On March 31, 1814, Tsar Alexander I of Russia at the head of the Coalition Army triumphantly marched into Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate a few days later.
The Coalition armies, including Russian, Prussian, and Austrian, entered France earlier that year and after several battles reached the gates of Paris. By this time Napoleon’s army was weakened. After 25 years of Napoleonic wars, in some departments there remained only old men and children, and resources to support the war were scarce. Previous battles resulted in huge casualties and his nation was discouraged.
Russian and Prussian armies were the driving and decisive force behind the Coalition. The King of Prussia and Alexander I had a close relationship and supported each other in the war against Napoleon. Alexander was determined; he wished to enter Paris just as Napoleon had entered Moscow, on his failed invasion in Russia in 1813. Alexander promised ‘I shall not make peace as long as Napoleon is on the throne’.
It was a great move by Alexander, who deceived Napoleon. During the battles on the outskirts of Paris, Alexander directed the main Coalition armies to march on to Paris; while a Russian general with a huge mass of 10,000 cavalrymen rode towards Saint Pizier where Napoleon was in battle with the Austrian allies. Napoleon realized too late that it was a divisionary detachment sent, and not the main army. By this time Russian and Prussian armies were nearing Paris.
Napoleon’s brother King Joseph was in charge of defending Paris with over 60,000 soldiers. Although there were not enough troops to resist the large coalition army coming towards them, they were falsely reassured that Napoleon was on his way with reinforcement. A battle escalated, the coalition began their attack. Fighting continued until Joseph abandoned Paris wishing to surrender. Alexander was not haunted with the desire to destroy Paris, like the Prussians who wished to set the city on fire; instead he wanted to bring peace to France rather than its destruction. "When God made me powerful and gave my armies success, He wished me to secure the peace of the world. If we can do so without shedding any more blood we shall be glad, but if not, we shall carry on the fight to the end ...." Alexander hastened the surrender and signed a treaty offering generous terms to France. And on March 31, the Russian tsar was presented with the keys to the French capital, and Alexander along with the Coalition armies entered the city. Until this time no foreign army had reached Paris in nearly 400 years.