Napoleon III, 1870-BB

KM 801.2; Friedberg 585, PCGS graded MS-65

Napoleon III doomed himself and the Second French Empire by taking the bait of Otto von Bismarck’s infamous Ems Telegram and embarking upon the disastrous Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The war began amid a tide of French nationalist fervor, but faltered after the major Prussian victory at Wörth on August 6. Things only got worse from there. The Emperor of the French proposed returning to Paris in the aftermath of this debacle but thought better of it when it was pointed out that he would be accused of abandoning the army and unleash a new revolution. He therefore stayed the course, his armies suffering further defeat at Gravelotte on August 18. At last, pinned down by Prussian forces at Sedan on September 2, Napoleon III surrendered and was held captive in Berlin. On March 1, 1871, the National Assembly formally deposed the Emperor and blamed him entirely for the failure of the Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III, who was once again Louis-Napoleon the private citizen, was subsequently released and went into exile in England. He died on January 9, 1873, reportedly using his last breath to ask, “Isn’t it true that we weren’t cowards at Sedan?”

Strasbourg. Laureate head of Napoleon III right. Reverse: Crowned and mantled arms.

Ex Heritage (15 September 2006), 51505