Louis Philippe - John S. C. Abbott

The Tomb and the Bridal


The position of the French princes was peculiarly embarrassing. Both of the parties into which all the nations of Europe were then divided suspected and feared them. The Royalists could not forget that the father of the princes had taken the title of Egalite, had renounced all feudal privileges, had voted for the death of the king, and had placed himself at the head of the democratic movement in France.

The liberal or democratic party could not forget that the young princes were by birth in the highest ranks of the nobility, that by blood relationship they were nearly connected with the crown, that their whole family had been so utterly crushed by democratic rule that they could not but hate that rule, and that there was a party in France, sustained by many of the courts in Europe, in favor of reaction and of re-establishing the throne with the young Duke of Orleans as king. Thus the Orleans princes were alike suspected and feared by both parties.

The government in Madrid was in entire sympathy with the aristocratic party in Europe. Though the Orleans princes had been received in Cuba, by the Spanish authorities and leading citizens, with much attention, as the victims of democratic fury, the government of Madrid, remembering only the democracy of Egalite, and fearing that the princes, retaining their father's principles, might unfurl the dreaded tri-color in Havana, sent an order dated May 21, 1799, ordering the captain-general of the island not to permit any longer the presence of the dukes of Orleans and of Montpensier, and of their brother, Count Beaujolais, but to send them immediately to New Orleans, without any regard to their mode of subsistence.

Under these circumstances the exiles, withdrawing from Cuba, succeeded in reaching the Bahama Islands, which belonged to England, and thence sailed for Halifax. The Duke of Kent, son of George III., and father of Queen Victoria, was then in Halifax, and received them with guarded and formal courtesy. Not certain what might be the feelings of the British Cabinet in reference to them, he did not feel authorized to grant them a passage to England on board a British vessel of war. They, therefore, embarked in a small vessel for New York, and there took passage in a regular packet-ship for England.

In the first week in February, 1800, the ship reached Falmouth. Immediately the princes forwarded a request to George III. that they might be permitted to land in England and proceed to London. The request was promptly granted, and on the sixth of the month they reached the capital. To convince the court and the nobility of England that they were entirely weaned from all those democratic tendencies which had brought such awful ruin upon their house, they selected Twickenham as their place of residence. It was a beautiful and salubrious site in the midst of the family seats of the English aristocracy, and in the vicinity of Windsor Castle, the ancient and world-renowned palace of the British kings. Here every movement would be open to the eyes of the British aristocracy, and the mode of life of the princes, their associates, and their manner of spending their leisure hours, would all be known. The spotless and amiable character of these young men rapidly secured for them the confidence and esteem of all their acquaintances.

The unhappy son of Louis XVI., whom the Legitimists regarded as their sovereign under the title of Louis XVII., had perished of brutal treatment in his dungeon, on the 6th of June, 1796. The Legitimists now recognized the elder brother of Louis XVI., the Count de Provence, as king, with the title of Louis XVIII. The Count de Provence, assuming all the etiquette of royalty, and recognized by nearly all the courts of Europe as the lawful sovereign of France, held his court at Mittau, in Courland, surrounded by a crowd of emigrant courtiers. His only brother, Count d'Artois, who subsequently ascended the throne of France as Charles X., resided in London, punctiliously maintaining court etiquette.

[Illustration] from Louis Philippe by John S. C. Abbott


The Count d'Artois, anxious to secure the open and cordial co-operation of the Duke of Orleans in behalf of the Royalist cause, sent him an earnest invitation to come to London, assuring him of an affectionate greeting on his own part and that of his friends. The duke repaired to London, and was received on the 13th of February with princely hospitality by the count and other members of the Bourbon family, at his residence in Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square.

"The king, Louis XVIII.," said the Count d'Artois, "will be delighted to see you; but it will be proper and necessary that you should first write to him." The Duke of Orleans did so. In this letter he must have recognized the sovereignty of Louis XVIII., a sovereignty founded on legitimacy, for he received a courteous and cordial reply. Thus there seemed to be a perfect reconciliation, social and political, between the elder and younger branches of the Bourbon family.

General Dumouriez had visited the court of the exiled monarch, pledged to him his homage, mounted the white cockade, and, receiving a commission in the Russian army, was marching with the Allies against republican France. All his energies were consecrated to the restoration of the house of Bourbon-Orleans.

Count d'Artois left no means untried to induce the Duke of Orleans and his brothers to enlist under the standard of emigration. But an instinctive reluctance to unite with foreigners in their war against France, and the entreaties of their anxious mother that they should not, in those dark and perilous hours, commit themselves to the apparently hopeless cause of the royal confederacy, led the cautious duke to adhere to the life of privacy upon which he had entered. But it is scarcely possible but that, under the circumstances, both he and his brothers must have longed for the restoration of the Bourbons, which would have enabled them to return to France and to enter upon the enjoyment of their exalted rank and their vast estates.

Still, the princes were subject to many humiliations and annoyances. The partisan press, on both sides, assailed them with every species of calumny. "The leading ministerial journals in London declared openly that they suspected the sincerity of the young Duke of Orleans in his late repentance; and that his past exemplary conduct should not be accepted as any security against his future treachery."

But the emigrants in London generally, and the British Court, assumed to place full reliance in the reconciliation between the Bourbon and the Orleans branches of the royal family. All the arts of flattery were employed to cement this union, and to lead the princes to commit themselves irreparably to the royal cause. England, under the ministry of William Pitt, was waging relentless warfare against revolutionary France. On the 20th of February the princes were invited to meet England's most renowned prime minister, and the most implacable foe of republican institutions in France, at a dinner-party, at the town mansion of the Count d'Artois. Lord Grenville gave a magnificent entertainment in their honor, on the 1st of March, 1800; and the next Sunday the exiles were presented to his majesty George III. at a levee held especially for that purpose.

On the 13th of March the Russian ambassador, Count Woronzo, following in the train of these marked civilities, invited them to a princely banquet, which was attended by all the aristocracy of London, at his mansion in Harley Street; and on the 13th of March his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales honored them by an invitation to Carlton House to meet all the foreign ambassadors.

The Orleans princes were now fully introduced to fashionable life in London. Their presence was deemed essential to the completeness of any soiree or banquet. The Marchioness of Salisbury, then the arbitress in London of fashion and elegance, invited the princes to meet at her house four hundred guests of the highest rank and distinction, among whom was the Prince of Wales. Then the Lady Mayoress of the city, Lady Harvey Combe, threw open to them Egyptian Hall in as magnificent an entertainment as the times could furnish. Immediately following this brilliant scene, the Duke of Clarence, subsequently William IV., invited them to a dinner-party, which in many respects surpassed all which had preceded it in splendor. All these people who thus feted them were combining their energies to overthrow revolutionary principles in France, and to reinstate the Bourbons.

At this time the British Cabinet was preparing an armed force for the invasion of France by a descent on the southern coast. The report was circulated that the three Orleans princes were to assume the white cockade and accompany this military expedition against their native country. At the same time, the Bourbon princes renewed their solicitations to the Orleans princes to range themselves, with arms in their hands, under the standard of emigration. But the great victory of Marengo just then took place, which threw into the power of the First Consul all of upper Italy, and compelled the utterly discomfited Austrians to withdraw from the British alliance. It was a dark hour for the Royalist cause in France.

The exiled princes, who found but little in the festivities of London to alleviate their world-weariness, or to cheer them in the peculiar embarrassments and trials of their position, after several minor adventures, withdrew to their retreat in Twickenham, where they endeavored to seclude themselves from observation and from all participation in public affairs.

The Duke of Orleans devoted himself to the study of English institutions, visiting the prominent establishments of learning and of industry. The irreproachable character of this virtuous prince, his high intellectual culture, dignified bearing, amiable disposition, and persistent refusal to involve himself in any intrigues, secured for him general admiration. Months of tranquillity, almost of happiness, glided away. But sorrow is the doom of man. The Duke of Orleans had not yet drained the cup which was prepared for his lips.

The health of the Duke of Montpensier had been for some time rapidly failing. His constitution and that of his brother, Count Beaujolais, had been quite undermined by the hardships they had endured during their imprisonment. All the remedies which the best medical advice could administer proved unavailing. It soon became manifest that death was approaching by slow but resistless strides. The young duke, conscious that his end was approaching, bore all his sufferings with the most amiable and uncomplaining resignation, until, on the 18th of May, 1807, he fell asleep.

The grief of the Duke of Orleans and of the Count of Beaujolais, in the loss of so gentle and tenderly-beloved a brother, was very great. The funeral ceremonies were attended in London with almost regal pomp. The Count d'Artois was present as one of the principal mourners. The gloom of twilight had begun to fall upon the city as the imposing procession approached Westminster Abbey, to convey the remains of the long-suffering prince to the darkness of the tomb. The procession was led by mules bearing plumes of white feathers. A mourning-carriage, containing the heart of the deceased in an urn, was drawn by six horses, decorated with the richest funereal caparisons, and led by postilions in the mourning-livery of the house of Orleans. The hearse followed, preceded by a herald with a coronet on a velvet cushion.

The empty private carriage of the deceased was followed by many other carriages filled with the noblesse of France, each drawn by six horses. The state equipages of the Prince of Wales and of the Dukes of Sussex and York, with postilions in state livery, closed the procession. With such mournful pageants were the mortal remains of the exile consigned to the ancient mausoleum of the kings of England.

"Sorrows," says the poet, "come in troops." Scarcely were the remains of the Duke of Montpensier placed in the tomb, ere his brother, Count Beaujolais, began rapidly to fail. He was urged to seek a milder climate in Malta or Madeira. To the solicitations of his fond and anxious brother he replied:

"I feel that my life is soon to terminate as Montpensier's did. What is the use of going so far to seek a tomb, and thus to lose the consolation of dying in this retreat where we have at last found repose. Let us remain in this hospitable land. Here, at least, I shall be permitted to die in a brother's arms, and share a brother's tomb."

Still, amiably yielding to the anxiety of his brother, he consented, against his own judgment, to accompany him to the island of Malta. The climate not agreeing with him, and his strength rapidly failing, the Duke of Orleans wrote to Ferdinand IV., king of Naples, soliciting permission to visit the salubrious clime where he had established his court. Ferdinand IV., flying from the revolution beneath which his throne had crumbled, had sought refuge, protected by the British fleet, in the old Moorish castle, called the Palazzo Reale, near Palermo, on the island of Sicily. To the application of the duke to repair with his dying brother to those genial skies, a very cordial consent was returned. But before the reply arrived, the gentle spirit of Beaujolais had taken its flight to join the spirit of Montpensier in the eternal world. With tearful eyes and an almost broken heart, the bereaved Duke of Orleans deposited the wasted remains of his dearly-beloved brother in the vaults of the church of St. John, in Valetta.

Having performed these last sad rites, and feeling almost alone and desolate, in a world where he had experienced so many sorrows and so few joys, influenced by the friendly invitation of the Sicilian Court, he embarked for the island of Sicily, and reached Messina in safety. Proceeding to Palermo, he was welcomed with great cordiality to the ancient and massive palace. The commanding figure of the prince, his finely chiselled features, his dignified bearing, united with a frank, cordial, unaffected address, his intelligence and accomplishments, all combined with that nameless charm of a pensive spirit, created by the greatest sufferings patiently endured, secured for him the admiration and the warmest sympathy of the Sicilian family.

The second daughter of the king, the Princess Amelia, was a young lady whom all unite in describing as possessed of unusual attractions of person and character. A strong attachment almost immediately sprang up between them. But the Duke of Orleans was a wanderer, an exile, deprived of his patrimonial estates, and living upon the hospitality of others or upon those fragments which by chance had been saved from the utter wreck of the possessions which had descended to him from his ancestors. Should he recover his rank and possessions, it would be a suitable match. Should he fail, he would prove but a needy adventurer. The proud queen was perplexed whether to frown upon or to encourage his suit.

In France the anarchy of the Conventions and of the Directory had given place to the Consulate and the Empire. Under the sagacious and energetic rule of Napoleon, France had risen to dignity and power unequalled by that of any other nation in Europe. Napoleon had seized upon the fundamental principle of the Revolution, Equal Rights for all Men, and, inscribing that upon his banners, had reorganized France with such skill as to enable her to bid defiance to despotic Europe in arms against that principle. All France seemed united in this government of republican principles under monarchical forms, and, notwithstanding the implacable hostility and persistent coalition of foreign dynasties, all hopes of the restoration of the Bourbons seemed to have vanished. Ferdinand of Naples and his queen, who was an Austrian princess, and sister of Maria Antoinette, had, with great determination, espoused the cause of the Allies against France. A revolution in their own kingdom, aided by French arms, had driven them from the continent of Italy to the island of Sicily, where they were protected by an English army of twenty thousand men, and by the invincible fleet of Great Britain, which had entire command of the seas.

The position of the Duke of Orleans in the Sicilian Court must have been very embarrassing. Ferdinand, a weak man, and his wife, an intriguing, reckless woman, did every thing they could to entangle their illustrious visitor, and the suitor of their daughter, in the meshes of the intrigues in which they were ever involved. Napoleon had shown a very decided disposition to conciliate the Orleans family, and to restore to them their possessions if he could have any assurance that the vast influence which they would thus possess would not be used in the attempt to overthrow the republican empire which France had so cordially accepted. The cautious duke felt that it would be the height of folly to hurl himself against a power which seemed irresistible.

The Spanish Court had treacherously, while professing friendship for France, entered into a conspiracy with the Allies to strike her in the back in the anticipated hour of disaster. The Spanish war ensued, into the merits of which we have no space here to enter. The king and queen of Sicily hoped to place upon the throne of Spain their son Leopold; and they urged the Duke of Orleans to go to Spain, and, under the patronage of England, to take command of an army for the invasion of France.

Influenced by these importunities, the duke repaired with evident reluctance to Gibraltar; but seeing no chance for Leopold, he passed over to England to confer with the British Cabinet. The duke was a Frenchman, and, instead of being cordially received in Spain, found himself in danger of being mobbed by the ignorant and fanatic populace. Lord Collingwood wrote to the British Government, in reference to this movement, in behalf of Prince Leopold, through the agency of the Duke of Orleans:

"Several of the nobles who attend his royal highness are French, and there is no government here which can give protection to any Frenchman from the populace."

England did not favor the idea of placing a Sicilian prince on the throne of Spain by the aid of a French duke. Thus the enterprise was finally abandoned. In the then disturbed state of Europe, nearly all the countries being more or less ravaged by the sweep of hostile armies, and there being no regular postal communication, and no free passage from one country to another, it was often impossible for the Duke of Orleans to learn, for long periods of time, what was the fate of his mother and his sister, or even where they were. Upon the decree by the Directory of the expulsion of all the Bourbons from France, the Duchess of Orleans had retired to Figueras, in Spain.

In June, 1808, one of the tempests of war reached that town, and in a terrific bombardment of a few hours it was laid in ashes. The Duchess of Orleans fled from her home at midnight, only a few hours before it was blown into the air by a shower of bombs. Escaping from these scenes of ruin and woe, the widowed, almost childless, and friendless duchess, but still maintaining wonderful fortitude of character, found refuge, after many painful adventures, in Port Mahon, on the island of Minorca.

The Duke of Orleans, thwarted in his plans, regarded with jealousy by the British Cabinet, and assailed with bitterest contumely in both aristocratic and democratic journals, applied to the English Secretary of State for permission to pass to Port Mahon to join his mother. But the British authorities would not consent to his landing anywhere on the Spanish territories. They, however, at length yielded to his importunities so far as to allow him to embark in an English frigate for the island of Malta, the captain of the frigate receiving strict injunctions not even to approach the Spanish coast.

Proceeding to Portsmouth, where he was to embark, he there, to his inexpressible joy, met his only and dearly beloved sister, from whom he had so long been separated. This virtuous, amiable, but unhappy princess, had long been striving to join her wandering brothers and share their fate. Thus far she had been baffled in every endeavor, and two of them had sadly gone down into the grave, unsustained by those consolations which a sister's love and attentions might have afforded them. The princess had finally succeeded in tracing her only surviving brother from Sicily to Gibraltar, and from Gibraltar to England. She had thus providentially met him just as he was embarking for Malta.

The brother and sister sailed together, and landed at the port of Valetta, in Malta, in February, 1809. Thence the duke dispatched a private messenger, the Chevalier de Brovul, to seek an interview with his mother, to explain to her the impossibility of their going to Minorca, and to entreat her to join them, if possible, in Malta.

"The duke's agent," writes the English historian, Rev. G. N. Wright, "was faithful, intelligent, and active. But the impediments which were placed in his path rendered his progress in negotiation slow, and at length completely obstructed them."

The Spaniards did not love the English, and the English made no efforts to disguise their contempt of the Spaniards. There was no cordial co-operation of action. There was a strong party in Spain in favor of the regeneration of their country by the enlightened and liberal views which Joseph Bonaparte was introducing. There was another powerful party opposed to France, and equally opposed to British domination.

"The greatest anarchy," says Mr. Wright, "prevailed in every part of the Peninsula. The Spaniards were divided in their allegiance, and a Bonapartist party was formed in the heart of the country. The national resources were exhausted; and their co-operation with the English wanted that cordiality to which her noble efforts had entitled her, and which Spanish policy ought to have extended to them.

"Brovul, who had been dispatched to convey a mere affectionate expression of regard and love from her children to the venerable duchess, became, on his route, transformed into a political envoy. It was now distinctly and emphatically proposed, by several of the most distinguished men of the Spanish national party, that the Duke of Orleans should be invited over into Spain, and that he should place himself at their head, and lead an army of invasion into France.

"A secret agent was sent into the southern provinces of France to ascertain the public sentiment there. He reported that the people looked to the Duke of Orleans as the only member of the Bourbon family who enjoyed a military reputation; as a prince whose sword had been sharpened by the wrongs of his race, and that they declared, in the most enthusiastic manner, their readiness to follow him to victory or death."

Misled by this report, which proved to be a gross exaggeration, the Spanish Junta appointed the Duke of Orleans to a command destined to act on the frontiers of Catalonia. But the local juntas were opposed to the movement. There was no harmony—no combined action. All was confusion, and the duke made no attempt to enter upon his command. The Sicilian queen, Maria Caroline, irritated by the utter failure of the movement in behalf of her son, and disappointed that the Duke of Orleans had so little influence over the British Cabinet, became quite alienated from her prospective son-in-law, wrote very cold letters to him, and the failure of the marriage treaty was openly spoken of in the court and in the journals.

The duke—whose attachment to the Princess Amelia was very strong—alarmed by these procedures, repaired immediately to Palermo to confront his enemies and to plead his cause. He was successful. The confidence and love of Amelia had never abated. The presence of the illustrious young man—so handsome, so intelligent, so spotless in character, so fascinating and princely in his bearing—soon dispelled all clouds. The queen could no longer withhold her consent to the nuptials. With happiness thus beginning to dawn upon him, the duke wrote as follows to his mother:

"Their majesties urged some objections to the marriage of a princess of their house to a wandering exile like myself. Upon which I stated that I should apply to you and induce you to advocate my cause, and become security for my principles and fidelity to those to whom I promised allegiance. 'Ah,' replied the queen, 'if you can obtain the advocacy of that angel, it will, indeed, be impossible to refuse you any thing.' I should like, dear mother, to give you a faithful portrait of the princess, who was destined to be my bride, even before her birth. But I feel that I could make but an indifferent and very unworthy sketch. She possesses many amiable and elevated qualities, which I shall take the liberty of summing up in one brief sentence, by assuring you that she seems to be a perfect model of my mother."

Soon after this the duchess embarked in an English frigate for Palermo, and reached there in safety on the 15th of October, 1809. Thus, after long, long years of separation, the survivors of the exiled family, though still in exile, were reunited. On the 25th of November the nuptial benediction was pronounced in the beautiful old Norman chapel of the Palazzo Reale.

"The most remarkable and curious fact connected with the origin and structure of the Capella Reale is, that to the completion of this most perfect illustration of the art of ecclesiastic building three nations have contributed—the Greeks, Saracens, and Normans. And by this fortuitous association the chaste style of the ancients, the cold manner of the Northerns, and the luxurious fashion of the East are all here blended in perfect harmony."

General Cass, the American minister to France, who, thirty years after these events, wrote from the palace of the Tuileries, where Louis Philippe and his amiable queen were then enthroned, says:

"The queen was the daughter of that King of Naples who was driven from his Continental dominions by the French, and took refuge, with his family and court, in Sicily. Here the king, Louis Philippe, then poor and in exile, married her; and the match is understood to have been one of affection on both sides. The thirtieth anniversary of their union has just expired, and they are at the summit of human power, with a most interesting family of seven children, and, as is known to every body, with the warmest attachment to each other. In the bitterness of French political discussions no whisper of calumny has ever been heard against the queen. And one who could pass through this ordeal has nothing more to dread from human investigation. A kinder, more anxious mother is nowhere to be found. She is a sincere believer in the Christian religion, and devout in the performance of its duties. Her charity is known throughout the country, and appeals for the distressed are never made to her in vain. In the performance of her regal duties, while her bearing is what the nature of her position requires, there is a kind of affability which seems continually seeking to put all around her as much at their ease as possible."[L]