A Short History of France eBook

Mary Platt Parmele
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 173 pages of information about A Short History of France.

With indomitable courage another grand army had filled the vacant places, and was putting down a great uprising in Germany.  But his star was waning.  An overwhelming defeat at Leipsic was followed by a march upon Paris.  And in the spring of 1814, Alexander, the young Russian emperor, the friend who was to aid him in securing an eternal peace for Europe, was dictating the terms of surrender in Paris.

Within a week Napoleon had abdicated.  The title of emperor he was permitted to retain, but the empire which he was to leave to the infant son of Maria Louisa, now two years old, had shrunk to the little island of Elba, on the west coast of Italy!


The allied powers named Louis XVIII., the brother of Louis XVI., for the vacant throne, who promised the people to reign under a constitutional government.

The man who had deserted his brother in his extremity, a man who represented nothing—­not loyalty to the past, nor sympathy with a single aspiration of the present—­was king.  As he passed under triumphal arches on the way to the Tuileries, there was sitting beside him a sad, pale-faced woman; this was the Duchesse d’Angouleme, the daughter of Louis XVI., the little girl who was prisoner in the Temple twenty years before.  What must she have felt and thought as she passed the very spot where had stood the scaffold in 1793!

Almost the first act of Louis XVIII. was the removal of the mutilated remains of the king and queen and his sister Elizabeth to the royal vault in the Church of St. Denis.  He then gave orders for a Chapelle Expiatoire to be erected over the grave where they had been lying for two decades, and for masses to be said for the repose of the souls of his murdered relatives.  Paris was full of returning royalists.  Banished exiles with grand old names, who had been earning a scanty living by teaching French and dancing in Vienna, London, and even in New York, were hastening to Paris for a joyful Restoration; and Louis XVIII., while Russian and Austrian troops guarded him on the streets of his own capital, was freely talking about ruling by divine right!

That king was reigning under a liberal charter (as the new constitution was called)—­a charter which guaranteed almost as much personal liberty as the one obtained in England from King John in 1215; and the palpable absurdity of supposing that he and his supporters might at the same time revive and maintain Bourbon traditions, as if there had been no Revolution, was at least not an indication of much sagacity.

But there was a very smooth surface.  The tricolor had disappeared.  Napoleon’s generals had gone unresistingly over to the Bourbons.  Talleyrand adapted himself as quickly to the new regime as he had to the Napoleonic; was witty at the expense of the empire and the emperor, who, as he said, “was not even a Frenchman”; and was as crafty and as useful an instrument for the new ruler as he had been for the pre-existing one.

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A Short History of France from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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