Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles Reichstadt - Encyclopedia

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NAPOLEON FRANCIS JOSEPH CHARLES, REICHSTADT Duke Of (1811-1832), known by the Bonapartists as Napoleon II., was the son of the Emperor Napoleon I. and Marie Louise, archduchess of Austria. He was born on the 20th of March 1811, in Paris at the Tuileries palace. He was at first named the king of Rome, after the analogy of the heirs of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. By his birth the Napoleonic dynasty seemed to be finally established; but in three years it crumbled in the dust. At the time of the downfall of the empire (April 1814) Marie Louise and the king of Rome were at Blois with Joseph and Jerome Bonaparte, who wished to keep them as hostages. This design, however, was frustrated. Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son; but events prevented the reign of Napoleon II. from being more than titular. While Napoleon repaired to Elba, his consort and child went to Vienna; and they remained in Austria during the Hundred Days (1815), despite efforts made by the Bonapartists to carry off the prince to his father at Paris.

Meanwhile the congress of Vienna had carried out the conditions of the treaty of Fontainebleau (March 1814) whereby the duchies of Parma and Guastalla were to go to the exEmpress Marie Louise and her son, although much opposition was offered to this proposal by Louis XVIII. and even (so it now appears) by Metternich. The secret treaty of the 31st of May 1815 between Austria, Russia and Prussia secured those possessions to her, her son bearing the title Prince of Parma, with hereditary rights for his descendants. But after the second abdication of Napoleon in favour of his son (22nd of June 1815) - a condition which was wholly nugatory - the powers opposed all participation of the prince in the affairs of Parma. He therefore remained in Austria, while Marie Louise proceeded to Parma. From this time onward he became, as it were, a pawn in the complex game of European politics, his claims being put forward sometimes by Metternich, sometimes by the unionists of Italy, while occasionally malcontents in France used his name to discredit the French Bourbons. The efforts of malcontents increased the resolve of the sovereigns never to allow a son of Napoleon to bear rule; and in November 1816 the court of Vienna informed Marie Louise that her son could not succeed to the duchies. This decision was confirmed by the treaty of Paris of the Toth of June 1817. Marie Louise demanded as a slight compensation that he should have a title derived from the lands of the "Bavarian Palatinate" in northern Bohemia, and the title of "duke of Reichstadt" was therefore conferred on him on the 22nd of July 1818. Thus Napoleon I., who once averred that he would prefer that his son should be strangled rather than brought up as an Austrian prince, lived to see his son reduced to a rank inferior to that of the Austrian archdukes.

His education was confided chiefly to Count Dietrichstein, who found him precocious, volatile, passionate and fond of military affairs. The same judgment was given by Marshal Marmont, duke of Ragusa, who recognized the warlike strain in his character. His nature was sensitive, as appeared on his receiving the news of the death of his father in 1821. The upheaval in France in 1830 and the disturbances which ensued led many Frenchmen to turn their thoughts to Napoleon II.; but though Metternich dallied for a time with the French Bonapartists, he had no intention of inaugurating a Napoleonic revival. By this time, too, the duke's health was on the decline; his impatience of all restraint and his indulgence in physical exercise far beyond his powers aggravated a natural weakness of the chest, and he died on the 22nd of July 1832.

See A. M. Barthelemy and J. P. A. Mery, Le Fils de l'homme (Paris, 1829); Baron G. I. Comte de Montbel, Le Duc de Reichstadt (Paris, 1832); J. de Saint-Felix, Histoire de Napoleon II. (Paris, 1853); Guy de l'Herault, Histoire de Napoleon II. (Paris, 1853); Count Anton von Prokesch-Osten, Mein Vencaltniss zum Herzog von Reichstadt (Stuttgart, 1878); H. Welschinger, Le Roi de Rome (Paris, 1897); E. de Wertheimer, The Duke of Reichstadt (Eng. ed., London, 1905); M. Rostand's play L'Aiglon is a dramatic setting of the career of the prince. (J. Hi. R.)

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