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Charles X (9 October 1757 – 6 November 1836) ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him. His rule of almost six years came to an end in 1830 due to the July Revolution, which ignored his attempts to keep the crown in the senior branch of the House of Bourbon and instead elected Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans as King of the French. Once again exiled, Charles died in Goriziamarker, Austriamarker.

Childhood and adolescence

Charles-Philippe was born in 1757, the youngest son of the Dauphin Louis Ferdinand, and his wife, the Dauphine Marie Josèphe, at the Palace of Versaillesmarker. Charles was created Count of Artois at birth by his grandfather, the reigning King Louis XV. As the youngest male in the family Charles seemed unlikely ever to become king.

At the death of his father in 1765, Charles' oldest surviving brother, Louis-Auguste, became the new Dauphin, the heir-apparent to the French throne. Their mother, Marie Josèphe, never recovered from the loss of her husband and died in March 1767 from tuberculosis. This left Charles an orphan at the age of nine, along with his siblings Louis-Auguste, Louis Stanislas, Count of Provence, Clotilde, and Elisabeth.

Louis XV fell ill on 27 April 1774, a week after the premiere of the celebrated composer Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera, Iphigénie en Aulide, and died on 10 May of smallpox at the age of sixty-four. His grandson Louis-Auguste succeeded him as King Louis XVI of France.

Marriage and private life

Charles as Count of Artois
In November 1773, Charles married Princess Marie Thérèse of Savoy. The marriage, unlike that of Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste, however, was consummated almost immediately.

In 1775, Marie Thérèse gave birth to a boy, Louis-Antoine, who was created Duke of Angoulême by Louis XVI. Louis-Antoine was the first of the next generation of Bourbons, as the King and the Count of Provence had not fathered any children yet, causing the Parisian libellistes (pamphleteers who published scandalous leaflets about important figures in court and politics) to lampoon Louis XVI's alleged impotence. Three years later, in 1778, Charles's second son, Charles Ferdinand, was born and was given the title of a Duke of Berry.. In the same year Queen Marie Antoinette gave birth to her first child, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, quelling any rumours that she could not bear children.

Charles was thought of as the most attractive in his family, bearing a strong resemblance to his grandfather, Louis XV. and as his wife was considered quite ugly by most contemporaries, he looked for company elsewhere. Accordingly, his extramarital affairs became numerous. According to the Count of Hezecques, "few beauties were cruel to him." Later, he embarked upon a life-long love affair with the beautiful Louise de Polastron (1764–1804), the sister-in-law of Marie Antoinette's closest companion, the Duchess of Polignac.

Charles also struck up a firm friendship with his sister-in-law, Queen Marie Antoinette, whom he had first met at her arrival in France in April 1770 when he was twelve. The closeness of the relationship was such that he was falsely accused of having seduced Marie Antoinette by Parisian rumour mongers. As part of Marie Antoinette's social set, Charles often appeared opposite her in the private theatre of her favourite royal retreat, the Petit Trianonmarker. They were both said to be very talented amateur actors; with Marie Antoinette playing milkmaids, shepherdesses and country ladies, and Charles playing lovers, valets and farmers.

A famous story concerning the two involves the construction of the Château de Bagatellemarker. In 1775, Charles purchased a small hunting lodge in the Bois de Boulognemarker. He soon had the existing house torn down with plans to rebuild. Marie Antoinette wagered her brother-in-law that the new château could not be completed within three months. Charles engaged the neoclassical architect François-Joseph Bélanger to design the building. He won his bet, with Bélanger completing the house in sixty-three days. It is estimated that the project, which came to include manicured gardens, cost over two million livres. Throughout the 1770s, Charles spent lavishly. He accumulated enormous debts, totalling 21 million livres. In the 1780s, King Louis XVI paid of the debts of both his brothers, the Counts of Provence and Artois.

Also around 1775, Louis Philippe, the future Duke of Orléans, schemed to create a rift between the King and his youngest brother. Louis Philippe introduced Charles to gambling and the brothels at the Palais-Royalmarker, the ancestral home of Louis Philippe's family. Louis Philippe wanted Charles to catch a venereal disease, either dying, or becoming sterile , thereby increasing his own chances of one day gaining the throne of France (as first prince of the blood, Louis Philippe would have been fourth-in-line to the throne, after the Counts of Provence, Artois and Angoulême) as Charles was the only member of his family to produce any children, so far.

In 1781, Charles acted as a proxy for the Emperor Joseph II at the christening of his godson, the Dauphin Louis Joseph.

Crisis and Revolution

Charles' political awakening started with the first great crisis of the monarchy in 1786, when it became apparent that the kingdom was bankrupt from previous military endeavours (the Seven Years War, and the American War of Independence) and needed fiscal reform to survive. Charles supported the removal of the aristocracy's financial privileges but opposed to any reduction in the social privileges enjoyed by either the Church or the nobility. He believed that France's finances should be reformed without the monarchy being overthrown. In his own words, it was "time for repair, not demolition."

King Louis XVI eventually convened the Estates General, which hadn't been assembled for over 150 years, to meet in May 1789 to ratify financial reforms. Along with his sister Elisabeth, Charles was the most conservative member of the family and opposed the Third Estate's (representing the commoners) demand to increase their voting power. This prompted criticism from his brother, who accused him of being "plus royaliste que le roi" ("more royalist than the King"). In June 1789, the Third Estate declared themselves a National Assembly in the same month, intent on providing France with a new constitution.

In conjunction with the baron de Breteuil, Charles had political alliances arranged to depose the liberal minister of finance, Jacques Necker. These plans backfired when Charles attempted to secure Necker's dismissal on 11 July without Breteuil's knowledge, much earlier than they had originally intended. It was the beginning of a decline in his political alliance with Breteuil, which ended in mutual loathing.

Necker's dismissal provoked the fall of the Bastille on 14 July. At the insistence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Charles and his family left France three days later, on 17 July, along with several other courtiers, including the duchesse de Polignac, the Queen’s favourite.

Life in exile

Charles and his family decided to seek refuge in Savoy, Marie Thérèse's native country, where they were joined by some of the Condé family.

Meanwhile in Paris, Louis XVI was struggling with the National Assembly, which was committed to radical reforms and had enacted the Constitution of 1791. In March 1791, the Assembly also enacted a regency bill which provided for the case of the King's premature death. While his heir Louis-Charles was still a minor, the Count of Provence, the Duke of Orléans or, if either was unavailable, someone chosen by election should become regent, completely passing over the rights of Charles who, in the royal lineage, stood between the Count of Provence and the Duke of Orléans.

Charles meanwhile left Turin and moved to Trier, where his uncle, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony was the incumbent Archbishop-Elector. Charles prepared for a counter-revolutionary invasion of France but after a letter by Marie Antoinette postponed it to after the royal family had escaped France. After the attempted flight was stopped at Varennes, Charles moved on to Koblenz, where he, the recently escaped Count of Provence and the Princes of Condé jointly declared their intention to invade France. The Count of Provence was sending dispatches to various European sovereigns for assistance, while Charles set up a court-in-exile in the Electorate of Trier. On 25 August, the rulers of Austriamarker and Prussia issued the Declaration of Pillnitz, which called on other European powers to intervene in France.

On New Year's Day 1792, the National Assembly declared all emigrants traitors, repudiated their titles and confiscated their lands., followed by the suspension and eventually the abolition of the monarchy in September 1792. The royal family was imprisoned in the Templemarker, and eventually put to death or, as the young Dauphin died of illnesses and neglect.

When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out in 1792, Charles escaped to Great Britainmarker, where King George III of Great Britain gave him a generous allowance. Charles lived in Edinburghmarker and Londonmarker with his mistress Louise de Polastron His older brother, dubbed Louis XVIII after the death of his nephew in June 1795, relocated to Veronamarker and then to Jelgava Palace, Mitaumarker, where Charles's son, Louis-Antoine, married Louis XVI's only surviving child, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte on 10 June 1799. In 1802, Charles supported his brother with several thousand pounds. In 1807, Louis XVIII moved to Great Britainmarker.

The Bourbon Restoration

Louis XVIII of France and Navarre
In January 1814, Charles covertly left his home in London to join the Coalition forces in southern France. Louis XVIII, by then wheelchair-bound, supplied Charles with letters patent creating him Lieutenant General of the Kingdom. On 31 March, the Allies captured Parismarker. A week later Napoleon I abdicated. The Senatemarker declared Louis XVIII restored. Charles arrived in the capital on 12 April and acted as Lieutenant General of the Kingdom until Louis XVIII arrived from England. During his brief tenure as regent, Charles created an ultra-royalist secret police, that reported directly back to him without Louis XVIII's knowledge. It operated for over five years.

Louis XVIII was greeted with great rejoicing from the Parisians and proceeded to occupy the Tuileries Palacemarker. His brother, the Count of Artois, lived in the Pavillon de Mars, the Duke of Angoulême in the Pavillon de Flore, which overlooked the River Seinemarker. The duchesse d'Angoulême fainted upon arriving at the palace, as it brought back terrible memories of her family's incarceration there, and of the storming of the palace and the massacre of the Swiss Guards on 10 August 1792.

According to the advice of the occupying allied army, Louis XVIII drafted a liberal constitution, the Charter of 1814, which entailed a bicameral legislature, an electorate of 90,000 men and freedom of religion.

Following the Hundred Days, Napoleon's brief return to power in 1815, the White Terror swept across France, when 80,000 Napoleonic officials and generals were removed from their positions and some even killed, most notably the Marshalls Ney, who was executed for treason, and Brune, who was murdered.

The King's brother and heir

While the King retained the liberal charter, Charles patronised members of the ultra-royalists in parliament, such as Jules de Polignac, the writer François-René de Chateaubriand and Jean-Baptiste de Villèle and on several occasions, Charles voiced his disapproval of his brother's liberal ministries and threatened to leave the country unless Louis XVIII dismissed them. Louis, in turn, feared his brother's and heir-presumptive's ultra-royalist tendencies would send the family into exile once more.

On 14 February 1820, Charles' younger son, the Duke of Berry was assassinated at the Paris Opera. This loss not only devastated the family but also put the continuation of the Bourbon dynasty in jeopardy, as the Duke of Angoulême's marriage had not produced any children. Parliament debated the abolition of the salic law, which excluded females from the succession and was long held inviolable. However, the Duke of Berry's widow, Caroline Ferdinande of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, was found to be pregnant and on 29 September 1820 gave birth to a son, Henri, Duke of Bordeaux. His birth was hailed as "godgiven" and the people of France bought him the Château de Chambordmarker in celebration of his birth.

Rule as King

Internal policies

In September 1824, Louis XVIII's health began to fail, as the King was suffering from both dry and wet gangrene in his leg and spine. He died on 16 September, and his brother succeeded him to the throne as King Charles X of France.

In his first act as King, Charles tried to unify the House of Bourbon by granting the style of Royal Highness to his cousins of House of Orléans, who had been deprived of this by Louis XVIII because of the former Duke of Orléans' role in the death of Louis XVI.

In the first few months of his reign, Charles' government passed a series of laws that bolstered the power of the nobility and clergy. Charles gave his Prime Minister, Jean-Baptiste de Villèle, lists of laws that he wanted ratified every time he opened parliament. In April 1825, the government approved legislation, proposed by Louis XVIII but implemented only after his death, that paid an indemnity to nobles whose estates had been confiscated during the Revolution. The law gave government bonds to those who had lost their lands, in exchange for their renunciation of their ownership, costing the state approximately 988 million francs. In the same month, the Anti-Sacrilege Act was passed. Charles' government attempted to re-establish male only primogeniture for families paying over 300 francs in tax but the measure was voted down in the Chamber of Deputies.

On 29 May 1825, King Charles was anointed at the cathedral of Reimsmarker, the traditional site of consecration of French Kings which however had been unused since 1775 as Louis XVIII had foregone the ceremony to avoid controversy.

That Charles was not a popular ruler became apparent in April 1827, when chaos ensued during the King's reviewing of the National Guard. In retaliation, the National Guard was disbanded but as its members were not disarmed, it remained a potential threat.

After losing his parliamentary majority in an unfavourable general election in November 1827, Charles dismissed Prime minister Villèle on 5 January 1828 and appointed Jean-Baptise de Martignac, a man the King disliked and thought of only as provisional. On 5 August 1829, Charles dismissed Martignac and appointed Jules de Polignac, who however lost his majority in parliament at the end of August, when the Chateaubriand faction defected. To stay in power, Polignac would not recall the Chambers until March 1830.

Conquest of Algeria

France declared war on Algeriamarker on 31 January 1830 to put an end to the threat he unruly Algerian pirates posed to Mediterraneanmarker trade and also increase the government's popularity by a patriotic victory. The occasion of the war was the viceroy of Algeria, angry about French failure to pay its debts stemming from Napoleon's invasion of Egyptmarker, had struck the French ambassador. French troops were victorious, capturing Algiersmarker on 9 July.

The July Revolution

The Chambers convened on 2 March 1830, as planned, but Charles' opening speech was greeted by negative reactions from many deputies. Some introduced a bill demanding that the King's ministers should have the backing of the Chambers. On 18 March 221 deputies, a majority by 30, voted in favour of the bill. However, the King had already decided to hold general elections and thus the chamber was suspended on 19 March.

Elections were held on 23 June but did not produce a majority favourable to the government. Therefore, on 6 July, the King and his ministers decided to suspend the constitution, as provided for by Article 14 of the Charter in case of an emergency, and on 25 Julyissued four ordinances, which censored the press, dissolved the newly elected chamber, altered the electoral system and called for elections in September.

When the official government newspaper, Le Moniteur Universel, published the ordinances on 26 July, Adolphe Thiers, journalist at the opposition paper Le National, called on the people to revolt. In the evening, crowds assembled in the gardens of the Palais-Royalmarker, shouting "Down with the Bourbons!" and "Vive la Charte". As the police closed off the gardens during the nights, the crowd re-grouped in a nearby street, where they shattered the street lamps.

The next morning, police raided and shut down the newspapers that continued to publish (including Le National). When the protesters, who had re-entered the Palais-Royal gardens, heard of this, they attacked soldiers with missiles, prompting them to shoot. By the evening, the city was dominated by violence and shops were looted. On 28 July, the rioters began to erect barricades in streets. Marshal Marmont, who had been called in the day before to remedy the situation, took the offensive against the rioters, but some of his men defected to the rioters and by the afternoon he had to retreat to the Tuileries Palace.

Louis Philippe, King of the French (1830-1848)
The members of the Chamber of Deputies sent a five-man delegation to Marmont, urging him to advise the King to revoke the ordinances and thus assuage the anger of the protesters. Subsequently, on Marmont's request the prime minister intervened with the King, but Charles refused all compromise and dismissed all of his ministers that afternoon, realising the precariousness of the situation. That evening, the members of the Chamber assembled at Jacques Laffitte's house and decided that Louis Philippe d'Orléans should take the throne from King Charles. They printed posters endorsing Louis Philippe and distributed them throughout the city. By the end of the day, the government's authority was trampled.

Charles X had to flee St. Cloud in the early hours of 31 July, as the Parisians were scheming to attack the residence, and sought refuge at the Versaillesmarker. Meanwhile in Paris, Louis Philippe assumed the post of Lieutenant General of the Kingdom.

On 2 August, Charles X retreated further to the Rambouilletmarker. When three regiments of the Royal Guard abandoned him, Charles realised that all hope was lost for him. The same day he abdicated in favour of his son, the and the Dauphin, who in turn abdicated in favour of his nephew, Henri, Duke of Bordeaux. The abdication document was sent to the Lieutenant General requesting him to proclaim the Duke King, but Louis Philippe ignored the document and on 9 August had himself proclaimed King of the French by the members of the Chamber.

Second exile and death

When it became apparent that a mob of 14,000 people was preparing to attack, the Royal Family was forced to leave Rambouillet and, on 16 August, embarked on packet steamers provided by Louis Philippe, to the United Kingdom. Informed by the British Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, that they needed to arrive in Englandmarker as private citizens, all adopted pseudonyms, with Charles X assuming the name of a "Count of Ponthieu". The Bourbons were greeted coldly by the English, who upon their arrival mockingly waved the newly adopted tri-colour flags were at them.

Charles X was quickly followed to Britain by his creditors, who had loaned him vast sums during his first exile and were yet to be paid back in full. However, the family could use money Charles' wife had stocked away in London.

The Bourbons were allowed to reside in Lulworth Castlemarker in Dorsetmarker, but quickly moved to Holyrood Palacemarker in Edinburghmarker, where the Duchess of Berry also lived at Regent Terracemarker

Charles' relationship to his daughter-in-law proved uneasy, as the Duchess claimed the regency for her son, Henri, whom the abdications of Rambouillet had left the legitimist pretender to the French throne. Charles at first denied her demands, but in December acquiesced, and only once she had landed in France. Soon afterwards, the Duchess by way of the Netherlands, Prussia and Austria made her way to her Italian relatives. Finding little support there, she arrived in Marseillesmarker in April, made her way to the Vendéemarker, where she tried to instigate an uprising against the new regime, and was imprisoned, much to the embarrassment of her father-in-law. He was further dismayed when after her release the Duchess married the Count de Luchessi-Palli, a minor Neapolitan noble. As a result of this morganatic match, Charles banned her from seeing her children.

On the invitation of Emperor Francis I of Austria, the Bourbons moved to Praguemarker in winter 1832/33 and were given lodging at the Hradschin Palacemarker by the Emperor. In September 1833, Bourbon legitimists gathered in Prague to celebrate the Duke of Bordeaux's thirteenth birthday. They expected grand celebrations but Charles X merely proclaimed his grandson's majority. On the same day, after much cajoling by Chateaubriand, Charles agreed to a meeting with his daughter-in-law, which took place in Leobenmarker on 13 October 1833. The children of the Duchess refused to meet with her after they had learnt of her second marriage. Charles refused the various demands by the Duchess, but after protests from his other daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Angoulême, gave in again. In the summer of 1834, he again allowed the Duchess of Berry to see her children.

Upon the death of Emperor Francis in March 1835, the Bourbons left Hradschin Palace as the new Emperor Ferdinand wished to use the palace for his coronation. the Bourbons first moved to Teplitzmarker, but as Ferdinand wanted to use Hradschin on a more permanent basis, they purchased Kirchberg Castle. Moving there was postponed due to an outbreak of cholera in the locality. In the meantime, Charles left for the warmer climate on Austria's Mediterranean coast in October 1835. Upon his arrival at Goriziamarker he caught cholera and died on 6 November 1836. The townspeople draped their windows in black to mourn him. Charles was interred in the Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady, in the Franciscan Kostanjevica Monastery (now in Nova Goricamarker, Sloveniamarker).


Marriage and issue

Charles X married Princess Maria Teresa of Savoy, the daughter of Victor Amadeus III, King of Sardinia, on 16 November 1773.The couple had four children:
  1. Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême (6 August 1775 – 3 June 1844)
  2. Sophie (5 August 1776 – 5 December 1783)
  3. Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry (24 January 1778 – 13 February 1820)
  4. Marie Thérèse (1783).


  1. Mary Platt Parmele, A Short History of France. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons (1894), p. 221.
  2. Munro Price, The Perilous Crown: France between Revolutions, Macmillan, p. 185-187.
  4. Évelyne Lever, Louis XVI, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris (1985), p.
  5. Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette: the Journey, p. 113–116.
  6. Fraser, p. 128-129.
  7. Fraser, p. 137–139.
  8. Fraser, p. 189.
  9. Fraser, p. 80-81.
  10. Fraser, p. 178.
  11. Susan Nagel, Marie Thérèse: Child of Terror, p. 11-12.
  12. Fraser, p. 221.
  13. Fraser, p. 326.
  14. Fraser, p. 274–278.
  15. Fraser, p. 338.
  16. Fraser, p. 340.
  17. Nagel, p. 65.
  18. Fraser, p. 383.
  19. Nagel, p. 103.
  20. Nagel, p. 113.
  21. Nagel, p. 118.
  22. Fraser, p. 399, 440, 456; Nagel, p. 143.
  23. Nagel, p. 152-153.
  24. Nagel, p. 207.
  25. Nagel, p. 210, 222, 233-235
  26. Nagel, p. 153.
  27. Price, p. 11-12.
  28. Nagel, p. 253-254.
  29. Price, p. 50.
  30. Price, p. 52-54.
  31. Price, p. 72, 80-83
  32. Price, p. 84.
  33. Price, p. 91-92.
  34. Price, p. 94-95.
  35. Price, p. 109.
  36. Price, p. 113-115.
  37. Price, p. 116-118.
  38. Price, p. 119-121.
  39. Price, p. 122-128.
  40. Price, p. 136-138.
  41. Price, p. 130-132.
  42. Price, p. 141-142.
  43. Price, p. 151-154, 157.
  44. Price, p. 158, 161-163.
  45. Price, p. 173-176.
  46. Price, p. 177, 181-182, 185.
  47. Nagel, p. 318-325
  48. A.J. Mackenzie-Stuart, A French King at Holyrood, Edinburgh (1995).
  49. Nagel, p. 327-328.
  50. Nagel, pp. 322, 333.
  51. Nagel, p. 340-342.
  52. Nagel, p. 349-350.

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