Napoleon III (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, was President of the Second French Republic from 1848 to 1852 and Emperor of the Second Empire from 1852 to 1870. He was one of the key figures, sometimes unwittingly, in the political unification of both Italy and Germany, and was also greatly responsible for the rebuilding of Paris.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Paris in 1808. His father, also Louis Napoleon, was a younger brother of Napoleon I, and his mother, Hortense, was the daughter of the emperor’s first wife, Josephine, from an earlier marriage. The marriage of Louis Napoleon and Hortense was not a success, and rumors persisted regarding the child’s paternity. After Waterloo and the exile to St. Helena, all the Bonapartes were forced out of France. Hortense, having separating from her husband, settled in Switzerland, where Louis Napoleon was educated to the dual heritage of the French Revolution and the imperialism of Napoleon I. Both traditions formed his character.
As a young man, Louis Napoleon was a romantic figure. Of average height for the day, about five feet, five inches, he had a pale complexion and dark, curly hair. Women were greatly attracted to him, perhaps because of his name. It is impossible to ascertain when his own political ambitions first matured, though it is probable that he saw himself as a man of destiny at a very early age. Louis Napoleon’s older...
(The entire section is 2097 words.)
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