France’s Bourbon Dynasty Is Restored Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The restoration of the Bourbon Dynasty to the French throne placed two brothers of Louis XVI on the throne and encouraged them to attempt, with the support of foreign powers and Royalists of the old aristocracy, to reverse the revolutionary process and withdraw basic rights. After sixteen years of growing public dissatisfaction, a new revolution overthrew the Bourbons a second time.

Summary of Event

In October, 1813, after Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the combined coalition forces in the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig, he returned to France to consolidate his rule amid growing disillusionment with his regime. Unable to defeat the powerful coalition of Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia arrayed against France, Napoleon Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];abdications of abdicated on April 11, 1814. The victors then debated who should head the French government. The Austrians, represented by Metternich, urged that the toddler son of Napoleon and his Austrian wife, Marie-Louise, Marie-Louise of Habsburg be placed upon the French throne under coalition tutelage. The other coalition powers rejected this idea and, under British and then Russian prompting, agreed to restore the family of the guillotined King Louis XVI to rule. Bourbon dynasties;French France;Bourbon Dynasty Louis XVIII [kw]France’s Bourbon Dynasty Is Restored (Apr. 11, 1814-July 29, 1830) [kw]Bourbon Dynasty Is Restored, France’s (Apr. 11, 1814-July 29, 1830) [kw]Dynasty Is Restored, France’s Bourbon (Apr. 11, 1814-July 29, 1830) [kw]Restored, France’s Bourbon Dynasty Is (Apr. 11, 1814-July 29, 1830) Bourbon dynasties;French France;Bourbon Dynasty Louis XVIII [g]France;Apr. 11, 1814-July 29, 1830: France’s Bourbon Dynasty Is Restored[0710] [c]Government and politics;Apr. 11, 1814-July 29, 1830: France’s Bourbon Dynasty Is Restored[0710] Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];and Bourbon Dynasty[Bourbon Dynasty] Charles X Charles-Ferdinand of Bourbon Marie-Louise of Habsburg Metternich [p]Metternich;and France[France] Castlereagh, Viscount [p]Castlereagh, Viscount;and France[France] Talleyrand [p]Talleyrand;and Bourbon Dynasty[Bourbon Dynasty]

Louis XVI’s son had died as a child in prison in 1795 but was acknowledged by Royalists as King Louis XVII. The succession next passed to the brothers of Louis XVI, first to the childless comte de Provence who became King Louis XVIII, and then to the comte de Artois, who became King Charles X Charles X . These two royal brothers had lived in exile in Germany, Russia, and Great Britain for almost twenty-five years. They were out of touch with the mood of the French people and were surrounded by supporters equally out of touch with the developments that had meanwhile transformed France.

Within France, enthusiastic support for the Bourbons was limited to a conservative portion of the old nobility and certain Royalist regions of France, such as the south. Most French people, however, were exhausted by long years of war, and members of the middle class wanted an end to economic disruptions caused by Napoleon’s Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];and Bourbon Dynasty[Bourbon Dynasty] Continental System. The majority were willing to accept the Bourbons if they could provide peace, stability, prosperity, and a guarantee that the basic civil and political freedoms won during the French French Revolution (1789);and Bourbon Dynasty[Bourbon Dynasty] Revolution (1789) would be preserved.

Louis XVIII, the first brother to become king, personally sought national reconciliation through a compromise between revolutionary freedoms and royal authority. The victorious coalition leaders, especially Britain’s Viscount Castlereagh, Castlereagh, Viscount [p]Castlereagh, Viscount;and France[France] reinforced the French king’s inclination toward a moderate constitutional monarchy. The royal charter issued by Louis XVIII on June 14, 1814, was not a constitution Constitutions;French France;constitutions in the ordinary sense, but it did establish a government with parliamentary representation, a right to vote limited to the 1 percent of the wealthiest Frenchmen, and great powers for the Crown. Basic civil rights were guaranteed; these included equality before the law, due process of law, freedom of religious conscience, and relative freedom of speech and press.

Louis’s appointment of Talleyrand Talleyrand [p]Talleyrand;and Bourbon Dynasty[Bourbon Dynasty] , a former revolutionary and Bonapartist, as his foreign minister symbolized the new king’s sincere desire for reconciliation. Talleyrand skillfully induced the coalition to grant France generous peace terms in the hope of increasing the king’s popularity. The first Treaty of Paris, Paris, Treaty of (1814);and France[France] signed on May 30, 1814, allowed France to retain the boundaries of 1792, which included areas conquered early in the French Revolution, and did not impose a foreign occupation or payment of reparations. It soon became clear, however, that not even all Royalists accepted the king’s policies. Extreme conservatives known as Ultraroyalists, France;Ultraroyalists or Ultras, criticized his moderation and found support from the comte de Artois. The Ultras demanded an “alliance of Throne and Altar” and revenge upon former revolutionaries. Fear of Ultraroyalism and resentment against foreign intervention motivated many of the French who supported Napoleon when he took advantage of quarrels among the coalition powers negotiating at the Congress of Vienna Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) to escape from his exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba Elba and resume leadership of France.

Napoleon I signing his abdication at Fontainbleau.

(R. S. Peale/J. A. Hill)

On March 1, 1815, Napoleon Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];Hundred Days landed in France and began his final “Hundred Days” in power. The coalition powers quickly reunited to oppose the emperor, while the Bourbons fled France once again. Napoleon gambled that a quick victory might bring a peace settlement favorable to him. The coalition powers were gathering their forces to oppose him, so he marched into Belgium in the hope of success, only to be beaten at Waterloo in June, 1815. He then retreated into France and abdicated Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];abdications of a second time, on June 22. This time, he was exiled to St. Helena, a remote British colony in the South Atlantic from which escape was almost impossible.

Louis XVIII reentered France, this time clearly returned to the throne by virtue of foreign military conquest and against the wishes of many of the French. The second Treaty of Paris Paris, Treaty of (1815);and France[France] of November 20, 1815, imposed harsher terms, punishing the French for following Napoleon, and attempted to reduce French military potential. French territory was reduced to the boundaries of 1789, sizable financial reparations were imposed, and northeastern France was occupied by coalition troops for several years.

The new peace settlement made it more difficult for Louis XVIII to win support inside France. Furthermore, enraged Ultraroyalists France;Ultraroyalists took revenge upon revolutionaries, Bonapartists, and sometimes Protestants in the White Terror France;White Terror of June to November, 1815. The death toll mounted into the hundreds, about ten thousand people were arrested and tried for political crimes, and 25 to 30 percent of all government officials (at least fifty thousand) were purged from their positions and replaced by largely inexperienced Royalists. The Ultras scored a triumph in the first election held under the charter, winning a comfortable margin in the Chamber of Deputies. The result of the Hundred Days Napoleon I [p]Napoleon I[Napoleon 01];Hundred Days and the White Terror was to polarize political opinion further in France and for many to confirm the memory of Napoleon as a child of the French Revolution fighting against the oppression of the Bourbons.

Encouraged and supported by his British and Russian allies, the Bourbon king soon dismissed the Ultra Chamber, and a new election led to a much more moderate majority in the parliament. Between 1816 and 1820, Louis XVIII gained support for his moderate policies and political conditions liberalized. France’s economy expanded, the war reparations were paid, and the occupation army departed in 1818. France again played a significant, but not dominant, role in European affairs. Although fewer than 1 percent of France’s male population could vote or hold elected office, the French people gained experience in confronting issues through parliamentary debate and public discussions in the press, rather than through revolution.

A crisis occurred in 1820 that reversed these positive developments and resulted in repressive measures and the ascendancy of the Ultras France;Ultraroyalists once more. An embittered Bonapartist assassinated Charles-Ferdinand Charles-Ferdinand of Bourbon of Bourbon, the son of the comte de Artois and the only hope of continuing the Bourbon line. The murderer hoped to extinguish the Bourbon Dynasty, and Royalists reacted with outrage. Government policy swung sharply to the right, with new election laws that gave Ultras a parliamentary majority and punished expression of dissenting opinion. Ultras rejoiced when a son was born posthumously to Charles-Ferdinand’s wife seven months after he was killed. Louis XVIII, aged and tired of struggle, gave in to the tide of Ultraroyalism; he died in September, 1824.

Artois then ascended the throne as King Charles X Charles X and staged an elaborate coronation ceremony that recalled medieval claims of divine right monarchy and absolutism. Ultras France;Ultraroyalists joined in a conservative religious organization and encouraged clerical interference in government and intolerance of all who did not share their political views.


During sixteen years of restored Bourbon rule, Louis XVIII and Charles X managed to alienate almost every faction in France. Under Charles X, freedom of expression disappeared. The entire middle class and French citizens who had valued the freedoms gained during the French Revolution turned against their Bourbon king. Secret underground opposition groups plotted renewed revolution, since open political dissent had been outlawed. Royal policies could scarcely have seemed better calculated to force together all factions of opinion against the Ultras France;Ultraroyalists and to set the stage for the violent confrontation that led to the overthrow of Charles X on July 29, 1830. No Bourbon would ever again sit on the French throne. Charles X

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Alexander, Robert. Re-Writing the French Revolutionary Tradition: Liberal Opposition and the Fall of the Bourbon Monarchy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Expansive exploration of France’s revolutionary political tradition between 1815 and 1830 that looks at all classes of French citizens.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Artz, Frederick B. France Under the Bourbon Restoration, 1814-1830. New York: Russell & Russell, 1931. Despite its age, this book still provides thorough, balanced coverage of the people and events that were important through the years of the Bourbon Restoration.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bertier de Sauvigny, Guillaume de. The Bourbon Restoration. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966. Detailed study by a French specialist who offers a sympathetic treatment of the Bourbons.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fraser, Elisabeth A. Delacroix, Art, and Patrimony in Post-Revolutionary France. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Examination of the paintings that the French painter Eugène Delacroix created during the years of the Bourbon Restoration in an attempt artistically to reconcile the turmoil of the French Revolution with the events of the Restoration.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Furet, François. Revolutionary France, 1770-1880. Translated by Antonia Nevill. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1992. Written by a leading French historian, this work includes recent interpretations and views the Restoration as a stage in France’s transition from medieval monarchy to modern democracy.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Magraw, Roger. France, 1815-1914: The Bourgeois Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. The first chapter places the Bourbon Restoration in its context and interprets it primarily as an ill-fated last effort of the old nobility to control France.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wright, Gordon. France in Modern Times: From the Enlightenment to the Present. 5th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995. The chapters dealing with the end of the French Empire and the establishment of the Restoration provide an excellent starting place for those not already familiar with the period.

Bonaparte Is Crowned Napoleon I

Dos de Mayo Insurrection in Spain

Congress of Vienna

Battle of Waterloo

Second Peace of Paris

Neapolitan Revolution

July Revolution Deposes Charles X

Delacroix Paints Liberty Leading the People

Paris Revolution of 1848

Louis Napoleon Bonaparte Becomes Emperor of France

Third French Republic Is Established

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Categories: History