The Last Hundred Days in PowerHaving boldly blockaded the town of Cannes with over 1,500 soldiers following his exile in Elba, Napoleon demanded horses, carriages, wagons and rations of the undefended city's mayor via messenger on March 1st, 1815. His plot to invade the kingdom had begun to be put into effect, but not before the mayor of Cannes was able to send out an urgent message that an Elban general with sixty soldiers had taken Cannes. Having sent a "Proclamation to the Army" in Cannes, which called on the twenty-five year-old loyalty of his former soldiers, Napoleon also sent forth word of his return and ambition to former military allies. On March 5th, upon receiving word of Napoleon's appearance in Cannes, King Louis XVIII dispatched three armies to pursue his forces.
Having no cavalry, no heavy artillery, a small number of loyal soldiers and being in the midst of a traditionally pro-Bourbon region, Napoleon knew that his best strategy would require rapid movement through difficult terrain, in order to throw off enemy pursuit and to stay within less guarded territories. His first tangible goal was to reach a large garrison while descending a mountain overlooking Grenoble, where he knew existed a minimum of 7,000 troops, heavy artillery, munitions and supplies. Having the intention to win the hearts of the troops in order to avoid bloodshed, he sent word of his imminent arrival to an ally at Grenoble.
As he made his way towards Grenoble acquiring men and supplies along the way, word began to travel eventually to Paris of Napoleon's escape from Elba and attempted advance to Paris. By March 7th, upon reaching Laffrey and facing a half-serious threat of arrest by his former general, Napoleon bared his heart to the troops and declared, "I am your Emperor. If there is any one among you who wishes to kill his emperor, here I am." After being urged by one captain to fire on Napoleon, the troops refused, began cheering "Vive l' Emprereur!", put away their arms and embraced him. Napoleon was soon to gain the anticipated 8,000 Grenoble troops, artillery and munitions by way of his ally Colonel La Bédoyère.
On March 9th in the Place Bellecour of Lyons, the brother of the king (the comte d'Artois) attempted without success to rouse the garrison of General Brayer against the notion of Napoleon's return, such that none were willing to echo the conclusive phrase of his speech, "Vive le roi!" On March 10th, when Napoleon arrived in the same palace, the very same troops eagerly greeted him with "Vive l'Empereur!" He announced his immediate intention to reinstate the principles of the revolution, draft a new populist constitution, abolish the Bourbon monarchy, as well as to replace their white flag with that of the revolution's tricolor. This resulted in the sum of Napoleon's force reaching 14,000 troops, which he felt sufficient to begin his final advance on Paris in the hopes of arriving on March 20th. After being armed with an army of 6,000 by the King to face Napoleon's force of 14,000, Napoleon's former marshal Ney turned against the King swelling Napoleon's army to 20,000.
On March 13th, the Congress of Vienna, consisting of Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Sweden, officially declared Napoleon an outlaw under the manipulation of Talleyrand. They would resolve to soon assemble a massive multinational force that would overwhelm Napoleon militarily, and ultimately serve to permanently isolate him from any vestige of power. On March 16th, King Louis XVIII addressed the National Assembly in order to rally national sentiment against Napoleon's imminent advance. With the defection of Ney as well as the troops Napoleon was able to accumulate along with the incompetence of his nephews in command of the armies he had at his disposal, the king came to realize he was unable to command the military. As such, the king opted to flee France on midnight of March 20th.
Napoleon and his force arrived in Paris on the evening of March 20th, to be greeted by the National Guard and a large gathering of military officers, civilians and dignitaries at Tuileries to begin a period of time that would come to be known as Napoleon's last hundred days in power. He immediately set about organizing the government to his liking, demanding the expulsion of all monarchists, and specifically issuing warrants for the arrest and seizure of the estates and wealth of aristocrats whom were his political enemies including Talleyrand, Montesquiou, La Rochefoucauld, Lynch, Bellard, Beurnonville, Jaucourt, Marmont and Bourrienne. Napoleon also brought back the policy of slavery, abolished press censorship (a policy he had earlier established before being dethroned as emperor), and declared his new concept of the "Liberal Empire" which would establish a representative and peaceful government. For this new type of Napoleonic empire, he had an Imperial Constitution drafted which included provisions for the abolishment of press censorship, the abolishment of religious affiliation, the conscription to be authorized by the chambers, wider powers for government ministries and grant the power to Napoleon to appoint all members of the Chamber of Peers and the nation's judges, as well as the power to dissolve the chambers and propose new legislation. This new show of liberalism was the vehicle Napoleon was to use to win the hearts of the common French people.
Some examples of this liberal empire was a staged election of the Chamber of Representatives, filled with members personally selected by Napoleon, as well as the mass-firing of every mayor in the country with the replacement of men loyal to Napoleon. Pro-Bourbon propaganda was everywhere, and served to stir up civil unrest. The tide of the public began to turn against Napoleon in the form of students refusing to declare "Vive l' Empereur!" in assemblies, the clergy preaching against him, the president of the Chamber of Representatives calling for all constituents to ignore all Napoleonic decrees as well as to withhold taxes and vicious attacks on his army. For his part, Napoleon was focused on building a massive army in order to face the oncoming fury of the Allied forces.