Caesar Napoleon II

Caesar Napoleon II in His Study (by Thomas Sylvestre Lestrange, 1835)

The Coronation of Napoleon IIEdit

On February 18th, 1835, Napoleon II (Napoleon I of Spain), at age 24, became the youngest most powerful man since Alexander the Great. Despite the assassination plot, he was determined to press onward with the huge planned festivities. While the fears of everyone involved would call for a shorter, quicker event, the coronation would be very public. Napoleon II, dashingly handsome in his blue uniform, made the carriage ride from the Palace to Notre Dame Cathedral amidst a a sea of admirers. Upon getting out in front of the same church his father was crowned at decades before, many held their breath, as if at any time a crazed anarchist might leap out and knife him through the heart. Fortunately, he made it inside without problem. As he received blessings from Pope Gregory XVI at the altar upon which sat his multiple crowns, a man named Tristan Langlais was taking a position in across the street. A private in the army, the assassin hardly looked like an anarchist, and everyone was fully aware he was "standing guard" there, along with several dozen other (perfectly loyal) soldiers.

Pope Gregory XVI

Pope Gregory XVI

Bear in mind that at this point Napoleon II was merely a womanizer, and as of then had yet to acquire a bride and heir. If Napoleon II died, it would be a catastrophic event, likely with a massive European civil war.

During the next fifty minutes, Napoleon II was crowned with the old crowns of France, Andorra, Italy, as well as the new one of the United Empire of Brazil and Argentina. He was then proclaimed to legally and rightfully be: "His Imperial and Royal Majesty Napoleon II, By the Grace of God and the Constitutions of the Republic, Caesar of the French and Spanish, Emperor of Brazil and Argentina, King of Italy, King of Andorra, Lord of Mann, Mediator of the Helvetic Confederation, Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, Protector of the Free City of Lisbon, and Duke of Reichstadt." The title of "Prince of Bombay" was proclaimed to be a dauphin-like position for the heirs to the French throne, and as such, would be temporarily unused until a son or daughter had been born.

When the ceremony was over, Caesar Napoleon II walked out the doors of Notre Dame under heavy guard, with tens of thousands screaming his name and singing the national anthems of the various empires and kingdoms involved. Flags fluttered in the winter wind, fists went up and down, trumpets blared, and shouts of "Long Live the Emperor!" were chanted in a dozen languages. As he was about ten paces from his carriage, Private Langlais, hiding his doings from the other guards by standing behind crates on the flat roof of the building across the street, raised his rifled musket to his shoulder, took aim, and squeezed the trigger.

This was a now-or-never moment for European History. If the bullet missed or merely wounded Napoleon II, the new Caesar would likely make it his personal vendetta to destroy anarchism and non-conformism in all its shapes and sizes. If it killed him, Europe would indeed likely be engulfed in anarchy and warring states trying to grab up whatever they could from the decapitated corpse of France. Truly, the fate of mankind might well have been said to be riding on that Single Bullet.





People fell.

People fled.

The bullet had lodged itself in the right leg of Napoleon II, sending him flying down the cathedral steps in all his regalia. Guards panicked everywhere, but one lucky officer had seen the puff of gun-barrel smoke and flash over the noise and lights of the coronation crowds. It was Detective Jourdain Roux, the man who had broken Hofmeister. Roux dispatched soldiers to barricade the building across the street, and as Langlais attempted to escape by leaping across to a neighboring rooftop, the Imperial Guardsmen opened fire and riddled him with bullets. The anarchist's corpse came crashing to the cobbled ground three stories below. A note in his pocket revealed he had expected death, and the paper simply said, "I die for Freedom."

Back at the church steps, Napoleon II was alive and well (and cursing loudly and profanely) as his assistants and officers heaved him into his carriage and took off for the Palace. Weeping and screaming citizens were barely able to get out of the way as the Imperial Family's carriage caravan sped at break-neck pace to safety. At this point, security officers and police worried about a widespread "killbox," with gunmen and perhaps even grenadiers waiting to murder everyone in the government. As soon as the Imperial Palace's gates closed behind them and Caesar was rushed to his personal doctors, the whole city was put on lockdown.

Napoleon II Escapes Assassination

Napoleon II makes his escape (1835 London Times illustration)

No one went in or out of Paris for days without written approval by the government. The Imperial Guard and Paris Police did massive sweeps, going house to house, making mass arrests, seizing property, and practicing brutality on those who did not cooperate. Patriotic fervor hadn't been as high since the last coronation, and many militias roamed the streets, looking for anyone affiliated with opposition to the Empire or its leaders. The days after the Coronation Plot, as it came to be called, are widely considered to be the foundation upon which later European totalitarianism was built.
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