On the 24th February 1848, amidst the revolutions that were beginning to sweep across the continent, King Louis Philippe of France abdicated the throne. Having come to power following the July Revolution in 1830 he was known as the “Citizen King” and the “Bourgeois Monarch”, but his rule saw conditions deteriorate for many French people.
Louis Philippe came from the more liberal Orléans branch of the House of Bourbon, and had even been a member of the Jacobin Club in the early years of the French Revolution. Having fled the country during the Reign of Terror he returned to France during the Bourbon Restoration. Following the abdication of Charles X in 1830 he was proclaimed King of the French by the popularly elected Chamber of Deputies.
Louis Philippe’s reign began positively, but over time he faced mounting opposition due to favouring land owners over bourgeois industrialists, and reducing the electoral franchise to only about 1 percent of the population. This led to a largely middle class Reform Movement who, by the summer of 1847, had begun to hold ‘banquets’ at which they began to form an organised opposition. A banquet to mark the birthday of George Washington on the 22nd February 1848 was prohibited by the government, and provided the spark for civil unrest.
On the 23rd the Prime Minister, François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, resigned. Following this, a crowd marched on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 52 people died. The next day, Louis Philippe abdicated and fled across the Channel to Britain where he died two years later. Meanwhile, back in France, the opposition proclaimed the Second Republic.