Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Battle for the Throne: The Princes vs. the Legitimised Bastards

In the early years of the 1700's the King was old and everyone had their eyes both on the still all-powerful Louis XIV and on who were to succeed him.
After Louis XIV had legitimised his sons by Madame de Montespan the French court was primarily divided into two opposing factions: that of the Princes and that of the legitimised sons.

The Princes' faction was made up of the old garde of the French nobility; these were the proper noble families whose birth was not stained by bastardy. That last part was especially easy to publicly demonstrate since the legitimised children of the King were obliged to display a clear bar on their coat-of-arms indicating their dubious ancestry. That was not required of those born on the right side of the sheet.

Portrait of Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans in armour by Jean-Baptiste Santerre.png

Especially the houses of Orlèans, Conti and Condé were the frontrunners of the Princes' faction. The Legitimised party was headed by the Comte de Toulouse and the Duc du Maine - referred to as "the bastards" by the Duc de Saint-Simon - but had the support of the other children of the King - most of whom had been married into the noble families of France. Another supporter was Madame de Maintenon whose patronage can probably be traced back to the support from the King's natural children to see her recognised as Queen of France.

Everything depended on who were to rule France once the King was dead. Since the Dauphin was just a few years old the Duc d'Orlèans was entitled to the regency. To prevent this from happening the Legitimised faction launched an attack on the would-be regent. When the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne suddenly died the rumours of poisoning swept through court. Thanks to the combined efforts of the legitimised sons and the King's confessor (another supporter of "the bastards") it did not take long to point out the suspect. Soon after the public took hold of the idea as well and the Duc d'Orlèans had to put up with being shouted after when he went to Paris.

Duc du Maine2.jpg
The Duc du Maine

After considering the case news reached the Duc d'Orlèans at his estate of Saint-Cloud that the King had found him to be entirely innocent. Just like that everything changed once again for the future Regent - and the bastards.

In 1715 on the first day of September Louis XIV died and all hell broke lose. However, since the Duc d'Orlèans had been publicly cleared of the charges made against him he stood in a strong position to claim the regency. But the will of the late monarch disappointed him; rather than naming the Duc d'Orlèans as Regent, Louis XIV had established a regency council - with the Duc du Maine and Comte de Toulouse. Although the Duc would still be presiding over the council he would have no actual power.

Portrait painting of Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse by Hyacinthe Rigaud.jpg
The Comte de Toulouse
The end to the bitter feud came swiftly and dramatically. Already on the day after the King's death the Duc d'Orlèans swept into Paris and declared that he had law and tradition on his side (which was true). The "bastards" could only sit and watch as the Duc d'Orlèans easily gained the approval of the gathered parlament. By the end of that day it was settled. The Duc d'Orlèans became Regent while the King's legitimised sons quickly went into an embarrassing retreat.

No comments:

Post a comment