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Napoleon II

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Napoleon II
King of Rome
Duke of Reichstadt
Portrait by Leopold Bucher, 1832
Emperor of the French
1st reign4 – 6 April 1814
PredecessorNapoleon I
SuccessorNapoleon I
Louis XVIII (as King of France)
2nd reign22 June – 7 July 1815
PredecessorNapoleon I
SuccessorNapoleon III (1852, as Emperor)
Louis XVIII (as King of France)
RegentJoseph Fouché
Head of the House of Bonaparte
Tenure22 June 1815 – 22 July 1832
PredecessorNapoleon I
SuccessorJoseph, Count of Survilliers
Born(1811-03-20)20 March 1811
Tuileries Palace, Paris, French Empire
Died22 July 1832(1832-07-22) (aged 21)
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austrian Empire
Napoleon's tomb, Les Invalides
French: Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte
FatherNapoleon I, Emperor of the French
MotherMarie Louise, Duchess of Parma
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureNapoleon II's signature

Napoleon II (Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte; 20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832) was the disputed Emperor of the French for a few weeks in 1815. He was the son of Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Marie Louise, daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria. Napoleon II had been Prince Imperial of France and King of Rome since birth. After the fall of his father, he lived the rest of his life in Vienna and was known in the Austrian court as Franz, Duke of Reichstadt for his adult life (from the German version of his second given name, along with a title his grandfather granted him in 1818). He was posthumously given the nickname L'Aiglon ("the Eaglet") after the popular Edmond Rostand play, L'Aiglon.

When Napoleon I tried to abdicate on 4 April 1814, he said that his son would rule as emperor. However, the coalition victors refused to acknowledge his son as successor, and Napoleon I was forced to abdicate unconditionally some days later. Although Napoleon II never actually ruled France, he was briefly the titular Emperor of the French after the second fall of his father. He lived most of his life in Vienna and died of tuberculosis at the age of 21.

His cousin, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, founded the Second French Empire in 1852 and ruled as Emperor Napoleon III.


Empress Marie Louise and her son Napoleon, King of Rome, by François Gérard, 1813


Napoleon ll was born on 20 March 1811, at the Tuileries Palace, the son of Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Marie Louise. On the same day he underwent ondoiement (a traditional French ceremony which is a simple baptism unaccompanied by the usual additional ceremonies) by Joseph Fesch with his full name of Napoleon François Charles Joseph.[1] The baptism, inspired by the baptismal ceremony of Louis, Grand Dauphin of France, was held on 9 June 1811 in Notre Dame de Paris.[1] Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, Austrian ambassador to France, wrote of the baptism:

The baptism ceremony was beautiful and impressive; the scene in which the emperor took the infant from the arms of his noble mother and raised him up twice to reveal him to the public [thus breaking from long tradition, as he did when he crowned himself at his coronation] was loudly applauded; in the monarch's manner and face could be seen the great satisfaction that he took from this solemn moment.[1]

He was put in the care of Louise Charlotte Françoise de Montesquiou, a descendant of François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, who was named Governess of the Children of France. Affectionate and intelligent, the governess assembled a considerable collection of books intended to give the infant a strong grounding in religion, philosophy, and military matters.[1]

Succession rights[edit]

As the only legitimate son of Napoleon I, he was already constitutionally the Prince Imperial and heir apparent, but the Emperor also gave his son the title of King of Rome. Three years later, the First French Empire collapsed. Napoleon I saw his second wife and their son for the last time on 24 January 1814.[2] On 4 April 1814, he abdicated in favour of his three-year-old son after the Six Days' Campaign and the Battle of Paris. The child became Emperor of the French under the regnal name of Napoleon II. However, on 6 April 1814, Napoleon I fully abdicated and renounced not only his own rights to the French throne, but also those of his descendants. The Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1814 gave the child the right to use the title of Prince of Parma, of Piacenza, and of Guastalla, and his mother was styled the Duchess of Parma, of Piacenza, and of Guastalla.


On 29 March 1814, Marie Louise, accompanied by her entourage, left the Tuileries Palace with her son. Their first stop was the Château de Rambouillet; then, fearing the advancing enemy troops, they continued on to the Château de Blois. On 13 April, with her entourage much diminished, Marie Louise and her three-year-old son were back in Rambouillet, where they met her father, Emperor Francis I of Austria, and Emperor Alexander I of Russia. On 23 April, escorted by an Austrian regiment, mother and son left Rambouillet and France forever, for their exile in Austria.[3]

In 1815, after his resurgence and his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon I abdicated for the second time in favour of his four-year-old son, whom he had not seen since his exile to Elba. The day after Napoleon's abdication, a Commission of Government of five members took the rule of France,[4] awaiting the return of the Bourbon King Louis XVIII, who was in Le Cateau-Cambrésis.[5] The Commission held power for two weeks, but never formally summoned Napoleon II as Emperor or appointed a regent. The entrance of the Allies into Paris on 7 July brought a rapid end to his supporters' wishes. Napoleon II was residing in Austria with his mother.

The next Bonaparte to ascend the throne of France, in 1852, would be Louis-Napoleon, the son of Napoleon's brother Louis I, King of Holland. He took the regnal name of Napoleon III.

Life in Austria[edit]

Portrait by Moritz Daffinger

From the spring of 1814 onwards, the young Napoleon lived in Austria and was known as "Franz", a German language cognate of his second given name, François. In 1818, he was awarded the title of Duke of Reichstadt by his maternal grandfather, Emperor Francis. He was educated by a staff of military tutors and developed a passion for soldiering, dressing in a miniature uniform like his father's and performing maneuvers in the palace. At the age of 8, it was apparent to his tutors that he had chosen his career.

By 1820, Napoleon had completed his elementary studies and begun his military training, learning German, Italian and mathematics as well as receiving advanced physical training. His official army career began at age 12, in 1823, when he was made a cadet in the Austrian Army. Accounts from his tutors describe Napoleon as intelligent, serious, and focused. Additionally, he was very tall, having grown to nearly 6 feet by the time he was 17.

In 1822 the Four Sergeants of La Rochelle were put to death for attempting to return Napoleon II to the throne, although it is unclear to what extent they were committed Bonapartists. There is no evidence that Napoleon II endorsed the insurrection.

His budding military career gave some concern and fascination to the monarchies of Europe and French leaders over his possible return to France. However, he was allowed to play no political role and instead was used by Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich in bargaining with France to gain advantage for Austria. Fearful of anyone in the Bonaparte family regaining political power, Metternich even rejected a request for Franz to move to a warmer climate in Italy. He received another rejection when his grandfather refused to allow him to join the army traveling to Italy to put down a rebellion.[6]

Upon the death of his stepfather, Adam Albert von Neipperg, and the revelation that his mother had borne two illegitimate children to Neipperg prior to their marriage, Franz grew distant from his mother and felt that his Austrian family were holding him back to avoid political controversy. He said to his friend, Anton von Prokesch-Osten, "If Joséphine had been my mother, my father would not have been buried at Saint Helena, and I should not be at Vienna. My mother is kind but weak; she was not the wife my father deserved".[7]


Deathbed portrait, engraved by Franz Xaver Stöber

In 1831, Franz was given command of an Austrian battalion, but he never got the chance to serve in any meaningful capacity. In 1832, he caught pneumonia and was bedridden for several months. His poor health eventually overtook him and on 22 July 1832 Franz died of tuberculosis at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.[8] He had no children; thus the Napoleonic claim to the throne of France passed to his uncle Joseph Bonaparte and later to his cousin, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who later founded and reigned over the Second French Empire, styling himself Napoleon III.

Disposition of his remains[edit]

Tomb of Napoleon II at Les Invalides, Paris

On 15 December 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered the remains of Napoleon II to be transferred from Vienna to the dome of Les Invalides in Paris.[9][10] The remains of Napoleon I had been returned to France in December 1840, at the time of the July Monarchy.[11] In December 1969, the remains of Napoleon II were moved underground to the cella of Napoleon's tomb.

While most of his remains were transferred to Paris in 1940, his heart and intestines remained in Vienna, which is traditional for members of the Habsburg family. His heart is in Urn 42 of the Herzgruft ('Heart Crypt'), and his viscera are in Urn 76 of the Ducal Crypt.


He was noted for his friendship with Sophie, a Bavarian princess of the House of Wittelsbach.[13] Intelligent, ambitious and strong-willed, Sophie had little in common with her husband Franz Karl, the brother of Napoleon II's mother, Empress Marie Louise. There were rumors of a love affair between Sophie and Napoleon II, as well as the possibility that Sophie's second son, Maximilian I of Mexico, born in 1832, was the result issue of the affair.


Coats of arms[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Napoleon II: King of Rome, French Emperor, Prince of Parma, Duke of Reichstadt". The Napoleon Foundation. napoleon.org. March 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Château de Fontainebleau". Musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr. Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2012-08-28.
  3. ^ G. Lenotre, le Château de Rambouillet, six siècles d'histoire, ch. L'empereur, Éditions Denoël, Paris, 1984 (1930 reedition), pp. 126–133, ISBN 2-207-23023-6.
  4. ^ "(N.275.) Arrete par lequel la Commission du Gouvernement se constitue sous la présidence M. le Duc d'Otrante". Bulletin des lois de la République française (in French). 23 June 1815. p. 279.
  5. ^ "(N. 1.) Proclamation du Roi". Bulletin des lois de la République française (in French). 25 June 1815. p. 1.
  6. ^ "Napoleon II Biography". Archived from the original on 2015-09-18. Retrieved 2014-09-22.
  7. ^ Markham, Felix, Napoleon, p. 249
  8. ^ Altman, Gail S. Fatal Links: The Curious Deaths of Beethoven and the Two Napoleons (Paperback). Anubian Press (September 1999). ISBN 1-888071-02-8
  9. ^ Poisson, Georges, (Robert L. Miller, translator), Hitler's Gift to France: The Return of the Ashes of Napoleon II, Enigma Books, ISBN 978-1-929631-67-4 (Synopsis & Review by Maria C. Bagshaw).
  10. ^ Poisson, Georges, Le retour des cendres de l'Aiglon, Édition Nouveau Monde, Paris, 2006, ISBN 2847361847 French wags at the time countered Hitler's propaganda by saying "Hitler stole France's coal, but returned to them the ashes." (French)
  11. ^ Driskel, Paul (1993). As Befits a Legend. Kent State University Press. p. 168 ISBN 0-87338-484-9
  12. ^ Leo A. Loubere, Nineteenth-Century Europe: The Revolution of Life, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, p. 154.
  13. ^ Palmer 1994, p. 3.
  14. ^ "A Szent István Rend tagjai". Archived from the original on December 22, 2010.
  15. ^ Hassel, Georg (1 January 1830). "Genealogisch-historisch-statistischer Almanach". im Verlag des Landes-Industrie-Comptoirs. – via Google Books.


  • Palmer, Alan (1994). Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-665-1.
  • Welschinger, Le roi de Rome, 1811–32, (Paris, 1897)
  • Wertheimer, The Duke of Reichstadt, (London, 1905)

External links[edit]

Napoleon II
Born: 20 March 1811 Died: 22 July 1832
Regnal titles
Preceded by — DISPUTED —
Emperor of the French
22 June – 7 July 1815
Bourbon Restoration
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Emperor of the French
7 July 1815 – 22 July 1832
Succeeded by