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Napoleon II

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Napoleon II

Napoleon II
Napoleon II or Franz, The Duke of Reichstadt, by Bucher Léopold
Emperor of the French (titular)

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
King of Rome
Reign 1811 – 1814
Prince of Parma
Reign 1814 – 1817
Duke of Reichstadt
Reign 1818 – 1832
Full name
Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte
House House of Bonaparte
House of Habsburg
Father Napoleon I
Mother Marie Louise of Austria
Born (1811-03-20)20 March 1811
Tuileries Palace, Paris, France
Died 22 July 1832(1832-07-22) (aged 21)
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Burial Les Invalides, Paris, France
Religion Roman Catholicism

Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte (20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832), Prince Imperial, King of Rome, Prince of Parma, of Placentia, and of Guastalla, known as Franz, Duke of Reichstadt from 1818 onward, was the son of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, and his second wife, Archduchess 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 of L'Aiglon ("the Eaglet") was awarded posthumously and was popularized by the Edmond Rostand play, L'Aiglon.

When Napoleon I abdicated on 4 April 1814, he named his son as Emperor. However, the coalition partners that had defeated him refused to acknowledge his son as successor, thus Napoleon I was forced to abdicate unconditionally a number of days later. Although Napoleon François Bonaparte never actually ruled France, he was briefly the titular Emperor of the French and is still generally referred to by historians as Napoleon II.



Napoleon's father, Napoleon I, Emperor of the French
Napoleon's mother, Marie-Louise, Empress of the French
The King of Rome, Napoleon II as an infant, by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon

Between 8 and 9 o'clock at night on 19 March 1811, Empress Marie Louise began to experience the first pains of labour. The princes and princesses of the family, as well as the grand dignitaries, ministers, grand officers of the crown, grand officers 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 in the morning, a baby boy weighing 9 pounds (4.1 kg), with a height of 20 inches (51 cm), was born at the Tuileries Palace. He was ondoyed (a traditional French ceremony which can relate to a concise baptism) by Joseph Fesch with his full name of 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 the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.[2] Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, Austrian ambassador to 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 the eldest legitimate son of Napoleon I, he was already constitutionally the Prince Imperial and heir apparent, but the Emperor also gave his son the style of His Majesty the King of Rome. Three years later, the First French Empire, to which he was the 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 of Napoleon II. However, on 6 April 1814, Napoleon I fully abdicated and renounced not only his rights to the French throne, but his descendants' rights also. The Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1814 gave the child the right to use the title of Prince of Parma, of Placentia, and of Guastalla, and his mother was styled the Duchess of Parma, of Placentia, and of Guastalla.


Portrait of Napoleon Franz, the Duke of Reichstadt

On 29 March 1814, accompanied by her suite, Marie Louise 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 her three-year-old son 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 I 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 regnal name of Napoleon III in deference to his cousin's brief titular reign.

Life in Austria

From the spring of 1814 onwards, Napoleon II lived in Austria and was known as "Franz" (after his maternal grandfather, Emperor Franz of Austria). In 1818, he was awarded the title of Duke of Reichstadt by his maternal grandfather. 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 II had completed his elementary studies and begun his military training, learning German, Italian and math 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 II as intelligent, serious and focused. Additionally, he was a very tall young man: he had grown to nearly 6 feet by the time he was 17.

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 warmer climate in Italy. Napoleon II received another rejection when his grandfather refused to allow him to be part of the army traveling to Italy to put down a rebellion.[7]

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".[8]

Napoleon II on his death bed, engraving by Franz Xaver Stöber

In 1831, Napoleon II 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 July 22, 1832, Napoleon II died of tuberculosis at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.[9] He left no issue, thus the Napoleonic claim to the throne of France was taken over by his cousin, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who later successfully restored the empire as Napoleon III.

Disposition of his remains

Tomb of Napoleon II in Les Invalides, Paris

On 15 December 1940, the remains of Napoleon II were transferred from Vienna to the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. This was done as a gift to France by Adolf Hitler.[10][11] The remains of Napoleon I had been returned to France in December 1840, at the time of the July Monarchy.[12] 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 Habsburg house. They are in Urn 42 in the "Heart Crypt" (Herzgruft) and his viscera are in Urn 76 of the Ducal Crypt.


Orders and decorations

Grand aigle of the Légion d'honneur of France
Order of the Iron Crown of Italy
Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
Duchy of Parma


Coat of arms



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


  1. ^ "The King of Rome's birth".  
  2. ^ a b c d "Napoleon II: King of Rome, French Emperor, Prince of Parma, Duke of Reichstadt". The Napoleon Foundation. March 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Château de Fontainebleau". Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "(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 Français). 23 June 1815. p. 279. 
  6. ^ "(N. 1.) Proclamation du Roi". Bulletin des lois de la République française (in Français). 25 June 1815. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Napoleon II Biography
  8. ^ Markham, Felix, Napoleon, p. 249
  9. ^ Altman, Gail S. Fatal Links: The Curious Deaths of Beethoven and the Two Napoleons (Paperback). Anubian Press (September 1999). ISBN 1-888071-02-8
  10. ^ 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).
  11. ^ 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)
  12. ^ Driskel, Paul (1993). As Befits a Legend. Kent State University Press. p. 168 ISBN 0-87338-484-9
  13. ^ Leo A. Loubere, Nineteenth-Century Europe: The Revolution of Life, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, p. 154.
  14. ^ German description of the arms of the Duke of Reichstadt, circa 1830

External links

Napoleon II
Born: 20 March 1811 Died: 22 July 1832
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Napoleon I
King of France and Navarre
22 June 1815 – 7 July 1815
Bourbon Restoration II
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Emperor of the French
King of Italy

7 July 1815 – 22 July 1832
Succeeded by
Joseph I
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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