Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans

Louis Philippe Joseph
Duke of Orléans
Born (1747-04-13)13 April 1747
Château de Saint Cloud, Saint-Cloud, France
Died 6 November 1793(1793-11-06) (aged 46)
Paris, France
Burial Madeleine Cemetery, Paris
Spouse Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon
Issue Louis Philippe I
Antoine Philippe, Duke of Montpensier
Adélaïde, Princess of Orléans
Louis Charles, Count of Beaujolais
Full name
Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans
House House of Orléans
Father Louis Philippe d'Orléans
Mother Louise Henriette de Bourbon
Religion Roman Catholicism

Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans (13 April 1747  6 November 1793) commonly known as Philippe, was a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the ruling dynasty of France. He actively supported the French Revolution and adopted the name Philippe Égalité, but was nonetheless guillotined during the Reign of Terror. His son Louis-Philippe became King of the French after the July Revolution of 1830. Following his career, the term Orléanist came to be attached to the movement in France that favoured constitutional monarchy.

Early life

Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans was the son of Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Chartres, and Louise Henriette de Bourbon.

Through his father, Philippe was a member of the House of Orléans, a cadet branch of the French royal family. His mother came from a more distant cadet branch, the House of Bourbon-Conti. He was born at the Château de Saint Cloud, one of the residences of the Duke of Orléans a few miles west of Paris. His eldest sister, born in 1745, had died when six months old. His parents had another daughter, Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans.

Portrait of a young Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orleans by Louis Tocqué.

After his grandfather's death in 1752, Philippe d'Orléans inherited the title of Duke of Chartres. In 1769 he married Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, daughter of his cousin, the Duke of Penthiêvre, an Admiral of France and the richest man in the country. Since it was certain that his wife would become the richest woman in France upon the death of her father, Louis Philippe was able to play a political role in court equal to that of his great-grandfather Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who had been the Regent of France during the minority of King Louis XV.[1]

As Duke of Chartres, he opposed the plans of René de Maupeou in 1771 when Maupeou successfully upheld royal interests in a confrontation with the Parlement de Paris, and was promptly exiled to his country estate of Villers-Cotterêts in Picardy (now in Aisne) in northern France. When Louis XVI became king in 1774, Philippe was still suspected of anti-royalist sentiment in the eyes of the court. Marie Antoinette hated him for what she viewed as treachery, hypocrisy and selfishness, and he, in turn, scorned her for her frivolous and spendthrift lifestyle.[2]

Duke of Orléans

In November 1785, upon his father's death, Philippe, the new Duke of Orléans, became the head of the House of Orléans, one of the wealthiest families of France, and Premier Prince du Sang, the most important personage of the kingdom after the king's immediate family, and, as such, next in line to the throne should the main Bourbon line die out. From his father, he also inherited the titles of Duke of Nemours and Prince of Joinville.


On 6 June 1769, Louis Philippe married Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon at the Chapel of the Palace of Versailles. Louise Marie Adélaïde brought to the already wealthy House of Orléans a considerable dowry of six million livres, an annual income of 240,000 livres (later increased to 400,000 livres), as well as lands, titles, residences and furniture.[3]

Louise Marie Adélaïde as the Duchess of Chartres.
Louis Philippe d'Orléans, as Duke of Chartres, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, ca.1779, Château de Chantilly

Excepting their first child, a stillborn daughter, they had five children:

The Duke was a well-known womanizer and, like his ancestors Louis XIV of France and Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, had several illegitimate children.

During the first few months of their marriage, the couple appeared devoted to each other, but the duke went back to the life of "libertinage" he had led before his marriage. It is during the summer of 1772, a few months after his wife had given birth to a stillborn daughter, that began Philippe's secret liaison with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Stéphanie Félicité Ducrest de St-Albin, comtesse de Genlis, the niece of Madame de Montesson, the Morganatic wife of Philippe's father. Passionate at first, the liaison cooled within a few months and, by the spring of 1773, was reported to be "dead".[4] After the romantic affair was over, Félicité remained in the service of Marie-Adélaïde at the Palais-Royal, a trusted friend to both Marie-Adélaïde and Philippe. They both appreciated her intelligence and, in July 1779, she became the governess of the couple's twin daughters born in 1777.[5]

It was the custom in the French royal and noble families to "turn the boys over to the men" when they were seven years old. In 1782, the young Louis-Philippe was already nine and in dire need of discipline. The Duke of Chartres could not think of a man better qualified to "turn his sons over to" than… Mme de Genlis. This is how, nine years after their passionate liaison had ended and turned into deep friendship, Félicité became the "gouverneur" of the Duke and Duchess of Chartres’ children. Teacher and pupils left the Palais-Royal and went to live in a house built specially for them on the grounds of the Bellechasse convent (couvent des Dames de Bellechasse) in Paris.[5][6]

It was alleged that Lady Edward FitzGerald, born Stephanie Caroline Anne Syms, also known as Pamela, was a natural daughter of the Duke of Orléans and the Countess of Genlis. He recognised a son he had with Marguerite Françoise Bouvier de la Mothe de Cépoy, comtesse de Buffon, Victor Leclerc de Buffon (6 September 1792  20 April 1812), known as the chevalier de Saint-Paul and chevalier d'Orléans.

Military service

In 1778, Philippe served in the squadron of the Count of Orvilliers and was present in the Battle of Ushant, a naval battle against the British during the American War of Independence on 27 July 1778. He was removed from the navy due in part to Queen Marie Antoinette's hatred of him and also to his own perceived incompetence and alleged cowardice. As compensation, he was given the honorary post of colonel-general of hussars.

Role in the French Revolution

Louis Philippe d'Orléans with the insignia of the grand master of the Grand Orient de France, the governing body of French freemasonry.

Louis Philippe, a member of the Jacobin club, used his wealth and family connections to help spread the revolutionary ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu. Cousin to King Louis XVI and thus a member of the Bourbon family line, Philippe opened the Palais-Royal to the Jacobins as a refuge from royalist censors. This palace, which was exempt from government censorship, allowed Jacobins to meet in Paris not only to discuss and debate revolutionary principles but also to print and distribute pamphlets to other Parisians. Although the philosophies of Rousseau and Montesquieu could not provide a concrete system for creating a moral government, the free exchange of ideas along with rising literacy rates fueled the changing social and political ideologies of Parisians. Because of his social, economic, and political power, Philippe was able to create a center for revolutionary ideology that played a large part in the undermining of the crown.[7]

Liberal ideology

Philippe, like most Jacobins during the French Revolution, strongly adhered to the principles of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and was interested in creating a more moral and democratic form of government in France.[8] As he grew more and more interested in Rousseau's ideas, he began to promote Enlightenment ideology. He often visited Great Britain, and became an intimate of the Prince of Wales. In France, he made anglomanie fashionable, with an admiration for anything British, from liberalism to jockeys. He was also the Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Orient de France from 1771 to 1793, though he did not attend a meeting of the Grand Orient until 1777. He later distanced himself from Freemasonry in a letter dated January 1793, and the Grand Orient vacated his position on 13 December 1793.[9] He also made himself very popular in Paris by his large gifts to the poor during times of famine. To appear egalitarian, he opened up the gardens of the Palais Royal to the public and allowed shops in the palace's arcades.

Revolutionary politics

Philippe's inheritance of the Palais-Royal gave him the means to create a massive headquarters for the Jacobin faction. Only blocks away from the Tuileries Palace, where the King had been placed after being ousted from Versailles, the Palais-Royal became a meeting place for wealthy nobles who had joined the Jacobin club. There, nobles began to debate and spread the ideas of the Enlightenment, and the King lost access to some of the most influential aristocrats. Without the ability to keep the nobles in "constant attendance", it became impossible for the King to monitor and reverse the growing anti-royalist sentiment.[10]

Phillipe hired people such as the Marquis Duquesne, whose family took control of Philippe's political advisory service. As Philippe spread power and positions to the people around him, his movement lost some of his original ideology. While it initially started to spread anti-Bourbon liberalism, many people became interested in seeking power under a new form of government, which was something of little interest to their rich, quiet patron. The movement, though somewhat altered by differing motives, still retained some of Louis Philippe's original beliefs. This became apparent when the Instructions and Deliberations were released by his administration. Though not written by Louis Philippe himself, the writings held values that were very close to his heart; the dearest being that of the freedom to travel when and where he pleased.

Leadership in the Estates-General

At the Assembly of Notables in 1787, Philippe was very vocal in the anti-royalist, Enlightenment ideas, leading to suspicions that he was plotting to displace Louis XVI. In November, he again showed his liberalism during the lit de justice, which Étienne de Loménie de Brienne had made the king hold. For this transgression, he was again exiled to Villers-Cotterêts.

The approaching convocation of the Estates-General made his friends very active on his behalf. He circulated pamphlets, which the Abbé Sieyès had drawn up at his request, in every bailliage. He was elected in three districts, by the nobility of Paris, Villers-Cotterêts and Crépy-en-Valois. During the opening procession of the Estates-General, Philippe "seemed anxious to march as close to the Third Estate as possible", as a display of his desire for a more democratic and representative government. After the Third Estate broke from the Estates-General in the Tennis Court Oath and created the National Assembly, Philippe was one of the first to break from the Estates-General and join the National Assembly.[11] In the Second Estate 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 Third Estate.

The part Philippe d'Orléans played during the summer of 1789 is one of the most debated points in the history of the French Revolution. The royal court accused him of being at the bottom of every popular movement, and saw the "gold of Orléans" as the cause of the Réveillon riot and the storming of the Bastille (mirroring the subsequent belief held by the Jacobins that everything opposing them relied on the "gold of Pitt the Younger"). His hatred of Marie Antoinette, his previous disgrace at court, and his liberalism (alongside his friendship with Duport and Choderlos de Laclos), all seem to point towards his involvement. The Duke is also alleged to have deliberately withheld grain from the people of Paris, being a direct cause of the October march on Versailles.[12] The Duke is also thought to have lied about his whereabouts when the Palace at Versailles was stormed in the early hours of the morning on the 6th of October, having stated he was at the General Assembly in Paris, yet several witnesses (including the Marquise de la Tour du Pin) saw him lead the bloodthirsty mob to a staircase leading to the Queen's bedroom, protected by Swiss Guards. The mob cried "Long live our King d'Orléans" during the raid.[13]

Grace Elliott, who was one of Philippe's mistresses at the time, attested to the fact that during the riot of 14 July,[3] the duke was on a fishing excursion, and that he was rudely treated by the king the next day when the duke went to offer his cousin his services. Supposedly, the duke was so disgusted by the accusation that he was seeking the crown, that he wanted to go to the United States. His favourite lover, the Countess of Buffon, however, would not go with him, so he decided to remain in Paris.

The Marquis de La Fayette, apparently jealous of Philippe's popularity, persuaded the king to send the duke to Britain on a mission, and he accordingly remained in England from October 1789 to July 1790. On 7 July 1790, he took his seat in the National Constituent Assembly. On 2 October, both he and Honoré Mirabeau were declared by the Assembly entirely free of any complicity in the events of 5–6 October 1789.

Citoyen Égalité

Philippe d'Orléans subsequently tried to keep himself distant from the political world, but he was still suspect to the King and subject to pressures from his partisans to replace Louis XVI. His lack of political aspirations could be proven by noting that he did not attempt to obtain any leading position after the King's flight to Varennes in June 1791. In fact, Louis Philippe attempted to reconcile with the King in January 1792, but was rejected, and refused to aid the King any further. In an attempt to show his support of democratic and Enlightenment philosophies, he changed his surname to Égalité (equality) and was thereafter referred to as Citoyen (citizen) Philippe Égalité.

In the summer of 1792, he was present for a short time with the Army of the North, together with his two sons, the Duke of Chartres, future King of the French, and the Duke of Montpensier, but had returned to Paris before the insurrection of 10 August.

During the Grand Terror

After the fall of the monarchy, Philippe risked his own life by saving persons under suspicion by the revolutionary regime — in particular, and at the request of Grace Elliott, he saved the life of Louis René Quentin de Richebourg de Champcenetz, the governor of the Tuileries Palace, who was his personal enemy. Philippe accepted the appellation of Citoyen Égalité (Citizen Equality) conferred on him by the Commune. He was elected twentieth and last deputy for Paris to the National Convention, where he made no notable contribution other than voting in the king's trial — he voted in favour of the death sentence for Louis XVI. Many citizens of Paris saw this as an attempt by Philippe to overthrow the crown and seize power himself.[14] They believed that not only was the Palais-Royal the center for revolutionary and philosophical debates, but that it was also his ground for recruiting and financing riots and rebellious activity.[15]

Philippe's adherence to republican principles and values did not save him from coming under suspicion, which was especially aroused by the friendship of his eldest son, the Duke of Chartres, with Charles François Dumouriez. When the news of the desertion of Chartres and Dumouriez reached Paris, all the Bourbons left in France, including Philippe-Égalité, were arrested on 5 April 1793. First imprisoned in Paris, he was later transferred to the Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille, then brought back to Paris in October, during the Reign of Terror, the second phase of which had begun the preceding June with the arrest of the Girondists (Girondins).

As a member of the House of Bourbon, Louis Philippe was shortlisted for a trial, and effectively tried and guillotined in the space of one day on 6 November 1793. Accounts of his incarceration and execution mention his calmness. He was granted a final wish to have a gracious dinner before his execution but, having been stripped of all assets upon his arrest, was unable to take advantage of this concession.[16]

Philippe d'Orléans was buried in the Madeleine Cemetery (closed in 1794), in Paris, where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and hundreds executed on the Place de la Révolution during the Terror had been buried. His remains were never found.

He was portrayed by Joseph Schildkraut in the 1938 film Marie Antoinette, and by Jean-Claude Dreyfus in the 2001 Éric Rohmer film The Lady and the Duke.



Titles and succession



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  1. Chisholm 1911.
  2. Albert Soboul, Dictionnaire Historique de la Rév. Fr. Paris 1989 (PUF) S. 800
  3. 1 2 Marie Antoinette:Antonia Fraser
  4. ib. Castelot, pp. 73–80 & 86–87
  5. 1 2 ib. Castelot, p. 124
  6. fr:Rue de Bellechasse
  7. Whitham, J. Mills. A Biographical History of the French Revolution. New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1968.
  8. De Luna, Frederick A (Spring 1991), "The Dean Street Style of Revolution: J-P. Brissot, Jeune Philosophe", French Historical Studies, 17 (1): 159–90, doi:10.2307/286283, JSTOR 286283
  9. MACKEY MD, Albert C, "Letter O; Orléans, Duke of", Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences
  10. Price, Munro. "Versailles Revisited: New Work on the World Regime." The Historical Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Jun., 2003): 437-447, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3133517> (Retrieved 19 January 2010).
  11. Gottschalk, Louis R. The Era of the French Revolution 1715-1815). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957.
  12. Nagel, Susan, Marie Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter, pp. 63–4
  13. Nagel, Susan, Marie Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter, pp. 76–7
  14. Gottschalk, Louis R. The Era of the French Revolution 1715-1815). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957.
  15. Whitham, J. Mills. A Biographical History of the French Revolution. New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1968.
  16. Herman Lindqvist: Franska revolutionen, p. 196
  17. http://www.heraldica.org/topics/france/frroyal.htm#sang Style of HSH and further information on Princes of the Blood


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