Friday, September 21, 2018

Louis XVIII of France

Queen Marie-Joséphine

 From Shannon Selin:
 During the French Revolution, Louis and his wife, Marie Joséphine of Savoy, fled to the Austrian Netherlands. When Louis XVI was executed in January 1793, Louis (the Count of Provence) declared himself regent for his nephew, Louis Charles. In the eyes of the royalists, this young son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was now Louis XVII. In practice the boy was a prisoner in the Temple. When he died there at age 10 in 1795, the Count of Provence took the title Louis XVIII.
In exile, Louis XVIII moved with his entourage through Germany, Italy, Russia and Prussia before winding up in England in 1807. He stayed briefly at Gosfield Hall in Essex, and then settled into Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire. His niece, the Duchess of Angoulême (Louis XVI’s daughter), and her husband, the Duke of Angoulême (son of Louis’s younger brother, the Count of Artois), accompanied him. The Count of Artois also lived in England, but preferred to stay in London. The Prince Regent (later George IV) was generous to the exiled Bourbons, granting them large allowances. In 1800, Louis XVIII wrote to Napoleon (then First Consul of France), urging him to restore the Bourbons to the throne. Not surprisingly, Napoleon refused.

Louis XVIII’s wife Marie Joséphine died in 1810. Though they were said not to be close (you can read about one well-known spat on the This is Versailles blog), he did miss her. In early 1811, he wrote:
I am already at the point where I believe I shall remain – ‘no more tears – no more pangs of sorrow,’ but a sincere regret, a void in my life which I feel a hundred times a day. A thought occurs to me – sad, or gay, or indifferent – no matter, a recollection of something old, or an emotion at something new; I find myself saying mechanically I must tell HER this, and then I recollect my loss, the illusion vanishes, and I say to myself, the day of those soft intercourses is gone for ever. All this does not hinder my sleeping and eating, nor taking part in the conversation, nor even laughing when the occasion occurs; but the sad thought that she is gone forever mixes itself with everything, and, like a drop of wormwood in food or drink, embitters the flavour without entirely destroying it. (3)
After the allied troops entered Paris in 1814, forcing Napoleon’s abdication, Louis XVIII assumed the throne of France. On the balcony of the Tuileries’ Pavilion d’Horloge, in response to the acclamations of the crowd, Louis pressed the Count of Artois and the Duchess of Angoulême theatrically to his heart. During these embraces he grumbled: “Scoundrels! Jacobins! Brutes!” The Duchess burst out laughing, which caused the people to cheer even more. (4) Regarding the Tuileries Palace, Louis told Clemens von Metternich, the Austrian Foreign Minister:
It must be allowed that Napoleon was a very good tenant; he made everything most comfortable; he has arranged everything excellently for me. (5)
The occupying armies demanded that Louis rule not as an absolute monarch like his forebears, but as a constitutional monarch. Louis viewed the royal authority as derived from God rather than from a contract between king and people. He thus made the constitution (the Charte or Charter of 1814) a free grant of the King, instead of an agreement between him and his subjects. This gave him more power than the British king. Still, the Charter included many progressive provisions and established a legislature composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Peers. (Read more.)

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