Louis Philippe: Last King of the French

Louis Philippe, King of the French

Louis Philip was the eldest son of Louis Philippe Joseph, duke of Orleans (known during the Revolution as Philippe Egalite) and of Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon, daughter of the duc de Penthievre. He was born at the Palais Royal in Paris on Oct. 6, 1773. The legend that he was a supposititious child is dealt with elsewhere. The god-parents of the duke of Valois, as he was entitled till 1785, were Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette; his governess was the famous Madame de Genlis, to whose influence he doubtless owed his wide, if superficial knowledge, his orderliness, and perhaps his parsimony.
Known since 1785 as the duc de Chartres, he was 16 at the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1790 he joined the Jacobin club and joined the debates in the National Assembly. He thus became a persona grata with the party in power; he was already a colonel of dragoons, and in 1792 he was given a command in the army of the north. As a lieutenant-general, at the age of 18, he was present at Valmy (Sept. 20) and Jemmappes (Nov. 6).
 When the republic was proclaimed, the duc de Chartres was one of its zealous adherent. Fortunately for him, he was too young to be elected to the Convention. While his father was voting for the death of Louis XVI, he was serving under Dumouriez in Holland. He shared in the defeat of Neerwinden (March 18,1793); was implicated with Dumouriez in the plot to overthrow the republic, and on April 5 escaped into the Austrian line. He went first, with his sister Madame Adelaide, to Switzerland where taught at Reichenau under the name of M. Chabaud de la Tour, mainly in order to escape the fury of the émigrés.
With his father’s execution in Nov. 1793, he inherited his title as duke of Orleans, became the center of the intrigues of the Orleanist party. In 1795 he was at Hamburg with Dumouriez, who still hoped to make him king. With characteristic caution Louis Philippe refused to commit himself, and announced his intention of going to America; but in the hope that something might happen in France to his advantage, he postponed his departure, travelling instead through the Scandinavian countries. But in 1796, the Directory having offered to release his mother and his two brothers, who had been kept in prison since the Terror, on condition that he went to America, he set sail for the United States, and in October settled in Philadelphia, where in Feb. 1797 he was joined by his brothers the duc de Monpensier and the comte de Beaujolais. At the onset of coup d’etatof 18 Brumaire, the Orleans decided them to return to Europe in 1800, only to find that Napoleon Bonaparte has strongly entrenched his power. Immediately on his arrival, in Feb. 1800, the duke of Orleans, at the suggestion of Dumouriez, sought an interview with the comted’Artois, which ended with the conciliation with the exiled king, Louis XVIII. However, he refused to join the army of Conde and to fight against France all while maintaining his loyalty to the king. He eventually moved to England where he settled with his brothers at Twickenham.
On May 18, 1807, the duc de Montpensier died at Christchurch in Hampshire. The comte de Beaujolais was also ill and in 1808 the duke took him to Malta, where he died on May 29. The duke now, in response to an invitation from King Ferdinand IV, visited Palermo where, on Nov. 25, 1809, he married Princess Maria Amelia, the king’s daughter. He remained in Sicily until the news of Napoleon’s abdication, after which he returned to France. He was cordially received by colonel-general of hussars. The vast Orleans estates were eventually restored to him by royal ordinance, making him enormously rich.
Throughout the restoration of the Old Regime, the Duke of Orleans threw his sympathy to the Liberals, which brought him again under suspicion. His attitude in the House of Peers in the autumn of 1815 cost him a two years’ exile to Twickenham; he courted popularity by having his children educated en bourgeois at the public schools; and the Palais Royal was the rendezvous of that middle-class by which he was to be raised to the throne.
His opportunity came with the revolution of 1830. During the three “July days” the duke kept himself discreetly in the background, retiring first to Neuilly, then to Raincy. Meanwhile, Thiers issued a proclamation pointing out that a Republic would embroil France with all Europe, while the duke of Orleans who was “a prince devoted to the principles of the Revolution” and had “carried the tricolor under fire” would be a “citizen king” such as the country desired.
Thiers and Laffitteinvited the duke to return to Parisand on the 30th, and he elected by the deputies lieutenant-general of the realm. The next day, wrapped in a tricolor scarf, he went on foot to the Hotel de Ville – the headquarters of the republican party – where he was publicly embraced by Lafayette as a symbol that the republicans acknowledge the impossibility of realizing their own ideals and were prepared to accept a monarchy based on the popular will.
Hitherto, in letters to Charles X, he had protested the loyalty of his intentions, and the king now nominated him lieutenant-general and, abdicating in favour of his grandson the conte de Chambord, appointed him regent. On Aug. 7, however, the Chamber by a large majority declared Charles X deposed, and proclaimed Louis Philippe “king of the French, by the grace of God and the will of the people”.
For the trappings of authority he cared little. To pacify the revolutionaries from their cry for equality, the new king guised his kingship for a while under a middle-class image. He stripped the royal lilies from the panels of his carriagesand opened Palais Royal for everyone who cared to come and shake hands with the head of the State. This acts served to keep the democrats in a good temper, thus, freeing him to consolidate the somewhat unstable foundation of his throne while persuading his European counterparts to acknowledge in him not as a revolutionary but a conservative force. Once his position had been established, it became clear that he possessed all the Bourbon tenaciousness of personal power. When a “party of resistance” came into the office with Casimir-Perier in March 1831, the speech from the throne proclaimed that “France has desired that the monarchy should become national, it does not desire that it should be powerless”; and the migration of the royal family to the Tuileries symbolized the right of the king not only to reign but to rule.
Republican and Socialist agitations, culminating in a series of dangerous risings, strengthened the position of the king as defender of middle-class interests; and since the middle classes alone were represented in Parliament, he came to regard his position as unassailable. Little by little his policy became more purely dynastic. When his position in France was solidified, he sought to strengthen it in Europe by family alliances. The fact that his daughter Louise was the consort of Leopold I, king of the Belgians, had brought him into intimate relation with the English court. Broken in 1840 during the affair of Mohammed Ali, the entente with Great Britain was patched up in 1841 by the Straits Convention, and re-cemented by visits paid by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the Chateau d’Eu in 1843 and 1845 and of Louis Philippe to Windsor in 1844, only to be irretrievably wrecked by the affair of the “Spanish marriages’” a deliberate attempt to revive the traditional Bourbon policy of French predominance in Spain. This eventually alienated from him the French Liberal opinion on which his authority was based. When, in Feb. 1848, Paris rose against him, he found himself helpless.
When Charles X abdicated, he had made a dignified exit from France. However, Louis Philippe,was less happily situated. He escaped with the queen from the Tuileriesat a back entrance, proceeding in disguise to Honfleur, where the royal couple found refuge in a gardener’s cottage. They were smuggled out of the country by the British consul at Havre as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, arriving at Newhaven “unprovided with anything but the clothes they wore.” They settled at Claremont, which Queen Victoria offered them, as the Count and Countess of Neuilly. Here, Louis Philippe breathe his last on Aug. 26, 1850.
Louis Philippe had eight children. His eldest son, the popular Ferdinand Philippe, duke of Orleans (b. 1810), who had married Princess Helena of Mecklenburg, was killed in a carriage accident on July 13, 1842, leaving two sons, the comte de Paris and the duc de Chartres. The other children were Louise, consort of Leopold I, king of the Belgians; Marie, who married Prince Alexander of Wurttemberg and died in 1839; Louis Charles, duc de Nemours; Clementine, married to the duke of Coburg-Kohary; Francois Ferdinand, prince de Joinville; Henri Eugene, ducd’Aumale; Antoine Philippe, duc de Montpensier, who married the youngest sister of Queen Isabella of Spain.