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Napoleon III (born Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte; 20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873), the nephew of Napoleon I, was the first elected President of France from 1848 to 1852. When he could not constitutionally be re-elected, he seized power in 1851 and became the Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870. He founded the Second French Empire and was its only emperor until the defeat of the French army and his capture by Prussia and its allies in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He worked to modernize the French economy, rebuilt the center of Paris, expanded the overseas empire, and engaged in the Crimean War and the war for Italian unification. After his defeat and downfall, he went into exile and died in England in 1873.
From 1866, Napoleon had to face the mounting power of Prussia as its Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought German unification under Prussian leadership. In July 1870, Napoleon entered the Franco-Prussian War without allies and with inferior military forces. The French army was rapidly defeated and Napoleon III was captured at the Battle of Sedan. The Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris and Napoleon went into exile in England, where he died in 1873.
Charles-Louis was baptized at the Palace of Fontainebleau on 5 November 1810, with Emperor Napoleon serving as his godfather and Empress Marie-Louise as his godmother. His father stayed away, once again separated from Hortense. At the age of seven, Louis-Napoleon visited his uncle at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Napoleon held him up to the window to see the soldiers parading in the courtyard of the Carousel below. He last saw his uncle with the family at the Chateau de Malmaison, shortly before Napoleon departed for Waterloo.
Hortense and Louis-Napoleon travelled incognito to Paris, where the old regime had just fallen and had been replaced by the more liberal regime of King Louis Philippe I. They arrived in Paris on 23 April 1831, and took up residence under the name "Hamilton" in the Hotel du Holland on Place Vendome. Hortense wrote an appeal to the King, asking to stay in France, and Louis-Napoleon offered to volunteer as an ordinary soldier in the French Army. The new King agreed to meet secretly with Hortense; Louis Napoleon had a fever and did not join them. The King finally agreed that Hortense and Louis-Napoleon could stay in Paris as long as their stay was brief and incognito. Louis-Napoleon was told that he could join the French Army if he would simply change his name, something he indignantly refused to do. Hortense and Louis Napoleon remained in Paris until 5 May, the tenth anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. The presence of Hortense and Louis-Napoleon in the hotel had become known, and a public demonstration of mourning for the Emperor took place on Place Vendome in front of their hotel. The same day, Hortense and Louis-Napoleon were ordered to leave Paris. They went to Britain briefly, and then back into exile in Switzerland.
Louis-Napoleon traveled first to London, then to Brazil, and then to New York. He moved into a hotel, where he met the elite of New York society, and the writer Washington Irving. While he was traveling to see more of the United States, he received word that his mother was very ill. He hurried as quickly as he could back to Switzerland. He reached Arenenberg in time to be with his mother on 5 October 1837, when she died. She was finally buried in Reuil, in France, next to her mother, on 11 January 1838, but Louis-Napoleon could not attend, because he was not allowed into France.
He quickly resumed his place in British society. He lived on King Street in St James's, London, went to the theatre and hunted, renewed his acquaintance with Benjamin Disraeli, and met Charles Dickens. He went back to his studies at the British Museum. He had an affair with the actress Rachel, the most famous French actress of the period, during her tours to Britain. More important for his future career, he had an affair with the wealthy heiress Harriet Howard (1823–65). They had met in 1846, soon after his return to Britain. They began to live together, she took in his two illegitimate children and raised them with her own son, and she provided financing for his political plans so that, when the moment came, he could return to France.
He also made his first venture into foreign policy, in Italy, where as a youth he had joined in the patriotic uprising against the Austrians. The previous government had sent an expeditionary force to Rome to help restore the temporal authority of Pope Pius IX, who was being threatened by the troops of the Italian republicans Mazzini and Garibaldi. The French troops came under fire from Garibaldi's soldiers. The Prince-President, without consulting his ministers, ordered his soldiers to fight if needed in support of the Pope. This was very popular with French Catholics, but infuriated the republicans, who supported Garibaldi. To please the radical republicans, he asked the Pope to introduce liberal reforms and the Code Napoleon to the Papal States. To gain support from the Catholics, he approved the Loi Falloux in 1851, which restored a greater role for the Catholic Church in the French educational system.
An election was held for a new National Assembly on 29 February 1852, and all the resources of the government were used on behalf of the candidates backing the Prince-President. Of eight million eligible voters, 5,200,000 votes went to the official candidates, and 800,000 to opposition candidates. About one third of the eligible voters abstained. The new assembly included a small number of opponents of Louis-Napoleon, including 17 monarchists, 18 conservatives, two liberal democrats, three republicans and 72 independents.
The rebuilding of central Paris also encouraged commercial expansion and innovation. The first department store, Bon Marche, opened in Paris in 1852 in a modest building, and expanded rapidly, its income going from 450,000 francs a year to 20 million. Its founder, Aristide Boucicaut, commissioned a new glass and iron building, designed by Louis-Charles Boileau and Gustave Eiffel and opened in 1869, which became the model for the modern department store. Other department stores quickly appeared: Au Printemps in 1865 and La Samaritaine in 1870. They were soon imitated around the world.
From the start of his Empire, Napoleon III sought an alliance with Britain. He had lived there while in exile and saw Britain as a natural partner in the projects he wished to accomplish. An opportunity soon presented itself: In early 1853, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia put pressure on the weak Ottoman government, demanding that the Ottoman Empire give Russia a protectorate over the Christian countries of the Balkans as well as control over Constantinople and the Dardanelles. The Ottoman Empire, backed by Britain and France, refused Russia's demands, and a joint British-French fleet was sent to support the Ottoman Empire. When Russia refused to leave the Romanian territories it had occupied, Britain and France declared war on March 27, 1854.
The Austrians had been driven from Lombardy, but the army of General Giulay remained in the region of Venice. His army had been reinforced and numbered 130,000 men, roughly the same as the French and Piedmontese, though the Austrians were superior in artillery. On 24 June, the second and decisive battle was fought at Solferino. This battle was even longer and bloodier than Magenta. In confused and often ill-directed fighting, there were approximately forty thousand casualties, including 11,500 French. Napoleon III was horrified by the thousands of dead and wounded on the battlefield. He proposed an armistice to the Austrians, which was accepted on 8 July. A formal treaty ending the war was signed on 11 July 1859.
During the Empire industrial production increased by 73 percent, growing twice as rapidly as that of the United Kingdom, though its total output remained lower. From 1850 to 1857, the French economy grew at a pace of five percent a year, and exports grew by sixty percent between 1855 and 1869.
Luxembourg had regained its de jure independence in 1815 as a Grand Duchy. However, it was in personal union with the Netherlands. King William III of the Netherlands, who was also Grand Duke of Luxembourg, desperately needed money and was prepared to sell the Grand Duchy to France. Bismarck swiftly intervened and showed the British ambassador a copy of Napoleon's demands, and he put pressure on William III to refuse to sell Luxembourg to France. France was forced to renounce any claim to Luxembourg in the Treaty of London (1867). Napoleon III gained nothing for his efforts but the demilitarization of the Luxembourg fortress.