising; from 24 to 26 June, there were battles in the streets of the working class districts of Paris. An estimated five thousand insurgents were killed at the barricades, fifteen thousand were arrested, and four thousand deported.His absence from Paris meant that Louis Napoleon was not connected either with the uprising, or with the brutal repression that had followed. He was still in London on 17–18 September, when the elections for the National Assembly were held, but he was a candidate in thirteen departments. He was elected in five departments; in Paris, he received 110,000 votes of the 247,000 cast, the highest number of votes of any candidate. He returned to Paris on 24 September, and this time he took his place in the National Assembly. In seven months, he had gone from a political exile in London to a highly visible place in the National Assembly, as the government finished the new Constitution and prepared for the first election ever of a President of the French Republic.

Presidential election of 1848

The new constitution of the Second Republic, drafted by a commission including Alexis de Tocqueville, called for a strong executive and a president elected by popular vote through universal male suffrage, rather than chosen by the National Assembly. The elections were scheduled for 10–11 December 1848. Louis Napoleon promptly announced his candidacy. There were four other candidates for the post: General Cavaignac, who had led the suppression of the June uprisings in Paris; Lamartine, the poet-philosopher and leader of the provisional government; Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, the leader of the socialists; and Raspail, the leader of the far left wing of the socialists.Louis Napoleon established his campaign headquarters and residence at the Hôtel du Rhin on Place Vendôme. He was accompanied by his companion, Harriet Howard, who gave him a large loan to help finance his campaign. He rarely went to the sessions of the National Assembly and rarely voted. He was not a gifted orator; he spoke slowly, in a monotone, with a slight German accent from his Swiss education. His opponents sometimes ridiculed him, one comparing him to "a turkey who believes he's an eagle".His campaign appealed to both the left and right. His election manifesto proclaimed his support for "religion, family, property, the eternal basis of all social order". But it also announced his intent "to give work to those unoccupied; to look out for the old age of the workers; to introduce in industrial laws those improvements which do not ruin the rich, but which bring about the well-being of each and the prosperity of all".His campaign agents, many of them veterans from Napoleon Bonaparte's army, raised support for him around the country. Louis Napoleon won the grudging endorsement of the conservative leader Adolphe Thiers, who believed he could be the most easily controlled; Thiers called him "of all the candidates, the least bad". He won the backing of L'Evenement, the newspaper of Victor Hugo, which declared, "We have confidence in him; he carries a great name." His chief opponent, General Cavaignac, expected that Louis Napoleon would come in first, but that he would receive less than fifty percent of the vote, which would mean the election would go to the National Assembly, where Cavaignac was certain to win.

The elections were held on 10–11 December. Results were announced on 20 December. Louis Napoleon was widely expected to win, but the size of his victory surprised almost everyone. He won 5,572,834 votes, or 74.2 percent of votes cast, compared with 1,469,156 for Cavaignac. The socialist Ledru-Rollin received 376,834; the extreme left candidate Raspail 37,106, and the poet Lamartine only 17,000 votes. Louis Napoleon won the support of all segments of the population: the peasants unhappy with rising prices; unemployed workers; small businessmen who wanted prosperity and order; and intellectuals such as Victor Hugo. He won the votes of 55.6 percent of all registered voters, and won in all but four of France's departments.

Prince-President (1848–1851)

Louis Napoleon moved his residence to the Élysée Palace at the end of December 1848 and immediately hung a portrait of his mother in the boudoir and a portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte, in his coronation robes, in the grand salon. Adolphe Thiers recommended that he wear clothing of "democratic simplicity", but following the model of his uncle, he chose instead the uniform of the General-in-Chief of the National Guard, and chose the title of "Prince-President".

He also made his first venture into foreign policy, in Italy, where as a youth he had joined in the patriotic uprising against the Austrians. The previous government had sent an expeditionary force, which had been tasked and funded by the National Assembly to support the republican forces in Italy against the Austrians and against the Pope. Instead the force was secretly ordered to do the opposite, namely to enter Rome to help restore the temporal authority of Pope Pius IX, who had been overthrown by Italian republicans including Mazzini and Garibaldi. The French troops came under fire from Garibaldi's soldiers. The Prince-President, without consulting his ministers, ordered his soldiers to fight if needed in support of the Pope. This was very popular with French Catholics, but infuriated the republicans, who supported the Roman Republic. To please the radical republicans, he asked the Pope to introduce liberal reforms and the Code Napoleon to the Papal States. To gain support from the Catholics, he approved the Loi Falloux in 1851, which restored a greater role for the Catholic Church in the French educational system.Elections were held for the National Assembly on 13–14 May 1849, only a few months after Louis Napoleon had become president, and were largely won by a coalition of conservative republicans—which Catholics and monarchists called "The Party of Order"—led by Adolphe Thiers. The socialists and "red" republicans, led by Ledru-Rollin and Raspail, also did well, winning two hundred seats. The moderate republicans, in the middle, did very badly, taking just 70–80 seats. The Party of Order had a clear majority, enough to block any initiatives of Louis Napoleon.On 11 June 1849 the socialists and radical republicans made an attempt to seize power. Ledru-Rollin, from his headquarters in the Conservatory of Arts and Professions, declared that Louis Napoleon was no longer President and called for a general uprising. A few barricades appeared in the working-class neighborhoods of Paris. Louis Napoleon acted swiftly, and the uprising was short-lived. Paris was declared in a state of siege, the headquarters of the uprising was surrounded, and the leaders arrested. Ledru-Rollin fled to England, Raspail was arrested and sent to prison, the republican clubs were closed, and their newspapers closed down.

The National Assembly, now without the left republicans and determined to keep them out forever, proposed a new election law that placed restrictions on universal male suffrage, imposing a three-year residency requirement. This new law excluded 3.5 of 9 million French voters, the voters that the leader of the Party of Order, Adolphe Thiers, scornfully called "the vile multitude". This new election law was passed in May 1850 by a majority of 433 to 241, putting the National Assembly on a direct collision course with the Prince-President. Louis Napoleon broke with the Assembly and the conservative ministers opposing his projects in favour of the dispossessed. He secured the support of the army, toured the country making populist speeches that condemned the Assembly, and presented himself as the protector of universal male suffrage. He demanded that the law be changed, but his proposal was defeated in the Assembly by a vote of 355 to 348.According to the Constitution of 1848, he had to step down at the end of his term, so Louis Napoleon sought a constitutional amendment to allow him to succeed himself, arguing that four years were not enough to fully implement his political and economic program. He toured the country and gained support from many of the regional governments and many within the Assembly. The vote in July 1851 was 446 to 278 in favor of changing the law and allowing him to run again, but this was short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

Coup d'état (December 1851)

Louis Napoleon believed that he was supported by the people, and he decided to retain power by other means. His half-brother Morny and a few close advisors quietly began to organise a coup d'état. They included minister of war Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud, as well as officers from the French Army in North Africa, to provide military backing for the coup. On the night of 1–2 December, Saint Arnaud's soldiers quietly occupied the national printing office, the Palais Bourbon, newspaper offices, and the strategic points in the city. In the morning, Parisians found posters around the city announcing the dissolution of the National Assembly, the restoration of universal suffrage, new elections, and a state of siege in Paris and the surrounding departments. Sixteen members of the National Assembly were arrested in their homes. When about 220 deputies of the moderate right gathered at the city hall of the 10th arrondissement, they were also arrested. On 3 December, writer Victor Hugo and a few other republicans tried to organize an opposition to the coup. A few barricades appeared, and about 1,000 insurgents came out in the streets, but the army moved in force with 30,000 troops and the uprisings were swiftly crushed, with the killing of an estimated 300 to 400 opponents of the coup. There were also small uprisings in the more militant red republican towns in the south and center of France, but these were all put down by 10 December.Louis Napoleon followed the self-coup by a period of repression of his opponents, aimed mostly at the red republicans. About 26,000 people were arrested, including 4,000 in Paris alone. The 239 inmates who were judged most severely were sent to the penal colony in Cayenne. 9,530 followers were sent to French Algeria, 1,500 were expelled from France, and another 3,000 were given forced residence away from their homes. Soon afterwards, a commission of revision freed 3,500 of those sentenced. In 1859, the remaining 1,800 prisoners and exiles were amnestied, with the exception of the republican leader Ledru-Rollin, who was released from prison but required to leave the country.Strict press censorship was enacted by a decree from 17 February 1852. No newspaper dealing with political or social questions could be published without the permission of the government, fines were increased, and the list of press offenses was expanded. After three warnings, a newspaper or journal could be suspended or even permanently closed.Louis Napoleon wished to demonstrate that his new government had a broad popular mandate, so on 20–21 December a national plebiscite was held asking if voters agreed to the coup. Mayors in many regions threatened to publish the names of any electors who refused to vote. When asked if they agreed to the coup, 7,439,216 voters said yes, 641,737 voted no, and 1.7 million voters abstained. The fairness and legality of the referendum was immediately questioned by Louis Napoleon's critics, but Louis Napoleon was convinced that he had been given a public mandate to rule.

Following the returns, many challenged the validity of such an implausibly lopsided result. One such critic was Victor Hugo, who had originally supported Louis Napoleon but had been infuriated by the coup d'état, departed for Brussels on 11 December 1851. He became the most bitter critic of Louis Napoleon, rejected the amnesty offered to him, and did not return to France for twenty years.

Middle years

A New Empire

Louis Napoleon's goal was to move from despotism to parliamentary government without a revolution, but instead he was a moderate increasingly trapped between the royalist and radical extremes. The 1851 referendum also gave Louis-Napoleon a mandate to amend the constitution. Work began on the new document in 1852. It was officially prepared by a committee of eighty experts, but was actually drafted by a small group of the Prince-President's inner circle. Under the new constitution, Louis-Napoleon was automatically reelected as president. Under Article Two, the president could now serve an unlimited number of 10-year terms. He was given the absolute authority to declare war, sign treaties, form alliances and initiate laws. The Constitution re-established universal male suffrage, and also retained a National Assembly, albeit one with reduced authority.Louis Napoleon's government imposed new authoritarian measures to control dissent and reduce the power of the opposition. One of his first acts was to settle scores with his old enemy, King Louis-Philippe, who had sent him to prison for life, and who had died in 1850. A decree on 23 January 1852 forbade the late King's family to own property in France and annulled the inheritance he had given to his children before he became King.

The National Guard, whose members had sometimes joined anti-government demonstrations, was re-organized and largely used only in parades. Government officials were required to wear uniforms at official formal occasions. The Minister of Education was given the power to dismiss professors at the universities and review the content of their courses. Students at the universities were forbidden to wear beards, seen as a symbol of republicanism.

An election was held for a new National Assembly on 29 February 1852, and all the resources of the government were used on behalf of the candidates backing the Prince-President. Of eight million eligible voters, 5,200,000 votes went to the official candidates and 800,000 to opposition candidates. About one third of the eligible voters abstained. The new Assembly included a small number of opponents of Louis Napoleon, including 17 monarchists, 18 conservatives, two liberal democrats, three republicans and 72 independents.Despite now holding all governing power in the nation, Louis Napoleon was not content with being an authoritarian president. The ink had barely dried on the new and severely authoritarian constitution when he set about making himself emperor. Following the election, the Prince-President went on a triumphal national tour. In Marseille, he laid the cornerstone of a new cathedral, a new stock exchange, and a chamber of commerce. In Bordeaux, on 9 October 1852, he gave his principal speech:

Some people say the Empire is war. I say the Empire is peace. Like the Emperor I have many conquests to make… Like him I wish … to draw into the stream of the great popular river those hostile side-currents which lose themselves without profit to anyone. We have immense unplowed territories to cultivate; roads to open; ports to dig; rivers to be made navigable; canals to finish, a railway network to complete. We have, in front of Marseille, a vast kingdom to assimilate into France. We have all the great ports of the west to connect with the American continent by modern communications, which we still lack. We have ruins to repair, false gods to tear down, truths which we need to make triumph. This is how I see the Empire, if the Empire is re-established. These are the conquests I am considering, and you around me, who, like me, want the good of our country, you are my soldiers."Drouyn de Lhuys, twice foreign minister, later commented that, "the Emperor has immense desires and limited abilities. He wants to do extraordinary things but is only capable of extravagances."When Napoleon returned to Paris the city was decorated with large arches, with banners proclaiming "To Napoleon III, emperor". In response to officially inspired requests for the return of the empire, the Senate scheduled another referendum for 21–22 November 1852 on whether to make Napoleon emperor. After an implausible 97 percent voted in favour (7,824,129 votes for and 253,159 against, with two million abstentions), on 2 December 1852—exactly one year after the coup—the Second Republic was officially ended, replaced by the Second French Empire. Prince-President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte became Napoleon III, Emperor of the French. His regnal name treats Napoleon II, who never actually ruled, as a true Emperor (he had been briefly recognized as emperor from 22 June to 7 July 1815). The 1852 constitution was retained; it concentrated so much power in Napoleon's hands that the only substantive change was to replace the word "president" with the word "emperor".

Modernising the infrastructure and the economy (1853–1869)

Early construction

One of the first priorities of Napoleon III was the modernisation of the French economy, which had fallen far behind that of the United Kingdom and some of the German states. Political economics had long been a passion of the Emperor. While in Britain, he had visited factories and railway yards; in prison, he had studied and written about the sugar industry and policies to reduce poverty. He wanted the government to play an active, not a passive, role in the economy. In 1839, he had written: "Government is not a necessary evil, as some people claim; it is instead the benevolent motor for the whole social organism." He did not advocate the government getting directly involved in industry. Instead, the government took a very active role in building the infrastructure for economic growth; stimulating the stock market and investment banks to provide credit; building railways, ports, canals and roads; and providing training and education. He also opened up French markets to foreign goods, such as railway tracks from England, forcing French industry to become more efficient and more competitive.The period was favorable for industrial expansion. The gold rushes in California and Australia increased the European money supply. In the early years of the Empire, the economy also benefited from the coming of age of those born during the baby boom of the Restoration period. The steady rise of prices caused by the increase of the money supply encouraged company promotion and investment of capital.

Beginning in 1852, Napoleon III encouraged the creation of new banks, such as Crédit Mobilier, which sold shares to the public and provided loans to both private industry and to the government. Crédit Lyonnais was founded in 1863 and Société Générale in 1864. These banks provided the funding for Napoleon III's major projects, from railway and canals to the rebuilding of Paris.

In 1851, France had only 3,500 kilometers of railway, compared with 10,000 kilometers in England and 800 kilometers in Belgium, a country one-twentieth the size of France. Within days of the coup d'état of 1851, Napoleon III's Minister of Public Works launched a project to build a railway line around Paris, connecting the different independent lines coming into Paris from around the country. The government provided guarantees for loans to build new lines and urged railway companies to consolidate. There were 18 railway companies in 1848 and six at the end of the Empire. By 1870, France had 20,000 kilometers of railway linked to the French ports and to the railway systems of the neighbouring countries that carried over 100 million passengers a year and transported the products of France's new steel mills, mines and factories.

Development of steamships and early reconstruction on Paris

New shipping lines were created and ports rebuilt in Marseille and Le Havre, which connected France by sea to the US, Latin America, North Africa and the Far East. During the Empire, the number of steamships tripled, and by 1870, France possessed the second-largest maritime fleet in the world after England. Napoleon III backed the greatest maritime project of the age, the construction of the Suez Canal between 1859 and 1869. The canal project was funded by shares on the Paris stock market and led by a former French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps. It was opened by the Empress Eugénie with a performance of Verdi's opera Aida.The rebuilding of central Paris also encouraged commercial expansion and innovation. The first department store, Bon Marché, opened in Paris in 1852 in a modest building and expanded rapidly, its income increasing from 450,000 francs a year to 20 million. Its founder, Aristide Boucicaut, commissioned a new glass and iron building designed by Louis-Charles Boileau and Gustave Eiffel that opened in 1869 and became the model for the modern department store. Other department stores quickly appeared: Au Printemps in 1865 and La Samaritaine in 1870. They were soon imitated around the world.Napoleon III's program also included reclaiming farmland and reforestation. One such project in the Gironde department drained and reforested 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square miles) of moorland, creating the Landes forest, the largest maritime pine forest in Europe.

Reconstruction of Paris (1854–1870)

Napoleon III began his regime by launching a series of enormous public works projects in Paris, hiring tens of thousands of workers to improve the sanitation, water supply and traffic circulation of the city. To direct this task, he named a new prefect of the Seine department, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, and gave him extraordinary powers to rebuild the center of the city. He installed a large map of Paris in a central position in his office, and he and Haussmann planned the new Paris.The population of Paris had doubled since 1815, with neither an increase in its area nor a development of its structure of very narrow medieval streets and alleys.

To accommodate the growing population and those who would be forced from the center by the construction of new boulevards and squares, Napoleon III issued a decree in 1860 to annex eleven communes (municipalities) on the outskirts of Paris and increase the number of arrondissements (city boroughs) from twelve to twenty. Paris was thus enlarged to its modern boundaries with the exception of the two major city parks (Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes) that only became part of the French capital in 1920.

For the duration of Napoleon III's reign and a decade afterwards, most of Paris was an enormous construction site. His hydraulic chief engineer, Eugène Belgrand, built a new aqueduct to bring clean water from the Vanne River in the Champagne region, and a new huge reservoir near the future Parc Montsouris. These two works increased the water supply of Paris from 87,000 to 400,000 cubic meters of water a day. Hundreds of kilometers of pipes distributed the water throughout the city, and a second network, using the less-clean water from the Ourcq and the Seine, washed the streets and watered the new park and gardens. He completely rebuilt the Paris sewers and installed miles of pipes to distribute gas for thousands of new streetlights along the Paris streets.Beginning in 1854, in the center of the city, Haussmann's workers tore down hundreds of old buildings and constructed new avenues to connect the central points of the city. Buildings along these avenues were required to be the same height, constructed in an architecturally similar style, and be faced with cream-coloured stone to create the signature look of Paris boulevards.

Napoleon III built two new railway stations: the Gare de Lyon (1855) and the Gare du Nord (1865). He completed Les Halles, the great cast iron and glass pavilioned produce market in the center of the city, and built a new municipal hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu, in the place of crumbling medieval buildings on the Ile de la Cité. The signature architectural landmark was the Paris Opera, the largest theater in the world, designed by Charles Garnier to crown the center of Napoleon III's new Paris.Napoleon III also wanted to build new parks and gardens for the recreation and relaxation of the Parisians, particularly those in the new neighbourhoods of the expanding city.Napoleon III's new parks were inspired by his memories of the parks in London, especially Hyde Park, where he had strolled and promenaded in a carriage while in exile; but he wanted to build on a much larger scale. Working with Haussmann and Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, the engineer who headed the new Service of Promenades and Plantations, he laid out a plan for four major parks at the cardinal points of the compass around the city. Thousands of workers and gardeners began to dig lakes, build cascades, plant lawns, flowerbeds and trees, and construct chalets and grottoes. Napoleon III transformed the Bois de Boulogne into a park (1852–58) to the west of Paris. To the east, he created the Bois de Vincennes (1860–65), and to the north, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (1865–67). The Parc Montsouris (1865–78) was created to the south.In addition to building the four large parks, Napoleon had the city's older parks, including the Parc Monceau, formerly owned by the Orléans family, and the Jardin du Luxembourg, refurbished and replanted. He also created some twenty small parks and gardens in the neighbourhoods as miniature versions of his large parks. Alphand termed these small parks "green and flowering salons". The intention of Napoleon's plan was to have one park in each of the eighty "quartiers" (neighbourhoods) of Paris, so that no one was more than a ten-minute walk from such a park. The parks were an immediate success with all classes of Parisians.

Search for a wife

Soon after becoming emperor, Napoleon III began searching for a wife to give him an heir. He was still attached to his companion Harriet Howard, who attended receptions at the Élysée Palace and traveled around France with him. He quietly sent a diplomatic delegation to approach the family of Princess Carola of Vasa, the granddaughter of deposed King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden. They declined because of his Catholic religion and the political uncertainty about his future, as did the family of Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a niece of Queen Victoria.

Louis-Napoleon finally announced that he found the right woman: a Spaniard named Eugénie du Derje de Montijo, age 23, 20th Countess of Teba and 15th Marchioness of Ardales. The daughter of the Count of Montijo, she received much of her education in Paris. Her beauty attracted Louis-Napoleon, who, as was his custom, tried to seduce her, but Eugénie told him to wait for marriage. The civil ceremony took place at Tuileries Palace on 22 January 1853, and a much grander ceremony was held a few days later at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. In 1856, Eugénie gave birth to a son and heir-apparent, Napoléon, Prince Imperial.With an heir to the throne secured, Napoleon III resumed his "petites distractions" with other women. Eugénie faithfully performed the duties of an Empress, entertaining guests and accompanying the Emperor to balls, opera, and theatre. She traveled to Egypt to open the Suez Canal and officially represented him whenever he traveled outside France.

Though a fervent Catholic and conservative on many other issues, she strongly advocated equality for women. She pressured the Ministry of National Education to give the first baccalaureate diploma to a woman and tried unsuccessfully to induce the Académie française to elect the writer George Sand as its first female member.

Foreign policy (1852–1860)

In foreign policy, Napoleon III aimed to reassert French influence in Europe and around the world as a supporter of popular sovereignty and nationalism. In Europe, he allied himself with Britain and defeated Russia in the Crimean War (1854–56). French troops assisted Italian unification by fighting on the side of the Kingdom of Sardinia. In return, France received Savoy and the county of Nice in 1860. Later, however, to appease fervent French Catholics, he sent soldiers to defend the residual Papal States against annexation by Italy.

Principle of Nationalities

In a speech at Bordeaux shortly after becoming Emperor, Napoleon III proclaimed that "The Empire means peace" ("L'Empire, c'est la paix"), reassuring foreign governments that he would not attack other European powers in order to extend the French Empire. He was, however, determined to follow a strong foreign policy to extend France's influence and warned that he would not stand by and allow another European power to threaten its neighbour.

At the beginning of his reign, he was also an advocate of a new "principle of nationalities" (principe des nationalités) that supported the creation of new states based on nationality, such as Italy, in place of the old multinational empires, such as the Habsburg monarchy (or Empire of Austria, known since 1867 as Austria-Hungary). In this he was influenced by his uncle's policy as described in the Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène. In all of his foreign policy ventures, he put the interests of France first. Napoleon III felt that new states created on the basis of national identity would become natural allies and partners of France.

Alliance with Britain and the Crimean War (1853–1856)

Lord Palmerston as Britain's Foreign Minister and Prime Minister had close personal ties with leading French statesmen, notably Napoleon III himself. Palmerston's goal was to arrange peaceful relations with France in order to free Britain's diplomatic hand elsewhere in the world. Napoleon at first had a pro-British foreign policy and was eager not to displease the British government, whose friendship he saw as important to France. After a brief threat of an invasion of Britain in 1851, France and Britain cooperated in the 1850s with an alliance in the Crimean War and a major trade treaty in 1860.War scares were consistently worked up by the press nonetheless. John Delane, editor of The Times, visited France in January 1853 and was impressed by its military preparedness. He expressed his conviction that "Louis-Napoleon was resolved on a forward foreign policy". Napoleon III was actually determined to increase the country's naval power. The first purpose-built steam-powered battleship (worryingly christened after Napoleon I) was launched in 1850, and the fortification of Cherbourg was strengthened. This led to the extension of the breakwater of Alderney and the construction of Fort Clonque.From the start of his Empire, Napoleon III sought an alliance with Britain. He had lived there while in exile and saw Britain as a natural partner in the projects he wished to accomplish. An opportunity soon presented itself: In early 1853, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia put pressure on the weak Ottoman government, demanding that the Ottoman Empire give Russia a protectorate over the Christian countries of the Balkans as well as control over Constantinople and the Dardanelles. The Ottoman Empire, backed by Britain and France, refused Russia's demands, and a joint British-French fleet was sent to support the Ottoman Empire. When Russia refused to leave the Romanian territories it had occupied, Britain and France declared war on 27 March 1854.It took France and Britain six months to organize a full-scale military expedition to the Black Sea. The Anglo-French fleet landed thirty thousand French and twenty thousand British soldiers in the Crimea on 14 September and began to lay siege to the major Russian port of Sevastopol. As the siege dragged on, the French and British armies were reinforced and troops from the Kingdom of Sardinia joined them, reaching a total of 140,000 soldiers, but they suffered terribly from epidemics of typhus, dysentery, and cholera. During the 332 days of the siege, the French lost 95,000 soldiers, including 75,000 due to disease. The suffering of the army in the Crimea was carefully concealed from the French public by press censorship.

The death of Tsar Nicholas I on 2 March 1855 and his replacement by Alexander II changed the political equation. In September, after a massive bombardment, the Anglo-French army of fifty thousand men stormed the Russian positions, and the Russians were forced to evacuate Sevastopol. Alexander II sought a political solution, and negotiations were held in Paris in the new building of the French Foreign Ministry on the Quai d'Orsay, from 25 February to 8 April 1856.

The Crimean War added three new place names to Paris: Alma, named for the first French victory on the river of that name; Sevastopol; and Malakoff, named for a tower in the center of the Russian line captured by the French. The war had two important diplomatic consequences: Alexander II became an ally of France, and Britain and France were reconciled. In April 1855, Napoleon III and Eugénie went to England and were received by the Queen; in turn, Victoria and Prince Albert visited Paris. Victoria was the first British monarch to do so in centuries.The defeat of Russia and the alliance with Britain gave France increased authority and prestige in Europe. This was the first war between European powers since the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, marking a breakdown of the alliance system that had maintained peace for nearly half a century. The war also effectively ended the Concert of Europe and the Quadruple Alliance, or "Waterloo Coalition", that the other four powers (Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain) had established. The Paris Peace Conference of 1856 represented a high-water mark for Napoleon's regime in foreign affairs. It encouraged Napoleon III to make an even bolder foreign policy venture in Italy.

Italian Campaign

Early years

On the evening of 14 January 1858, Napoleon and the Empress escaped an assassination attempt unharmed. A group of conspirators threw three bombs at the imperial carriage as it made its way to the opera. Eight members of the escort and bystanders were killed and over one hundred people injured. The culprits were quickly arrested. The leader was an Italian nationalist, Felice Orsini, who was aided by a French surgeon Simon Bernard. They believed that if Napoleon III were killed, a republican revolt would immediately follow in France and the new republican government would help all Italian states win independence from Austria and achieve national unification. Bernard was in London at the time. Since he was a political exile, the Government of the United Kingdom refused to extradite him, but Orsini was tried, convicted and executed on 13 March 1858. The bombing focused the attention of France and particularly of Napoleon III, on the issue of Italian nationalism.Part of Italy, particularly the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia (officially the Kingdom of Sardinia), was independent, but central Italy was still ruled by the Pope (in this era, Pope Pius IX), while Venice, Lombardy and much of the north was ruled by Austria. Other states were de jure independent (notably the Duchy of Parma or the Grand Duchy of Tuscany) but de facto fully under Austrian influence. Napoleon III had fought with the Italian patriots against the Austrians when he was young and his sympathy was with them, but the Empress, most of his government and the Catholic Church in France supported the Pope and the existing governments. The British Government was also hostile to the idea of promoting nationalism in Italy. Despite the opposition within his government and in his own palace, Napoleon III did all that he could to support the cause of Piedmont-Sardinia. The King of Piedmont-Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II, was invited to Paris in November 1855 and given the same royal treatment as Queen Victoria.

Count Cavour, the Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia, came to Paris with the King and employed an unusual emissary in his efforts to win the support of Napoleon III: his beautiful young cousin, Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione (1837–1899). As Cavour had hoped, she caught the Emperor's eye and became his mistress. Between 1855 and 1857, she used the opportunity to pass messages and to plead the Italian cause.In July 1858, Napoleon arranged a secret visit by Count Cavour. They agreed to join forces and drive the Austrians from Italy. In exchange, Napoleon III asked for Savoy (the ancestral land of the King of Piedmont-Sardinia) and the then bilingual County of Nice, which had been taken from France after Napoleon's fall in 1815 and given to Piedmont-Sardinia. Cavour protested that Nice was Italian, but Napoleon responded that "these are secondary questions. There will be time later to discuss them."Assured of the support of Napoleon III, Count Cavour began to prepare the army of Piedmont-Sardinia for war against Austria. Napoleon III looked for diplomatic support. He approached Lord Derby (the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) and his government; Britain was against the war, but agreed to remain neutral. Still facing strong opposition within his own government, Napoleon III offered to negotiate a diplomatic solution with the twenty-eight-year-old Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in the spring of 1858. The Austrians demanded the disarmament of Piedmont-Sardinia first, and sent a fleet with thirty thousand soldiers to reinforce their garrisons in Italy. Napoleon III responded on 26 January 1859 by signing a treaty of alliance with Piedmont-Sardinia. Napoleon promised to send two hundred thousand soldiers to help one hundred thousand soldiers from Piedmont-Sardinia to force the Austrians out of Northern Italy; in return, France would receive the County of Nice and Savoy provided that their populations would agree in a referendum.It was the Emperor Franz Joseph, growing impatient, who finally unleashed the war. On 23 April 1859, he sent an ultimatum to the government of Piedmont-Sardinia demanding that they stop their military preparations and disband their army. On 26 April, Count Cavour rejected the demands, and on 27 April, the Austrian army invaded Piedmont.

War in Italy – Magenta and Solferino (1859)

Napoleon III, though he had very little military experience, decided to lead the French army in Italy himself. Part of the French army crossed over the Alps, while the other part, with the Emperor, landed in Genoa on 18 May 1859. Fortunately for Napoleon and the Piedmontese, the commander of the Austrians, General Giulay, was not very aggressive. His forces greatly outnumbered the Piedmontese army at Turin, but he hesitated, allowing the French and Piedmontese to unite their forces.

Napoleon III wisely left the fighting to his professional generals. The first great battle of the war, on 4 June 1859, was fought at the town of Magenta. It was long and bloody, and the French center was exhausted and nearly broken, but the battle was finally won by a timely attack on the Austrian flank by the soldiers of General MacMahon. The Austrians had seven thousand men killed and five thousand captured, while the French forces had four thousand men killed. The battle was largely remembered because, soon after it was fought, patriotic chemists in France gave the name of the battle to their newly discovered bright purple chemical dye; the dye and the colour took the name magenta.The rest of the Austrian army was able to escape while Napoleon III and King Victor Emmanuel made a triumphal entry on 10 June into the city of Milan, previously ruled by the Austrians. They were greeted by huge, jubilant crowds waving Italian and French flags.

The Austrians had been driven from Lombardy, but the army of General Giulay remained in the region of Venice. His army had been reinforced and numbered 130,000 men, roughly the same as the French and Piedmontese, though the Austrians were superior in artillery. On 24 June, the second and decisive battle was fought at Solferino. This battle was even longer and bloodier than Magenta. In confused and often ill-directed fighting, there were approximately forty thousand casualties, including 11,500 French. Napoleon III was horrified by the thousands of dead and wounded on the battlefield. He proposed an armistice to the Austrians, which was accepted on 8 July. A formal treaty ending the war was signed on 11 July 1859.Count Cavour and the Piedmontese were bitterly disappointed by the abrupt end of the war. Lombardy had been freed, but Venetia (the Venice region) was still controlled by the Austrians, and the Pope was still the ruler of Rome and Central Italy. Cavour angrily resigned his post. Napoleon III returned to Paris on 17 July, and a huge parade and celebration were held on 14 August, in front of the Vendôme column, the symbol of the glory of Napoleon I. Napoleon III celebrated the day by granting a general amnesty to the political prisoners and exiles he had chased from France.

In Italy, even without the French army, the process of Italian unification launched by Cavour and Napoleon III took on a momentum of its own. There were uprisings in central Italy and the Papal states, and Italian patriots, led by Garibaldi, invaded and took over Sicily, which would lead to the collapse of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Napoleon III wrote to the Pope and suggested that he "make the sacrifice of your provinces in revolt and confide them to Victor Emmanuel". The Pope, furious, declared in a public address that Napoleon III was a "liar and a cheat". Rome and the surrounding Latium region remained in Papal hands, and therefore did not immediately become the capital of the newly created Kingdom of Italy, and Venetia was still occupied by the Austrians, but the rest of Italy had come under the rule of Victor Emmanuel.

As Cavour had promised, Savoy and the county of Nice were annexed by France in 1860 after referendums, although it is disputed how fair they were. In Nice, 25,734 voted for union with France, just 260 against, but Italians still called for its return into the 20th century. On 18 February 1861, the first Italian parliament met in Turin, and on 23 March, Victor Emmanuel was proclaimed King of Italy. Count Cavour died a few weeks later, declaring that "Italy is made."Napoleon's support for the Italian patriots and his confrontation with Pope Pius IX over who would govern Rome made him unpopular with fervent French Catholics, and even with Empress Eugénie, who was a fervent Catholic. To win over the French Catholics and his wife, he agreed to guarantee that Rome would remain under the Pope and independent from the rest of Italy, and agreed to keep French troops there. The capital of Italy became Turin (in 1861) then Florence (in 1865), not Rome. However, in 1862, Garibaldi gathered an army to march on Rome, under the slogan, "Rome or death". To avoid a confrontation between Garibaldi and the French soldiers, the Italian government sent its own soldiers to face them, arrested Garibaldi and put him in prison. Napoleon III sought, but was unable to find, a diplomatic solution that would allow him to withdraw French troops from Rome while guaranteeing that the city would remain under Papal control.

Garibaldi made another attempt to capture Rome in November 1867, but was defeated by the French and Papal troops near the town of Mentana on 3 November 1867.

The garrison of eight thousand French troops remained in Rome until August 1870, when they were recalled at the start of the Franco-Prussian War. In September 1870, Garibaldi's soldiers finally entered Rome and made it the capital of Italy.After the successful conclusion of the Italian campaign and the annexation of Savoy and Nice to the territory of France, the Continental foreign policy of Napoleon III entered a calmer period. Expeditions to distant corners of the world and the expansion of the Empire replaced major changes in the map of Europe. The Emperor's health declined; he gained weight, he began to dye his hair to cover the gray, he walked slowly because of gout, and in 1864, at the military camp of Châlons-en-Champagne, he suffered the first medical crisis from his gallstones, the ailment that killed him nine years later. He was less engaged in governing and less attentive to detail, but still sought opportunities to increase French commerce and prestige globally.

=== Overseas empire ===

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