This Day in History – January 14th, 1858

Napoleon IIILouis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the first President of the French Second Republic and, as Napoleon III, the Emperor of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. He was the first President of France to be elected by a direct popular vote. However, when he was blocked by the Constitution and Parliament from running for a second term, he organized a coup d’état in 1851, and then took the throne as Emperor Napoleon III on December 2nd, 1852, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon I’s coronation.

There were many who objected to the rule of Emperor Napoleon III, and on the evening of January 14th, 1858, he escaped an assassination attempt unharmed. Eight members of the escort and bystanders were killed, and one hundred and six people injured. The culprits were quickly arrested. The leader was an Italian nationalist, Felice Orsini, who was aided by a French surgeon Simon Bernard. They believed that, if Napoleon III were killed, a republican revolt would immediately follow in France, and the new republican government would help Italy win independence from Austria. Bernard was in London, where, since he was a political exile, the British government refused to extradite him, but Orisini was tried, convicted and executed on 13 March 1858. The bombing focused the attention of France, and particularly of Napoleon III, on the issue of Italian nationalism.

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