Napoleon III Biography
NAPOLEON III., Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France, born in Paris, April 20, 1808; died at Chiselhurst, England, Jan. 9, 1873. He was the nephew of Napoleon I., being the youngest son of Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland, who was a brother of the former. Hortense Beauharnais was his mother, under whose charge he was carefully trained in early childhood, but most of his early life was spent in Germany and Switzerland. In 1832 he became the heir to the imperial throne of France by the death of Napoleon II., and until 1836 his life was spent principally as a student and author. In the latter year he resolved to make an effort to secure the throne of France by overthrowing Louis Philippe, and accordingly attempted to come into possession of the garrison at Strasburg. His ambition was not only a failure, but he was captured and sent to America. After remaining some time in Brazil and New York, he returned to Switzerland, where the French government sought his expulsion, but in 1840 he made a second attempt to become the imperial ruler of France. This time he landed from England at Boulogne, where he was placed under arrest, and after formal trial sentenced to life imprisonment in the fortress of Ham. While there he engaged in literary work, and edited "French Dictionary of Conversation." On May 25, 1846, he disguised himself as a workingman and escaped to England.
When the revolution of 1848 broke out, Napoleon returned to France, where he became a member of the national assembly, and when the republic was instituted he was made its president for four years, 5,434,226 votes being cast in his favor out of a total of 7,500,000. In the latter part of 1851 he declared Paris in a state of siege and issued a decree to dissolve the national assembly. He caused the arrest of many opponents to his designs, and anyone disposed to oppose him publicly on the streets was ordered shot down by the military forces. In December of the same year he issued a second decree, in which the presidential term was extended to ten years and universal suffrage was established. On the 20th of the month an election was held in which nearly a unanimous vote was cast in favor of making him president for ten years, and immediately he began to plan for a restoration of the empire. The national guard was reëstablished in 1852 and a revised constitution secured, and on Dec. 1, 1852, he was proclaimed emperor with the title of Napoleon III. He married a Spanish lady, Eugenie Marie de Montijo, countess of Peba, on Jan. 29,1853, who made his court one of much brilliance and fashion. His foreign policy at once became vigorous, and in 1854 he joined England in declaring war against Russia in the interest of Turkey. It is known as the Crimean War, and ended with Russian defeat in 1856. In 1859 Napoleon took up arms against Austria to free Italy, but, after winning victories at Magenta and Solferino, the peace of Villafranca was concluded. By its terms Austria ceded Lombardy to Italy, and France secured the provinces of Nice and Savoy. France joined with Spain and England in 1862 for the purpose of requiring Mexico to redress injuries, but the two allies soon withdrew, and Napoleon conquered the country with his own forces and made Maximilian, archduke of Austria, its emperor. When Napoleon withdrew his army, in 1867, Maximilian was made a prisoner and executed.
The successful war prosecuted by Prussia against Austria in 1866 excited the jealousy of Napoleon, and he sought to interfere with the establishment of boundary lines. When Spain invited Prince Leopold of the German house of Hohenzollern to become the Spanish king, he made it a pretense to declare war against Prussia, in 1870. He assumed chief command of the French army on July 28, 1870, but on September 2 was compelled to surrender at Sedan, and was carried a prisoner of war to Germany. The French army was unsuccessful in every battle before the remarkable enthusiasm of the imperial forces of the German Confederation, and the power of Napoleon ended with his capture. Empress Eugenie fled to England two days after the surrender, while Napoleon was kept a prisoner of war at Wilhelmshöhe until peace was declared, when he joined the ex-empress at Chiselhurst. His only child, the prince imperial of France, was born in Paris, March 16, 1856, and on June l., 1879, fell in battle against the Zulus in South Africa. He was educated in Belgium and England, and in 1879 joined the English military forces in South Africa. He is often mentioned by his imperial title, Napoleon IV.
The Teachers' and Pupils' Cyclopædia, Vol. III. (Kansas City: Bufton Book Co., 1909) 1237-1238.