Napoleon Bonaparte

Exile and Escape

Meanwhile, back in France, many people were worried that the new king, Louis XVIII, might try to reverse the positive effects of the Revolution, such as legal equality. With Napoleon gone, a pro-Bonaparte movement started to form. Napoleon learned of this development by reading the newspapers. Figuring that the French army would remain loyal to him, he debated whether he should make an attempt to return to Europe. When he asked his mother for her counsel, she told him to "fulfill your destiny." As his previous accomplishments had indicated, this destiny was an extraordinary one; Napoleon made it off Elba with a large contingent of his volunteer troops.

When Napoleon escaped Elba and returned to France, the ease with which he rallied troops was a true measure of his popularity. Napoleon drew most of his support from the workers and peasants. They loved him not so much because he was an "Emperor", but because they believed he was a true son of the Revolution who would never reverse the Revolution's reforms, something many feared Louis XVIII might soon do. Furthermore, Napoleon pledged himself to constitutional government in hopes of winning more support. The aristocracy and the middle class were unsure of how to feel about Napoleon's return. However, since he had the support of the lower classes, the aristocracy and middle class said little, waiting to see what would happen. Thus, Napoleon was able to regain control of France bloodlessly; indeed, not a shot was fired. Yet, while beloved in France, Napoleon was hated in the rest of Europe: international conflict was inevitable.