July 8 1815: End of Napoleon’s Hundred Days

On July 8 1815, Louis XVIII returns to Paris and is restored to power bringing an end to the Hundred Days of Napoleon.  John Cam Hobhouse describes the day: 

I sat in all the morning, writing a letter to Lord Castlereagh, putting my little shoulder to the wheel to prevent him from naming Louis XVIII king of France, when I heard a shouting, and running out with my pen in my hand saw a troop of National Guards with music carrying white flags – handkerchiefs – and crying “Vive le roi!” I asked what was the matter – why the National Guards are crying “Vive le roi”? – “The King comes in at three or four o’clock.” – I went in and shut up my letter. This was about four o’clock.

I went out, saw handkerchiefs floating from the windows – the street from the Place Vendôme lined with National Guards in white cockades: not a tricoloured cockade to be seen – the white flag and fleur de lys on the pillar of victory – a vast crowd in the rue Napoleon, and a hail of National Guards.

The windows full of women and white handkerchiefs – it was a scene of perfect enchantment – I almost rubbed my eyes. However, I went into the little newspaper cabinet in the rue , and taking up a Moniteur, one half-sheet, saw “Le Moniteur est le seul journal official,” and two proclamations of the King Louis of France and Navarre – the twenty-first year of his reign by the Grace of God. Also a proclamation by the commission of gouvernement, dissolving itself, and the chambers of parliament. The remainder of the paper is devoted to science and Mr Cuvier.

In the other papers, the matter is explained. The Journal des Debats, the Journal de l’Empire, gives an account of what it calls the last act of the ridiculous farce of the two chambers, which so far from being ridiculous I find truly noble, and worthy of the best ages of liberty. The government sent in the evening, seven o’clock I believe (half-past five), a message to them, shortly stating that the Allied Sovereigns, who seemed to differ as to their choice of a king for France at first – he now, as they learnt from the president’s conference with the allied generals, determined to place Louis on the throne, who would enter tomorrow, that as an armed force of foreigners occupied the seat of government (Prussians bivouacked in the court of the Tuileries) their deliberations were no longer free – therefore they yielded to force – in consequence, the chambers with them were separated and dissolved.

In the Chamber of Deputies, where they were debating the question of the Constitution on the article of the hereditary quality of the peerage, at first a dead silence prevailed, but the members recovered themselves. Mr Manuel made a noble speech, proposing, in the words of Mirabeau, that they should sit until expelled by the bayonet. Calm was reestablished – the discussion was continued. The peerage was voted to be hereditary, and Lanjuinais adjourned the sitting until eight the next morning – so says one paper. The Lords received the warrant of dissolution in mere silence and submission – they separated, it is said, directly. It had been before remarked that the court of the Luxembourgh was occupied by Prussian troops.

Thus was completed at one sudden blow this impious infraction of all honour and honesty, and the most solemn promises of Kings. England, who made the exception to the eighth article of the treaty of the 25th March,in favour of the rights of the French nation to choose their own monarch,now decides that France is to be treated as a conquered nation. Lord Wellington behaves with the utmost moderation: the friends of freedom cherish every hope. Lord Castlereagh arrives – the curtain rises at once – and the royal personnages appear unmasked in all their deformity. Müffling is made Governor of Paris by Blucher, and Wellington and tells the capital so, in a proclamation couched in terms of unrelenting ferocity. By the side of this appear the addresses of the returning tyrant to his people, denouncing vengeance and restoring, at one stroke of the pen, the corrupt authorities which vanished at the 20th of March. Not a word as yet of the chambers – they are gone and forgotten, as is Napoleon, whose portraits and busts have made way for the foolish faces of Lord Castlereagh’s King and his family. This charge is more sudden than the last – the tricoloured flag was on the Tuileries at twelve o’clock. They are screaming about the order of the procession of the entry of the King, and the King’s address. The address of the chamber, the orders of the day, the adieus of the army, the laws in the name of the French people, are disappearing from the walls, lost under the royal and allied placards.

I waited in the Place de Vendôme to see the King pass. He was proceeded by some battallions [of] the National Guards, coaches and diligences, fourgons, a few cannon, the royal army, i.e. squadrons of the Maison du Roi, voltigeurs old and scarred, not by war, but time, and infantry of the meanest sort, clothed in English cloth and armed by us. There was an old fellow with hedger’s gloves who said, “Cette place sent Bonaparte – il faut le purifier”, under the column of victory!!! The people near turned round and smiled with scorn. There was little crying where I was, but the windows shouted or squealed a good deal, and the revolution de mouchoirs was complete.

The King was in a coach so full, and so surrounded with guards, I could not discern his person. He was followed by a mass of troops of all nations, and then came carriages, cabriolets, tax-carts, and dillys crammed with women. Never was there such an entry. An Imperial wounded guard was near me. He said not a word.

I came home in disgust, and ashamed almost of being an Englishman – to belong to the country that has forced this king of shreds and patches upon France. I see Louis celebrated a mass pro defunctis in the church of St Denys, thinking people give him a sixth months’ reign. I dined at Massinot’s, and there for the first time heard a Frenchman trying to insult the English by calling the waiter “célébrataire”. There were guards du corps in the coffee-house. I walked about in the Tuileries gardens in the evening – the King came to the balcony. There was an immense crowd, chiefly women mad with joy. The scene was at least picturesque, though not very edifying – rings of girls were dancing round the fountains – handkerchiefs and hats flying in the air. The King bowed, and made signs with his hands, which produced shouts of delight. Old, bald-headed citizens were capering with joy, crying out “Nous ne sommes pas payés a quarante sous!” alluding to the old way of procuring applause. I dare say many were – though certainly the enthusiasm of the female world was at its height.

I came home – could do nothing – bed early – up in the night [ ] about Parsons – and he frightened. Poor fellow – he [has] lost a sister’s husband.

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