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Napoleon III: Early Life

The nephew of Napoleon I, Louis Napoleon spent his youth with his mother, Hortense de Beauharnais , in Switzerland and Germany and became a captain in the Swiss army. Animated by a mixture of liberalism and Bonapartism, he indulged (1830–31) in revolutionary activities in Italy. In 1836 he attempted a ludicrous military coup at Strasbourg and was exiled to the United States by the government of Louis Philippe . He managed to return to Switzerland, but French protests at his proximity finally caused him to depart (1838) for England.

In 1840 he again attempted an insurrection, this time at Boulogne-sur-Mer. He was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. Detained in the fortress of Ham, Somme department, he wrote letters, pamphlets, and books, among them a mildly socialistic work on the extinction of pauperism. He made an easy escape in 1846, walking out disguised as a laborer, and went to England.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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