Louis XVIII came to the throne after the warfare and economic dislocation of the Napoleonic years. He was king of France from 1814 until his death in 1824. To decide whether he was successful or not, first the word success has to be defined. Success is, in terms of being king, keeping the country running well (socially, economically and politically). I feel that during Louis’s time as king, many important changes and incidents happened for the French people which he handled amicably and he was an overall success. His reign can be split into different periods, the liberal era and the ultra era.
Upon coming to the thrown in 1814, Louis XVIII faced several problems. Since the demise of his brother, Louis XVI, France had been ‘characterized by warfare and economic dislocation’ (Randell). Napoleon had left a war-weary population under heavy taxes to bankroll his doomed foreign conquests that had resulted in France being on the periphery of international politics. How ever Napoleon was successful in setting up an effective civil service bereft of corruption and the French people, particularly the Bourgeoisie, had gained from the French Revolution and feared the new Bourbon monarch would revert to the ways of the Ancien Regime.
Thus, many would not have been heartbroken had Louis XVIII faltered. Many of the royalists supported him for what he stood for, not for who he was. They yearned for the political stability associated with a legitimate monarchy and were not pre-occupied with who filled the role. ‘They wanted to gain a sense of security and permanence that had been missing in the recent past’ (Randell). They too were wary of Louis’ intentions. One of Louis’ first and arguably wisest decisions was to introduce the Charter by which he would rule.
It acted as a stabiliser as the first few months of his rule was crucial in gaining the silent trust, if not the public support, of the French people, especially the pays legal, those involved in politics. It was significant as it showed Louis accepted the gains the people had made as a result of the Revolution. The Charter guaranteed equality before the law for every Frenchman, proportional taxation, press freedom and the up keeping of a meritocracy in the civil service and military. This disproves the opinion of many that whilst in exile the Bourbons ‘learnt nothing and forgot nothing’.
There existed a faction within the Royalists known as the Ultras. These were considered more royalist than the king himself. Many were i?? migri?? s and wanted an Autocracy, as in the days of the Ancien Regime. They possessed political clout in abundance and Louis was successful in keeping them in check, however they gain importance in the later years. The downfall of many Kings is in the Ministers they appoint. Louis XVIII shrewdly appointed competent moderate ministers in the face of an Ultra dominated Chamber, the most prominent Ellie Decazes.
Under his guidance France experienced an economic boom which brought prosperity to the people and fostered stability in the country. Napoleon escaped from Elbe in 1815 and seized power in a period knows as the ‘100 days’. Due to the support the French people gave him the allies punished France by making them pay war indemnities and stationing their troops in France until this was paid off. The presence of foreign troops in France angered the French people but the economic boom allowed for France to pay off the war indemnity by 1817 and the allies duly removed their troops. Louis was once again successful.
Louis XVIII was successful in resisting the temptation to involve the Church in state affairs, especially education. However they were one of his main supporters as the Church was the source of news and information for all peasants, thus it was an effective tool in maintaining support. The King did make minor errors however. He restored the Bourbon flag as the national flag. After the 2nd restoration the King was seen as a puppet of the allies and the French people felt he turned a blind eye to the white terror, where Royal sympathisers persecuted those who had supported Napoleon upon his return.
Was Louis XVIII successful as King of France? At home and abroad? Louis XVIII was king of France between 1815 and 1824. To decide whether he was successful or not, first the word success has to be defined. Success is, in terms of being king, keeping the country running well (socially, economically and politically) and making sure that the French people have the best conditions for life possible, this may mean that they are not completely content.
During Louis’s time as king, many important changes and incidents happened for the French people, many of which I feel Louis handled with great shrewdness and intelligence; therefore I feel that as king of France, Louis XVIII was a success. This is because of his attitudes politically, introducing the charter and therefore realizing that France could no longer return to the ancien regime; because he chose ministers who had moderate elements, so France could attempt to recover after war; and because he did his best to avoid any extremes in policy.
On the other hand, there is evidence that Louis could have been described as a poor king, with, even though he was not directly involved, the ‘white terror’ and the Ultra government, which had power But in 1820 the situation was becoming increasingly chaotic and Decazes resigned. Meanwhile Louis’s age (he was 65 at this point) was telling on him. It was getting harder for him to fend off the Ultras. Increasingly power even within his own cabinet was passing out of his hands–in particular when he was forced to accept Villi?? le (1822-1824) as prime minister and to take on board his brother as a member of the cabinet.