Evoking the eagle: The July Monarchy's use of Napoleonic imagery

Walter R Herscher, Marquette University


From the French Revolution of 1789 to 1830, various French governments futilely attempted to form a satisfactory political consensus. France experienced an absolute monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, a moderate republic, a Jacobin republic, a military dictatorship, and an enlightened despotism; however, none of these governments won lasting support. Upon becoming king in 1830, Louis-Philippe recognized the problem and attempted to broaden his political base by publicly pretending to accept Bonapartist ideology. This political ideology was popular because it represented diverse ideas to different constituencies: It represented reapprochement with religion to the peasants, nationalism and glory to the military and nationalists, the best features of the republic to liberals and republicans, and a bulwark against Jacobin anarchy to conservatives and moderates. Louis-Philippe presented a Bonapartist public discourse by stressing his liberalism in public functions and presenting himself as a typical bourgeois. He appointed former Bonapartist officials and officers to high positions within his government. He restored Napoleon's statue atop the Vendome Column, completed Napoleon's Arch of Triumph, and installed paintings depicting Napoleon in his Versailles palace museum. Through official patronage of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, Louis-Philippe attempted to associate himself with the liberal and nationalist Napoleon. Louis-Philippe's political program unintentionally magnified Napoleon's glory in the public mind. When confronted with political and diplomatic problems in 1840, Louis-Philippe decided to bring Napoleon's body back to France in an attempt to associate himself again with Napoleon. However, as France became aware of its glorious past under Napoleon, the people demanded that Louis-Philippe demonstrate his avowed liberalism by broadening the franchise. When Louis-Philippe refused, political opposition culminated in his overthrow during the February Revolution of 1848. Ironically, Louis-Philippe's policy of having referred to Napoleon as a bulwark against anarchy would later assist Louis-Napoleon to become elected as President of the new Second Republic after 1848's bloody "June Days" in which anarchy seemed to threaten society again. Research for the dissertation involved examining the papers of Louis-Philippe, of some of his ministers, of Louis-Napoleon, and of other contemporaries in various French archival collections. Printed memoirs and secondary works were also utilized.

Recommended Citation

Herscher, Walter R, "Evoking the eagle: The July Monarchy's use of Napoleonic imagery" (1992). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9227123.