Louis XVII came to the throne in 1814 as the rightful heir. After the defeat of Napoleon there were two possible branches of the Bourbon family. The elder branch, which was Louis XVIII (brother to guillotined Louis XVII) and the younger branch, which was Louis Phillippe, duc d’Orleons. It was left to the allies to choose who should rule, and they did not want France to be a republic. However Europe could no establish who should be the new ruler of France. They therefore decided to let France choose for herself. This was just a way of covering up the fact that they couldn’t choose a ruler themselves. However there was no intention of consulting the people of France through any system of voting. Talleyrand, once Napoleon’s legal servant, was in favour of the Bourbon’s returning. It was therefore him who convinced the allies that there was widespread support in France for the restoration of the Bourbons, and when Wellington entered Bordeaux to be met by crowds of people shouting “vive le roi” (long live the king) it convinced the allies that the restoration was stood a good chance of success. Therefore in April 1814 Louis XVIII returned as king.
Louis XVIII, at the time he came to the throne, was aged fifty-nine years old. He was over weight and walked with difficulty. His personality was dull and uninspiring. He was known to be a firm believer in the divine right of kings. His character was such that he lacked charm and the truth was, that he was wanted for what he stood for, rather than what we really was.
When Louis XVIII came to power, the economy was strong, and this was therefore good and positive for his reign. Louis XVIII did not squander the advantages he possessed. By supporting capable ministers, especially his favourite, Elie Decazes, he ensured the governments finance was on a firm footing. With the war fees paid off by 1818 & foreign troops withdrawn, the country was able to settle down after the costly glory of Napoleonic era. In fact under Louis XVIII an effective system for controlling government spending was developed that was to last with out any major adjustment for more than a hundred years.
The allies feared because they thought French people grown use to national glory would soon get bored of a dull monarchy. They need not to worry. It
seems that although most French people were pleased to bask in the glory, they did not immediately miss the pleasure when it was no longer available.
Louis XVIII’s greatest success was managing to convince the pays legal that he intended to make the charter if 1814 a working reality. He did this by restraining those supporters who wanted to undermine the charter, or even do away with it altogether. Also by communicating a general belief that in it as providing the basis for political life in France in the future.
These Ultra-Royalist, known as the Ultras, were even more Royalist than the King himself. They hoped to day with the charter as soon as possible. However Louis XVIII was in sympathy with some of their views. Yet because he did not possess great strength of character, he was unable to resist all their demands. The Ultras, however, did gain some success.
When the law to compensate the Ã©migrÃ©s was passed in 1825, the reaction of the pays legal was very hostile. For ten years the Ã©migrÃ©s felt discontent that their loyalty to the royal family and the ancien regime, which had lost them their lands and fortunes, had received scant reward. Many of them had been given official positions to fill and their ranks recognised. However most of them still lacked financial security and they would therefore have liked their lands restored back to them. But even Charles X saw that to attempt this would be such a basic attack on the revolutionary settlement that it would probably have been resisted by force So the law of 1825 confirmed the rights of present owners of the market value of any land that had been confiscated in the 1790’s, and by compensating the Ã©migrÃ©s by making them an annual grant of money.
Louis XVIII success also included the Charter. As stated above, Louis managed to convince the pays legal that he intended to make the charter a working reality. Th Charter of 1814 stated that there would be freedom for the press, although there would be laws passed to check the abuse of this freedom. It had been assumed by most of the pays legal that this meant that people would be free to publish what they wanted although they would be liable for legal action after the events if they had printed anything contrary to the law. This was not how the Charter was interpreted by Louis XVIII, and he made efforts to prevent the publication of anything they regarded as hostile to the regime. Between 1814 and 1822 the government generally tried to control the press by insisting that no political news or comment was published until it had been passed by the censor.
Despite Louis’s age, his immobility, his belief in the divine rights of the king, his heavily influence by Madam du Cayla and his failure to compensate the Ã©migrÃ©s, I strongly believe that his strengthens and successes out weighed these.
Among his successes, he managed to convince the pays legal that he intended to make the Charter a working reality, keep his throne while managing to suppress opponents, acted according to the Charter and did not allow the Ultras to get much power and dominate.
He also did not allow himself in party politics, which meant he could be neutral and not favour one party over another. This meant a downfall of a minister would not bring him down.
Lastly, Louis XVIII was the rightful king in France and therefore he could diminish opposition.
Courtney from Study Moose
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