The Second Empire

  • Vue général du jardin des Tuileries (Ier arrondissement).

    © Michel Angot

    Vue général du jardin des Tuileries (Ier arrondissement).

    © Michel Angot

The Second Empire Paris fr



A short-lived period for the Second Empire under the reign of Napoleon III. Influenced by Napoleon I, whose great-nephew he was, this military man who grew up in Switzerland, was married to Eugenie de Montijo, who was to have a great influence on the Emperor and his court.The Tuileries palace in Paris then saw all the splendours of forgotten feasts. The gardens came back to life. The court of the Second Empire included writers and artists invited to magnificent balls. The Empress presided over charity sales and was a patron of the arts and literature. The Emperor, the former Prince President of the Second Republic, supported universal suffrage, the labouring classes and the church. A major programme of improvement was carried out in the city of Paris and the Bois de Boulogne and Vincennes forests, with the civil engineer Haussmann and the cutting of the Suex isthmus by Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Nonetheless, Victor Hugo, his sworn enemy, nicknamed him "Napoléon le Petit" [Little Napoleon]. Napoleon III encouraged French economic growth, while fighting the Crimean and Italian wars. The war against the Prussians, the capitulation of Sedan and the internment of Napoleon III in 1870, were to put an end to this difficult regime, which nonetheless saw the complete rebuilding of the Louvre palace Henri IV's earlier plans. The burning of the Tuileries palace and the Paris City Hall during the Commune insurrection in 1871 were to leave symbolic ruins whose removal was to take ten years.

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