The Age of George III

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The French Wars after Pitt: 1806-1812

After Pitt died there was a period of ministerial instability until 1812 when Lord Liverpool became PM. The ministries were as follows:

January-September 1806 The "Ministry of All the Talents": the Grenville-Fox coalition. Fox died in September 1806

September 1806-March 1807

Lord Grenville's ministry


Portland's second ministry. The PM made not one single speech during the 2½ years that he was in office. He was not an inspiring leader and he was elderly and ill.


Spencer Perceval's ministry. Perceval was assassinated: shot in the lobby of the House of Commons by a man called Bellingham

1812-1827 Lord Liverpool's ministry.

Between 1807 and 1810, Napoleon was at the height of his power. Britain was not committed to a land war and Napoleon was able to defeat individual European countries. By 1810 almost the whole of western Europe, from Italy to the Baltic, was under French domination. Only Britain andRussia remained outside the French empire.

Napoleon ruled his empire as a family unit: his "Family Plan". Family members were promoted as monarchs of various countries but all of them were puppet rulers.

brother Joseph was King of Naples and then King of Spain
brother Jerome was King of Westphalia
brother Louis was King of Holland
step-son Eugene de Beauharnais was King of Italy
sister Caroline was married to General Murat who became King of Naples when Joseph was moved to Spain

In 1810 Napoleon reached the pinnacle of this family plan of European rulers when he married Marie-Louise of Austria and united Austria with France.

The French were able to occupy European countries after defeating their armies because

The reality of occupation was different. Napoleon ruled the empire for the benefit of France and used the economic power of the conquered countries to the advantage of the French. For example, taxes ceased to exist in France during this period. Napoleon was popular in France because government cost nothing but some of his puppet rulers turned against him because "their" countries were being bled of money and supplies. Liberty, equality, democracy and fraternity were not forthcoming under French occupation. Men were conscripted into the French army and financial levies were raised towards the upkeep of the French army. These impositions increased hostility towards Napoleon. Ultimately, the hostility turned to nationalism and caused Napoleon's downfall.

Also between 1807 and 1810, Napoleon made his first mistakes. Only Britain and Russia were left outside the French empire and therefore were the only countries left for him to defeat. Napoleon believed that he had to defeat Britain because she was keeping alive the coalitions against France through "Pitt's gold" - payments to European monarchs to continue fielding armies against the French.

Napoleon decided to attack the "nation of shopkeepers" by

The Continental System was Napoleon's attempt to stop Britain's export and re-export trade with Europe and it did cause great distress in Britain. However bad the Continental System was for Britain, it was disastrous for Napoleon because it backfired on him.

The Spanish state of Asturias, with a population of half a million, took on the might of France. The people turned against the French because they resented French occupation and the removal of their king, Charles IV, in 1808 so that Joseph Bonaparte could have the kingdom. Britain sent her army to help the Spanish. Eventually Sir Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington) commanded the British army in the Peninsula.

Napoleon found himself faced with a war on two fronts: after 1808, Spain was in rebellion against French rule and in 1812, Napoleon launched the Moscow Campaign because the Czar refused to implement the Continental System after 1810.

Britain was slow to take advantage of Napoleon's setbacks because

In 1812, following the assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, Britain was governed by a Tory ministry under the premiership of Lord Liverpool.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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