Louis Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from Fort de Ham

Louis Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from Fort de Ham

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

  • View of Ham castle.

  • Portrait of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

  • Plan of the Château de Ham with the route taken by L. N. Bonaparte during his escape on May 25, 1846.

  • Escape of Napoleon III.


To close

Title: View of Ham castle.

Author :

Creation date : 1830

Date shown: 1830

Dimensions: Height 19.5 - Width 28

Technique and other indications: Color lithographThe text of the lithograph is missing but known from other copies [View of the castle of Ham where the ministers of Charles X are held. Dedicated to the National Guard. Gourdault's lithography. Rue des Petits-Augustins 1830. Asselineau delineavit].

Storage location: Departmental Archives of the Somme website

Contact copyright: © Departmental Archives of the Somme.

Picture reference: AD Sum DA 2901 (ref. 993)

© Departmental Archives of the Somme.

To close

Title: Portrait of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

Author :

Creation date : 1836

Date shown: 1836

Dimensions: Height 13.5 - Width 11.5

Technique and other indications: Lithography Extract from Germain SARRUT and B. SAINT-EDME, Biography of men of the day, industrialists, state councilors, artists, chamberlains, deputies, priests, soldiers, writers, kings,… Paris, 1836, t.2, 2nd part, pp. 88-96 ..

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: CC 768 / d.6 / p.70

Portrait of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: Plan of the Château de Ham with the route taken by L. Bonaparte during his escape on May 25, 1846.

Author :

Creation date : 1854

Date shown: May 25, 1846

Dimensions: Height 17 - Width 12

Technique and other indications: Colored drawing Extract from "Relation sur l'incarcération à Ham" by Nicolas Flajollot, Principal Engineer Guard, April 30, 1854

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: 400 AP 52

Plan of the Château de Ham with the route taken by L. Bonaparte during his escape on May 25, 1846.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: Escape of Napoleon III.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown: May 25, 1846

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Postcard Publisher: Juniet et Vasset, Ham 80400 Presumed date of publication: 1912-1913 On the back, correspondence from a German officer in place at the time on the fort of HAM.

Storage location: Museum of old postcards website

Contact copyright: © Museum of old postcards - JD Faucquenoy Collection

Picture reference: HAM0006

© Museum of old postcards - JD Faucquenoy Collection

Publication date: February 2005


Louis Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from Fort de Ham


Historical context

Son of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland and brother of Napoleon I, and Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Joséphine, Louis Napoleon spent his childhood with his mother. After the fall of the Empire, Hortense, separated from her husband, settled with her son at Arenenberg Castle on Lake Constance in Switzerland, and stayed in Rome and England.

Convinced that his name gave him an aura of exception in the France of Louis-Philippe, Louis Napoleon attempted, in 1836, to raise the garrison of Strasbourg. Ridiculed by the press, rejected by his family, abandoned by all, the prince is tried in Paris, sentenced to life imprisonment on October 6, and locked up in the fort of Ham.

For the government of Louis-Philippe, the imprisonment of the nephew of the former Emperor is delicate, in this year 1840 when the king tries to use the Napoleonic legend for his benefit: his son, the Prince of Joinville, then sails. towards Saint Helena to bring back the remains of Napoleon. However, the contrast between the enthusiasm aroused by the ceremony of returning from the ashes on December 15, 1840 and the indifference of public opinion during the trial seems to condemn forever the chances of Bonapartism.

Image Analysis

Ham castle in 1830

This lithograph, distributed from 1830, accurately depicts the architecture of Ham castle, which will be destroyed in 1917. This masterpiece of military architecture from the end of the 15th century, then visibly in excellent condition. conservation, served as a fortress for political prisoners under Louis-Philippe.

The system of fortifications built around 1475 to resist large-caliber weapons consisted of curtain walls and towers representative of defense designs from the late Middle Ages. The two elliptical towers on the facade still have their original stone roofing, and the main tower, as wide as it is high (33 meters), in the background on the left, is provided with parapets with their typical embrasures from the age of the cannon. The rectangular gate tower in the center, preceded by a barbican, gave access to a large interior courtyard where the prisoners' pavilions had been built at the beginning of the 19th century: on the lithograph, the latter clearly exceed the enclosure in height.

Louis Napoléon occupied the most comfortable of the pavilions, located at the end of the courtyard, with two members of the Boulogne conspiracy, Doctor Conneau and General de Montholon, and was closely watched there. The garrison is 400 strong and 60 sentries spread around the enclosure. Four times a day, the fort commander must ensure the presence of his prisoner, who cannot leave his apartment without being followed by guards. A special police commissioner sends a daily report to the interior minister.

Portrait of 1836

The Biography of the men of the day by Germain Sarrut and B. Saint-Edme, who eclectically lists “industrialists, state councilors, artists, chamberlains, deputies, priests, soldiers, writers, kings ... », Gives a little known portrait of Louis Napoleon, then aged 28. His uniform as a Swiss artillery captain, adorned with a simple fodder, reminds us that the prince issued the Artillery manual for Switzerland, a rather summary book but which allows him to get in touch with the officers of the French army.

Benefiting during his internment at Ham from an apartment with several rooms and fairly comfortable conditions of detention, Louis Napoleon corresponded with the outside, received visits and books. He used this captivity, which lasted five and a half years, to devote himself to study and to advance his cause in public opinion by writing brochures and articles in local magazines. He will call these years of study and reflection "Ham University". Leading social projects and scientific work, he published during his imprisonment The extinction of pauperism, The question of sugars, the Studies on the past and future of artillery, which help to credit it in the opinion of social and economic views.

Evidence of the public's interest in Louis Napoleon is growing, much to the discontent of the administration. "In several circumstances already, I have had the honor to realize how day by day PRINCE Louis Bonaparte acquires the sympathy of the people of this country", wrote the prefect to the Minister of the Interior.

After having tried unsuccessfully to negotiate his exit from the fortress, Louis Napoleon set about preparing meticulously for his escape with the help of Doctor Conneau. On May 25, 1846, taking advantage of the comings and goings of workers who work in his pavilion, the prince, dressed as a mason, wearing a wig, his mustache shaved, loads a board from his library on his shoulder to hide his face, wins the exit and crosses the gate. Before his escape is discovered, he is in Belgium and, the next day, in England.

Escape plan

The plan of the castle and the route taken by the escapee will be drawn by the engineer officer Nicolas Flajollot in 1854. It faithfully reproduces the provisions of the medieval castle, the embankments intended to protect it from climbing attempts and the prisoners' pavilions. .

With a crazy recklessness well in his character, Louis Napoleon descended from the first floor to the ground floor and then crossed the courtyard of the castle, to the guardhouse, where his attire opened the gate without arousing suspicion!

Post card

A postcard in a popular color design, published in Ham, helps peddle this daring and incredible escape. Louis Napoleon, dressed as a mason, crosses the courtyard, followed by a "drum" intrigued and ready to sound the alarm; at the back, Pavilion B where he was staying. It is not known whether he was wearing a disguise or a work outfit borrowed at the last moment from a worker named Pinguet. The cartoonists of the Second Empire will transform the name of this one in Badinguet, which evokes a joker, to rig the emperor by recalling his past as a conspirator.


Two trends emerge in public opinion after 1840: if the high society considers the Boulogne affair a pitiful failure, the working classes perceive it as an act of courage in line with the liberal plots of the monarchy of July. Gradually, in public opinion, the image of the ridiculous conspirator is fading, supplanted by that of the politically condemned to life imprisonment. In the context of the expectation of a stable and strong power, it is reconciled with the Bonapartist phenomenon, the personification of the policy enjoyed by Louis Napoleon.

As soon as Louis-Philippe fell, he returned to Paris, and voters soon voted overwhelmingly for this character almost unknown under his famous name, a mixture of Caesarism, individual audacity and Napoleonic legend.

  • July Monarchy
  • Napoleon III
  • political opponents
  • jail
  • Louis Philippe


Adrien DANSETTELouis-Napoleon in the conquest of powerParis, Hachette, 1973.

Jean MESQUI, Castles and walls of medieval France. From defense to residence. I. Defense bodies.Paris, Picard, 1991.

Pierre MILZA, Napoleon III, Paris, Perrin, 2004.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "Louis Napoléon Bonaparte escapes from Fort Ham"

Video: Un nom en héritageNapoléon 3