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The 1848 Revolution in France, sometimes known as the February Revolution was one of a wave of revolutions in 1848 in Europe. In France the revolutionary events ended the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and led to the creation of the French Second Republic.

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Louis Philippe I (October 6, 1773 – August 26, 1850) was King of the French from 1830 to 1848. As Duke of Chartres he distinguished himself commanding troops during the Revolutionary Wars but broke with the Republic over its decision to execute King Louis XVI.

His father was Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans and his mother was Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon. As a member of the reigning House of Bourbon, he was a Prince of the Blood, which entitled him the use of the style “Serene Highness”. His mother was an extremely wealthy heiress who was descended from Louis XIV of France through a legitimized line. His father, known as Philippe Égalité during the French Revolution supported the execution of Louis XVI, fell under suspicion and was executed, and Louis Philippe fled France and remained in exile for 21 years until the Bourbon Restoration.

Marriage

In 1796, Louis Philippe supposedly fathered a child with Beata Caisa Wahlborn (1766-1830) named Erik Kolstrøm (1796-1879). In 1808, Louis Philippe proposed to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King George III of the United Kingdom. His Catholicism and the opposition of her mother Queen Charlotte meant the Princess reluctantly declined the offer. Louis Philippe struck up a lasting friendship with Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, (father of Queen Victoria) and moved to England, where he remained in exile from 1800 to 1815.

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Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom

In 1809, Louis Philippe married Princess Maria Amalia of the Two-Sicilies, the tenth of eighteen children of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and Maria Carolina of Austria, herself thirteenth child of Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Franz I. The ceremony was celebrated in Palermo 25 November 1809. The marriage was considered controversial, because she was the niece of Marie Antoinette of Austria (wife of King Louis XVI of France), while he was the son of Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans who was considered to have played a part in the execution of her aunt.

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Princess Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily

Louis Philippe usurped the throne from his distance cousin Henri de Bourbon, comte de Chambord and was proclaimed king in 1830 after his cousin Charles X was forced to abdicate by the July Revolution. Louis Philippe’s liberal policies and his popularity with the masses was the main reason the Chamber of Deputies chose him as king. Upon his accession to the throne, Louis Philippe assumed the title of King of the French – a title already adopted by Louis XVI in the short-lived Constitution of 1791. Linking the monarchy to a people instead of a territory (as the previous designation King of France and of Navarre) was aimed at undercutting the legitimist claims of Charles X and his family.

The reign of Louis Philippe is known as the July Monarchy and was dominated by wealthy industrialists and bankers. Though initially liberal in his policies Louis Philippe followed conservative policies, especially under the influence of French statesman François Guizot during the period 1840–48. He also promoted friendship with Britain and sponsored colonial expansion, notably the French conquest of Algeria. His popularity faded as economic conditions in France deteriorated in 1847.

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The Duke of Orleans in uniform as a Colonel-General of the Hussars in 1817

Nicknamed the “Bourgeois Monarch”, Louis Philippe sat at the head of a state controlled mainly by educated elites. Supported by the Orléanists, he was opposed on his right by the Legitimists (former ultra-royalists) and on his left by the Republicans and Socialists. Louis Philippe was an expert businessman and, by means of his businesses, he had become one of the richest men in France. Still Louis Philippe saw himself as the successful embodiment of a “small businessman” (petite bourgeoisie).

The year 1846 saw a financial crisis and bad harvests, and the following year saw an economic depression. A poor railway system hindered aid efforts, and the peasant rebellions that resulted were forcefully crushed. According to French economist Frédéric Bastiat, the poor condition of the railway system can largely be attributed to French efforts to promote other systems of transport, such as carriages.

Because political gatherings and demonstrations were outlawed in France, activists of the largely middle class opposition to the government began to hold a series of fund-raising banquets. This campaign of banquets (Campagne des banquets), was intended to circumvent the governmental restriction on political meetings and provide a legal outlet for popular criticism of the regime. The campaign began in July 1847. Friedrich Engels was in Paris dating from October 1847 and was able to observe and attend some of these banquets.

The banquet campaign lasted until all political banquets were outlawed by the French government in February 1848. As a result, the people revolted, helping to unite the efforts of the popular Republicans and the liberal Orléanists, who turned their back on Louis-Philippe.

Anger over the outlawing of the political banquets brought crowds of Parisians flooding out onto the streets at noon on 22 February 1848. They directed their anger against the Citizen King Louis Philippe and his chief minister for foreign and domestic policy, François Pierre Guillaume Guizot.

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Alphonse de Lamartine in front of the Town Hall of Paris rejects the red flag on 25 February 1848, during the February 1848 Revolution

At 2 pm the next day, February 23, Prime Minister Guizot resigned. Upon hearing the news of Guizot’s resignation, a large crowd gathered outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An officer ordered the crowd not to pass, but people in the front of the crowd were being pushed by the rear. The officer ordered his men to fix bayonets, probably wishing to avoid shooting, but in what is widely regarded as an accident, a soldier discharged his musket and the rest of the soldiers then fired into the crowd. Fifty-two people were killed.

Fires were set, and angry citizens began converging on the royal palace. Louis-Philippe, fearing for his life, abdicated in favor of his nine-year-old grandson Philippe, Comte de Paris and fled to England in disguise. A strong undercurrent of republican sentiment prevented Philippe, Comte de Paris from taking his place as king.

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Louis-Philippe (1773-1850), The Citizen King by Eugène Lami

Louis Philippe and his family remained in exile in Great Britain in Claremont, Surrey, though a plaque on Angel Hill, Bury St. Edmunds claims that he spent some time there, possibly due to a friendship with the Marquess of Bristol, who lived nearby at Ickworth House. The royal couple spent some time by the sea at St. Leonards and later at the Marquess’s home in Brighton. Louis Philippe died at Claremont on August 26, 1850.