History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

11 March 2013

After Waterloo...

The battle of Waterloo may have ended the major fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, but it was far from bringing an end to the simmering tensions of the past quarter century. When Napoleon escaped from the field at Waterloo, Louis XVIII was still in exile in Ghent. Much of the negotiating for France in the immediate aftermath of the battle was done by two men whose careers had been closely intertwined with that of Napoleon Bonaparte and with the Revolution - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Joseph Fouché.

Prince Talleyrand, Napoleon's former foreign minister (though he had left office well before Napoleon's exile)  had survived in the first Bourbon restoration to represent France at the Congress of Vienna and had not rejoined Napoleon when Bonaparte escaped from Elba. Fouché, Napoleon's minister of police for much of his rule, had worked with the Allies against Napoleon in 1814 but then rejoined Napoleon after his escape from Elba and served as his minister of police during the Hundred Days. After Napoleon's resignation was demanded by the Chamber of Deputies, Fouché became head of the provisional government and negotiated with the victorious Allies (whom Talleyrand had joined). Louis XVIII was a weak king and the Allies saw the need to keep both Talleyrand and Fouché to fill the power vacuum, at least temporarily. Talleyrand became Prime Minister and asked Fouché to stay on as Minister of Police. 

Emboldened by Napoleon's second defeat, the Ultra Royalists, led by Louis XVIII's brother the Comte d'Artois, wanted vengeance on those who had gone over to Napoleon during the Hundred Days (and really for everything since the Revolution). Though the Ultra Royalists despised Fouché as a regicide who had voted for the execution of Louis XVI, it was Fouché who recieved denunciations against former Bonapartists. Fouché, expert at using terror to maintain control (and preserve his own position) played a key role in carrying out the White Terror against Bonapartists (and suspected Bonapartists) who were proscribed from the amnesty, though the Ultra Royalists went too far even for him. Talleyrand advocated a more temperate approach and made the best of a weak hand as he negotiated with the Allies. Ultra Royalist gangs attacked Bonapartists in the south. Allied soldiers - British, Prussian, Dutch-Belgian, Bavarian - thronged the boulevards and quais of Paris and were encamped in the Bois de Boulogne, leading to frequent tension with the French populace. Royalist émigrés, many of whom had fled France two decades ago, returned seeking to have their estates restored.

Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch, the protagonists of my series, step into this glittering, simmering cauldron in my forthcoming The Paris Affair. The mystery they investigate twists through the glamorous veneer of Restoration Paris and the smoldering tensions beneath. Both Talleyrand and Fouché are major characters. The book also gave me the chance to revisit old friends such as Talleyrand's niece Dorothée and her sister Wilhelmine, the Duchess of Sagan. I loved writing about Waterloo in Imperial Scandal, but I found its aftermath every bit as intriguing to research and write about.

Can you think of other examples where the tensions after a major historical event are as interesting as the event itself? Of books that take place in such settings?

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Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Paris after the First World War - when the Treaty of Versailles was negotiated. But I've never ever read a novel set during those negotiations.

I encountered a biograph of Wilson which focused on Mrs. Wilson (fascinating stuff!). But nothing that paid much attention to peace negotiations which included everything from dictating how much land the Kaiser could exercise in to drawing the map of today's Middle East. (sigh)

7:18 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Oh, the Versailles conference would make for a great novel, Diane. If a sad one. But then there's also plenty to lament in the White Terror (despite which I certainly wouldn't call The Paris Affair sad)...

2:38 PM  

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