Louis XVIII is best known as the first ruler of the restored monarchy following the French Revolution.
Louis XVIII was born at the Palace of Versailles in France on November 17, 1755. The fourth son of Louis, Dauphin of France (son of King Louis XV), Louis declared himself monarch after much of his family was killed during the French Revolution. His reign marked the first experiment with constitutional monarchy in France. He remained on the throne until his death in Paris on September 16, 1824.
Louis Stanislaus Xavier de France was born in Versailles, France, on November 17, 1755. He was the fourth son born to the dauphin Louis, son of King Louis XV, and Maria Josepha of Saxony. At the time of his birth, Louis received the title of Count of Provence. He became the heir to the throne in 1774, following the accession of one of his three older brothers and the deaths of the remaining two. His proximity to the throne increased significantly, however, with the birth of two sons to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Louis remained in Paris at the outset of the 1789 Revolution, but fled France three years later. He spent the remainder of the war actively participating from a safe distance, issuing manifestos and seeking the support of other monarchs. His actions did little to protect the captive king and queen, who were executed in 1793. After their deaths, Louis declared himself regent for his nephew, the dauphin Louis XVII. He proclaimed himself Louis XVIII following the dauphin's death in 1795.
Unable to formally claim the throne, Louis traveled throughout Europe for the next 20 years. He met with other monarchs frequently, in an effort to maintain his legitimacy as the heir to the French throne and to promote resistance to Napoleon. When Napoleon offered him a pension in return for his abdication, Louis refused.
Restoration and Later Life
After Napoleon's military defeats in 1813, Louis issued a statement promising to retain some of the Revolutionary reforms in the context of a restored Bourbon regime. On May 3, 1814, crowds welcomed Louis back to Paris. The new king quickly moved to institutionalize the constitutional monarchy he had promised. The new constitution, known as the Charte Constitutionnelle, guaranteed a bicameral parliament as well as religious tolerance. The constitutional experiments were cut short by the arrival of Napoleon from exile in Elba. Louis was forced to wait out the Hundred Days of Napoleon's return in the Belgian city of Ghent. In order to reign peacefully, Louis XVIII had to balance the power of the monarchy with the demands of the post-Revolutionary public. While Louis exerted executive authority, his power was checked by the parliament, which voted on laws and approved budgets. One of his greatest challenges was maintaining control of the "ultras," a royalist faction within the parliament that sought to repeal all of the Revolutionary reforms. The actions of the ultras led Louis to dissolve parliament at one point, rather than allow the constitutional legitimacy of the legislature to be undermined. Louis remained on the throne until his death in Paris on September 16, 1824. His brother, the Count of Artois, succeeded him as Charles X.