THE PRETENDER (1831-1840)
HOR. He waxes desperate with imagination. MAR. Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him. HOR. Have after. To what issue will this come? MAR. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. HOR. Heaven will direct it. MAR. Nay, let's follow him. Hamlet, I, iv
THE five years between Louis' return from London to Arenenberg in August 1831 and his Strasbourg adventure of October 1836 were no doubt 'the least eventful period of his life'; but they were the most important for the growth of his life's purpose -- his dedication to the cause of Bonapartism. Why was this, and what is the evidence for it?
First, the matter of physical and legal succession in the Bonaparte family. For twenty years Louis had been barred from the Napoleonic heritage by his cousin the Duc de Reichstadt and by his elder brother Napoléon-Louis. But now, almost suddenly, both obstacles disappeared. Napoléon-Louis died at Forli in March 1831, the Due de Reichstadt at Vienna on July 22nd, 1832. Up to the end of 1831 Louis was waiting, as he told his father, to see what the head of the family would do; he rejected an invitation to lead a rebellion in Poland, and he gave publicity to a supposed refusal to offer himself for the Belgian throne in 1831. But from 1832 onwards he is set on a course which more and more clearly aims at another 'return from Elba', the overthrow of Louis-Philippe, and the restoration of a Napoleonic Empire.1
The evidence for this lies in Louis own published works: for he made no secret of his ambitions, knowing well that France was deeply discontented with the Orleanist rule, and that Paris at least would always welcome an escape from the double apprehension of a Bourbon restoration or a Red Republic to the security of a Bonapartist regime. In May 1832 Louis published, under the title of Rêveries politiques,2 a pamphlet in which he discussed the best means of regenerating his country. Different suggestions had been made: 'My own belief (he wrote) is that it can only be done by combining those two popular causes, Napoleon II and the Republic. The great