Musée d'Orsay: From the Three Glorious Days to the Third Republic

From the Three Glorious Days to the Third Republic


Jean Baptiste IsabeyPortrait of Louis XVIII© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / DR
The First Empire was succeeded by the Restoration, which saw the return of the monarchy and the Bourbons. The kings accepted to limit their power and to guarantee certain freedoms through the Charte (the French Constitution). The two younger brothers of Louis XVI came to power. Louis XVIII reigned from 1814 to 1824. His reign was interrupted by the Hundred Days, a period from the 20th March to the 22nd June 1815 when Napoleon I returned to power before his defeat at Waterloo, which finally brought his reign to an end. Charles X then became king of France from 1824 to 1830. The Restoration ended with the July Revolution of 1830, resulting in Charles X's abdication.

The 1830 July Revolution and the July Monarchy

Eugène DelacroixLiberty leading the People, July 28 1830© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski
After a long ministerial, then parliamentary crisis, Charles X executed a constitutional takeover on 25th July 1830, turning the people of Paris against him. On 27th, 28th and 29th July 1830, known as the "Three Glorious Days", the rioters erected barricades in the streets and confronted the army in bloody combat, resulting in more than one thousand dead.
Charles X and the royal family fled from Paris. The Liberal deputies brought the popular revolt under control, and instated a constitutional monarchy. One king came after another. The Bourbon dynasty was replaced by the Orleans dynasty with Louis-Philippe I. However, it was no longer an absolute monarchy, and the white flag once again yielded to the Tricolore topped by the Gallic cockerel. The King of France was henceforth King of the French.

The 1848 Revolution

Ernest MeissonierThe barricade, rue de la Mortellerie, June 1848© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR
After the revolutions of 1789 and 1830, the Third Revolution took place in Paris on 23, 24 and 25 February 1848. While the July Monarchy was in crisis, and amid the rumblings of discontent, a deadly volley of shots revived the insurrection: Paris rose to the call of the Liberals and the Republicans. The rioters took control of the capital.
Louis-Philippe refused to quell this uprising, resulting in more bloodshed (350 dead and 500 wounded). Forced to abdicate, the king had hoped to hand over power to his grandson, but this was rejected by the revolutionaries. On 25 February 1848, the Second Republic was proclaimed.

The Second Republic

Honoré Daumier 
 La République [The Republic]
 Oil on canvas
 H. 73; W. 60 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay, donation by Etienne Moreau-Nélaton, 1906
Honoré DaumierThe Republic© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
During the first few months of its existence the Second Republic was run by a provisional government. This initial period saw the abolition of slavery in the French colonies and universal male suffrage. But a serious economic crisis led to misery for the workers, who revolted in June 1848. This insurrection was violently suppressed by Cavaignac's government troops.

After the proclamation of a new constitution on 4th November, the new President of the Republic was elected on 10th December 1848. Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, was voted into power. After two attempted coup d'états against the July Monarchy, he was forced into exile in Brazil, then in the United States, and finally in England. When he returned to France, he was elected thanks to memories of the First Empire, divisions on the Left, and the support of the conservative Parti de l'Ordre.

Napoleon III and the Second Empire

André-Alphonse-Eugène Disdéri Portrait of Napoleon III standing© Musée d'Orsay
Following a coup d'état on 2nd December 1851, the Prince-President, Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, seized all power. One year later, on 2nd December 1852, he reinstated the Empire and reigned under the title of Napoleon III.

Using both authoritarianism and social policies, he aimed to modernise the country and its capital. Influenced by his stay in London, where he became conscious of the issues of urban planning, he instigated a radical transformation of Paris. On 2nd September 1870, he was taken prisoner at Sedan by Prussia and the other German states on which he had declared war on 15th July 1870. He lost his throne, and the Third Republic was proclaimed on 4th September.

The Paris Commune

E. QuetierPulling down the Vendôme Column© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Michèle Bellot
After the signing of the armistice which brought the Franco-Prussian war to an end (28th-29th January 1871) and foresaw the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the German states, Paris refused to surrender. The 18th March was the start of the worker's insurrection known as the Paris Commune. This episode finished tragically with the "Bloody Week" (30,000 dead and many deported to New Caledonia).

The Commune has taken on a mythical status for revolutionaries throughout the world who still sing the International, written by Eugene Pottier in June 1871, set to music by Pierre Degeyter in 1888, and becoming widely known between 1880 and1890.

The Third Republic (1875-1940)

Claude MonetThe Rue Montorgueil in Paris. Celebration of 30 June 1878© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
The Third Republic was the longest-lasting political regime in France since 1789.
It was proclaimed on 4th September 1870, after the defeat at Sedan and the fall of the Second Empire. However, it is considered to have truly started in 1875, after a struggle between Monarchists, Bonapartists and Republicans, when the Wallon amendment, which mentioned the word "Republic", was adopted with a large majority: "The President of the Republic is elected by an absolute majority of votes by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies united as a National Assembly. He is elected for seven years, and may be re-elected".

In spite of some major political crises (the Panama scandal, the Boulangiste crisis, and the Dreyfus affair) the Third Republic lasted 65 years, brought in free, compulsory public education for all and voted in the law on the separation of the Church and State.

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