The Collapse of the Peace of Amiens

A few weeks ago, I did a post about the brief Peace of Amiens between France and England. Today's post is about the collapse of the peace and the effect it had on the people who found themselves in France when hostilities resumed.                        

In March 1802, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens, ending the war that had raged between the two countries since 1793. It was a time of great excitement for both France and England. English high society rushed to get to Paris and enjoy the delights denied to them during the long years of war. They shopped, gambled, partied and went sightseeing, but the carefree time in Paris would not last.

By January of 1803, trouble was already brewing between England and France and it only got worse
as the months progressed. Those who were paying attention quickly realized war was inevitable and hurried to get out of France. Those who were oblivious were unable to remain so for very long. On May 12, 1803, England recalled its ambassador and six days later declared war on France. The window for anyone remaining in France to get out was closing fast. It would slam shut on May 22, when Napoleon declared that any English citizen who remained in France would be arrested. All across France, the authorities immediately swooped in to seize any English citizens still in France.
Those warned of the coming arrests were able to slip away just before the authorities descended. Others, who’d thought to leave even a few days earlier and secured passage on ships from Calais were lucky. Their ships sailed for home. The unlucky ones were taken prisoner as their ships sat waiting in Calais for the tide or good weather. Those who travelled after the arrest in an attempt to escape across the border were force to pose as servants or as American citizens to avoid arrest. Some paid officials to look the other way as they escaped while others turned to their friends in government or society to plead for permission to leave France. In the end, it was timing and luck which helped many to leave, but not everyone in France possessed one or the other.

It is difficult for historians to estimate how many English were taken prisoner and numbers vary from 750, 7500, to 10,000. Most historians believe the number of prisoners was closer to 1100. The prisoners were from all different classes and included tradesmen, merchants, clergy, schoolboys and the unlucky sons of titled men. The author Fanny Burney and her husband, a French Chevalier, missed their opportunity to leave. As a result, they were stuck in Paris with most of the other prisoners until the Battle of Waterloo ended hostilities between France and England for good in 1815. Claire Harman has written a wonderful biography of Fanny Burney's life, which also details her time in France.

For many, the glittering excitement of being in Paris during the peace turned into a nightmare of fleeing or imprisonment. Once again people would be separated from their loved ones and their native shore for many years. The time between 1802 and 1803 was one of excitement that ended in a mad panic. For me, the end of the Peace of Amiens proved the perfect time for creating a tortured past between the hero and heroine of my latest book, The Courtesan’sBook of Secrets. 

Check out my novels to see how I incorporate history into the storylines.  www.Georgie-Lee,com

1 comment:

Tina at said...

This is fascinating history that I certainly never learned! Thanks so much for sharing at Booknificent Thursday!