As the allied armies slowly advanced into France early in 1814, every step contested by Napoleon, it was by no means clear what regime should succeed the Empire. The triumph of the Counter-Revolution was not at all assured. The comte de Vitrolles, a Provençal nobleman who in 1814 took it on himself to plead the cause of the Bourbons among the allies, found that neither they nor the parts of eastern France he travelled through had much enthusiasm for the exiles. The allies, in fact, had no fixed or agreed views on the issue. The British, from the time of their entry into the war in 1793, had consistently maintained the principle that whatever regime was established in France must have the consent of the majority of the people, be stable and peaceful. In practice this had come to mean a constitutional monarchy, although as Vitrolles realised, this was dependent on a British parliament and public opinion which was not particularly sympathetic to the former monarchy. In the absence of any clear indication of support inside France the British were unwilling to commit themselves. The allies took a similar line. ‘Let France declare itself’, was the core of Metternich’s reply. Vitrolles was shocked to find that the Tsar was even talking of a Republic. There was little evidence in the allied camp in 1814 of that later emphasis on ‘legitimacy’ which was to underpin the actions of the Holy Alliance.
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