The Historical Journal


The Growth of Liberalism and the Crisis of the Bourbon Restoration, 1827–1830

Pamela Pilbeama1

a1 Bedford College, London

In 1830 the French Bourbon monarchy fell in the midst of a.political crisis that had developed rapidly between 1827 and 1830 after the Restoration settlement had operated, apparently harmoniously, for fifteen years. The two general elections of 1827 and 1830 resulted in the very swift growth of a liberal majority in parliament, and Charles X, unwilling to defer entirely to the majority in the choice of his ministers and unable, because of custom established since 1814, to defy that majority, attempted to alter the constitution by decree in 1830. The ‘three glorious revolutionary days’ led to the replacement of Charles by his cousin Louis-Philippe. In the last election of Louis XVIII's reign in 1824 only 40 liberals were elected in the whole of France. In 1827 about 180 were successful, making their representation roughly equal to that of the supporters of the Villèle government, with between 60 and 80 ultra-royalists to their right. In by-elections in 1828 and 1829 the liberals won 50 of the 75 seats fought. The election of 1830 confirmed the growth of support for the liberals with 202 of the 221 who voted the motion of no-confidence in the government being re-elected, and a total of 270 opponents, whereas the Polignac government had a mere 145 adherents. This dramatic swing in the elections of Charles X's reign was national in scale but was most complete in northern and eastern France. In 1829 four of the five most liberal departments in terms of parliamentary representation were in the east.