End of the Napoleonic Wars: Europe after Napoleon

The end of the Napoleonic Wars had of course the victor’s diplomatic reactions and the accountabilities of the vanquished. Napoleon, having surrendered literally unconditionally, was jailed on St. Helena Island where there was no hope of another escape and a revival of his dictatorship. A group or Alliance of the major powers would meet to implement agreements and commitments to prevent France from ever sending military forces into central Europe again.


End of the Napoleonic Wars: Europe after Napoleon

End of the Napoleonic Wars: Europe after Napoleon

Also Read: The Napoleonic Wars(1803-1815): Peninsula Wars and the Fifth Coalition

Territories taken by most of the powers including France had to be restored to the monarchies they had been taken from by force during the Wars of the Coalitions. Certain difficulties occurred in the process of restitution as it was in certain censes not conducted equitably. The peace that prevailed after France’s defeat would see changes made and some restoration of permanent peace in central Europe. But the 19th Century had already opened with wars on the continent, it would end as one of the bloodiest centuries in modern history during that time.


The Quadruple Alliance

During the Congress of Vienna between September 1814 to June 1815, matters of the way forward for the Great Powers and smaller states  in Europe was discussed, but France’s aggressive policies under Napoleon was a priority. The fate of territories and possessions whether in Europe and elsewhere in the world would be a case of many states interest.

After the victors of the Seventh and final war of the Coalitions, Prussia, Great Britain and Russia as the great powers, gathered to conclude the political, territorial and religious vacuums that existed for decades, the domination of France in a changing Europe. Smaller states also sent delegates to represent their territories, particularly as several had been occupied by France directly.

Matters surrounding the conditions that had been left behind nearing the end of the Battle of Waterloo, the position and relevance of monarchies, the end of the Holy Roman Empire, the Church in Europe and the Revolution in France, Nationalism and liberalism. The Vienna Conference had already begun in 1814 at the time Napoleon escaped from Elba at the start of the Battle of Waterloo.

The conference’s role was to map out Europe’s future, which many nations and smaller states agreed to meet on together, creating associations from the gatherings of the European nations to maintain, firstly the restoration of monarchies in Europe, the prevention of destructive aggression war by France under Napoleon, the ease with which war was declared without diplomatic dialogue, religion and the future borders of states and countries.

The conditions that had been set before Napoleon escaped from Elba, had already been redressed after his first defeat and capture. Continued French domination of Europe by late 1814, so the Congress of Vienna was a continuous process on several matters that were outstanding in central Europe for months and later years to ensure peace was maintained.

Delegates from the major powers willingly attended, Tsar Alexander I attended for Russia, Klemens von Metternich represented Austria and quite probably the German states as well, Robert Stewart and Viscount Castlereagh for Britain, Charles Talleyrand represented by France, although due to Talleyrand’s machinations, France became a full-fledged participant in the proceedings, although the French were initially observers.

A primary concern to the major powers was a return to the Traditional Balances of Power and of course each nations own interests. The restoration of the Bourbon monarchy to France, primarily to prevent the rise again of the conservative Jacobins and Napoleon. Louis XVIII was accepted and crowned as a constitutional monarch.

Von Metternich wanted to suppress nationalism and liberalism, making comparisons to the Revolutions of America and France. He advocated that the monarchs and aristocrats would be back at one level and the obedient commoners at another. Tsar Alexander I, being a religious man wanted to create religiously based government through a ‘Holy Alliance’, but with the monarch still at the centre of dominance.

Castlereagh disagreed with the religious Christian control concept as a ‘sublime mystical nonsense’. Prussia and Russia agreed but Britain abstained from the idea, and Prussia wanted Saxony as part of its restoration reparations which was accepted.

It is interesting to note that Tsar Alexander ignored the idea of a constitution for the people of Russia. Alexander also expected all of Poland to fall under his rule, but the Russians stepped aside and made the request smaller when other major powers objected, wishing to prevent another war, Russia accepted a few Polish province.

Castlereagh was not interested in British territorial possessions on the continent, he was more concerned about French interference in Britain’s commercial interests around the world. The major nations also wanted to meet regularly in the Congress to discuss common matters and interests, similar to the much later ‘League of Nations’, formed after World War I. The congress was to last many years, it can be said that the 40 years of peace in Europe experienced after the defeat of Napoleon was part of the effect the congress would have.

France was leniently treated as far as compensation was concerned, with the Congress acknowledging France’s 1792 boundaries. There was a general consensus, that states should be compensated with territories, as part of reparations after their struggles with France. Britain would retain territories gained during the wars. After Napoleons defeat, France was forced to pay out 40 million Francs in reparations to the German states, during the peace negotiations with the Allied coalitions.

Holland and Belgium were unified under a single Dutch monarchy, militarily capable of meeting any military aggression from France. The Austrian Empire was a complicated mixture of several nationalities, to better understand Metternich’s position, although the majority of the population were German speaking, this only constituted 1 fourth of the total population.

There were several nationalities residing in Austria, although this made Austria look strong in terms of territory and population, the opposite could be considered the case, as many nationalities such as the Magyars of Hungary, Moravians, Czechs, Poles, Croatians and Italians, could have become at odds with the Austrian empire should there be grievances with Vienna.

France’s abandonment of the Papal states, made Pope Pius II repeal all French legislation in Italy. There was a general hatred of the French amongst the Italian population with their chant , Morte Alla Fracia, Italia Anela’-‘death to France is Italy’s cry’. In the German states, all French legislations were repealed too, imposing a strict censorship.

The Church, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, had suffered during the Revolution, church conservative academics insisted that the Church be a moral entity alongside the authority of the state. A marked revival of Christianity occurred across Europe, freed of the fears of the French Revolution.

In Prussia the Junkers owned 40 percent of the land and occupied all the important political positions and dominated the officer’s corps in the Prussian military. Prussia became an autocratic state but one that motivated the people on patriotic levels.


France after the Napoleonic Wars

France and its people had to accept a further change on the political landscape in Paris. France was in a healthier position after Napoleons military losses and abdication. French territories had been regained from before the Revolution as well, an indication of the leniency imposed by the Congress of Vienna. The French military completely reverted to the defensive in Europe, a foreign policy adopted by the new government, which was greatly appreciated by the central European states.

The French Provisional Government, also known as the French Executive Commission of 1815, replaced Napoleons One Hundred day government set up after his return to Paris from Elba. The Commission was formed on 22nd June of 1815 after Napoleons second and final abdication, Napoleon II was nominally referred to as the authoritative administrator of the monarch. Technically this was impossible as Napoleon II was only four years old and was living with his mother in Austria, Duchess Marie Louise of Parma, who was herself Austrian.

After the Second restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy on the 9th July 1815, the Provisional government was replaced by the Ministry of Prince Charles-Maurice de-Talleyrand-Perigord.  Talleyrand was called by Louis XVIII to form a government of which he became President.

There was one small contention that existed which had been overlooked at the Vienna Congress – France’s possessions in Alsace and Lorraine, between the French border and the German states. France’s control of both territories had not been resolved and remained from the time of their succession to France during the Confederation of the Rhine in the 18th Century, a bone of contention by the German states. Alsace and Lorraine would remain a point of bitter contention later in the 19th Century particularly during the time of the wars of German unification and the later Franco Prussian War.



The end of the Napoleonic period in France and Central Europe would see France coming out of their military defeat virtually intact and leniently treated by the Major Powers in Europe. There was no such thing as Crimes Against Humanity charges for the senior personalities of the French Revolution including Napoleon I himself in those times. French society would rather rid itself of hard line Revolutionary personalities such as Joseph Fouche who constantly changed sides throughout his involvement of a defeated France.

The monarchy would ensure that France had changed and a peaceful nation would emerge, as a show of faith to the other European monarchies that demanded the restoration of the house of Bourbon. Europe would reform and readjust as it would need too with the restoration of the monarchies in Europe and the rebuilding of religious structures in many parts of central Europe.

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