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Battle Of Waterloo: The Wounded Eagle

2289 words - 9 pages

The rise and fall of Napoleon can almost be compared to the rise and fall of Rome. There are many parallels between the two: they both overthrew a king to become a republic and then an empire, they both reformed their armies and became successful militarily, and they both would be replaced by a king. The only difference is that Rome did not have a final battle that would forever be linked with its name. Even though Napoleon would go into the Battle of Waterloo with many advantages, in the end he would fail to achieve success in his pursuit to protect his throne.
In the spring of 1814 Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to abdicate his throne as emperor of the French. This caused much relief to the people of France as they had grown weary of being at war since the Revolutionary Wars began in 1792. Louis XVIII reclaimed his throne in the summer of 1814, and could have upheld the republican ideals that overthrew the Bourbons in the French Revolution. Instead Louis XVIII wanted to reform the current France back to before the revolution, and as Andrew W. Field asserts, the overall effect was that in "a short time the new king managed to alienate a large proportion of the population." Louis XVIII believed that the throne was his by divine right, and as such, saw the whole of France as traitors that supported an usurper like Napoleon over the Bourbons. The low opinion of Louis XVIII would reach Napoleon on Elba and set the stage for his triumphant return to France in March of 1815.
Since Louis XVIII was more interested in asserting his power than improving the country, it is no surprise that Napoleon was welcomed back with enthusiasm. The soldiers especially would cheer his return, even disobeying orders so that they could rejoin their emperor. One particular case emulates the prevalent thought among most soldiers when a young officer told Marshal Oudinot (Marshal being the highest military rank), "Monsieur le maréchal [Marshal], I am bound to tell you, and no one here will contradict me: when you cry, 'Long live the King!' our men and we shall answer, 'Long live the Emperor!'." Because there was such a massive appeal to rejoin Napoleon, he had escaped Elba with a small personal guard that soon numbered in the thousands as he made his way to Paris. So many soldiers had defected from Royal Armies sent to arrest him that Napoleon sent a letter to Louis XVIII saying: "Dear Brother, don't send me any more troops. I have enough!" Yet even with what seemed like complete support from the army, there were still some high ranking officers that were honor bound to remain loyal to the Bourbons, especially Marshals like MacDonald, while some Marshals like Masséna would wait and see what would happen. But for the soldiers that were undecided, Colonel Griois of the Guard House Artillery would rationalize why they would end up joining Napoleon:
The king and his family despaired of their cause and abandoned France to go to beg for foreign support. From then on, I...

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