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Following the ousting of Napoleon I of France in 1814, the Allies restored the Bourbon Dynasty to the French throne. The ensuing period is called the Restoration, following French usage, and is characterized by a sharp conservative reaction and the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as a power in French politics.
Louis XVIII's restoration to the throne in 1814 was effected largely through the support of Napoleon's former foreign minister Talleyrand who convinced the victorious Allied Powers of the desirability of a Bourbon restoration. Louis was forced to grant a written constitution, the Charter of 1814, which guaranteed a bicameral legislature, with a hereditary/appointive Chamber of Peers and an elected Chamber of Deputies. The franchise was limited to men with considerable property holdings. Many of the legal, administrative, and economic reforms of the revolutionary period were left intact; the Napoleonic Code, the land reforms that helped the peasants, and the new system of dividing the country into departments were not undone by the new King. Relations between church and state remained regulated by the Concordat of 1801.
After a first sentimental flush of popularity, Louis's gestures towards reversing the results of the French Revolution quickly lost him public support among the disenfranchised majority. Within a year, he fled Paris to Ghent on the news of the return of Napoleon from Elba, but returned after the Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon's rule of the Hundred Days. This Second Restoration saw the atrocities of The White Terror, largely in the south, when supporters of the monarchy murdered many who had supported Napoleon's return. Although the King and his ministers opposed the violence, they were ineffectual in taking active steps to stop it.
Louis's chief ministers were at first moderate, including Talleyrand, the Duc de Richelieu, and Élie Decazes, and Louis himself followed a cautious policy. The Chambre introuvable elected in 1815, dominated by ultraroyalists, or Ultras, was dissolved by Richelieu as being impossible to work with, and electoral manipulation resulted in a more liberal chamber in 1816. Prohibition of divorce was re-established this year. However, the liberals ultimately proved just as unmanageable, and by 1820 Decazes and the King were looking for ways to revise the electoral laws again, to ensure a more tractable conservative majority. However, the assassination of the Duc de Berry, the ultrareactionary son of Louis's ultrareactionary brother (and heir-presumptive) the future Charles X, in February 1820, caused Decazes's fall from power and the triumph of the Ultras. After an interval in which Richelieu returned to power from 1820 to 1821, a new Ultra ministry was formed, headed by the Comte de Villèle, a leading Ultra. Soon, however, Villèle proved himself to be nearly as cautious as his master, and, so long as Louis lived, overtly reactionary policies were kept to a minimum.
Louis XVIII died on September 16, 1824, and was succeeded by his brother, the comte d'Artois, who took the title of Charles X.