Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Louis Stanislas Xavier de Bourbon, Comte de Provence

Born on 17 November 1755, Louis Stanislas Xavier was fourth in line to the throne of France. As a child, he was educated alongside his brother - the future Louis XVI - and showed himself to be a remarkably intelligent boy. By the age of 12, he had lost both his parents and suddenly became second in line to the throne. Just three years later, Louis Stanislas had his own personal household established - and quite a considerable one at that. At the same time he was granted several titles including that of Comte de Provence which he became known as at Versailles.

Considering that he was now a fully educated young man, the question of his marriage naturally arose. A Savoyard princess was found for him and on 14 May 1771 he married Marie Josèphine. The union was not a particularly joyous one. Marie Josèphine was considered to be both ugly and boring while Louis Stanislas might have been impotent and was already obese. As a result, the marriage was not consummated for a long while. In an attempt to save face - and get under the skin of his elder brother - he would often taunt Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette with his prowess in the bedchamber. It was considered quite a joke at Versailles since it was an open secret that Louis Stanislas' own marriage was unconsummated. Louis Stanislas would never have children by Marie Josèphine although she did have at least two confirmed pregnancies.



Louis Stanislas Xavier

Louis Stanislas was an ambitious man who harboured a certain jealousy that his brother had ascended the throne rather than himself. When Louis XVI became king, the Comte de Provence - now Monsieur - was not given more political influence. Perhaps the frustrations he faced at court resulted in his trips across France. Either way, he spent considerably longer time travelling through his family's dominions than his brothers and sisters.  

Whenever he was at court, Louis Stanislas experienced a turbulent relationship with the king and queen. He had little in common with his brother and they often quarrelled; likewise, him and Marie Antoinette did not see eye to eye. Nevertheless, as long as the king and queen had no children he stood to inherit the throne. These hopes were dashed in 1781 when a Dauphin was born and further diminished when another was born in 1785.

Cut off from his passion for politics, Louis Stanislas threw himself into his love of books. He amassed a collection of more than 11.000 books. Meanwhile, his relationship with is wife suffered a final blow when he fell in love with a lady-in-waiting of hers by the name of Anne Nompar de Caumont, Comtesse de Balbi. As a true prince of France, he had expensive tastes and quickly amassed a huge debt of 10.000.000 livres - paid off by his brother.

When the revolution broke out, Louis Stanislas advocated a strong resistance to the demands of the National Assembly. While his younger brother, the Comte d'Artois, emigrated with his wife, Louis Stanislas remained at Versailles and advised his brother not to abandon Versailles. He was not imprisoned alongside the rest of the royal family but lived at the Palais de Luxembourg with his wife. They lived there until 1791, when the attempted flight to Varennes decidedly soured life for royalty in Paris and the Comte and Comtesse de Provence escaped to the Netherlands.

He would later proclaim himself Louis XVIII but the period following 1793 is outside the scope of this blog. Louis Stanislas died in Paris on 16 September 1824.

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