1902 Encyclopedia > Dukes of Orléans

Dukes of Orléans

DUKES OF ORLEANS. The title duke of Orleans was borne by three distinct dynasties of French princes of the blood. The first duke of Orleans was Louis (1371-1407), second son of King Charles V., who was born in 1371, and received the title from his brother Charles VI. in 1392. Both he and his son and heir played very important parts in the history of the Hundred Years' War with England (see FRANCE) in opposition to the duke of Burgundy. He had been appointed regent of France during the madness of his brother, Charles VI., and had, by his immorality and his intimacy with the queen, raised a great scandal throughout the kingdom. The duke of Burgundy made himself the mouthpiece of the general discontent, and on 23d November 1407 had the regent murdered in the streets of Paris in revenge for his own father's death. Louis's son CHARLES is the subject of the preceding article [CHARLES, DUKE OF ORLEANS]. With his son's accession to the throne as Louis XII. the duke-dom of Orleans merged in the crown. It was revived in 1626, when Louis XIII. created his brother, JEAN BAPTISTE GASTON (1608-1660), the third son of Henry IV., duke of Orleans and Chartres and count of Blois. Gaston of Orleans's fruitless intrigues fill the history of France from the time of Richelieu and Mary de' Medici to that of Mazarin and Anne of Austria. Four times he was banished from France, and more than four times did he sacrifice his associates, who had plotted the overthrow of Richelieu. To him Montmorency, Cinq-Mars, and De Thou owed their deaths, and he was only protected from sharing their fate by the fact of his royal birth. On the death of Louis XIII. he was appointed lieutenant-general of the kingdom for the minority of Louis XIV. But Mazarin never meant him to exercise any real power, and when he became convinced that his power was subordi-nate to the cardinal's he entered the ranks of the Fronde (see MAZARIN), in which he played a conspicuous part, but always as the tool or the mouthpiece of others. Far more manly and determined was his daughter, best known as La Grande Mademoiselle, who with her own hands directed the guns of the Bastille upon Turenne's soldiers on the day of the battle of St Antoine. He was after-wards exiled to his castle of Blois, where he died without male issue in 1660. The title was at once revived by Louis XIV., who created his brother PHILIPPE (1640-1701) duke of Orleans and of Chartres, and married him to Henrietta, the sister of Charles II. of England. The court was soon entertained by the details of the quarrels between the duke and duchess, and by the former's jealousy even of his brother the king, and, when Henrietta, after successfully detaching Charles from the Triple Alliance and negotiating the treaty of Dover, died suddenly in 1670, the duke was universally accused of poisoning her. In the following year he married Princess Charlotte Elizabeth of Bavaria. In the campaign of 1677 he so distinguished himself that Louis XIV. became afraid of his popularity and refused to allow him to go again to the frontier. He was obliged to waste his time at Paris like other noblemen, in attendance on the court, until his death in 1701. He left one son and three daughters: the daughters married Charles II. of Spain, Victor Amadeus II. of Savoy, and Prince Charles of Lorraine ; the son was PHILIPPE (1674-1723), the regent, who has been spoken of in FRANCE, vol. ix. p. 584. Before succeeding to the dukedom of Orleans in 1701 he had given no indication of political ambition or capacity, yet Louis XIV. distrusted him, and thought to mar his chance of allying himself with any royal or noble family, and to unite his interest with that of his own natural children, by marrying him to his illegitimate daughter by Madame de Montespan, Made-moiselle de Blois. This distrust was increased as the king's legitimate descendants died off, and in his will he left his natural son, the duke of Maine, guardian of the person of his great-grandson and heir, and greatly circumscribed the authority of Orleans as regent. On the death of the grand monarque in 1715 Philippe, guided by the advice of the duke of Saint Simon, induced the parliament of Paris to upset the will and make him regent of the realm with the fullest authority. By the same nobleman's advice he procured the degradation of the natural children of the late king from the precedence above the peers of France which had been conferred on them. Saint Simon hoped he would go yet further, and that he would entrust the nobility with their old political authority; but the regent had no mind to restore the privileges which Richelieu had had so much difficulty in combating, and which the policy of Louis XIV. had only, after long years, been able to destroy. He determined to hand down to Louis XV. the absolute power of his great-grandfather. Another main object he sought was to keep France at peace, which alone could restore her to her former prosperity. With this in-tention he joined the Quadruple Alliance. He remained in close union with Stanhope, the prime minister of England, and the emperor, whilst Dubois worked out his intentions. This alliance enabled the kingdoms of England and France to overthrow Alberoni and prevent his disturbing the peace of Europe. In compliance with the wishes of Lord Stair, the able English ambassador, Orleans expelled the Pre-tender from France, and was helped to overthrow the con-spiracy of Cellamare—the French part of Alberoni's scheme by which the bastards of Louis XIV. were to overthrow the regent. Under this peaceful policy France rapidly began to recover prosperity, and Philippe hoped to restore the condition of her finances by listening to the advice of a Scotch adventurer, and buying out the farmers-general of the taxes, who were the real causes of the financial dis-tress (see LAW, JOHN, vol. xiv. p. 367). It should also be noted that the regent showed both courage and deter-mination in putting a stop to the insane speculations of the Rue Quincampoix. He cannot be called a great states-man ; he indeed formed great plans, but left all details of government to Dubois. Yet his real political ability must not be overlooked, as is often done, because the period of the regency is only regarded, as a rule, as a period of wild debauchery, in which the regent ruled a court of bacchanals. Philippe never allowed his pleasures to interfere with his politics. His fidelity to the youthful monarch is no less remarkable in a man of his seemingly abandoned character, hence it is no wonder that when Louis XV. attained his majority he maintained the duke of Orleans and with him Dubois in power. But a career of debauchery had weakened his physical powers, and, in the very year in which his ward had thus shown his gratitude to him (1723), he died. His character is best painted in an apologue of his mother's. "The fairies were all invited to my bedside, and each giving my son one talent, he had them all. Unhappily an old fairy had been forgotten, who, on arriving after the others, exclaimed, ' He will have all the talents, excepting that of making good use of them.'"

The son of the regent, Louis (1703-1752), who succeeded him as duke of Orleans, played no part in politics, though his name frequently occurs in the social history of the time, and fills a great place in contemporary memoirs. Louis's son, Louis PHILIPPE (1725-1785), was equally averse to politics, though he served as a soldier at the battle of Dettingen; his great delight was the theatre, and his place is rather in the history of the Paris green-rooms than in the history of France. But to Louis PHILIPPE JOSEPH (1747-1793), son of the preceding, a more adventurous life was allotted, and his part in the history of the French Revolution is one of the most difficult problems to solve of that exciting period, He was born at St Cloud in 1747, and bore the title of duke of Montpensier until his grandfather's death in 1752. He then became duke of Chartres, and in 1769 married Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon Penthievre, only daughter and heiress of the duke of Penthievre, grand admiral of France, and the richest heiress of the time. Her wealth made it certain that he would be the richest man in France, and he determined to play a part equal to that of his great-grandfather, the regent, whom he resembled in character and debauchery. As duke of Chartres he opposed the plans of Maupeou in 1771, and was promptly exiled to his country estate of Villers-Cotterets (Aisne). When Louis XVI. came to the throne in 1774 Chartres still found himself looked on coldly at court; Marie Antoinette hated him, and envied him for his wealth, wit, and freedom from etiquette, and he was not slow to return her hatred with scorn. In 1778 he served in the squadron of D'Orvilliers, and was present in the naval battle of Ushant. He hoped to see further service, but the queen was opposed to this, and he was removed from the navy, and given the honorary post of colonel general of hussars. He then abandoned himself to pleasure; he often visited London, and became an intimate friend of the prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.); he brought to Paris the " anglomania," as it was called, and made jockeys as fashionable as they w*re in England. He also made himself very popular in Paris by his large gifts to the poor in time of famine, and by throwing open the gardens of the Palais Royal to the people. Before the meeting of the notables in 1787 he had succeeded his father as duke of Orleans, and showed his liberal ideas, which were largely learnt in England, so boldly that he was believed to be aiming at becoming constitutional king of France. In November he again showed his liberalism in the lit de justice, which Brienne had made the king hold, and was again exiled to Villers-Cotterets. The approaching convocation of the States-General made his friends very active on his behalf; he circulated in every bailliage the pamphlets which Sieyes had drawn up at his request, and was elected in three—by the noblesse of Paris, Villers-Cotterets, and Crepy-en-Valois. In the estate of the nobility he headed the liberal minority under the guidance of Adrien Duport, and led the minority of forty-seven noblemen who seceded from their own estate (June 1789) and joined the Tiers Etat. The part he played during the summer of 1789 is one of the most debated points in the history of the Revolution. The court accused him of being at the bottom of every popular movement, and saw the '1 gold of Orleans " as the cause of the Re-veillon riot and the taking of the Bastille, as the republicans later saw the "gold of Pitt" in every germ of opposition to themselves. There can be no doubt that he hated the queen, and bitterly resented his long court disgrace, and also that he sincerely wished for a thorough reform of the government and the establishment of some such constitution as that of England ; and no doubt such friends as Adrien Duport and Choderlos de Laclos, for their own reasons, wished to see him king of France. The best testimony for the behaviour of Orleans during this summer is the testimony of an English lady, Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott, who shared his heart with Comtesse de Buffon, and from which it is absolutely certain that at the time of the riot of 12th July he was on a fishing excur-sion, and was rudely treated by the king on the next day when going to offer him his services. He indeed became so disgusted with the false position of a pretender to the crown, into which he was being forced, that he wished to go to America, but, as Comtesse de Buffon would not go with him, he decided to remain in Paris. He was again accused, unjustly, of having caused the march of the women to Versailles on 5th October. La Fayette, jealous of his popularity, persuaded the king to send the duke to England on a mission, and thus get him out of France, and he accordingly re-mained in England from October 1789 to July 1790. On 7th July he took his seat in the Assembly, and on 2d October both he and Mirabeau were declared by the Assembly entirely free of any com-plicity in the events of October. He now tried to keep himself as much out of the political world as possible, but in vain, for the court would suspect him, and his friends would talk about his being king. The best proof of his not being ambitious of such a doubtful piece of /"^ferment is that he made no attempt to get himself made king, regent, or lieutenant-general of the kingdom at the time of the flight to Varennes in June 1791. He, on the contrary, again tried to make his peace with the court in January 1792, but he was so insulted that he was not encouraged to sacrifice himself for the sake of the king and queen, who persisted in remembering all old enmities in their time of trouble. In the summer of 1792 he was present for a short time with the army of the north, with his two sons, the duke of Chartres and the duke of Montpensier, but had returned to Paris before 10th August. After that day he underwent great personal risk in saving fugitives ; in particular, he saved the life of the count of Champcenetz, the governor of the Tuileries, who was his personal enemy, at the request of Mrs Elliott. It was impossible for him to recede, and, after accepting the title of Citoyen Égalité, conferred on him by the commune of Paris, he was elected twentieth and last deputy for Paris to the Convention. In that body he sat as quietly as he had done in the National Assembly, but on the occasion of the king's trial he had to speak, and then only to give his vote for the death of Louis. His compliance did not save him from suspicion, which was especially aroused by the friendship of his eldest son, the duke of Chartres, with Dumouriez, and when the news of the desertion of Chartres with Dumouriez became known at Paris all the Bourbons left in France, including Égalité, were ordered to be arrested on 5th April. In prison he remained till the month of October, when the Reign of Terror began. He was naturally the very sort of victim wanted, and he was decreed '' of accusation " on 3d October. He was tried on 6th November and was guillotined on the same day, with a smile upon his lips and without any appearance of fear. No man ever was more blamed than Orleans during the Revolution, but the faults of ambition and intrigue were his friends', not his; it was his friends who wished him to be on the throne. Personally he possessed the charming manners of a polished grand seigneur : debauched and cynical but never rude or cruel, full of gentle consideration for all about him but selfish in his pursuit of pleasure, he has had to bear a heavy load of blame, but it is ridiculous to describe the idle and courteous voluptuary as being a dark and designing scoundrel, capable of murder if it would serve his ambition. The execution of Philippe Égalité made the friend of Dumouriez, who was living in exile, duke of Orleans. Louis PHILIPPE (1773-1850) was known as duke of Orleans throughout his long emigration and under the Restora-tion, and as duke of Orleans he was called upon to become king of the French in 1830. His eldest son, FERDINAND LOUIS PHILIPPE CHARLES HENRI (1810-1842), at once took the title of duke of Orleans. He was a brave soldier, and served in Algeria from 1834 to 1836. In 1837 he married Princess Helena of Mecklenburg, and became the father of the count of Paris, who is therefore de jure duke of Orleans. In 1839 he again went to Algeria, but the fatigues of the campaign were too much for him. He died at Neuilly in 1842. With him died the last duke of Orleans, for his son will not take the title ; but the whole party which supports him is rightly known as the Orleanist party.

The chief authorities on the three most important dukes of Orleans are:—for Gaston of Orleans, Avenel's Lettres de Richelieu, &c. ; Chéruel, Correspondance de Mazarin; Id., Histoire de France pendant la minorité de Louis XIV. ; Id., Histoire de France pendant le minislere de Mazarin ; for the regent Orleans, the portions of Michelet's and Martin's Histories of France; and for Philippe Égalité, Baschet's Histoire de Philippe Égalité, and the Journal of Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott (1859). (H. M. S.)

The above article was written by: H. Morse Stephens.

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