2586 Essays France 1814-48 To what extent was the reign of Louis XVIII a failure?

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2586 Essays

  • France 1814-48

To what extent was the reign of Louis XVIII a failure?

  • Need to establish what Louis’s aims were
  • If he was successful in achieving most of this aims then analysis is that he was successful
  • If he failed in most areas then …
  • Remember to include a conclusion

Issues to be considered

  • Problems facing Louis
  • 100 Days & 2nd Treaty of Paris
  • Pressure from Ultras
  • White Terror
  • Murder of Duc de Berri
  • Increasing polarisation of politics
  • Success/failures
  • Regime well established by 1818
  • Charter important
  • Ultra threat seen off (till 1820s)
  • Failed to address land issue
  • Regime becoming increasingly royalist

First argument

  • Reign can be divided into 2; 1814-1820 & 1820-1824
  • 1814-20 Louis inherited strong economy though many of subjects unsure about him
  • Despite own history & political ideology was prepared to follow path of conciliation-
  • “All the efforts of my government are directed into the effort to forge the two peoples who exist only too much in fact into a single one.” (Louis XVIII 1817)

First Argument (continued)

  • Made mistakes – Flag, title, issue of Charter based on royal prerogative
  • Charter was a good start!
  • Fled from Napoleon’s return & 2nd restoration not well received!
  • La Chambre Introuvable & White Terror threatened his policy
  • Franchise altered & more moderate assembly elected

First Argument (continued)

  • By 1818 French able to pay indemnity
  • Army of occupation withdrawn
  • France joined Quadruple Alliance (the international community of Great Powers)
  • National finances put on sound footing for the first time for many years
  • First 5 years relatively successful – all change in 1820!

Second Argument

  • 1820 growing threat from Bonapartists/Liberals
  • 1820 year of revolutions across Europe
  • Murder of de Berri
  • Growing Ultra influence – appointment of de Villele
  • Involvement in Spain 1822
  • Charbonniers : evidence of political polarisation
  • By 1824 more authoritarian government in place


  • Successful for first half of reign
  • Established stable regime after shaky start
  • French finances put on sound footing which encouraged confidence in the regime
  • After 1820 lost grip and allowed more authoritarian forces to take control
  • “…slide from moderate policies and towards extreme Royalism had already begun before Charles X officially became king.” (Randell)

To what extent was the economic recession of 1846-8 the main reason for the fall the July Monarchy?

  • Poor harvests and
  • potato blight led to
  • food shortages in
  • countryside and rising
  • prices. Falling
  • demand for
  • manufactured goods
  • Parisian poor hit by
  • rising prices &
  • unemployment.
  • Middle classes
  • experiencing
  • problems too.
  • No action by
  • the government- big
  • mob developing in
  • the capital

Economic recession the main reason?

  • Spark for revolution was the cancellation of Reform Banquet in Feb 1848
  • Part of pressure campaign set up to bring about extension of franchise
  • This resulted from key issue – LP’s refusal to allow any political changes
  • LP wanted to rule and was prepared to use corrupt means

Foreign Policy

  • Turned down chance to get control of Belgium in 1830 – did not go down well!
  • Attempt to gain powerful ally in Near East (Mehemet Ali) failed – France isolated
  • Spanish Marriages issue only lost him the support of GB
  • Cautious foreign policy paled next to former glories
  • BUT how big a deal?

Political Opposition

  • L-P disliked by Legitimists – one failed rising in support of young de Berri
  • Louis Napoleon Bonaparte staged 2 failed attempts to seize power
  • Clearly the ‘Legend’ not effective
  • Republicans most serious challenge – number of assassination attempts
  • Lacked co-ordination

How much support did L-P have?

  • ‘Bourgeois’ monarchy had very narrow basis of support
  • Lack of social reform and heavy handed attitude towards unrest increased support for republicanism & socialism
  • Middle classes began to support Reform campaign
  • National Guard unwilling to fight in 1848


  • To great extent July Monarchy just collapsed! – no one was prepared to fight
  • Social problems were important – L-P did nothing to address them
  • Refusal to allow political reform important
  • Cautious foreign policy perhaps an irritant
  • Recession 1846-8 was a trigger to the revolution NOT root cause

‘Neither popular nor successful’. How fair is this judgment on L-P’s foreign policy?

  • French foreign policy limited by the restraints of Vienna Settlement – French expansion checked by ‘buffer states’
  • French had long tradition of being dominant military and political power in Europe
  • Much glory under Napoleon!

Belgium 1830-39

  • Joined to Holland in 1815
  • Belgians treated as 2nd class citizens
  • Overthrew Dutch rule in 1830
  • Crown offered to French prince
  • Louis-Philippe chose to work with GB
  • Helped Belgians to repel Dutch in 1831
  • German prince became King


  • Belgium long been considered by French as their sphere of influence
  • Unhappy at L-P’s actions
  • Given circumstances was the only course of action!

Adventures in the Middle East

  • Conflict between MA & his master the Sultan of Turkey
  • French opted to support MA
  • Other GPs supported Sultan
  • MA defeated – French lost valuable ally


  • Considerable French investment in Egypt so naturally public opinion supported MA
  • Thiers planned foreign policy to take advantage of this
  • He threatened war against GPs but bluff called
  • Resounding diplomatic defeat
  • Thiers sacked!

The Spanish Marriages

  • Guizot worked hard to create good relations with GB
  • Deal made in 1846 over marriage of Queen Isabella of Spain
  • Guizot scored brief victory through marriage of younger sister
  • Victory hollow as Isabella had a son!


  • Guizot continued colonisation programme
  • By 1847 50K French citizens in Algeria
  • Venture was expensive in lives & money
  • King showed little interest
  • Many French only interested in European adventures

How far were the Ultras the greatest threat to the Bourbon Restoration?

  • Ultras led by Comte d’Artois – very organised!
  • Won elections in 1815 – able to initiate White Terror after 100 Days
  • After 1820 Ultras re-established influence over King
  • Intervention in Spain clear evidence of this

Other Factors?

  • Economic Problems?
  • Poor government under Louis?
  • Legacy of the treaties?
  • Lack of popular support?
  • Threat from Bonaparte & followers?
  • Fears of Pays Legal?
  • Louis’s unwillingness to compromise


  • The French historian Maurois wrote of the Ultras that
  • ‘They dug deeper instead of filling the bloody trenches of revolution’

Comparison of LP’s foreign & domestic policies in leading to his downfall

  • From the beginning Louis Philippe regarded 1830 as a signal to conserve and not change the status quo
  • Very limited changes made to the Charter
  • He aimed to rule, not to be a figure head
  • Appointed weak chief ministers
  • Ruled corruptly


  • Regime rested on narrow basis – made no attempt to widen appeal
  • Pressure growing because of social problems caused by industrialisation & urbanisation
  • Matters brought to head by recession of 1846-8
  • Rejection of calls for reform led to Reform Banquets

Foreign Policy

  • French brought up on diet of glory
  • Rejected chance to add Belgium to territory in 1830
  • Best policy in circumstances but not popular with subjects
  • Diplomatic defeat over Mehemet Ali
  • Algeria successful but costly and won him little credit


  • Foreign policy was perhaps uninspired and disappointing
  • But this would add to lack of popularity rather than cause downfall
  • More important was resistance to change
  • Refusal to listen to calls for political reform was major cause of decline in popularity

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