chapter  3
17 Pages

The road to power

From his upbringing and personal experience, Louis Napoleon had come to see himself as the heir of the first Napoleon, the man destined to restore the Bonapartes to their rightful place as rulers of France. That his private fantasies came to be realised owed little to his own impact on the French political scene before 1848 and a great deal to the inability of either the Bourbon Restoration or the July Monarchy to establish consti­ tutional monarchy as a form of government capable of gener­ ating consensus politics. He was also powerfully assisted by the survival of a genuine popular Bonapartism quite distinct from the cult of Napoleon which developed rapidly among many sections of French opinion after Napoleon’s defeat and exile. A quite separate attachment to the cause of the Empire itself among peasants and workers never entirely disappeared, and Louis Napoleon would owe much of his success in 1848 to his ability to present himself as a ‘Napoleon of the people’ .1