Louis XVIII was King of France from 1814 until 1815, and again from 1815 until 1824. He ascended the throne when the monarchy was restored after the overthrow of Napoleon and ruled as a constitutional sovereign. Born in Versailles, he was the brother of Louis XVI of France and in early life was known as the Comte de Provence. He remained in Paris after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 but escaped to Belgium two years later. After Louis XVI’s execution in 1793 he proclaimed himself regent, and after the death of his brother’s heir, Louis XVII, in 1795, he took the title Louis XVIII.
He lived as an exile in various European countries until he became king after Napoleon’s first abdication in 1814. On Napoleon’s return to power in 1815, however, Louis again fled to Belgium; later the same year he was restored to the throne after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo. The charter, or constitution, that he promulgated in 1814 established a bicameral legislature, property qualifications for voters, and limitations on freedom of the press. Beginning in 1816, Louis, influenced by his liberal minister Elie Decazes, experimented with extending the franchise and easing censorship. After 1820 he was increasingly dominated by the reactionary ultras, led by his brother, who succeeded to the throne as Charles X on Louis’s death.