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Pont_d'Iéna_Bridge-Paris Bridge

Louis XVIII and Jena Bridge

Louis XVIII had a feel for France whatever regime it was ruled by.

In the Paris occupied by the forces of the coalition, the place names, the avenues, and the bridges served as a constant reminder to the occupying forces of their defeats. L’Avenue d’Austerlitz, l’Avenue de Wagram, and above all the Jena Bridge, reminded the Prussian armies present in Paris of their most terrible losses.

So their commander-in-chief, Marshal Blücher, decided to avenge the defeats suffered at the hands of Napoleon by blowing up the Jena Bridge. His soldiers had begun to pile up the barrels of gun-powder underneath the arches supporting the bridge when word was sent to Louis XVIII. Whilst the king should ordinarily have been delighted to see the destruction of this monument dedicated to the glory of Napoleon, he realised that it was also French glory that was under attack. He summoned his six-horse gala coach and set off from the Tuileries Palace, surrounded by a regiment of guards on horseback, and armed with a light sabre.

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The column set off at full gallop through the streets and then the king ordered his coach forward onto the Jena Bridge, bringing it to a halt in the middle. He instructed his guards and coachmen to retire to a safe distance saying, “If the bridge is to go up, I shall go up with it!”.

Emissaries were sent to inform General Blücher of the king’s actions. He would not listen. Finally, the Emperor of Russia himself had to intervene to explain to him that the kings of France were not to be blown up.

The Prussian reluctantly bowed to the pressure. Louis XVIII was able to return quietly to his palace and the Parisians of today can still cross the Jena Bridge

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by Prince Michael of Greece