Staunchly Catholic and conservative, and convinced of his divine right to rule, it took three days of violent unrest known as the Trois Glorieuses in July 1830 for revolutionaries to force the country’s last Bourbon monarch into exile.
Charles X never saw France again. After spells in London, Edinburgh and Prague, he died after contracting cholera in the Adriatic resort of Gorizia where he was on holiday. On Tuesday, an association of historians, royalists and descendants launched a campaign to have Charles X’s remains returned from a nearby monastery, now in Slovenia, where he lies along with members of his family.
“All we have left of him is this image of a reactionary monarch, blind to the realities of his era and the wishes of his subjects,” said Philippe Delorme, the honorary president of the association. “Yet the Restoration, despite its failings, was the first attempt at a parliamentary regime in France.”Share
Charles X was France’s penultimate monarch and believed the country should reform without overthrowing the monarchy, hence his celebrated device “time for repair, not demolition”. He was the youngest of the royal heirs and, as the Comte d’Artois, was thought to have no chance of acceding to the throne. The most handsome of the Bourbon boys, he had many affairs and his closeness to his sister-in-law Marie Antoinette provoked gossip. Both shared a penchant for lavish spending and an ability to run up enormous debts. His elder brother, Louis XVI, disapproved of his conservatism and refusal to consider the people’s demands, accusing him of being “plus royaliste que le roi”, more royalist than the king. Unlike his sibling, however, Charles escaped the guillotine by leaving France three days after the storming of the Bastille.
When the French revolutionary wars erupted in 1792 he crossed the Channel to Britain; George III gave him a generous allowance and he lived in Edinburgh and London with his mistress Louise de Polastron. He returned to France and was crowned in May 1825 at Reims cathedral, the last Bourbon king of his country. He was not popular, however, and five years later was forced to abdicate and flee again - first to Britain, where he was not particularly welcomed, and then Prague at the invitation Emperor Francis I of Austria.
In 1836, shortly after his 79th birthday, he caught cholera and died. He was buried in the Franciscan Kostanjevica monastery, now in Nova Gorica, Slovenia. He is the only French king not buried in France. Nicolas Doyen of the association campaigning to have his remains returned said a letter was being sent to the Slovenian embassy in Paris this week to explain the request. “For us this is symbolic and not linked to whether people think Charles X was a good or bad king. It is the principle that the eternal rest of a French monarch should be in France,” he said. Doyen said the group was also requesting the remains of Charles X’s son Louis and daughter-in-law Marie-Thérèse, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, so they could all be buried in Saint-Denis cathedral, the ancient resting place of French royals. “At a time of great upheaval and economic crisis, this will help reconcile the French with their history. At the moment it’s as if we are missing a piece of our national puzzle,” he said. (Read more.)