The nephew of Napoleon, he grew up in exile; but eager to regain the French throne, he began to write various political and military tracts in order to make himself known.
After a failed attempt to overthrow the government with military power in 1836, he was exiled again. After the Revolution of 1848, he was elected president of the second Republic in 1850. He was made emperor in 1852 until 1870 (Franco-Prussian War).
He was captured during the Franco-Prussian War by Prussia.