Napoleon II Biography

Napoleon II, the son of Napoleon Bonaparte, was the Emperor of France for a brief sixteen days. Despite his short reign, he held numerous titles as a child and was celebrated as the only legitimate child of his father. Unfortunately, his aspirations to become a leader were hindered by his grandfather and European monarchs. Tragically, he passed away from tuberculosis at a young age, never having the opportunity to serve in battle. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on, inspiring theatrical productions throughout Europe.

Quick Facts

  • Nick Name: The Eaglet
  • Also Known As: Franz, Duke of Reichstadt, Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte
  • Died At Age: 21
  • Family: father: Napoleon Bonaparte, mother: Duchess of Parma, Marie Louise
  • Born Country: France
  • Died on: July 22, 1832
  • Place of death: Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Pneumonia
  • City: Paris
  • Cause of Death: Tuberculosis

Childhood & Early Life

Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte was born on March 20, 1811, to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Marie Louise of Austria, at the Tuileries Palace, Paris. A salvo of one hundred cannons broke the news of his birth to the city and he underwent a preliminary baptism on the same day. On June 9, 1811, his formal baptism was held at Notre Dame de Paris.

He was looked after for one year by the royal governess, Louise Charlotte Françoise Le Tellier de Montesquiou, who was affectionately called ‘Maman Quiou’ by him. She is believed to have doted on him and gathered several books to prepare for his education.

In 1814, when his father’s reign ended, he became the ‘Emperor of the French’ at three years old. He saw his father for the last time before he left for Austria with his mother. Soon, he became the ‘Prince of Parma’ and lived as ‘Franz’ in Austria thereafter.

In 1815, his father tried to recapture the throne but was defeated at Waterloo, and abdicated in his favor a second time, making him the emperor yet again. But he was in Austria at the time and reigned only for sixteen days from 22 June to 7 July 1815 as the titular emperor, until King Louis XVIII of France returned.

By 1817, he was living with his mother’s family in Austria, but she stayed in Parma, Italy, and rarely visited him in Austria. He gained significant military education during his exile in Austria, and by eight years of age, he showed an avid interest in following in his father’s footsteps. He reportedly practiced maneuvers in the palace and dressed up in a miniature version of his father’s uniform.

By 1820, he had finished his basic education and started learning several languages like Italian and German. He also took lessons in mathematics, advanced physical training, and military training.


In 1823, when Napoleon II was 12 years old, he became a cadet in the Austrian army and began his military career. His militaristic ambitions caught the attention of European leaders like Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich, and French politicians, who took it as a threat to the French throne. Thus, they ensured that he was kept away from all political matters. He was even denied permission to move to the warmer climate of Italy. The youngster felt stifled by his Austrian family’s restrictions when his grandfather rejected his request to allow him to join the army that was going to Italy to suppress a rebellion. In 1831, he was finally allowed to command an Austrian battalion, but he never made it that far due to his ill-health.

Awards & Honors

As the only legitimate son of the emperor, Napoleon II was conferred with the title ‘Prince Imperial’ immediately upon his birth and the courtesy title of the heir apparent, ‘King of Rome’. In 1814, his mother became the ‘Duchess of Parma’ and he was given the title of ‘Prince of Parma’ by the Congress of Vienna. In 1818, his maternal grandfather, Emperor Francis, conferred the title ‘Duke of Reichstadt’ upon him.

Family & Personal Life

His mother lived with her lover, Adam Albert von Neipperg, in Italy, and had two illegitimate children with him. She rarely visited Napoleon II and the two grew distant from each other. He was rumored to have a love affair with a Bavarian princess, Sophie, and was suspected to have fathered a son, Maximilian I of Mexico, with her. But the rumors were never confirmed.

In early 1832, he was bedridden with pneumonia for many months and ultimately passed away on July 22 from tuberculosis at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna. In 1940, his sarcophagus was transferred to the dome of Les Invalides in Paris under the orders of Adolf Hitler. But his heart and intestines remain buried in a crypt in Vienna, according to the royal Habsburg house traditions.


In 1900, the noted playwright, Edmond Rostand, wrote the play ‘L’Aiglon’ based on his life. In 1931, a French and German film, ‘L’Aiglon’, was showcased in European cinemas. In 1937, ‘L’Aiglon’, a French opera premiered in Europe.


He was nicknamed ‘L’Aiglon’ meaning ‘The Eaglet,’ referring to the emblem of sovereignty established by his father. Since he did not have any children, the throne of France went to his cousin who became the emperor in 1852 and took the name ‘Napoleon III’ in honor of his short reign. In order to celebrate his birth, Sophie Blanchard, a famous balloonist, took to the skies to drop leaflets announcing the royal birth. He was once called “the best leader” of France by a famous 19th-century journalist and politician, Henri Rochefort, because France suffered no tyranny, taxes, or war during his reign.

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