Louis XVIII (Louis Stanislas Xavier), king of France, born in Versailles, Nov. 17,1755, died in Paris, Sept. 16, 1824. The fourth son of the dauphin of Louis XV. and of Maria Jose-pha of Saxony, he received at his birth the title of count of Provence, and on the accession of his brother Louis XVI., that of Monsieur. He spent much time during his brother's reign in philosophical and literary studies, and in petty intrigues against the king, the queen, and his younger brother, the future Charles X. He opposed the liberal measures of Maurepas, the reforms of Turgot, and the financial experiments of Necker, but afterward took an important part in the acts of the assembly of notables, contributed to the fall of Calonne, sided with the parliaments, and thus gained much popularity. On the outbreak of the revolution he lived in comparative retirement, and was unobserved during the tumults of Oct. 5 and 6, 1789, but in the following year was accused of complicity in the alleged conspiracy of the marquis of Favras against the revolution. He made a public defence and was acquitted with acclamations, while Favras sutfered the punishment of death without naming any of his associates. In June, 1791, Monsieur finally fled from the capital, and succeeded in escaping beyond the frontier.
The court being now kept under surveillance by the people, he took up his abode in Coblentz on the Rhine, declared his brother to be a captive, and, gathering around him the so-called France exterieure, formed a kind of camp court, protesting against the revolutionary measures of the national assembly. He took an insignificant part in the unsuccessful Prussian invasion of France in September, 1792. Having assumed the title of regent for Louis XVII. after the execution of Louis XVI., he lived successively at various places in Germany and England, and at Verona, whence he was driven again by the victories of Bonaparte (1796). An attempt was made upon his life at Dillingen, after which he repaired to Mitau in Courland, which he soon had to leave at the command of the czar Paul. He then lived in Warsaw till the treaty of Tilsit (1807), and finally in England till the fall of Napoleon in 1814. Suffering under a complication of painful diseases, he now returned in triumph to his native country, after an absence of 23 years, to occupy the throne of his ancestors.
Infirm and old, and surrounded by an ultra-royalist party desirous of revenge on their popular enemies, it soon became apparent that he possessed neither the sympathy of the people nor the fidelity of the remnants of the Napoleonic army; and scarcely had the captive of Elba appeared on the coast of southern France, when Louis saw himself deserted, and left Paris for Ghent, March 20, 1815. But the battle of Waterloo again replaced him upon his throne, and he returned to Paris, July 8. France was humiliated by the treaty of Vienna, exhausted, and utterly demoralized; the strifes of factions, ultra royalists and ultra liberals, broke out with unbridled fury, assuming in some districts the shape of bloody popular commotions, and in others that of religious fanaticism; the finances of the kingdom were in a deplorable condition, while the requisitions of the restored old victims of the revolution knew no bounds. The king granted a charter, but almost every important part was gradually altered, his anxiety to heal the wounds of the distracted state being far superior to his ability to do it.
There was as little harmony at the court and among the various ministries (under the lead of Talleyrand, Richelieu, Decazes, etc.) as there was in the chamber, in which Chateaubriand and Benjamin Constant eventually became the most eminent leaders of the opposite parties. A better order and better feeling prevailed after the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818), which reinstated France in its dignity as a great power, and the evacuation of its territory by the army of occupation. Some conspiracies were easily suppressed; the assassination of the duke of Berry by Louvel (1820) remained without effect, as the duchess of Berry was soon delivered of an heir to the throne, the duke of Bordeaux; and even the intervention in 1823 of a French army under the duke of Angouleme, the king's nephew, for the restoration of Ferdinand VII. in Spain, could not entirely deprive Louis of the esteem and affection of the people.