Europe 1848: Rise of Napoleon III
In France, the new republic held the first French presidential election. The winner was Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I and an advocate of popular dictatorship who hoped to restore what many French saw as the glory days of the Napoleonic Empire. He immediately set about undermining the Second Republic and allying France with the reactionary powers.
24 Nov 1848 Pius IX’s flight from Rome▲
When revolution broke out in the Italian states in early 1848, Pope Pius IX, claiming to be above national interests, refused to join the Italian War of Independence and instead called on Austria to voluntarily cede its Italian provinces. This weak line of action undermined his popularity among the Italian population, who had previously seen him as a champion of liberal reforms and nationalism. On 15 November his chief minister, Pellegrino Rossi, was assassinated and in the following days the Swiss Guards were disarmed. Now effectively a prisoner in his Quirinal and facing increasing public disorder, Pope Pius IX fled Rome in the disguise of a parish priest, arriving in Gaeta, Kingdom of Naples, early the next day.
2 Dec 1848 Abdication of Ferdinand I▲
Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria was a severe epileptic who suffered from up to twenty seizures a day, forcing him to rely on a Regent’s Council to govern effectively and contributing to a reputation of feeble-mindedness. When, in March 1848, revolutionaries marched on the palace, he was even said to have asked Metternich “But are they allowed to do that?" Whatever the truth of the allegation, in December his advisors convinced him to abdicate in favor of his eighteen-year-old nephew Franz Joseph I (who would reign until 1916).
10–20 Dec 1848 Louis-Napoléon’s election▲
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte—nephew and heir to French Emperor Napoleon I and later to become Napoleon III—was elected as the first President of the French Second Republic, winning 5,572,834 votes or 74.2 percent of the votes cast and defeating the National Assembly’s favorite, Louis-Eugène Cavaignac. Bonaparte’s surprise victory was due to the support of the Monarchists, the industrial working class, and the rural masses.