200 years ago, when Napoleon was trying to retake power in France and reconstruct his empire, King Louis XVIII fled to Ghent to reestablish his government while in exile. During this period, called the “100 days”, Napoleon was vainly trying to take back power. The King remained in Ghent for a little less than three months, before returning to France after the battle of Waterloo. An historic conference, called “Ghent, capital of the Kingdom of France from March-July 1815”, will take place in Ghent on the 9th of May, to celebrate the bicentenary. On the 1st of March 1815, Napoleon left the island of Elbe, where he had been in exile, to return to France with the firm intention of retaking power. Around 20 days later, Napoleon arrived in Paris, and Louis XVIII, the designated sovereign, had to leave.
Louis XVIII left the capital on the 19th of March, and found refuge in Ghent, which was part of the Dutch Kingdom at the time. He was welcomed by Count Jean-Baptiste d’Hane-Steenhuyse, and stayed in the hotel of the same name. Louis XVIII would not return to France until Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. From the end of March until his return to Paris on the 8th of July 1815, King Louis XIII would lead the government from exile. After Tournai, which was the capital of the Franks and France, Ghent was the second Belgian city to become capital of France.
The conference, “Ghent, capital of the Kingdom of France from March-July 1815”, will remember this little-known period in France and Belgium’s history. Organised by the Institute of the History Monarchs, it will be attended by historians, researchers and journalists. It will be held at the Club Falligan- Royal Literary Society of Ghent.