Friday, 5 April 2013

Charles Philippe, Comte d'Artois and Charles X

Charles as the Comte d'Artois
Charles Phillippe was born on October 9 1757 as the youngest son of Louis (Dauphin at the time) and Dauphine Marie Josèphe. Louis XV created him Comte d'Artois immediately after his birth and it was by this title that he was known for most of his life - being the youngest son it was unthinkable that he should ever become King of France. However, Charles moved one step closer to the throne when his elder brother suddenly died and his eldest brother, Louis Auguste, became Dauphin. Charles was brought up by Madame Marsan who acted as the Governess of the Children of France.

Charles was married to Marie Thérèse of Saxony in 1773 and did what his brother could not: their marriage was consummated immediately. The little family's situation became even better when a son arrived in 1775 - Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had still not even consummated their marriage.This first was (Louis-Antoine) was create the Duke d'Angôuleme and just three years later another boy came along - he was quickly made the Duke of Berry.

Charles Philippe was considered to be the most beautiful member of the family but the same could not be said of his wife. She was considered to be rather ugly and Charles did not hesitate to seek company elsewhere. He had a life-long affair with Louise de Polastron who happened to be the sister-in-law of the Duchesse de Polignac. The Comte d'Artois was very good friends with Marie Antoinette and was frequently invited to the exclusive dinners at the Petit Trianon.

Charles was renowned for spending lavishly and accumulated very large debts - in total his debts amounted to 21 million livres! However, Louis XVI came to the rescue and paid of both of his surviving brother's debt. But despite the generous aid from his brother Charles chose to join the dramatically increasing fraction that wanted to change the monarchy. He supported the claims that the aristocracy should not have financial privileges (the nobility did not have to pay taxes). He did not want to abolish the monarchy which is clear from his famed quote: "time for repair, not demolition".
When Louis XVI found it necessary to assemble the Estates General, Charles strongly opposed the demands from the Third Estate of more voting power. This created a bad image of the Comte among the population - it was said that he was more royalist than the King.

Charles succeeded in having the financial minister Necker dismissed before the time he had otherwise planned with the Baron de Breteuil but this just provoked the public who soon afterwards stormed the Bastille.
Charles was among the nobles who decided to flee France after the storming of the Bastille and as a consequence he took his family to Savoy - the native country of his wife. While in exile the Comte d'Artois planned a counter-revolutionary movement but the plans were put on hold when he received a letter from Marie Antoinette saying that he had to wait until the royal family had fled France too. When the attempt to escape failed Charles established a court-in-exile and on August 25 the Holy Roman Empire and Prussia decided to aid with military intervention.

In 1792 the National Assembly announced that all emigrants were traitors and could therefore not possess either titles or land. Charles fled to Great Britain when the revolutionary wars broke out; he would stay in Edinburgh and London with his mistress. Charles' son Louis-Antoine married Marie Thérèse who was the only surviving child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
In 1814 Charles left his comfortable life in London to join the Coalition forces. Louis XVIII - the elder and surviving brother of Charles - was in poor shape and bound to a wheelchair. After the storming of Paris by the Coalition forces Napoleon surrendered and the French monarchy was restored - this meant that Charles Philippe once again found himself a part of the royal family. Charles made no attempts at hiding his outward support of royalist politicians and artists.

Charles' youngest son, the Duke of Berry, was assassinated in 1820 which meant that the succession was in danger - the marriage of his first son had still not resulted in any children. It was discussed whether to discard of the Salic laws which proclaimed that no females could inherit the throne when a miracle (or so it was seen) happened. The widow of the Duke of Berry was pregnant and gave birth to a boy, Henry. Louis XVIII died shortly afterwards and Charles ascended the throne as Charles X - the youngest son had become the King of France.

Charles X quickly granted the princes of the Orlèans-house the title of Royal Highness and passed several laws which strengthened the position of the nobility of the clergy. However, he kept a Prime Minister. He also passed a law that would give everyone whose lands had been confiscated a sort of compensation - at a cost of 998 million francs. Charles was not a popular King which became obvious when he inspected the National Guards and chaos broke out; the Guards were dissolved but they remained a threat due to their possession of weapons.
The King's Prime Minister (Villèle) was replaced when he last the majority of the votes in Parliament but his successor also lost the majority within a short period of time. Instead Charles made Jules de Polignac Prime Minister.

The King was not interested in waging wars against his fellow European rulers - after all some of them had offered to help during the French revolution. Instead he focused on the Muslim raiders that had terrorized the Mediterranean coast which ended with a French victory and the addition of Algeria to the French crown. But at home things were not going nearly as well. Charles' enemies succeeded in rousing an atmosphere of instability and unrest. Soon cries for change were made but Charles would not yield to them - he had seen how his brother fared by doing just that. But the situation worsened when the government was dissolved; this would be the start of the July Revolution.

Charles when he ascended to the throne
Chaos was now openly breaking out everywhere and the people made no attempt at hiding their desire for the Duke of Orlèans on the throne - still Charles refused to yield. It was not until he was surrounded by rioters that he announced his intention of abdicating but not in favour of his son - instead the crown should pass on to his grand-son Henry (who was just 10 years old). Despite this, the Duke of Orlèans was declared King of France not long afterwards by the Chamber of Deputies. Charles and his family was forced to leave France for England so Charles left for his second exile. His stay in England was troublesome (there had been large crowd waving the revolutionary tricolour when he docked) and he was relieved when the King of Austria finally offered him a castle in Prague. When the new Emperor Ferdinand wanted to use the Prague Castle for his coronation, Charles took his family on a holiday and travelled south to Austria's Mediterranean coast. He would never return.
Charles Philippe became sick with cholera and died on November 6 1836.

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