The Foreign Policy of Louis Philippe

The Foreign Policy of Louis Philippe:

Louis Philippe followed a peaceful compromising foreign policy. To please the European states, he announced at the beginning of his rule that he would faithfully carry out the decisions taken at the Vienna Congress, in 1815. To avoid war he often adopted a compromising policy. The mainstay of his foreign policy was to have friendly relations with England because Austria and Russia had no faith in the July Monarchy. On the other hand, the people of France demanded a glorious and dynamic policy. Louis Philippe was not able like Napoleon to fulfil their ambitions. His policy toward Belgium, Poland, Italy, Egypt, Spain, and Switzerland enraged the people of France.

(1) Belgium- There was a revolution in Belgium in October 1830 and Louis had to face its consequences. The French people supported the independence of Belgium, so he sent Talleyrand to London and proposed that England and France should help Belgium. England agreed to the proposal and a conference of the five big nations- Russia, Prussia, Austria, England, and France was held in London which accepted in principle the independence of Belgium. Becuase of the Polish Revolution, Austria, and Russia could not interfere in Belgium. But when Duke-de-Nemours, the second son of Louis Philippe was chosen as the ruler of Belgium, British Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston opposed it. The throne of Belgium now passed into the hands of Leopold, uncle of Empress Victoria. This enraged the French people because they considered it an unpardonable offense. Lipson remarks “He acted wisely by avoiding war because its consequences would have been devastating”. Holland had to bow down before the Joint action taken by the British Navy and French army in 1839 and Belgium became an independent state.

(2) Poland and Italy- There was a revolt in Poland and the French wanted to help the revolutionaries, but Louis did not want to turn Russia into an enemy. Similarly, at the time of the Italian Revolution, he remained neutral because he did not want a conflict with Austria. But when the Austrian army entered the Papal state a second time, France sent her forces and captured Ancona and made it clear that France would not allow any other power to have a monopoly in Italy.

(3) Egypt- Pasha Mehmet Ali of Egypt had helped the Turkish Sultan Mehmood II in suppressing the revolt of the Greeks and received the island of Crete as a reward for it. But he was not satisfied with Crete alone and taking advantage of the weakness of the Sultan began to plan how to capture Damascus and Syria. His son Ibrahim invaded Syria in 1831, defeated the forces of the Sultan, and marched towards Constantinople. The Sultan begged other European states to help him. England and France were involved in Belgium, so Russia sent her force there. England and France grew apprehensive at this Russian interference. France advised Mehmet Ali to agree to the terms and conditions put forward by the Turkish Sultan but he turned down this suggestion. Finally, England and France exerted pressure on the Turkish Sultan to sign a peace treaty and give Syria, Damascus, and Palestine to Mehmet Ali. The Sultan had ceded these territories under pressure so he longed to recapture them. He invaded Syria in April 1839 but was defeated. He passed away in July 1839 and sixteen-year-old Abdul Majid came to the throne. It made the condition of Turkey all the more deplorable. Russia felt apprehensive at the growing power of Mehmet Ali and decided to curb him with the help of England. On the other hand, the French people wanted to help Mehmet Ali. In 1840 Russia, Prussia, Austria, and England met in London and signed a Fact according to which Mehmet Ali was forced to come to terms with the Turkish Sultan. France was invited to this conference, but the French people considered it an insult and demanded war. The French minister Thiers threatened England but to no avail. Finally, Louis Philippe had to bow down. England sent her naval fleet and defeated Mehmet Ali at several places and forced him to sign the Treaty of London in 1841. This act of England precluded Russia from establishing her influence in Turkey and France from establishing her influence in Egypt. This enraged the French people and they held Louis Philippe responsible for it.

(4) Spain- At the time of the marriage of the Spanish queen, Louis showed a selfish and wicked mentality which lowered his esteem in France also. Spanish queen Isabella was unmarried. Louis Philippe enjoyed great influence there and wanted to use it to his own advantage. He wanted his son Duke-de-Montpensier to marry Isabella’s younger sister so that Spain might pass into his hands after Isabella. However, England did not want the French influence to grow in Spain.

In 1844-45 personal talks were held between Lord Aberdeen and Empress Victoria representing England and Louis Philippe and Guizot representing France. As a result of these talks, it was decided that Louis’s son Montpensier should marry younger princess Maria Louisa on condition that the marriage would not be solemnized till Queen Isabella had given birth to a child.

Isabella was married to the Duke of Cadies on October 10, 1846, and on the same day, Montpensier was married to Isabella’s sister Maria Louisa. This news created a sensation in the whole of Europe and Louis was condemned. The relations between England and France deteriorated.

(5) Switzerland- The Vienna Congress, in 1815 had left Switzerland an inactive nation as before. After that, there were two types of revolts. One was for democratic reforms in various countries within the federation and the other was for establishing closer relations between them. In 1845 seven cantons formed a separate federation to get rid of the control of the Liberal Federal Party. They justified their action on the grounds that the Vienna Congress had granted autonomy to every state. The other cantons opposed the formation of a separate federation because it destroyed the unity of the whole country.

Austria, Prussia, and France supported the separate federation. Matternich was in favor of armed interference in Switzerland but Guizot wanted to solve the problem with compromise. He proposed that the big states should take no action against the separate federation of Switzerland but it was not heeded to it. The Swiss Parliament decided by a majority vote to dissolve the separate federation and in case it did not comply war be waged against it. The separate federation begged the big states for help.

Guizot proposed that a conference of European states be convened to solve the problem of Switzerland but Palmerston suggested to wait till the war ended and then to discuss the problem. Louis made a mistake by helping the reactionaries because it made the liberal Republicans his enemy. The French patriots were worried about finding Louis Philippe indifferent to national glory and honor and unsuccessful in these spheres. They hated him for his feelings of subservience towards England. This policy made even his supporters discontented and gradually his position became weaker day by day.

Important Links:

Intellectual Enlightenment
Political Causes of the French Revolution
Economic Causes of the French Revolution
Beginning of the French Revolution
Functions of the Constituent Assembly
Unsuccessful Attempt of the Royal Family to Flee the Country
Phases of the French Revolution
Role of Philosophers in the French Revolution
Nature of the French Revolution
Correlation Between the Objectives and Achievements of the French Revolution
Do you agree that the French Revolution achieved far less than what it intended to achieve?
Importance of the French Revolution
French Revolution of 1848
French Revolution– Wikipedia