Reign of the Hundred Days

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Napoleon leaves Elba

The rule of the Hundred Days ( French Cent-Jours ) refers to the period from the renewed takeover of power in France by Napoleon Bonaparte after his return from his island of exile Elba on March 1st until the final loss of his power as a result of the Battle of Waterloo on March 22nd. June 1815. The term one hundred days has become common, although the period was actually a little longer (110 days lay between the evacuation of Louis XVIII and his reinstatement).

The March on Paris

After Napoleon's arrival on May 4, 1814 on the island of Elba , which had been granted to him by the victorious powers of 1814, he began various reforms. However, these did not fill it out. Through a network of agents, Bonaparte knew that there was dissatisfaction in France with the administration of Louis XVIII. prevailed. He was also aware of the differences of opinion at the Congress of Vienna . It was not least rumors that the Allies were planning to remove him from Europe that prompted Napoleon to act. Murder plans and the risk of being captured by pirates for ransom demands also played a role. Since Louis XVIII. If he refused the promised financial means that would have been necessary to continue to finance the contingent of lancers and grenadiers responsible for his protection, his security situation became increasingly difficult. Furthermore, Emperor Franz refused to have Napoleon's wife, Marie-Louise , and his son come to Elba. All this led Napoleon to the decision to try again to take power in France.

On February 26, 1815, he went on board some ships with a force of about 1,000 men and arrived in Antibes on March 1 . During his march to Paris ( Route Napoléon ), support initially remained low. Shortly before Grenoble , the group with the 5e regiment d'infanterie met royal troops for the first time. Bonaparte won this over for himself, and the city garrison also took his side. The further course of the route to Paris was a triumphal procession.

Since his entry into Lyon he acted again as Emperor of the French and issued corresponding decrees. The king's attempt to capture Bonaparte through his former marshal Michel Ney failed. Instead, he went over to Napoleon. Thereupon Louis XVIII fled. from Paris and Bonaparte took power again. The rapid return to power is also known in France as the “eagle flight” (French: le vol de l'Aigle ).

Domestic politics

François-René de Chateaubriand characterized the renewed "seizure of power" by Napoleon as an "invasion of a country by a man". However, he could mainly rely on his army. Domestically, Napoleon made use of a wide variety of forces dissatisfied with the restored monarchy. In addition to Bonapartists such as Marshal Ney, this also included former republicans such as Lazare-Nicolas-Marguerite Carnot or liberals such as Benjamin Constant , some of whom were still critics of Napoleon during the first phase of Napoleon's rule. In social terms, the regime was initially supported by the urban lower classes and the peasants, while a large part of the bourgeoisie remained aloof. Nevertheless, as in the coup d'état in 1799 , Bonaparte relied on the bourgeoisie and promised the establishment of a liberal constitutional monarchy .

He then tried to make his dictatorship in the past forgotten by drawing up a new liberal constitution, the Acte additionnel aux constitutions de l'Empire de 1815 . Benjamin Constant was in charge. Compared to the Charte constitutionnelle of the escaped king of 1814, the draft was more liberal in some points. The census required for voter participation was lower, and the ministers were also given parliamentary responsibility.

On the march to Paris Napoleon had already announced the abolition of the newly reintroduced feudal nobility and the expulsion of immigrants. In Paris on March 24, 1815, he ordered the abolition of censorship and the introduction of freedom of the press.

However, the government did not succeed in conveying this as reforms because the concept was not proclaimed by Constant as a new constitution, but only as a supplement to the constitution of the Empire. In the plebiscite that was held , 1.5 million voters approved the constitution and only 4,800 voted no, but the bulk of the five million eligible voters stayed away from the vote. The elections for the Chamber of Representatives showed how little support the regime actually was. Of the 629 MPs, less than a hundred were declared supporters of Bonaparte.

Domestic political opposition increased particularly after the war broke out again. So Napoleon's drafts into the army cost him a lot of sympathy. In addition, there were clear Jacobin tendencies among the lower classes in Paris . The prospects of a new war made the bourgeois-liberal opposition stand out. The Chamber of Representatives refused to take the oath on the constitution, and monarchist resistance began again in the Vendée department .

Foreign Policy and War

The Battle of Waterloo, painting by William Sadler

Napoleon assured the states of Europe that he would recognize the peace of Paris , would not cross the borders of 1792 and would in future live in peace with his neighbors. However, the Allies were by no means ready to recognize a new rule by Napoleon. On March 13th, the powers that be at the Congress of Vienna declared him outlawed. On March 25, 1815, the United Kingdom , Austria , Russia and Prussia again signed a coalition agreement.

The allies gathered in the southern Netherlands, today's Belgium, a British-Dutch army under the Duke of Wellington and a second Prussian army under Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher . There were also Austrian and Russian troops, which, however, only took part in the fighting in northern France.

On June 15, 1815, Napoleon then crossed the French border into the southern Netherlands. He tried to separate the allies from one another and to beat them individually by means of quick maneuvers in this campaign. The tried and tested approach initially seemed to be quite successful. In the Battle of Quatre-Bras , Marshal Ney was able to bind the British-Dutch forces, while Napoleon successfully defeated the Prussians at Ligny , but not destroyed them. Then Bonaparte turned to Wellington's troops. After delays due to weather conditions, the battle of Waterloo took place on June 18 . After French troops tried unsuccessfully throughout the day to break through the British line, Prussian troops appeared on the battlefield and the battle was lost for Napoleon.

The end

Bonaparte returned to Paris. There some of the urban lower classes demonstrated for the emperor, but otherwise he had lost all support. The liberal-minded MPs in particular turned against him. Especially under the influence of Police Minister Joseph Fouché , who fueled fear of a Bonaparte dictatorship, the parliament declared itself permanent and described any attempt to dissolve it as high treason. On June 22nd, the chambers ultimately called on Napoleon to resign. War Minister Louis-Nicolas Davout also stated that the army would rebel if a new dictatorship was established.

Against this background, Bonaparte finally resigned on June 22, 1815 in favor of his son, who was to reign as Napoleon II . The chambers took note of the abdication, but left the question of the future head of state to the Allies, knowing full well that it was to restore the rule of Louis XVIII. would come.

Napoleon first went to Malmaison Castle and then traveled to Rochefort on June 29th . The hope of emigrating to the United States was not fulfilled and Napoleon had to place himself in the hands of the British government, which had him brought to the island of St. Helena . France had to pay for the renewed armed conflict with the Second Peace of Paris .

With the end of the reign of the Hundred Days , which is a brief attempt at reviving the First Empire , this also ended.

The headlines of the press

The behavior of the most important Parisian newspaper, Le Moniteur , became famous . In an opportunistic way, he headlined:

  • February 28th: ​​The ogre has come out of hiding.
  • March 7th: The Corsican ogre has just landed on the Gulf of Juan.
  • March 9th: The tiger came to Gap.
  • March 11th: The monster slept in Grenoble.
  • March 16: The tyrant crossed Lyon.
  • March 17th: The usurper is sixty miles from the capital.
  • March 18th: Bonaparte makes great strides, but he will never come to Paris.
  • March 19th: Napoleon will be in front of our city walls tomorrow.
  • March 20: The emperor arrived at Fontainebleau.
  • March 21: His Imperial Majesty arrived yesterday at the Château des Tuileries in the midst of his loyal subjects.


In their concept album Hundred Days , the band Crystallion focuses on the rule of the hundred days.


Chapters in Napoleon's biographies


  1. ^ Adam Zamoyski: Napoleon: One life . CH Beck, 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72497-8 , pp. 746 .
  2. ^ A b c Adam Zamoyski: Napoleon: One life . CH Beck, 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72497-8 , pp. 721 .
  3. Brief information eagle flight and rule of the hundred days (on
  4. cit. after: Volker Ullrich : Napoleon. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-499-50646-7 , p. 129.