Title of Original Work

A francois-charles-joseph Napoléon

Author(s) of Translation

Christopher Meinhardt
Genevieve Pocius

Document Type

Translation

Date of Translation Publication

1-1-2009

Original Work Publication Date

August 1821

Translator's Note

Napoleon II, titled “His Majesty the King of Rome,” was the son of Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife Marie Louise of Austria. He was born in Paris on March 20th, 1811 and named the heir-apparent to the French empire by his father. After Bonaparte’s initial exile to Elba in 1814, Napoleon II was not named the successor to the throne at the insistence of Emperor Alexander I of Russia. The toddler and his mother sought refuge in Vienna, where he was to spend most of his short life. Napoleon I returned from exile on March 20th, 1815 for his “Hundred Days” reign, culminating in his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. He was subsequently exiled to the remote island Saint Helena. He officially abdicated in favor of his son, who still resided in Austria, but a Commission of Government never called on Napoleon II to take the throne, opting instead to restore King Louis XVIII to power. Napoleon II, who by 1815 was known as “Franz,” was named the Duke of Reichstadt in 1818. Living in Austria for the majority of his life, taking an Austrian name, and holding a position of power in Austrian nobility, Bonaparte’s son was essentially more Austrian than French. Some historians argue that there was a conscious effort made on the part of his caretakers to sever Napoleon II from his French roots, although letters from Napoleon II to his mother, as well as from his advisors, do not necessarily confirm this idea. The Duke of Reichstadt died in Vienna on July 22nd, 1832 from an illness that was most likely tuberculosis. French politician and writer Ferdinand Flocon wrote an open letter to Napoleon II in August 1821, three months after the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. This letter, although specifically addressed to Napoleon II, was a way to describe the effects Napoleon’s death had on his son as well as the French people. Having the letter addressed to the ten-year-old Napoleon allowed Flocon to humanize Napoleon the emperor, but the letter also reinforced the myth surrounding Napoleon and his glory: he would not just be another political figure who came and went unremembered. His legacy would live on in the hearts of the French people for all time.

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