Second White Terror

The Second White Terror occurred in France in 1815, following the return of King Louis XVIII to power after the Hundred Days. Suspected sympathizers of the French Revolution, Republicans, Bonapartists and, to a minor degree, Protestants, suffered persecution.[1] Several hundred were killed by angry mobs, or executed after a quick trial at a drumhead court-martial.[2]

Murder of Guillaume Brune, Marshal of the Empire, by a royalist mob in Avignon on 2 August 1815, engraved c. 1865

Historian John B. Wolf argues that Ultra-royalists—many of whom had just returned from exile—were staging a counter-revolution against the French Revolution, and also against Napoleon's revolution.

Throughout the Midi — in Provence, Avignon, Languedoc, and many other places — the White Terror raged with unrelenting ferocity. The royalists found in the willingness of the French to desert the king fresh proof of their theory that the nation was honeycombed with traitors, and used every means to seek out and destroy their enemies. The government was powerless or unwilling to intervene.[3]

The period is named after the First White Terror that occurred during the Thermidorian Reaction in 1795, when people identified as being associated with the Reign of Terror were harassed and killed.

Bourbon reprisalsEdit

After the Hundred Days, Napoleon's brief return to power in 1815, the second White Terror focused mainly on the purging of a civilian administration which had almost completely turned against the Bourbon monarchy. About 70,000 officials were dismissed from their positions. The remnants of the Napoleonic army was disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo and its senior officers cashiered. Marshal Ney was executed for treason, Marshal Brune was killed in Avignon, and General Jean-Pierre Ramel was assassinated in Toulouse. Approximately 6,000 individuals who had rallied to Napoleon were brought to trial. There were about 300 mob lynchings In the south of France,[4] notably in Marseille where his Mamelukes were massacred in their barracks.[clarification needed]


These actions struck fear in the population, persuading liberal and moderate electors (48,000 of the 72,000 voters eligible under the franchise in force) to vote for the ultra-royalists. Of 402 members, the first Chamber of the Restoration was composed of 350 ultra-royalists; the king himself thus named it the Chambre introuvable ("the Unobtainable Chamber"), called as such because the Chamber was "more royalist than the king" (plus royalistes que le roi), in Louis XVIII's words. The Chamber voted, sentencing Marshal Ney and the Comte de la Bédoyère to death for treason, while 250 people were given prison sentences and some others exiled, including Joseph Fouché, Lazare Carnot, and Cambacérès. The surviving "regicides" who had voted for the execution of Louis XVI in 1792 were exiled. The White Terror in the political sphere ended when Louis XVIII disbanded the Chambre introuvable, putting an end to the ultra-royalist excesses.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Terreur blanche". Larousse (in French). Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  2. ^ Gwynn Lewis, "The White Terror of 1815 in the Department of the Gard: Counter-Revolution, Continuity and the Individual" Past & Present No. 58 (Feb., 1973), pp. 108-135 online
  3. ^ John Baptiste Wolf (1963). France: 1814-1919, the Rise of a Liberal-democratic Society. Harper & Row. p. 36.
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. 7, page 662

Further readingEdit

  • Lewis, Gwynn. "The White Terror of 1815 in the Department of the Gard: Counter-Revolution, Continuity and the Individual" Past & Present No. 58 (Feb., 1973), pp. 108–135 online
  • Triomphe, Pierre. "Les sorties de la 'Terreur blanche' dans le Midi." Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle 2 (2014): 51–63. Online