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Napoleon II of France

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Napoleon II of France

Napoleon II
Emperor of the French
Reign 4 April 1814 – 11 April 1814

22 June 1815 – 7 July 1815

Predecessor Napoleon I
as Emperor of the French; Napoleon II's succession was not officially proclaimed as the Bourbon Restoration was proclaimed immediately after the abdication of Napoleon I.
Successor Louis XVIII
as Bourbon king of France
Duke of Reichstadt
Reign 1818–1821
Predecessor Ferdinand, Duke of Parma
Full name
Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte
Father Napoleon I
Mother Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma
Born (1811-03-20)20 March 1811
Died 22 July 1832(1832-07-22) (aged 21)
Burial Les Invalides, Paris, France
Religion Roman Catholicism

Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, Prince Imperial, King of Rome, Prince of Parma (20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832), after 1818 known as Franz, Duke of Reichstadt, was the son of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, and his second wife, Marie Louise of Austria. By Title III, article 9 of the French Constitution of the time, he was Prince Imperial, but he was also known from birth as the King of Rome which Napoleon I declared was the courtesy title of the heir-apparent. His nickname L'Aiglon ("the Eaglet") was awarded posthumously and was popularized by the Edmond Rostand play, L'Aiglon. When his father abdicated on 4 April 1814, he named his son Emperor, but the coalition partners that had defeated Napoleon refused to acknowledge his son as successor, so he was forced to abdicate unconditionally a week later. Although he never actually ruled France, he was the titular Emperor and he is still generally referred to by historians as Napoleon II.



Between 8 and 9 o'clock PM on 19 March 1811, Empress Marie Louise began to experience the first pains of labor. The princes and princesses of the family, as well as the grand dignitaries, ministers, grand-officiers of the crown, grand-officiers of the Empire and the ladies and officers of the household, informed of this by the lady-in-waiting, assembled at the Tuileries Palace.[1] On 20 March, at 9:20 AM, a baby boy weighing 9 pounds (4.1 kg), with a height of 20 inches (51 cm) was born at Tuileries. He was ondoyed (a traditional French ceremony which can relate to a concise baptism) by Joseph Fesch, with his full name Napoleon François Charles Joseph.[2]

The baptism, inspired by the baptismal ceremony of Louis, Grand Dauphin of France, was held on 9 June 1811 in Paris' Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.[2] Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, Austrian ambassador of France, wrote of the baptism:

He was put in the care of Louise Charlotte Françoise Le Tellier 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.[2]

Succession rights

As Napoleon I's eldest legitimate son, he was already constitutionally Prince Imperial and heir-apparent, but the Emperor also gave his son the style "His Majesty the King of Rome". Three years later, the First French Empire, to which he was heir, collapsed.

Napoleon saw his second wife and their son for the last time on 24 January 1814.[3] On 4 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his toddler son after the Six Days' Campaign and the Battle of Paris. The three-year-old became Emperor of the French under the regnal name Napoleon II. However, a week later, Napoleon fully abdicated and renounced not only his rights to the French throne, but his descendants' also. Treaty of Fontainebleau gave the child the right to assume the title Prince of Parma and his mother was soon styled Duchess of Parma.


On 29 March 1814, accompanied by her suite, the empress 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 suite much diminished, Marie-Louise and the three-year-old King of Rome were back in Rambouillet where they met her father, the Emperor Francis I of Austria, and the 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.[4]

In 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his four-year-old son, whom he had not seen since his exile to Elba, for a second time. The day after Napoleon's abdication, a Commission of Government of five members took the rule of France,[5] awaiting the return of King Louis XVIII, who was in Le Cateau-Cambrésis.[6] 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 and was probably never aware at the time that he had been proclaimed Emperor on his father's abdication. The next Bonaparte to come to the throne of France was Louis-Napoleon, the son of Napoleon's brother Louis I, King of Holland. He took the name Napoleon III in deference to his cousin's titular reign.

Life in Austria

After 1815, the young prince, now known as "Franz" (after his maternal grandfather, Emperor Francis of Austria), lived in Austria. He was awarded the title of Duke of Reichstadt in 1818.

Upon the death of his stepfather, Adam Albert von Neipperg, and the revelation that his mother had borne two illegitimate children to him prior to their marriage, Franz said to his friend, Anton von Prokesch-Osten, "'If Josephine 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]

He died of tuberculosis at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna on 22 July 1832.[8]

Disposition of his remains

On 15 December 1940, the remains of Napoléon II were transferred from Vienna to the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. This was done as a gift to France by Adolf Hitler.[9][10] The remains of Napoleon I had been returned to France in December 1840, at the time of the July Monarchy.[11] For some time, the remains of the young prince who had briefly been an emperor rested beside those of his father. Later, the prince's remains were moved to the lower church. While most of his remains were transferred to Paris, his heart and intestines remained in Vienna, which is traditional for members of the Hapsburg house. They are in Urn 42 in the "Heart Crypt" (Herzgruft) and his viscera are in Urn 76 of the Ducal Crypt.


Napoléon II was also known as "The Eaglet" (L'Aiglon). Edmond Rostand wrote a play, L'Aiglon, about his life. Serbian composer Petar Stojanović composed the operetta Napoleon II: Herzog von Reichstadt, which premiered in Vienna in the 1920s. Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert collaborated on an opera, L'Aiglon, which premiered in 1937. Pet Shop Boys used him as an emblem of loneliness amid wealth in their 2009 track "King of Rome," on their album Yes. The journalist Henri Rochefort joked Napoleon II, having never really governed, was France's best leader, since he brought no war, taxes or tyranny.[12]

Coats of arms of Napoleon II



  • Welschinger, Le roi de Rome, 1811–32, (Paris, 1897)
  • Wertheimer, The Duke of Reichstadt, (London, 1905)


External links

Napoleon II
Born: 20 March 1811 Died: 22 July 1832
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Emperor of the French
22 June 1815 – 22 July 1832
Succeeded by
Joseph Bonaparte
French royalty
Preceded by
Joseph Bonaparte
Heir to the Throne
as Heir apparent
20 March 1811—11 April 1814
Succeeded by
Charles, Count of Artois
Preceded by
Charles, Count of Artois
Heir to the Throne
as Heir apparent
20 March 1815—22 June 1815
Succeeded by
Joseph Bonaparte

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