Bronze medal depicting Napoleon III, 1852-1870.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Louis Napoleon (1808-1873), third son of Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon I, became Emperor of France in 1852, after having made two unsuccesful attempts to seize the throne in 1836 and 1840. After the 1848 revolution he was elected to the Asembly, and then the presidency. This enabled him to bring about the disolution of the constitution and to asume the title of emperor. Napoleon III was a fervent advocate of modernisation and economic expansion of France, but a series of unwise interventions in foreign policy culminated in his declaring war on Prusia in 1870, encouraged largely by his wife, the Empres Eugenie. After a disastrous military defeat at Sedan, the Second Empire collapsed and Napoleon went into exile in England.