8. The League.—His brother, Henry III., who had been elected King of Poland, threw up that crown in favour of that of France. He was of a vain, false, weak character, superstitiously devout, and at the same time ferocious, so as to alienate every one. All were ashamed of a man who dressed in the extreme of foppery, with a rosary of death's heads at his girdle, and passed from wild dissipation to abject penance. He was called "the Paris Church-warden and the Queen's Hairdresser," for he passed from her toilette to the decoration of the walls of churches with illuminations cut out of old service-books. Sometimes he went about surrounded with little dogs, sometimes flogged himself walking barefoot in a procession, and his mignons, or favourites, were the scandal of the country by their pride, license, and savage deeds. The war broke out again, and his only remaining brother, Francis, Duke of Alencon, an equally hateful and contemptible being, fled from court to the Huguenot army, hoping to force his brother into buying his submission; but when the King of Navarre had followed him and begun the struggle in earnest, he accepted the duchy of Anjou, and returned to his allegiance. Francis was invited by the insurgent Dutch to become their chief, and spent some time in Holland, but returned, unsuccessful and dying. As the king was childless, the next male heir was Henry of Bourbon, King of Navarre, who had fled from court soon after Alencon returned to the Huguenot faith, and was reigning in his two counties of Bearn and Foix, the head of the Huguenots. In the resolve never to permit a heretic to wear the French crown, Guise and his party formed a Catholic league, to force Henry III. to choose another successor. Paris was devoted to Guise, and the king, finding himself almost a prisoner there, left the city, but was again mastered by the duke at Blois, and could so ill brook his arrogance, as to have recourse to assassination. He caused him to be slain at the palace at Blois in 1588. The fury of the League was so great that Henry III. was driven to take refuge with the King of Navarre, and they were together besieging Paris, when Henry III. was in his turn murdered by a monk, named Clement, in 1589.
9. Henry IV.—The Leaguers proclaimed as king an old uncle of the King of Navarre, the Cardinal of Bourbon, but all the more moderate Catholics rallied round Henry of Navarre, who took the title of Henry IV. At Ivry, in Normandy, Henry met the force of Leaguers, and defeated them by his brilliant courage. "Follow my white plume," his last order to his troops, became one of the sayings the French love to remember. But his cause was still not won—Paris held out against him, animated by almost fanatical fury, and while he was besieging it France was invaded from the Netherlands. The old Cardinal of Bourbon was now dead, and Philip II. considered his daughter Isabel, whose mother was the eldest daughter of Henry II., to be rightful Queen of France. He sent therefore his ablest general, the Duke of Parma, to co-operate with the Leaguers and place her on the throne. A war of strategy was carried on, during which Henry kept the enemy at bay, but could do no more, since the larger number of his people, though intending to have no king but himself, did not wish him to gain too easy a victory, lest in that case he should remain a Calvinist. However, he was only waiting to recant till he could do so with a good grace. He really preferred Catholicism, and had only been a political Huguenot; and his best and most faithful adviser, the Baron of Rosny, better known as Duke of Sully, though a staunch Calvinist himself, recommended the change as the only means of restoring peace to the kingdom. There was little more resistance to Henry after he had again been received by the Church in 1592. Paris, weary of the long war, opened its gates in 1593, and the inhabitants crowded round him with ecstasy, so that he said, "Poor people, they are hungry for the sight of a king!" The Leaguers made their peace, and when Philip of Spain again attacked Henry, the young Duke of Guise was one of the first to hasten to the defence. Philip saw that there were no further hopes for his daughter, and peace was made in 1596.
10. The Edict of Nantes.—Two years later, in 1598, Henry put forth what was called the Edict of Nantes, because first registered in that parliament. It secured to the Huguenots equal civil rights with those of the Catholics, accepted their marriages, gave them, under restrictions, permission to meet for worship and for consultations, and granted them cities for the security of their rights, of which La Rochelle was the chief. The Calvinists had been nearly exterminated in the north, but there were still a large number in the south of France, and the burghers of the chief southern cities were mostly Huguenot. The war had been from the first a very horrible one; there had been savage slaughter, and still more savage reprisals on each side. The young nobles had been trained into making a fashion of ferocity, and practising graceful ways of striking death-blows. Whole districts had been laid waste, churches and abbeys destroyed, tombs rifled, and the whole population accustomed to every sort of horror and suffering; while nobody but Henry IV. himself, and the Duke of Sully, had any notion either of statesmanship or of religious toleration.
11. Henry's Plans.—Just as the reign of Louis XI. had been a period of rest and recovery from the English wars, so that of Henry IV. was one of restoration from the ravages of thirty years of intermittent civil war. The king himself not only had bright and engaging manners, but was a man of large heart and mind; and Sully did much for the welfare of the country. Roads, canals, bridges, postal communications, manufactures, extended commerce, all owed their promotion to him, and brought prosperity to the burgher class; and the king was especially endeared to the peasantry by his saying that he hoped for the time when no cottage would be without a good fowl in its pot. The great silk manufactories of southern France chiefly arose under his encouragement, and there was prosperity of every kind. The Church itself was in a far better state than before. Some of the best men of any time were then living—in especial Vincent de Paul, who did much to improve the training of the parochial clergy, and who founded the order of Sisters of Charity, who prevented the misery of the streets of Paris from ever being so frightful as in those days when deserted children became the prey of wolves, dogs, and pigs. The nobles, who had grown into insolence during the wars, either as favourites of Henry III. or as zealous supporters of the Huguenot cause, were subdued and tamed. The most noted of these were the Duke of Bouillon, the owner of the small principality of Sedan, who was reduced to obedience by the sight of Sully's formidable train of artillery; and the Marshal Duke of Biron, who, thinking that Henry had not sufficiently rewarded his services, intrigued with Spain and Savoy, and was beheaded for his treason. Hatred to the house of Austria in Spain and Germany was as keen as ever in France; and in 1610 Henry IV. was prepared for another war on the plea of a disputed succession to the duchy of Cleves. The old fanaticism still lingered in Paris, and Henry had been advised to beware of pageants there; but it was necessary that his second wife, Mary de' Medici, should be crowned before he went to the war, as she was to be left regent. Two days after the coronation, as Henry was going to the arsenal to visit his old friend Sully, he was stabbed to the heart in his coach, in the streets of Paris, by a fanatic named Ravaillac. The French call him Le Grand Monarque; and he was one of the most attractive and benevolent of men, winning the hearts of all who approached him, but the immorality of his life did much to confirm the already low standard that prevailed among princes and nobles in France.
12. The States-General of 1614.—Henry's second wife, Mary de' Medici, became regent, for her son, Louis XIII., was only ten years old, and indeed his character was so weak that his whole reign was only one long minority. Mary de' Medici was entirely under the dominion of an Italian favourite named Concini, and his wife, and their whole endeavour was to amass riches for themselves and keep the young king in helpless ignorance, while they undid all that Sully had effected, and took bribes shamelessly. The Prince of Conde tried to overthrow them, and, in hopes of strengthening herself, in 1614 Mary summoned together the States-General. There came 464 members, 132 for the nobles, 140 for the clergy, and 192 for the third estate, i.e. the burghers, and these, being mostly lawyers and magistrates from the provinces, were resolved to make their voices heard. Taxation was growing worse and worse. Not only was it confined to the burgher and peasant class, exempting the clergy and the nobles, among which last were included their families to the remotest generation, but it had become the court custom to multiply offices, in order to pension the nobles, and keep them quiet; and this, together with the expenses of the army, made the weight of taxation ruinous. Moreover, the presentation to the civil offices held by lawyers was made hereditary in their families, on payment of a sum down, and of fees at the death of each holder. All these abuses were complained of; and one of the deputies even told the nobility that if they did not learn to treat the despised classes below them as younger brothers, they would lay up a terrible store of retribution for themselves. A petition to the king was drawn up, and was received, but never answered. The doors of the house of assembly were closed—the members were told it was by order of the king—and the States-General never met again for 177 years, when the storm was just ready to fall.
13. The Siege of Rochelle.—The rottenness of the State was chiefly owing to the nobility, who, as long as they were allowed to grind down their peasants and shine at court, had no sense of duty or public spirit, and hated the burghers and lawyers far too much to make common cause with them against the constantly increasing power of the throne. They only intrigued and struggled for personal advantages and rivalries, and never thought of the good of the State. They bitterly hated Concini, the Marshal d'Ancre, as he had been created, but he remained in power till 1614, when one of the king's gentlemen, Albert de Luynes, plotted with the king himself and a few of his guards for his deliverance. Nothing could be easier than the execution. The king ordered the captain of the guards to arrest Concini, and kill him if he resisted; and this was done. Concini was cut down on the steps of the Louvre, and Louis exclaimed, "At last I am a king." But it was not in him to be a king, and he never was one all his life. He only passed under the dominion of De Luynes, who was a high-spirited young noble. The Huguenots had been holding assemblies, which were considered more political than religious, and their towns of security were a grievance to royalty. War broke out again, and Louis himself went with De Luynes to besiege Montauban. The place was taken, but disease broke out in the army, and De Luynes died. There was a fresh struggle for power between the queen-mother and the Prince of Conde, ending in both being set aside by the queen's almoner, Armand de Richelieu, Bishop of Lucon, and afterwards a cardinal, the ablest statesman then in Europe, who gained complete dominion over the king and country, and ruled them both with a rod of iron. The Huguenots were gradually driven out of all their strongholds, till only Rochelle remained to them. This city was bravely and patiently defended by the magistrates and the Duke of Rohan, with hopes of succour from England, until these being disconcerted by the murder of the Duke of Buckingham, they were forced to surrender, after having held out for more than a year. Louis XIII. entered in triumph, deprived the city of all its privileges, and thus in 1628 concluded the war that had begun by the attack of the Guisards on the congregation at Vassy, in 1561. The lives and properties of the Huguenots were still secure, but all favour was closed against them, and every encouragement held out to them to join the Church. Many of the worst scandals had been removed, and the clergy were much improved; and, from whatever motive it might be, many of the more influential Huguenots began to conform to the State religion.
POWER OF THE CROWN.
1. Richelieu's Administration.—Cardinal de Richelieu's whole idea of statesmanship consisted in making the King of France the greatest of princes at home and abroad. To make anything great of Louis XIII., who was feeble alike in mind and body, was beyond any one's power, and Richelieu kept him in absolute subjection, allowing him a favourite with whom to hunt, talk, and amuse himself, but if the friend attempted to rouse the king to shake off the yoke, crushing him ruthlessly. It was the crown rather than the king that the cardinal exalted, putting down whatever resisted. Gaston, Duke of Orleans, the king's only brother, made a futile struggle for power, and freedom of choice in marriage, but was soon overcome. He was spared, as being the only heir to the kingdom, but the Duke of Montmorency, who had been led into his rebellion, was brought to the block, amid the pity and terror of all France. Whoever seemed dangerous to the State, or showed any spirit of independence, was marked by the cardinal, and suffered a hopeless imprisonment, if nothing worse; but at the same time his government was intelligent and able, and promoted prosperity, as far as was possible where there was such a crushing of individual spirit and enterprise. Richelieu's plan, in fact, was to found a despotism, though a wise and well-ordered despotism, at home, while he made France great by conquests abroad. And at this time the ambition of France found a favourable field in the state both of Germany and of Spain.
2. The War in Flanders and Italy.—The Thirty Years' War had been raging in Germany for many years, and France had taken no part in it, beyond encouraging the Swedes and the Protestant Germans, as the enemies of the Emperor. But the policy of Richelieu required that the disunion between its Catholic and Protestant states should be maintained, and when things began to tend towards peace from mutual exhaustion, the cardinal interfered, and induced the Protestant party to continue the war by giving them money and reinforcements. A war had already begun in Italy on behalf of the Duke of Nevers, who had become heir to the duchy of Mantua, but whose family had lived in France so long that the Emperor and the King of Spain supported a more distant claim of the Duke of Savoy to part of the duchy, rather than admit a French prince into Italy. Richelieu was quick to seize this pretext for attacking Spain, for Spain was now dying into a weak power, and he saw in the war a means of acquiring the Netherlands, which belonged to the Spanish crown. At first nothing important was done, but the Spaniards and Germans were worn out, while two young and able captains were growing up among the French—the Viscount of Turenne, younger son to the Duke of Bouillon, and the Duke of Enghien, eldest son of the Prince of Conde—and Richelieu's policy soon secured a brilliant career of success. Elsass, Lorraine, Artois, Catalonia, and Savoy, all fell into the hands of the French, and from a chamber of sickness the cardinal directed the affairs of three armies, as well as made himself feared and respected by the whole kingdom. Cinq Mars, the last favourite he had given the king, plotted his overthrow, with the help of the Spaniards, but was detected and executed, when the great minister was already at death's door. Richelieu recommended an Italian priest, Julius Mazarin, whom he had trained to work under him, to carry on the government, and died in the December of 1642. The king only survived him five months, dying on the 14th of May, 1643. The war was continued on the lines Richelieu had laid down, and four days after the death of Louis XIII. the army in the Low Countries gained a splendid victory at Rocroy, under the Duke of Enghien, entirely destroying the old Spanish infantry. The battles of Freiburg, Nordlingen, and Lens raised the fame of the French generals to the highest pitch, and in 1649 reduced the Emperor to make peace in the treaty of Muenster. France obtained as her spoil the three bishoprics, Metz, Toul, and Verdun, ten cities in Elsass, Brisach, and the Sundgau, with the Savoyard town of Pignerol; but the war with Spain continued till 1659, when Louis XIV. engaged to marry Maria Theresa, a daughter of the King of Spain.
3. The Fronde.—When an heir had long been despaired of, Anne of Austria, the wife of Louis XIII., had become the mother of two sons, the eldest of whom, Louis XIV., was only five years old at the time of his father's death. The queen-mother became regent, and trusted entirely to Mazarin, who had become a cardinal, and pursued the policy of Richelieu. But what had been endured from a man by birth a French noble, was intolerable from a low-born Italian. "After the lion comes the fox," was the saying, and the Parliament of Paris made a last stand by refusing to register the royal edict for fresh taxes, being supported both by the burghers of Paris, and by a great number of the nobility, who were personally jealous of Mazarin. This party was called the Fronde, because in their discussions each man stood forth, launched his speech, and retreated, just as the boys did with slings (fronde) and stones in the streets. The struggle became serious, but only a few of the lawyers in the parliament had any real principle or public spirit; all the other actors caballed out of jealousy and party spirit, making tools of "the men of the gown," whom they hated and despised, though mostly far their superiors in worth and intelligence. Anne of Austria held fast by Mazarin, and was supported by the Duke of Enghien, whom his father's death had made Prince of Conde. Conde's assistance enabled her to blockade Paris and bring the parliament to terms, which concluded the first act of the Fronde, with the banishment of Mazarin as a peace offering. Conde, however, became so arrogant and overbearing that the queen caused him to be imprisoned, whereupon his wife and his other friends began a fresh war for his liberation, and the queen was forced to yield; but he again showed himself so tyrannical that the queen and the parliament became reconciled and united to put him down, giving the command of the troops to Turenne. Again there was a battle at the gates of Paris, in which all Conde's friends were wounded, and he himself so entirely worsted that he had to go into exile, when he entered the Spanish service, while Mazarin returned to power at home.
4. The Court of Anne of Austria.—The court of France, though never pure, was much improved during the reign of Louis XIII. and the regency of Anne of Austria. There was a spirit of romance and grace about it, somewhat cumbrous and stately, but outwardly pure and refined, and quite a step out of the gross and open vice of the former reigns. The Duchess de Rambouillet, a lady of great grace and wit, made her house the centre of a brilliant society, which set itself to raise and refine the manners, literature, and language of the time. No word that was considered vulgar or coarse was allowed to pass muster; and though in process of time this censorship became pedantic and petty, there is no doubt that much was done to purify both the language and the tone of thought. Poems, plays, epigrams, eulogiums, and even sermons were rehearsed before the committee of taste in the Hotel de Rambouillet, and a wonderful new stimulus was there given, not only to ornamental but to solid literature. Many of the great men who made France illustrious were either ending or beginning their careers at this time. Memoir writing specially flourished, and the characters of the men and women of the court are known to us on all sides. Cardinal de Retz and the Duke of Rochefoucauld, both deeply engaged in the Fronde, have left, the one memoirs, the other maxims of great power of irony. Mme. de Motteville, one of the queen's ladies, wrote a full history of the court. Blaise Pascal, one of the greatest geniuses of all times, was attaching himself to the Jansenists. This religious party, so called from Jansen, a Dutch priest, whose opinions were imputed to them, had sprung up around the reformed convent of Port Royal, and numbered among them some of the ablest and best men of the time; but the Jesuits considered them to hold false doctrine, and there was a continual debate, ending at length in the persecution of the Jansenists. Pascal's "Provincial Letters," exposing the Jesuit system, were among the ablest writings of the age. Philosophy, poetry, science, history, art, were all making great progress, though there was a stateliness and formality in all that was said and done, redolent of the Spanish queen's etiquette and the fastidious refinement of the Hotel Rambouillet.
5. Court of Louis XIV.—The attempt from the earliest times of the French monarchy had been to draw all government into the hands of the sovereign, and the suppression of the Fronde completed the work. Louis XIV., though ill educated, was a man of considerable ability, much industry, and great force of character, arising from a profound belief that France was the first country in the world, and himself the first of Frenchmen; and he had a magnificent courtesy of demeanour, which so impressed all who came near him as to make them his willing slaves. "There is enough in him to make four kings and one respectable man besides" was what Mazarin said of him; and when in 1661 the cardinal died, the king showed himself fully equal to becoming his own prime minister. "The State is myself," he said, and all centred upon him so that no room was left for statesmen. The court was, however, in a most brilliant state. There had been an unusual outburst of talent of every kind in the lull after the Wars of Religion, and in generals, thinkers, artists, and men of literature, France was unusually rich. The king had a wonderful power of self-assertion, which attached them all to him almost as if he were a sort of divinity. The stately, elaborate Spanish etiquette brought in by his mother, Anne of Austria, became absolutely an engine of government. Henry IV. had begun the evil custom of keeping the nobles quiet by giving them situations at court, with pensions attached, and these offices were multiplied to the most enormous and absurd degree, so that every royal personage had some hundreds of personal attendants. Princes of the blood and nobles of every degree were contented to hang about the court, crowding into the most narrow lodgings at Versailles, and thronging its anterooms; and to be ordered to remain in the country was a most severe punishment.
6. France under Louis XIV.—There was, in fact, nothing but the chase to occupy a gentleman on his own estate, for he was allowed no duties or responsibilities. Each province had a governor or intendant, a sort of viceroy, and the administration of the cities was managed chiefly on the part of the king, even the mayors obtaining their posts by purchase. The unhappy peasants had to pay in the first place the taxes to Government, out of which were defrayed an intolerable number of pensions, many for useless offices; next, the rents and dues which supported their lord's expenditure at court; and, thirdly, the tithes and fees of the clergy. Besides which, they were called off from the cultivation of their own fields for a certain number of days to work at the roads; their horses might be used by royal messengers; their lord's crops had to be got in by their labour gratis, while their own were spoiling; and, in short, the only wonder is how they existed at all. Their hovels and their food were wretched, and any attempt to amend their condition on the part of their lord would have been looked on as betokening dangerous designs, and probably have landed him in the Bastille. The peasants of Brittany—where the old constitution had been less entirely ruined—and those of Anjou were in a less oppressed condition, and in the cities trade flourished. Colbert, the comptroller-general of the finances, was so excellent a manager that the pressure of taxation was endurable in his time, and he promoted new manufactures, such as glass at Cherbourg, cloth at Abbeville, silk at Lyons; he also tried to promote commerce and colonization, and to create a navy. There was a great appearance of prosperity, and in every department there was wonderful ability. The Reformation had led to a considerable revival among the Roman Catholics themselves. The theological colleges established in the last reign had much improved the tone of the clergy. Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, was one of the most noted preachers who ever existed, and Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambrai, one of the best of men. A reform of discipline, begun in the convent of Port Royal, ended by attracting and gathering together some of the most excellent and able persons in France—among them Blaise Pascal, a man of marvellous genius and depth of thought, and Racine, the chief French dramatic poet. Their chief director, the Abbot of St. Cyran, was however, a pupil of Jansen, a Dutch ecclesiastic, whose views on abstruse questions of grace were condemned by the Jesuits; and as the Port-Royalists would not disown the doctrines attributed to him, they were discouraged and persecuted throughout Louis's reign, more because he was jealous of what would not bend to his will than for any real want of conformity. Pascal's famous "Provincial Letters" were put forth during this controversy; and in fact, the literature of France reached its Augustan age during this reign, and the language acquired its standard perfection.
7. War in the Low Countries.—Maria Theresa, the queen of Louis XIV., was the child of the first marriage of Philip IV. of Spain; and on her father's death in 1661, Louis, on pretext of an old law in Brabant, which gave the daughters of a first marriage the preference over the sons of a second, claimed the Low Countries from the young Charles II. of Spain. He thus began a war which was really a continuance of the old struggle between France and Burgundy, and of the endeavour of France to stretch her frontier to the Rhine. At first England, Holland, and Sweden united against him, and obliged him to make the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1668; but he then succeeded in bribing Charles II. of England to forsake the cause of the Dutch, and the war was renewed in 1672. William, Prince of Orange, Louis's most determined enemy through life, kept up the spirits of the Dutch, and they obtained aid from Germany and Spain, through a six years' terrible war, in which the great Turenne was killed at Saltzbach, in Germany. At last, from exhaustion, all parties were compelled to conclude the peace of Nimeguen in 1678. Taking advantage of undefined terms in this treaty, Louis seized various cities belonging to German princes, and likewise the free imperial city of Strassburg, when all Germany was too much worn out by the long war to offer resistance. France was full of self-glorification, the king was viewed almost as a demi-god, and the splendour of his court and of his buildings, especially the palace at Versailles, with its gardens and fountains, kept up the delusion of his greatness.
8. Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.—In 1685 Louis supposed that the Huguenots had been so reduced in numbers that the Edict of Nantes could be repealed. All freedom of worship was denied them; their ministers were banished, but their flocks were not allowed to follow them. If taken while trying to escape, men were sent to the galleys, women to captivity, and children to convents for education. Dragoons were quartered on families to torment them into going to mass. A few made head in the wild moors of the Cevennes under a brave youth named Cavalier, and others endured severe persecution in the south of France. Dragoons were quartered on them, who made it their business to torment and insult them; their marriages were declared invalid, their children taken from them to be educated in the Roman Catholic faith. A great number, amounting to at least 100,000, succeeded in escaping, chiefly to Prussia, Holland, and England, whither they carried many of the manufactures that Colbert had taken so much pains to establish. Many of those who settled in England were silk weavers, and a large colony was thus established at Spitalfields, which long kept up its French character.
9. The War of the Palatinate.—This brutal act of tyranny was followed by a fresh attack on Germany. On the plea of a supposed inheritance of his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orleans, Louis invaded the Palatinate on the Rhine, and carried on one of the most ferocious wars in history, while he was at the same time supporting the cause of his cousin, James II. of England, after he had fled and abdicated on the arrival of William of Orange. During this war, however, that generation of able men who had grown up with Louis began to pass away, and his success was not so uniform; while, Colbert being dead, taxation began to be more felt by the exhausted people, and peace was made at Ryswick in 1697.
10. The War of the Succession in Spain.—The last of the four great wars of Louis's reign was far more unfortunate. Charles II. of Spain died childless, naming as his successor a French prince, Philip, Duke of Anjou, the second son of the only son of Charles's eldest sister, the queen of Louis XIV. But the Powers of Europe, at the Peace of Ryswick, had agreed that the crown of Spain should go to Charles of Austria, second son of the Emperor Leopold, who was the descendant of younger sisters of the royal Spanish line, but did not excite the fear and jealousy of Europe, as did a scion of the already overweening house of Bourbon. This led to the War of the Spanish Succession, England and Holland supporting Charles, and fighting with Louis in Spain, Savoy, and the Low Countries. In Spain Louis was ultimately successful, and his grandson Philip V. retained the throne; but the troops which his ally, the Elector of Bavaria, introduced into Germany were totally overthrown at Blenheim by the English army under the Duke of Marlborough, and the Austrian under Prince Eugene, a son of a younger branch of the house of Savoy. Eugene had been bred up in France, but, having bitterly offended Louis by calling him a stage king for show and a chess king for use, had entered the Emperor's service, and was one of his chief enemies. He aided his cousin, Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy, in repulsing the French attacks in that quarter, gained a great victory at Turin, and advanced into Provence. Marlborough was likewise in full career of victory in the Low Countries, and gained there the battle of Ramillies.
11. Peace of Utrecht.—Louis had outlived his good fortune. His great generals and statesmen had passed away. The country was exhausted, famine was preying on the wretched peasantry, supplies could not be found, and one city after another, of those Louis had seized, was retaken. New victories at Oudenarde and Malplaquet were gained over the French armies; and, though Louis was as resolute and undaunted as ever, his affairs were in a desperate state, when he was saved by a sudden change of policy on the part of Queen Anne of England, who recalled her army and left her allies to continue the contest alone. Eugene was not a match for France without Marlborough, and the Archduke Charles, having succeeded his brother the Emperor, gave up his pretensions to the crown of Spain, so that it became possible to conclude a general peace at Utrecht in 1713. By this time Louis was seventy-five years of age, and had suffered grievous family losses—first by the death of his only son, and then of his eldest grandson, a young man of much promise of excellence, who, with his wife died of malignant measles, probably from ignorant medical treatment, since their infant, whose illness was concealed by his nurses, was the only one of the family who survived. The old king, in spite of sorrow and reverse, toiled with indomitable energy to the end of his reign, the longest on record, having lasted seventy-two years, when he died in 1715. He had raised the French crown to its greatest splendour, but had sacrificed the country to himself and his false notions of greatness.
12. The Regency.—The crown now descended to Louis XV., a weakly child of four years old. His great-grandfather had tried to provide for his good by leaving the chief seat in the council of regency to his own illegitimate son, the Duke of Maine, the most honest and conscientious man then in the family, but, though clever, unwise and very unpopular. His birth caused the appointment to be viewed as an outrage by the nobility, and the king's will was set aside. The first prince of the blood royal, Philip, Duke of Orleans, the late king's nephew, became sole regent—a man of good ability, but of easy, indolent nature; and who, in the enforced idleness of his life, had become dissipated and vicious beyond all imagination or description. He was kindly and gracious, and his mother said of him that he was like the prince in a fable whom all the fairies had endowed with gifts, except one malignant sprite who had prevented any favour being of use to him. In the general exhaustion produced by the wars of Louis XIV., a Scotchman named James Law began the great system of hollow speculation which has continued ever since to tempt people to their ruin. He tried raising sums of money on national credit, and also devised a company who were to lend money to found a great settlement on the Mississippi, the returns from which were to be enormous. Every one speculated in shares, and the wildest excitement prevailed. Law's house was mobbed by people seeking interviews with him, and nobles disguised themselves in liveries to get access to him. Fortunes were made one week and lost the next, and finally the whole plan proved to have been a mere baseless scheme; ruin followed, and the misery of the country increased. The Duke of Orleans died suddenly in 1723. The king was now legally of age; but he was dull and backward, and little fitted for government, and the country was really ruled by the Duke of Bourbon, and after him by Cardinal Fleury, an aged statesman, but filled with the same schemes of ambition as Richelieu or Mazarin.
13. War of the Austrian Succession.—Thus France plunged into new wars. Louis XV. married the daughter of Stanislas Lecksinsky, a Polish noble, who, after being raised to the throne, was expelled by Austrian intrigues and violence. Louis was obliged to take up arms on behalf of his father-in-law, but was bought off by a gift from the Emperor Charles VI. of the duchy of Lorraine to Stanislas, to revert to his daughter after his death and thus become united to France. Lorraine belonged to Duke Francis, the husband of Maria Theresa, eldest daughter to the Emperor, and Francis received instead the duchy of Tuscany; while all the chief Powers in Europe agreed to the so-called Pragmatic Sanction, by which Charles decreed that Maria Theresa should inherit Austria and Hungary and the other hereditary states on her father's death, to the exclusion of the daughters of his elder brother, Joseph. When Charles VI. died, however, in 1740, a great European war began on this matter. Frederick II. of Prussia would neither allow Maria Theresa's claim to the hereditary states, nor join in electing her husband to the Empire; and France took part against her, sending Marshal Belleisle to support the Elector of Bavaria, who had been chosen Emperor. George II. of England held with Maria Theresa, and gained a victory over the French at Dettingen, in 1744. Louis XV. then joined his army, and the battle of Fontenoy, in 1745, was one of the rare victories of France over England. Another victory followed at Laufeldt, but elsewhere France had had heavy losses, and in 1748, after the death of Charles VII., peace was made at Aix-la-Chapelle.
14. The Seven Years' War.—Louis, dull and selfish by nature, had been absolutely led into vice by his courtiers, especially the Duke of Bourbon, who feared his becoming active in public affairs. He had no sense of duty to his people; and whereas his great-grandfather had sought display and so-called glory, he cared solely for pleasure, and that of the grossest and most sensual order, so that his court was a hotbed of shameless vice. All that could be wrung from the impoverished country was lavished on the overgrown establishments of every member of the royal family, in pensions to nobles, and in shameful amusements of the king. In 1756 another war broke out, in consequence of the hatreds left between Prussia and Austria by the former struggle. Maria Theresa had, by flatteries she ought to have disdained, gained over France to take part with her, and England was allied with Frederick II. In this war France and England chiefly fought in their distant possessions, where the English were uniformly successful; and after seven years another peace followed, leaving the boundaries of the German states just where they were before, after a frightful amount of bloodshed. But France had had terrible losses. She was driven from India, and lost all her settlements in America and Canada.
15. France under Louis XV.—Meantime the gross vice and licentiousness of the king was beyond description, and the nobility retained about the court by the system established by Louis XIV. were, if not his equals in crime, equally callous to the suffering caused by the reckless expensiveness of the court, the whole cost of which was defrayed by the burghers and peasants. No taxes were asked from clergy or nobles, and this latter term included all sprung of a noble line to the utmost generation. The owner of an estate had no means of benefiting his tenants, even if he wished it; for all matters, even of local government, depended on the crown. All he could do was to draw his income from them, and he was often forced, either by poverty or by his expensive life, to strain to the utmost the old feudal system. If he lived at court, his expenses were heavy, and only partly met by his pension, likewise raised from the taxes paid by the poor farmer; if he lived in the country, he was a still greater tyrant, and was called by the people a hobereau, or kite. No career was open to his younger sons, except in the court, the Church, or the army, and here they monopolized the prizes, obtaining all the richer dioceses and abbeys, and all the promotion in the army. The magistracies were almost all hereditary among lawyers, who had bought them for their families from the crown, and paid for the appointment of each son. The officials attached to each member of the royal family were almost incredible in number, and all paid by the taxes. The old gabelle, or salt-tax, had gone on ever since the English wars, and every member of a family had to pay it, not according to what they used, but what they were supposed to need. Every pig was rated at what he ought to require for salting. Every cow, sheep, or hen had a toll to pay to king, lord, bishop—sometimes also to priest and abbey. The peasant was called off from his own work to give the dues of labour to the roads or to his lord. He might not spread manure that could interfere with the game, nor drive away the partridges that ate his corn. So scanty were his crops that famines slaying thousands passed unnoticed, and even if, by any wonder, prosperity smiled on the peasant, he durst not live in any kind of comfort, lest the stewards of his lord or of Government should pounce on his wealth.
16. Reaction.—Meantime there was a strong feeling that change must come. Classical literature was studied, and Greek and Roman manners and institutions were thought ideal perfection. There was great disgust at the fetters of a highly artificial life in which every one was bound, and at the institutions which had been so misused. Writers arose, among whom Voltaire and Rousseau were the most eminent, who aimed at the overthrow of all the ideas which had come to be thus abused. The one by his caustic wit, the other by his enthusiastic simplicity, gained willing ears, and, the writers in a great Encyclopaedia then in course of publication, contrived to attack most of the notions which had been hitherto taken for granted, and were closely connected with faith and with government. The king himself was dully aware that he was living on the crust of a volcano, but he said it would last his time; and so it did. Louis XV. died of smallpox in 1774, leaving his grandsons to reap the harvest that generations had been sowing.
1. Attempts at Reform.—It was evident that a change must be made. Louis XVI. himself knew it, and slurred over the words in his coronation oath that bound him to extirpate heresy; but he was a slow, dull man, and affairs had come to such a pass that a far abler man than he could hardly have dealt with the dead-lock above, without causing a frightful outbreak of the pent-up masses below. His queen, Marie Antoinette, was hated for being of Austrian birth, and, though a spotless and noble woman, her most trivial actions gave occasion to calumnies founded on the crimes of the last generation. Unfortunately, the king, though an honest and well-intentioned man, was totally unfit to guide a country through a dangerous crisis. His courage was passive, his manners were heavy, dull, and shy, and, though steadily industrious, he was slow of comprehension and unready in action; and reformation was the more difficult because to abolish the useless court offices would have been utter starvation to many of their holders, who had nothing but their pensions to live upon. Yet there was a general passion for reform; all ranks alike looked to some change to free them from the dead-lock which made improvement impossible. The Government was bankrupt, while the taxes were intolerable, and the first years of the reign were spent in experiments. Necker, a Swiss banker, was invited to take the charge of the finances, and large loans were made to Government, for which he contrived to pay interest regularly; some reduction was made in the expenditure; but the king's old minister, Maurepas, grew jealous of his popularity, and obtained his dismissal. The French took the part of the American colonies in their revolt from England, and the war thus occasioned brought on an increase of the load of debt, the general distress increased, and it became necessary to devise some mode of taxing which might divide the burthens between the whole nation, instead of making the peasants pay all and the nobles and clergy nothing. Louis decided on calling together the Notables, or higher nobility; but they were by no means disposed to tax themselves, and only abused his ministers. He then resolved on convoking the whole States-General of the kingdom, which had never met since the reign of Louis XIII.
2. The States-General.—No one exactly knew the limits of the powers of the States-General when it met in 1789. Nobles, clergy, and the deputies who represented the commonalty, all formed the assembly at Versailles; and though the king would have kept apart these last, who were called the Tiers Etat, or third estate, they refused to withdraw from the great hall of Versailles. The Count of Mirabeau, the younger son of a noble family, who sat as a deputy, declared that nothing short of bayonets should drive out those who sat by the will of the people, and Louis yielded. Thenceforth the votes of a noble, a bishop, or a deputy all counted alike. The party names of democrat for those who wanted to exalt the power of the people, and of aristocrat for those who maintained the privileges of the nobles, came into use, and the most extreme democrats were called Jacobins, from an old convent of Jacobin friars, where they used to meet. The mob of Paris, always eager, fickle, and often blood-thirsty, were excited to the last degree by the debates; and, full of the remembrance of the insolence and cruelty of the nobles, sometimes rose and hunted down persons whom they deemed aristocrats, hanging them to the iron rods by which lamps were suspended over the streets. The king in alarm drew the army nearer, and it was supposed that he was going to prevent all change by force of arms. Thereupon the citizens enrolled themselves as a National Guard, wearing cockades of red, blue, and white, and commanded by La Fayette, a noble of democratic opinions, who had run away at seventeen to serve in the American War. On a report that the cannon of the Bastille had been pointed upon Paris, the mob rose in a frenzy, rushed upon it, hanged the guard, and absolutely tore down the old castle to its foundations, though they did not find a single prisoner in it. "This is a revolt," said Louis, when he heard of it. "Sire, it is a revolution," was the answer.
3. The New Constitution.—The mob had found out its power. The fishwomen of the markets, always a peculiar and privileged class, were frantically excited, and were sure to be foremost in all the demonstrations stirred up by Jacobins. There was a great scarcity of provisions in Paris, and this, together with the continual dread that reforms would be checked by violence, maddened the people. On a report that the Guards had shown enthusiasm for the king, the whole populace came pouring out of Paris to Versailles, and, after threatening the life of the queen, brought the family back with them to Paris, and kept them almost as prisoners while the Assembly, which followed them to Paris, debated on the new constitution. The nobles were viewed as the worst enemies of the nation, and all over the country there were risings of the peasants, headed by democrats from the towns, who sacked their castles, and often seized their persons. Many fled to England and Germany, and the dread that these would unite and return to bring back the old system continually increased the fury of the people. The Assembly, now known as the Constituent Assembly, swept away all titles and privileges, and no one was henceforth to bear any prefix to his name but citizen; while at the same time the clergy were to renounce all the property of the Church, and to swear that their office and commission was derived from the will of the people alone, and that they owed no obedience save to the State. The estates thus yielded up were supposed to be enough to supply all State expenses without taxes; but as they could not at once be turned into money, promissory notes, or assignats, were issued. But, as coin was scarce, these were not worth nearly their professed value, and the general distress was thus much increased. The other oath the great body of the clergy utterly refused, and they were therefore driven out of their benefices, and became objects of great suspicion to the democrats. All the old boundaries and other distinctions between the provinces were destroyed, and France was divided into departments, each of which was to elect deputies, in whose assembly all power was to be vested, except that the king retained a right of veto, i.e., of refusing his sanction to any measure. He swore on the 13th of August, 1791, to observe this new constitution.
4. The Republic.—The Constituent Assembly now dissolved itself, and a fresh Assembly, called the Legislative, took its place. For a time things went on more peacefully. Distrust was, however, deeply sown. The king was closely watched as an enemy; and those of the nobles who had emigrated began to form armies, aided by the Germans, on the frontier for his rescue. This enraged the people, who expected that their newly won liberties would be overthrown. The first time the king exercised his right of veto the mob rose in fury; and though they then did no more than threaten, on the advance of the emigrant army on the 10th of August, 1792, a more terrible rising took place. The Tuilleries was sacked, the guards slaughtered, the unresisting king and his family deposed and imprisoned in the tower of the Temple. In terror lest the nobles in the prisons should unite with the emigrants, they were massacred by wholesale; while, with a vigour born of the excitement, the emigrant armies were repulsed and beaten. The monarchy came to an end; and France became a Republic, in which the National Convention, which followed the Legislative Assembly, was supreme. The more moderate members of this were called Girondins from the Gironde, the estuary of the Garonne, from the neighbourhood of which many of them came. They were able men, scholars and philosophers, full of schemes for reviving classical times, but wishing to stop short of the plans of the Jacobins, of whom the chief was Robespierre, a lawyer from Artois, filled with fanatical notions of the rights of man. He, with a party of other violent republicans, called the Mountain, of whom Danton and Marat were most noted, set to work to destroy all that interfered with their plans of general equality. The guillotine, a recently invented machine for beheading, was set in all the chief market-places, and hundreds were put to death on the charge of "conspiring against the nation." Louis XVI. was executed early in 1793; and it was enough to have any sort of birthright to be thought dangerous and put to death.
5. The Reign of Terror.—Horror at the bloodshed perpetrated by the Mountain led a young girl, named Charlotte Corday, to assassinate Marat, whom she supposed to be the chief cause of the cruelties that were taking place; but his death only added to the dread of reaction. A Committee of Public Safety was appointed by the Convention, and endeavoured to sweep away every being who either seemed adverse to equality, or who might inherit any claim to rank. The queen was put to death nine months after her husband; and the Girondins, who had begun to try to stem the tide of slaughter, soon fell under the denunciation of the more violent. To be accused of "conspiring against the State" was instantly fatal, and no one's life was safe. Danton was denounced by Robespierre, and perished; and for three whole years the Reign of Terror lasted. The emigrants, by forming an army and advancing on France, assisted by the forces of Germany, only made matters worse. There was such a dread of the old oppressions coming back, that the peasants were ready to fight to the death against the return of the nobles. The army, where promotion used to go by rank instead of merit, were so glad of the change, that they were full of fresh spirit, and repulsed the army of Germans and emigrants all along the frontier. The city of Lyons, which had tried to resist the changes, was taken, and frightfully used by Collot d'Herbois, a member of the Committee of Public Safety. The guillotine was too slow for him, and he had the people mown down with grape-shot, declaring that of this great city nothing should be left but a monument inscribed, "Lyons resisted liberty—Lyons is no more!" In La Vendee—a district of Anjou, where the peasants were much attached to their clergy and nobles—they rose and gained such successes, that they dreamt for a little while of rescuing and restoring the little captive son of Louis XVI.; but they were defeated and put down by fire and sword, and at Nantes an immense number of executions took place, chiefly by drowning. It was reckoned that no less than 18,600 persons were guillotined in the three years between 1790 and 1794, besides those who died by other means. Everything was changed. Religion was to be done away with; the churches were closed; the tenth instead of the seventh day appointed for rest. "Death is an eternal sleep" was inscribed on the schools; and Reason, represented by a classically dressed woman, was enthroned in the cathedral of Notre Dame. At the same time a new era was invented, the 22nd of September, 1792; the months had new names, and the decimal measures of length, weight, and capacity, which are based on the proportions of the earth, were planned. All this time Robespierre really seems to have thought himself the benefactor of the human race; but at last the other members of the Convention took courage to denounce him, and he, with five more, was arrested and sent to the guillotine. The bloodthirsty fever was over, the Committee of Public Safety was overthrown, and people breathed again.
6. The Directory.—The chief executive power was placed in the hands of a Directory, consisting of more moderate men, and a time of much prosperity set in. Already in the new vigour born of the strong emotions of the country the armies won great victories, not only repelling the Germans and the emigrants, but uniting Holland to France. Napoleon Buonaparte, a Corsican officer, who was called on to protect the Directory from being again overawed by the mob, became the leading spirit in France, through his Italian victories. He conquered Lombardy and Tuscany, and forced the Emperor to let them become republics under French protection, also to resign Flanders to France by the Treaty of Campo Formio. Buonaparte then made a descent on Egypt, hoping to attack India from that side, but he was foiled by Nelson, who destroyed his fleet in the battle of the Nile, and Sir Sydney Smith, who held out Acre against him. He hurried home to France on finding that the Directory had begun a fresh European war, seizing Switzerland, and forcing it to give up its treasures and become a republic on their model, and carrying the Pope off into captivity. All the European Powers had united against them, and Lombardy had been recovered chiefly by Russian aid; so that Buonaparte, on the ground that a nation at war needed a less cumbrous government than a Directory, contrived to get himself chosen First Consul, with two inferiors, in 1799.
7. The Consulate.—A great course of victories followed in Italy, where Buonaparte commanded in person, and in Germany under Moreau. Austria and Russia were forced to make peace, and England was the only country that still resisted him, till a general peace was made at Amiens in 1803; but it only lasted for a year, for the French failed to perform the conditions, and began the war afresh. In the mean time Buonaparte had restored religion and order, and so entirely mastered France that, in 1804, he was able to form the republic into an empire, and affecting to be another Charles the Great, he caused the Pope to say mass at his coronation, though he put the crown on his own head. A concordat with the Pope reinstated the clergy, but altered the division of the dioceses, and put the bishops and priests in the pay of the State.
8. The Empire.—The union of Italy to this new French Empire caused a fresh war with all Europe. The Austrian army, however, was defeated at Ulm and Austerlitz, the Prussians were entirely crushed at Jena, and the Russians fought two terrible but almost drawn battles at Eylau and Friedland. Peace was then made with all three at Tilsit, in 1807, the terms pressing exceedingly hard upon Prussia. Schemes of invading England were entertained by the Emperor, but were disconcerted by the destruction of the French and Spanish fleets by Nelson at Trafalgar. Spain was then in alliance with France; but Napoleon, treacherously getting the royal family into his hands, seized their kingdom, making his brother Joseph its king. But the Spaniards would not submit, and called in the English to their aid. The Peninsular War resulted in a series of victories on the part of the English under Wellington, while Austria, beginning another war, was again so crushed that the Emperor durst not refuse to give his daughter in marriage to Napoleon. However, in 1812, the conquest of Russia proved an exploit beyond Napoleon's powers. He reached Moscow with his Grand Army, but the city was burnt down immediately after his arrival, and he had no shelter or means of support. He was forced to retreat, through a fearful winter, without provisions and harassed by the Cossacks, who hung on the rear and cut off the stragglers, so that his whole splendid army had become a mere miserable, broken, straggling remnant by the time the survivors reached the Prussian frontier. He himself had hurried back to Paris as soon as he found their case hopeless, to arrange his resistance to all Europe—for every country rose against him on his first disaster—and the next year was spent in a series of desperate battles in Germany between him and the Allied Powers. Luetzen and Bautzen were doubtful, but the two days' battle of Leipzic was a terrible defeat. In the year 1814, four armies—those of Austria, Russia, England, and Prussia—entered France at once; and though Napoleon resisted, stood bravely and skilfully, and gained single battles against Austria and Prussia, he could not stand against all Europe. In April the Allies entered Paris, and he was forced to abdicate, being sent under a strong guard to the little Mediterranean isle of Elba. He had drained France of men by his constant call for soldiers, who were drawn by conscription from the whole country, till there were not enough to do the work in the fields, and foreign prisoners had to be employed; but he had conferred on her one great benefit in the great code of laws called the "Code Napoleon," which has ever since continued in force.
9. France under Napoleon.—The old laws and customs, varying in different provinces, had been swept away, so that the field was clear; and the system of government which Napoleon devised has remained practically unchanged from that time to this. Everything was made to depend upon the central government. The Ministers of Religion, of Justice, of Police, of Education, etc., have the regulation of all interior affairs, and appoint all who work under them, so that nobody learns how to act alone; and as the Government has been in fact ever since dependent on the will of the people of Paris, the whole country is helplessly in their hands. The army, as in almost all foreign nations, is raised by conscription—that is, by drawing lots among the young men liable to serve, and who can only escape by paying a substitute to serve in their stead; and this is generally the first object of the savings of a family. All feudal claims had been done away with, and with them the right of primogeniture; and, indeed, it is not possible for a testator to avoid leaving his property to be shared among his family, though he can make some small differences in the amount each receives, and thus estates are continually freshly divided, and some portions become very small indeed. French peasants are, however, most eager to own land, and are usually very frugal, sober, and saving; and the country has gone on increasing in prosperity and comfort. It is true that, probably from the long habit of concealing any wealth they might possess, the French farmers and peasantry care little for display, or what we should call comfort, and live rough hard-working lives even while well off and with large hoards of wealth; but their condition has been wonderfully changed for the better ever since the Revolution. All this has continued under the numerous changes that have taken place in the forms of government.
FRANCE SINCE THE REVOLUTION.
1. The Restoration.—The Allies left the people of France free to choose their Government, and they accepted the old royal family, who were on their borders awaiting a recall. The son of Louis XVI. had perished in the hands of his jailers, and thus the king's next brother, Louis XVIII., succeeded to the throne, bringing back a large emigrant following. Things were not settled down, when Napoleon, in the spring of 1815, escaped from Elba. The army welcomed him with delight, and Louis was forced to flee to Ghent. However, the Allies immediately rose in arms, and the troops of England and Prussia crushed Napoleon entirely at Waterloo, on the 18th of June, 1815. He was sent to the lonely rock of St. Helena, in the Atlantic, whence he could not again return to trouble the peace of Europe. There he died in 1821. Louis XVIII. was restored, and a charter was devised by which a limited monarchy was established, a king at the head, and two chambers—one of peers, the other of deputies, but with a very narrow franchise. It did not, however, work amiss; till, after Louis's death in 1824, his brother, Charles X., tried to fall back on the old system. He checked the freedom of the press, and interfered with the freedom of elections. The consequence was a fresh revolution in July, 1830, happily with little bloodshed, but which forced Charles X. to go into exile with his grandchild Henry, whose father, the Duke of Berry, had been assassinated in 1820.
2. Reign of Louis Philippe.—The chambers of deputies offered the crown to Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans. He was descended from the regent; his father had been one of the democratic party in the Revolution, and, when titles were abolished, had called himself Philip Egalite (Equality). This had not saved his head under the Reign of Terror, and his son had been obliged to flee and lead a wandering life, at one time gaining his livelihood by teaching mathematics at a school in Switzerland. He had recovered his family estates at the Restoration, and, as the head of the Liberal party, was very popular. He was elected King of the French, not of France, with a chamber of peers nominated for life only, and another of deputies elected by voters, whose qualification was two hundred francs, or eight pounds a year. He did his utmost to gain the good will of the people, living a simple, friendly family life, and trying to merit the term of the "citizen king," and in the earlier years of his reign he was successful. The country was prosperous, and a great colony was settled in Algiers, and endured a long and desperate war with the wild Arab tribes. A colony was also established in New Caledonia, in the Pacific, and attempts were carried out to compensate thus for the losses of colonial possessions which France had sustained in wars with England. Discontents, however, began to arise, on the one hand from those who remembered only the successes of Buonaparte, and not the miseries they had caused, and on the other from the working-classes, who declared that the bourgeois, or tradespeople, had gained everything by the revolution of July, but they themselves nothing. Louis Philippe did his best to gratify and amuse the people by sending for the remains of Napoleon, and giving him a magnificent funeral and splendid monument among his old soldiers—the Invalides; but his popularity was waning. In 1842 his eldest son, the Duke of Orleans, a favourite with the people, was killed by a fall from his carriage, and this was another shock to his throne. Two young grandsons were left; and the king had also several sons, one of whom, the Duke of Montpensier, he gave in marriage to Louise, the sister and heiress presumptive to the Queen of Spain; though, by treaty with the other European Powers, it had been agreed that she should not marry a French prince unless the queen had children of her own. Ambition for his family was a great offence to his subjects, and at the same time a nobleman, the Duke de Praslin, who had murdered his wife, committed suicide in prison to avoid public execution; and the republicans declared, whether justly or unjustly, that this had been allowed rather than let a noble die a felon's death.
3. The Revolution of 1848.—In spite of the increased prosperity of the country, there was general disaffection. There were four parties—the Orleanists, who held by Louis Philippe and his minister Guizot, and whose badge was the tricolour; the Legitimists, who retained their loyalty to the exiled Henry, and whose symbol was the white Bourbon flag; the Buonapartists; and the Republicans, whose badge was the red cap and flag. A demand for a franchise that should include the mass of the people was rejected, and the general displeasure poured itself out in speeches at political banquets. An attempt to stop one of these led to an uproar. The National Guard refused to fire on the people, and their fury rose unchecked; so that the king, thinking resistance vain, signed an abdication, and fled to England in February, 1848. A provisional Government was formed, and a new constitution was to be arranged; but the Paris mob, who found their condition unchanged, and really wanted equality of wealth, not of rights, made disturbances again and again, and barricaded the streets, till they were finally put down by General Cavaignac, while the rest of France was entirely dependent on the will of the capital. After some months, a republic was determined on, which was to have a president at its head, chosen every five years by universal suffrage. Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, nephew to the great Napoleon, was the first president thus chosen; and, after some struggles, he not only mastered Paris, but, by the help of the army, which was mostly Buonapartist, he dismissed the chamber of deputies, and imprisoned or exiled all the opponents whom the troops had not put to death, on the plea of an expected rising of the mob. This was called a coup d'etat, and Louis Napoleon was then declared president for ten years.
4. The Second Empire.—In December, 1852, the president took the title of Emperor, calling himself Napoleon III., as successor to the young son of the great Napoleon. He kept up a splendid and expensive court, made Paris more than ever the toy-shop of the world, and did much to improve it by the widening of streets and removal of old buildings. Treaties were made which much improved trade, and the country advanced in prosperity. The reins of government were, however, tightly held, and nothing was so much avoided as the letting men think or act for themselves, while their eyes were to be dazzled with splendour and victory. In 1853, when Russia was attacking Turkey, the Emperor united with England in opposition, and the two armies together besieged Sebastopol, and fought the battles of Alma and Inkermann, taking the city after nearly a year's siege; and then making what is known as the Treaty of Paris, which guaranteed the safety of Turkey so long as the subject Christian nations were not misused. In 1859 Napoleon III. joined in an attack on the Austrian power in Italy, and together with Victor Emanuel, King of Sardinia, and the Italians, gained two great victories at Magenta and Solferino; but made peace as soon as it was convenient to him, without regard to his promises to the King of Sardinia, who was obliged to purchase his consent to becoming King of United Italy by yielding up to France his old inheritance of Savoy and Nice. Meantime discontent began to spring up at home, and the Red Republican spirit was working on. The huge fortunes made by the successful only added to the sense of contrast; secret societies were at work, and the Emperor, after twenty years of success, felt his popularity waning.
5. The Franco-German War.—In 1870 the Spaniards, who had deposed their queen, Isabel II., made choice of a relation of the King of Prussia as their king. There had long been bitter jealousy between France and Prussia, and, though the prince refused the offer of Spain, the French showed such an overbearing spirit that a war broke out. The real desire of France was to obtain the much-coveted frontier of the Rhine, and the Emperor heated their armies with boastful proclamations which were but the prelude to direful defeats, at Weissenburg, Woerth, and Forbach. At Sedan, the Emperor was forced to surrender himself as a prisoner, and the tidings no sooner arrived at Paris than the whole of the people turned their wrath on him and his family. His wife, the Empress Eugenie, had to flee, a republic was declared, and the city prepared to stand a siege. The Germans advanced, and put down all resistance in other parts of France. Great part of the army had been made prisoners, and, though there was much bravado, there was little steadiness or courage left among those who now took up arms. Paris, which was blockaded, after suffering much from famine, surrendered in February, 1871; and peace was purchased in a treaty by which great part of Elsass and Lorraine, and the city of Metz, were given back to Germany.
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