4.5: A Whole New World?

The allied powers had wanted to achieve one basic goal for the last 25 years or so: to put another king on the French throne. After their victory and Napoleon’s banishment, they set about to do just that: Louis XVI’s brother took the title of King Louis XVIII. (Louis XVII, the original heir to the throne, died in prison in 1795 from neglect and mistreatment at the age of 10.) However, French people would not calmly take what they saw as a reversal of the Revolution. With the people’s overwhelming support, Napoleon escaped his island-prison and was cheered by thousands as he returned to be emperor in March 1815. Though his army redoubled its efforts, however, Napoleon’s second “term” as emperor only lasted 100 days: the British and Prussian forces defeated his armies again at Waterloo (in Belgium). This time, the former emperor was banished to an even more distant island called St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died in 1821.

All the main leaders of Europe gathered together in Austria to discuss ways to develop more stable post-Revolution, post-Napoleon governments. This “Congress of Vienna” maintained monarchies while addressing some citizens’ concerns for reform (at least, on the surface). Though the continent would not see another war like the Napoleonic Wars until World War I (100 years later), the nineteenth century was plagued with revolutions throughout Europe. Many patriots rebelled against their own monarchs just as much as they had rebelled against Napoleon during his short-lived empire. These “nationalists” across Europe began to see national identity and national unity as the key to developing a strong government and a strong economy. This national competition would only grow in the new industrialized world of the 19th century.

Napoleon_WagramCOngress pic NapNapoleon_Bonaparte_on_Saint_Helena