N & E
Napoleon & Empire

Peers during First French Empire

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During the Hundred Days, the institutional organization of the Empire underwent a number of changes, collected by Benjamin Constant in the Acte additionnel aux constitutions de l'Empire.

View of the Conservative Senate Palace, still called the Luxembourg, by V.J. Nicolle
View of the Luxembourg Palace, by V.J. Nicolle

Among other changes, a new upper chamber, the Chambre des Pairs, replaced the Conservative Senate in terms of both its powers and its location at the Palais du Luxembourg.

One hundred and seventeen peers were appointed on June 2, 1815. However, the Constitution stipulated that there was no limit to their number. Among them were all the (male) members of the imperial family, including Lucien Bonaparte, finally reconciled with his brother.

Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, as Archchancellor of the Empire, presided over the assembly.

After the defeat at Waterloo, the Chamber of Peers was the scene of bitter debates on the future of the regime. Support for the Emperor proved less solid than expected.

On June 22, 1815, Napoleon abdicated for the second time, in favor of his son. Recognition of l'Aiglon became a major political issue. Pending a decision, the Peers appointed two of their number, Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt and Nicolas Marie Quinette, to take part in the provisional government commission chaired by Joseph Fouché, in whom the reality of power resided.

The following day, the Assembly merely tacitly recognized Napoleon II, in application of the Constitution, without expressing its support through a solemn vote. It thus left the way open for all those working for the end of the Empire, led by Fouché.

View of the Peer Chamber