Napoleon - Emperor of France
The Triumphant Return to France
Beginning “the 100 Days”
(Paris, April 4, 1815)
"I came and from the moment I reached shore, Many people's love transported me all the way to my capital's bosom"
To the King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel I (1759-1824)
It seemed that Europe had found peace at last following Napoleon's abdication in early April 1814. The disgraced, though by no means humbled, Emperor left for exile on the Mediterranean Island of Elba, while the Bourbon heir, Louis, returned to Paris to assume the throne. In an experiment not seen since the Revolution, Louis XVIII soon proclaimed a constitutional monarchy, at the same time making concessions to the reactionary and clerical party of émigrés headed by the Count d'Artois and the Duchess d'Angouleme. The suspicion thereby engendered and diverse ill-conceived reforms served only to alienate a populace weary from years of warfare and political turmoil. Beginning that autumn, representatives from the allied powers met in Vienna to forge the shape of a post-Napoleonic Europe. Learning of these developments, Napoleon decided it was time to act, and by early February 1815 had begun preparations for his return to France. A small flotilla was assembled and outfitted; setting sail on the 26th, it landed in France on March 1, and on the 20th, at nine in the evening, Napoleon arrived at the Tuileries gate. Within five days, Louis had fled to Ghent and Napoleon had assumed power, barely one year after his ignominious departure. On April 4 he officially notified the European sovereigns of his peaceful intentions (See exhibit). On the verso are affixed two original red-wax seals with bright green ribbon.
"You will have learned, last month, of my return to France, my entry into Paris, and the departure of the Bourbons. The true nature of these events must now be known to Your Majesty. They are the work of an irresistible power, the work of the unanimous will of a great nation which knows its obligations and rights. The Dynasty that had been forcibly returned to the French people was no longer made for it, the Bourbons wanted to be associated with neither its sentiments nor its morals. France had to separate herself from them. Her voice called out for a liberator, the expectation that made me decide upon the greatest sacrifice had been deceived. I came, and from the moment I reached shore, my people's love transported me all the way to my capital’s bosom. My first heartfelt need was to reward so much affection by maintaining an honorable tranquillity. Re-establishing the imperial throne was necessary for the happiness of the French people. My sweetest thought is to make it at the same time useful for strengthening Europe's peace. Enough glory has made famous, in turn, the banners of various nations. The vicissitudes of fate have long enough given way to great reversals and great success. Today, a most beautiful arena has been thrown open to the sovereigns, and I am the first there to descend. After having presented the world with the spectacle of great combat, it will be sweeter from now on to know no other rivalry than that of peaceful advantage, no other battle than the holy battle of the peoples' bliss. France takes pleasure in proclaiming with candor this noble goal of all her vows; jealous of her independence, the invariable principle of her policy will be the most absolute respect for the independence of other nations. If these are, as I am happily confident, the personal sentiments of Your Majesty and the other sovereigns, the long-term general calm is assured, and justice, seated within the borders of various states, will suffice only to keep these borders. I willingly seize this occasion to repeat to Your Majesty my feelings of sincere esteem and perfect friendship..."