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Napoleon’s Second Empire lasted one hundred days

Posted in Historical articles, History, War on Thursday, 28 March 2013

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This edited article about Napoleon originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 215 published on 26 February 1966.

Napoleon returns from Elba, picture, image, illustration

The return of Napoleon from Elba

On the night of February 26, 1815, which was moonless, a small boat put off from a lonely beach on the Mediterranean island of Elba. On board was the exiled Emperor Napoleon.

After several escapes from patrolling British men-of-war, and detours to collect sympathizers, Napoleon landed near Cannes on the French Riviera on March 1. With a force of about 950 men he marched on Paris, where he arrived three weeks later.

At Grenoble, his path was blocked by a regiment which King Louis XVIII of France had sent to arrest him. Stepping out alone in front of the king’s soldiers and throwing up his hands, Napoleon said, “If there is one among you who wishes to kill his emperor, here I am.” With shouts of “Long live the Emperor!” the whole regiment went over to his side.

Napoleon’s march to Paris became the triumphant advance of a conqueror. Garrison after garrison joined him. Soldiers who had been discharged in 1814 flocked in their thousands to fight his cause again. News of his return spread like wildfire through France. The magic of his name revived longings for the military glories of his empire.

Napoleon’s return created such panic that Louis XVIII fled from Paris to Ghent. And when they heard of it, the other European leaders, meeting at the Congress of Vienna, swore “no peace with Bonaparte” and hurried away to take up arms again.

But Napoleon now had a united France solidly behind him. Within a few weeks, he had gathered an army of 120,000 veterans. All was ready for the vast gamble that was to cost him the Battle of Waterloo and send him to final exile at St. Helena. His second Empire lasted for just one hundred days.

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