This is The Siècle, Episode 26: Monsieur.

Welcome back. My thanks to Abby Mullen of the Consolation Prize podcast for providing a promo for her show, which you should definitely check out.

Last episode ended with the death of King Louis XVIII on Sept. 16, 1824, ten years after he was first restored to the French throne in the spring of 1814. It was early in the morning when the king’s surgeon held a lit candle near Louis’s mouth, and observed no breath to disturb the flame. “The king is dead!” he proclaimed. And then, in accordance with longstanding tradition, he turned to Louis’s younger brother, the Comte d’Artois, and added, “Long live the King!”1

Artois has been a major supporting character in our narrative from the very beginning. But now, as he prepares to take center stage in the narrative as King Charles X of France, I thought it was past time to revisit the past 25 episodes — from Artois’s point of view.

The Comte d’Artois was born in 1757 as Charles-Philippe de France, the third and youngest of three royal brothers. As a young man he was famously dissolute, something of a playboy, and even then a noted conservative. I covered more of Artois’s younger years back in Episode 13. Suffice to say, the Revolution changed his life along with everyone else in France; he fled into exile as early as July 1789, nearly four years before his oldest brother, King Louis XVI, was guillotined in January 1793. Two years after that, in June 1795, his nephew Louis-Charles died at age 10 in revolutionary custody. Royalists had considered Louis-Charles to be King Louis XVII, and his death meant the French throne, for the dwindling number of hard-core royalists, passed to Louis XVI’s next-oldest brother, Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, who proclaimed himself Louis XVIII.

Below: Charles, the Comte d’Artois, younger brother of Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII of France (1814). Artist unknown. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons..

Charles, the Comte d'Artois, younger brother of Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII of France (1814). Artist unknown. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

All that meant that Artois was now the oldest brother to the French king, and by a centuries-old French tradition, the king’s oldest brother was referred to simply as “Monsieur.” In contemporary sources, people describing Artois’s actions often simply say “Monsieur did this” or “Monsieur did that.” But for clarity’s sake, I’ll mostly refer to him as “Artois” — which is, for those curious, spelled a-r-t-o-i-s.

Artois’s story in the Bourbon Restoration actually precedes his brother. In the early months of 1814, as Napoleon’s regime crumbled under foreign invasions, Louis felt it was necessary to have Bourbon princes on the ground in France, to ensure the invading Allies put him on the throne and not one of the alternative possibilities, such as his more liberal cousin, the Duc d’Orléans. So he dispatched his brother Artois, and Artois’s two sons the dukes of Angoulême and Berry, to different corners of France to rally support.

Sent to eastern France, Artois was left to cool his heels behind Allied lines, accomplishing little of note. But in the southwest, Angoulême was met with cheering crowds in Bordeaux, which helped seal the deal for the wavering Allies — Louis was not just the forgotten brother of the old king, but someone with genuine popular support who might actually succeed at ruling France.2

But when the Allies finally settled on Louis as king, he was still in exile in England. And there he stayed, stricken down by an incredibly ill-timed attack of gout, for crucial weeks as the fate of France was decided on the ground. And there in the thick of things, bearing credentials as Louis’s representative, was the Comte d’Artois.3

A man fallen from the sky

This was critical, because while the Allies had decided that Louis was the best choice to rule France after Napoleon, they had conditions. Specifically, they wanted Louis to be a constitutional monarch, not an absolute one, and they wanted him to accept many of the changes France had undergone over the past generation, changes both substantive and symbolic.

Artois was, as they say here in Minnesota, an interesting man to be negotiating over these matters. Even then, Artois was noted for two qualities: “the charm of his manner” and the extreme nature of his royalism. Many people believed he still wanted to bring back the pre-Revolutionary ancien régime.4 And so every step of Artois’s approach to Paris was the subject of intense negotiations. To try to ease popular acceptance of the Bourbons, Tsar Alexander of Russia, and a provisional government led by the diplomat Talleyrand, told Artois that when he approached Paris, he should wear the uniform of France’s National Guard and brandish the tricolor flag. Artois was so upset at these conditions, especially the one to accept the flag of revolution, that he threatened to halt his approach to Paris unless such insulting demands were dropped. Cooler heads among Artois’s advisors managed to defuse the tensions, however, and Artois continued on to Paris, wearing the National Guard uniform but sporting the white cockade of the Bourbons instead of a tricolor.5

Despite the tense negotiations, when Artois finally arrived in Paris, it was a triumph. He rode in on horseback, preceded by some of Napoleon’s former marshals and a band playing the unofficial Bourbon anthem, “Vive Henri IV.” At the gates of Paris, Artois met Talleyrand and other members of France’s provisional government, and made some conciliatory remarks. The Moniteur newspaper reported that Artois thanked the provisional government for their service to France, and added that, “Nothing has changed. There is merely one Frenchman the more.” But Artois didn’t actually say this — one of his aides wrote the line after the fact, and had it printed in the newspaper as if Artois had, in the hopes of boosting his public image.6

As Artois made his way to Notre Dame for a celebratory service, crowds lined the streets and windows, cheering. A British observer noted that “the count was received with more enthusiasm than I had ever seen the Frence evince… Many persons shed tears.”7 Marshal Ney, a gruff old soldier who had just switched sides from Napoleon to the Bourbons, grumbled that, “The thing is past comprehension! Here is a man who has fallen from the sky, a man who only yesterday was a stranger to them, and they are in a fever about him already!”8

So why was this man fallen from the sky received with such fanfare? Some of this doubtlessly represented genuine French royalists, finally able to come out in the open and cheer a Bourbon prince for the first time in a generation. Others were likely opportunists who had cheered just as loudly for Napoleon the month before. And then, as I talked about way back in Episode 1, there were huge numbers of French people who cheered the Bourbons because they promised an end to Napoleon’s ruinous wars. Artois and Louis meant peace, and peace was popular.

After Notre Dame there were more ceremonies for Artois, including fireworks; he was met at the Tuileries Palace by three of his old gentlemen-of-honor from before the Revolution, and held court in the palace — which was still decorated with art of Napoleon’s victories. At the end of the long day, someone asked Artois if he was tired. “Why should I be tired?” Artois replied. “It is the first happy day I have had in thirty years.”9

Martinet (artist), Normand (engraver), “Arrival of Monsieur, Comte d’Artois, at Notre-Dame, April 4, 1814,” 1815. Public domain via Public domain via Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom

But it wasn’t all celebrations in these earliest days of the Bourbon Restoration. Artois was there as the lieutenant-general of the kingdom, personal representative of the absent king, and that meant there were decisions to make. Artois was pleased to be in the center of things, and took some small steps to put his stamp on France. He gave dozens of scholarships for Catholic seminary students, and renamed a village called “Napoléon” as “Bourbon-Vendée,” after the royal house and the Vendée region that had fought so hard against the Revolution.10

Those kind of decisions were easy. Artois quickly discovered that ruling could be hard, too. Even the little decisions were tricky. Before he even reached Paris, Artois had promised to abolish some of Napoleon’s unpopular taxes; now, lectured by the finance minister on how devastating that would be for the country’s precarious budget, Artois backtracked. On April 17, Artois signed a decree ending certain tariffs, but after the Minister of the Navy objected that abolishing the tariffs would ruin French manufacturers, Artois reinstated them on April 23. Early in April Artois abolished newspaper censorship, only to bring it back on April 20 after papers published what a decree dubbed “writings of a nature to alarm the subjects of his majesty.”11

Most important and fraught of all Artois’s duties was working with the Allied leaders currently occupying France. Artois signed off on a treaty negotiated by Talleyrand, abandoning fortresses and territory beyond France’s old 1792 borders — a necessary but unpopular decision. And on April 13, the day after his triumphant entry into Paris, Artois was cornered by Tsar Alexander, who explained in no uncertain terms that the Bourbon Restoration was contingent on it being a constitutional monarchy, and that Artois, as representative of the king, was going to have to publicly agree to this. Reluctantly, Artois released a carefully worded statement saying that he had not received authority from his brother to accept a constitution, but that “I know his sentiments and principles, and have no fear of being disavowed when I say in his name that he will accept its bases.”12

Despite the bumpy moments, Artois deeply enjoyed being in charge, and had hopes that he would continue to be, even after his brother arrived. One aide recalled Artois saying at the time that in Louis’s “present state of health, impossible as it is for him to move about, he will not be able to dispense with a lieutenant general; we will, therefore… ourselves take care of the executive.”13 The various royalists in Artois’s entourage encouraged this sort of thing, and concocted various schemes to ensure that Louis would be sidelined with Artois the real power behind the throne.14

All this came to naught when Louis finally did arrive, and despite his physical infirmities quickly asserted his control over the French government. Artois wasn’t exactly marginalized; he was a member of the king’s council, where he “talked an awful lot” — but Louis, “having made sure that he had heard every viewpoint, talked last.” Artois won the day on some issues, and lost on others. Generally speaking, though, Artois kept his disputes with the king relatively quiet — as can be seen by the most important of these early disputes, the Charter.15

Artois’s artful dodge over the question of a constitution for France had only kicked the ball down the road, and eventually Louis issued his own constitution for France, the Charter — which I talked all about back in Episode 7. French ultra-royalists tended to find the very idea of constitutions abhorrent — I quoted one pamphlet in Episode 9 urging Louis to “reject all pedantic contrivances which want to draw their geometric lines between the submission of children and paternal authority,” by which they meant subjects and a king.16 And Artois appears to have shared some of these feelings. Many people at the time, including at least one member of Louis’s council, believed that Artois wanted to restore the old divine right monarchy. So when Artois didn’t attend the Charter’s ceremonial unveiling on June 4, claiming illness, people saw a deliberate snub.17

Did Artois actually oppose the Charter, as many people believed? There’s good reason to think so. Lots of French royalists thought Louis should restore the pre-Revolutionary ancien régime, including high-ranking aides to Louis, and thousands of petition-signers and pamphlet-writers scattered across France.18 It was by no means a majority opinion, but if prominent writers, nobles and state officials supported this, it certainly seems plausible that the conservative Artois shared their belief.

But whatever he actually wanted, Artois was clever and practical. He knew that something like the Charter was necessary now, even if he didn’t like it. And Artois wasn’t too worried. One official later wrote in his memoirs that Artois told him he thought time was on his side, saying: “People have got what they asked for, and it has been necessary to give this form of government a trial; but the experiment will soon be over, and if, in the course of a year or two things do not go smoothly, there will be a return to the natural order of things.”19

Swift-footed Achilles

Of course, as we know, things did not go smoothly over the first year of the Bourbon Restoration. In March 1815, Napoleon landed again in France, taking advantage of the Bourbons’ missteps to make a bid for renewed power. Some of those missteps had been Artois’s; during the First Restoration he had taken a tour of the country to try to build goodwill, but ended up exacerbating divisions. In Besançon he snubbed the archbishop because of the prelate’s revolutionary history; in Lyon his remarks were interpreted as supporting the return of the biens nationaux, that property confiscated by the Revolution and sold to ordinary people, back to its original owners.20 This sort of stuff undermined Louis’s attempts to steer a moderate course, though Louis himself takes his share of blame for his regime’s collapse.

During the frantic scramble after Napoleon’s landing, it was Artois, as the heir to the throne, who went south to nominally command the army sent to block the returned emperor. But even Artois’s moral rigor proved helpless before the relentless tide of Napoleon’s march on Paris. Artois tried issuing stirring proclamations to the “brave men of Lyons” that “the brother of your king has come to entrust you with his person and share the glory and dangers of defending your city,” but the brave men of Lyons were cheering Napoleon. He showered money on his soldiers stationed there to try to buy their loyalty; they took his money but remained disloyal. Finally, the soldiers were assembled on the parade ground to be reviewed, but Artois met with a frighteningly chilly reception. All attempts by officers to start chants of “Long live the king” were met with silence. Artois tried a more personal approach, walking up to a veteran dragoon and addressing him directly, praising his courage. The dragoon stood there motionless, staring straight ahead, completely ignoring the king’s brother, even as Artois turned “red with fury.”21

Finally, Marshal Étienne Macdonald, a former Napoleonic general who had joined the Bourbons, convinced Artois he needed to flee the city before Napoleon arrived. Later, as the two retreated in Artois’s carriage, Macdonald lectured the prince for hours about the regime’s failures.22

A contemporary mocked Artois in a bit of verse:

Monsieur d’Artois, like a lion

Leapt from Paris to Lyons

But the eagle made him uneasy

He ran from Lyons to Paris

Monsieur d’Artois, with the willies

Is a swift-footed Achilles23

So, not his most shining moment. And things would get worse. As Napoleon continued to advance, Louis and the rest of the royal family eventually decided to flee the country. Artois took part in the dismal, mud-drenched retreat from Paris to Belgium that I described in Episode 2. He ended up with his brother in the city of Ghent, where they would wait until the Battle of Waterloo put paid to Napoleon’s second stint on the throne.

This time wasn’t all bad for Artois. Driven from his throne, Louis in this period listened to his brother’s counsel more than almost any time in their lives, and Artois played a key role in shaping the royal declarations issued from Ghent. Artois’s letters from the period are “utterly direct, decisive, self-confident and self-satisfied — even in the middle of the most shattering crisis,” writes historian Philip Mansel. Another of Louis’s advisors at the time complained that “every time the king thinks at leisure, Monsieur thinks with him.”24

For an example of Monsieur’s thinking during this time, we can look to a meeting he had with a moderate royalist, who argued that the First Restoration had failed because it had showed too much preference for émigrés and the ancien régime. But Artois, in this account, differed. To be sure, there had been mistakes, Artois agreed. But he argued that the First Restoration had been an effort at accommodating the changes wrought by the Revolution and Napoleon, but that this attempt, “even when you had at your disposal the entire resources of the government… could not save us.”

“You must agree,” Artois went on, “that a different system could not have caused a greater disaster, and it has not been demonstrated that it would not have been better.”25 If this account is to be trusted, then by a “different system,” Artois meant a return to the ancien régime.

“Make him understand, for once”

But Artois, if he did consider it time for a “different system” in France, continued to face obstacles. Despite Louis’s openness to Artois’s advice during this period, he was only willing to go so far. His restored government purged disloyal functionaries, and executed a few unlucky officials such as Marshal Ney, but it didn’t abandon the Charter. The king’s first post-Waterloo prime minister was not a reactionary but the statesman Talleyrand, who reportedly complained, “You cannot imagine how stupid the Comte d’Artois is. All these Bourbons are idiots except Louis XVIII.”26 When Talleyrand fell, he was replaced by the Duc de Richelieu, a moderate conservative who had little patience for Artois.

Artois was left to try to rely on informal pressure. Out in the country, he was the inspiration for bands of royalist vigilantes in the South of France, who physically attacked their political enemies while wearing green cockades — the color of Artois’s livery. When one of Louis’s generals tried to restore order, the so-called “verdets” murdered him.27 There’s no suggestion that Artois was in some way directing these mobs, but he did have ties to the ultra-royalists sitting in France’s newly elected parliament, the far-right body dubbed the Chambre introuvable that demanded more vengeance and more elements of the old regime than Louis or his ministers thought wise. Some of the leading Ultras had personal connections to Artois and his household, such as the brother-in-law of Artois’s chancellor, who denounced Louis’s government and called on the deputies to “defend the sovereign against his own mercy.” Richelieu and Wellington were probably wrong to believe that Artois was controlling the Ultras in the Chambre introuvable. But he did support them, influence their actions, and — perhaps most importantly — serve as an inspiration. As Mansel writes, “it was not easy for such loyal royalists to oppose their king. However, they could at least comfort themselves with the thought that the heir to the throne was on their side.”28

Therefore, when foreign powers became concerned that the extremism of the Chambre introuvable was destabilizing France, they identified Artois as the key figure. The Russian foreign minister wrote an extraordinary note to the Russian ambassador in Paris, ordering him to meeting with Artois and “make him understand plainly, for once, that the powers are not there in order to support his foolishness and in order to one day place him and his unreasonable spirit of reaction on the French throne.” Artois remained unyielding, so they went behind his back. When Louis dissolved the Chambre introuvable on Sept. 7, Artois was caught by surprise; he tried to reach his brother during the night to change his mind, but Louis had left strict orders that he was not to be disturbed.29

Pavillon de Marsan

All this left Artois and the ultraroyalists on the outside, as the Restoration moved in a liberal direction under governments led by Richelieu and Élie Decazes. But Artois was far from beaten. He remained in Paris, in the center of the action.

During Louis’s reign, Artois lived in apartments at the Tuileries Palace, right by the king’s. So did the rest of the Bourbon family. Generally speaking, Artois would join Louis and other Bourbons for conversation every morning at 10:30 a.m. The Bourbons had dinner together every night at six, and then retired to chat and play cards until 8.30

Below: The Pavillon de Marsan today, seen from the Tuileries Garden. Photo by Wikimedia user Thesupermat, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Paris - Jardin des Tuileries - Pavillon de Marsan - PA00085992 - 003 But the Tuileries was a big palace, and in between these family gatherings, Artois had a space of his own — both personally and politically. Artois’s household dominated one of the Tuileries Palace’s wings: the Pavillon de Marsan — currently the site of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the Louvre complex. And when I say Artois’s “household” was in the Pavillon de Marsan, I’m not talking about a few people. Artois was surrounded by a cast of more than 250 aides, servants, and officials, some living with Artois in the Pavillon de Marsan, others merely working for him. All this was paid for by an annual government subsidy of 4.4 million francs for the king’s brother.31 This wasn’t merely a matter of Artois living like royalty — this household gave him real power and influence. A host of prominent figures, mostly members of the old-line nobility, held various positions in Artois’s household; they received a salary and a court position, and had their political impact boosted by their proximity to the heir to the throne.32 Artois in return had the capacity to subsidize and reward whoever he wished, and had a host of important men who owed some degree of their prominence and livelihood to his favor.

This could cut both ways — when members of Artois’s household spoke out on issues, they were — fairly or unfairly — seen as representing his point of view. It was a way for him to influence political debates while officially remaining respectfully silent, sure — but also a source of scandal when people close to Artois opposed Louis’s government too vehemently. In Britain at this time, court officials were expected to support the king’s government, and after 1820 were even appointed by the politicians. In France, the state-funded households of Artois and his sons were entirely independent of both Louis and his government.33

As a result, just like everyone today knows that when you talk about the “White House” or “Buckingham Palace” doing something, you mean the president or the Queen, in Louis XVIII’s France everyone knew that “Pavillon de Marsan” was a shorthand for Monsieur.34 The Comte de Puységur, a witty ultraroyalist who held the position of one of Artois’s captains of the guard, once quipped that, “I am not French, I am from the Pavillon de Marsan.”35

Ensconced in the Pavillon de Marsan, Artois played a delicate game, leading the opposition to his brother’s government, while still continuing to try to influence his brother about policy. Louis was a willing partner in this pas-de-deux, refusing to give Artois what he wanted, but always taking care not to alienate his brother too much. The ultimate threat in all of this was that Artois would make his coy opposition to the king public, that he’d leave the Tuileries and go set up residence in the countryside or even abroad. For example, in 1818 Artois, angry over having his role in charge of France’s National Guard taken away from him by Louis’s government, threatened to “separate himself from the King and to publish a manifesto.” He was only talked out of this drastic action by the Austrian ambassador.36

This kind of open break would have split France’s royalists in two, forcing them to choose between the royal brothers — something Louis greatly feared as a threat to his government.37 So sometimes the two had tremendous clashes, such as when Louis in June 1816 ordered Artois’s portrait removed from the royal apartments.38 Other times, Louis went out of his way to appease his brother — sometimes by letting Artois persuade him, and sometimes by tossing him little favors, such as briefing him on secret government information, or appointing Artois’s friends to the Chamber of Peers.39

This struggle continued for the first half-decade of the Restoration, with both brothers sometimes dancing right up to the precipice of an open break, but never quite going over it.

Death and glory

And then, in February 1820, everything changed. Artois’s son, the Duc de Berry, was assassinated outside the Paris Opera, as I covered in Episode 14. Artois was in the room for his son’s long, agonizing death, and afterwards secluded himself in his quarters to grieve alone. In the moment, heartbroken, Artois had little time for politics.

Right: Nicolas-Louis Delaunois, “Sa Majesté Louis XVIII, la famille royale et les grands dignitaires réunis près du lit de mort du Duc de Berry,” 1820. Artois is probably the tall standing figure at center, head in hand. Public domain via via Bibliothèque nationale de France

But his friends and allies did have time for politics in this moment of tragedy. One of them managed to meet with the mourning Artois and slowly persuaded him that the ultimate cause behind the assassination was the liberal policy of Louis’s prime minister, Élie Decazes.40 Despite his desire to grieve, Artois re-entered the game. Along with his daughter-in-law the Duchesse d’Angoulême, Artois literally threw himself at Louis’s feet, begging him to dismiss Decazes. When Louis hesitated, it was Artois who sealed the deal by finding a suitable replacement. The former prime minister Richelieu didn’t like Artois, but was persuaded to return to power when Artois swore, “On the faith of a gentleman, I will be your most loyal soldier.”41

This new government moved sharply to the right, reimposing press censorship and passing the new “Law of the Double Vote” that changed the electoral system to favor the wealthiest landowners. Artois, finally, was out of opposition. That’s not to say Louis converted overnight — he still harbored some mistrust and resentments toward his brother and the Ultras. But slowly and surely, the king was moving into their camp.42

Maria Luisa di Spagna, duchessa di Lucca con i figli

Artois, close to power once again, now contemplated a drastic step: re-marrying. Years earlier, while in exile in London, Artois’s longtime mistress had died, and on her deathbed had reportedly demanded of Artois that he “belong henceforward [only] to God.” Artois swore this deathbed oath, and apparently meant it, with the former playboy apparently never taking another mistress or — until now — marrying.43 But a few days after the death of his son, with the fate of the dynasty uncertain, Artois’s allies tried to persuade him to marry the Duchess of Lucca, sister of the King of Spain. The Duchess was a widow much like Artois was a widower, and beyond her bloodline and title she brought with her an additional advantage: a 20-year-old son from her prior marriage. That meant the Bourbons, through marriage, could acquire another heir, since Artois’s surviving son the Duc d’Angoulême was childless, and might be succeeded by the Bourbons’ more liberal cousins, the Orléans. Artois, we’re told, was initially offended by the suggestion, but eventually expressed interest in it. Still, nothing came of it, in part because events intervened: the Duc de Berry’s widow gave birth to a posthumous son, the long awaited next generation of the Bourbon line.44 Now the need for Artois to find a new heir seemed greatly diminished, and everyone seems to have moved on.

Above: José Aparicio e Inglada, Maria Luisa, Duchess of Lucca, with her two children Charles Louis and Luisa Carlota, 1815. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The birth of Artois’s grandson was followed by what to him might have seemed another miracle: his stubborn brother finally gave in and accepted the government Artois had long pushed for: an Ultraroyalist ministry. In late 1821, Richelieu was rebuffed by the Chamber of Deputies, and so met with Artois to demand the count follow through on his promise to be his “most loyal soldier.” But Artois, despite his embarrassment, seized the opportunity, and replied, “Ah, my dear Duke, you have taken my words too literally. And besides, the circumstances back then were so difficult!”45 When Louis was told of Artois’s scheming, he is said to have replied with a reference to the long-forgotten political battles of their youths before the Revolution: “How else would you have it? He conspired against Louis XVI, he conspired against me, and some day he will conspire against himself.”46

Whether a conspiracy or not, Richelieu resigned, and Louis named an Ultra ministry that soon became led by the talented Comte de Villèle. Here, sources differ, with some claiming a tired Louis let his brother serve as king in all but name, while others insisting Louis maintained an active role in government to the end. Certainly Louis wasn’t as passive as some made him out to be, but he also was definitely more open than he had been to Artois’s advice and point of view. One account says that when a question about a government appointment had to be made, Louis often responded by deferring to his brother, saying, “I am old, and I should not like to make a choice without knowing what his views were. Take him the list.”47

As Louis slowly withered away, Artois waited for his turn on the throne. It was not an unpleasant life. The Villèle ministry suppressed liberal uprisings at home and abroad, voted more power to the Catholic Church, and tried — as I related last time — to compensate the émigrés for their seized property. When he wasn’t engaged in politics, Artois did what he enjoyed: his usual routine involved hunts during the day, card games in the evening, and frequent visits to his grandchildren, who would see their grandpère’s coach coming and run excitedly to meet him.48

And then Louis died. I covered all that last time. Artois walked away from his brother’s death as the King of France.

Complicating the caricature

And you’ve probably formed an idea in your head about the kind of king the new Charles X would be: ultraroyalist, reactionary, a little scheming, gleeful to finally hold the reins of power after so many years of frustration. And none of that is entirely wrong. But before I wrap up here today, I’d like to complicate this picture a little bit.

For one thing, while it’s definitely true that Artois was an ultraroyalist during this time, we can’t necessarily trust all bold statements to that effect that I’ve quoted him saying for you here today. Many of these quotes come down to us in the form of memoirs from more moderate or liberal figures, written decades later, after Artois’s death. They might very well reflect what Artois really said or believed. But we should also consider the possibility that these recollections were at the very least colored by later political developments. Again, the general gist of Artois’s right-wing politics isn’t in dispute, but some of his political rivals can make him out to be a sort of mustache-twirling villain in a way that might very well be exaggerated.

Second, Artois could be, at times, quite a flexible and practical politician. His actual decisions while Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom in 1814 were seen as relatively “moderate and conciliatory” despite not being constrained at the time by his brother.49 He personally helped recruit the Duc de Richelieu to serve as Louis’s prime minister, despite political disagreements with him, because he believed it was what the kingdom needed.50 To the disappointment of some of his more reactionary allies, Artois never went into open opposition to his brother, never condemned Louis’s moderation, his wishy-washy-ness, his flirtations with liberalism. Artois’s ultra-royalist views were “publicly known” but “never publicly expressed.”51

Perhaps a good way to characterize Artois’s flexibility here is to bring up the split in the ultraroyalists that I’ve talked about a few times, divided between a more pragmatic faction, led by the Comte de Villèle, and the so-called “impatient ones,” led by the “White Jacobin” La Bourdonnaye. Artois worked extremely closely with Villèle, first under Louis and then later keeping him on as prime minister after becoming king. But he also had social and political ties to the “impatient ones” and La Bourdonnaye, who he would later bring into government. Artois straddled both camps: definitely right-wing, but capable of both practical and hard-line politics.52

And Artois was even friendly to people who weren’t ultraroyalist. The moderate Louis constantly snubbed their more liberal cousin, Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans. As historian Munro Price notes, “it was the most reactionary Bourbon of all, Artois, who got on best with Louis-Philippe… Although [Artois’s] politics were alien to [Orléans], [Artois] had genuine warmth and charm, and seems sincerely to have wished for family reconciliation.”53

Louis, though certainly more moderate than Artois, was no liberal. He consistently pushed for newspaper censorship, preserved as many customs and habits of the ancien régime as he could, and supported via royal authority and royal funds an expansion of the power of the Catholic Church.54

And that’s where we’re going to turn next time, before we finally put the Comte d’Artois on his long-desired throne as King Charles X. To understand the devoutly religious Charles, the policies he’ll push as king, and the responses he’ll provoke from the French people, we need to finally take a focused look at French religion. Join me next time for The Siècle, Episode 27: Mission from God.

  1. Susan Nagel, Marie Thérèse, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter (New York: Bloomsbury, 2008), 298. 

  2. Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII, Rev. ed. (Phoenix Mill: Sutton, 1999), 165-7. 

  3. Vincent W. Beach, Charles X of France: His Life and Times (Boulder, Colo.: Pruett Publishing Company, 1971), 127. 

  4. Philip Mansel, Paris Between Empires: Monarchy and Revolution, 1814-1852 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001), 20. 

  5. Beach, Charles X, 127. 

  6. Mansel, Paris Between Empires, 21. Beach, Charles X, 128-9. 

  7. Mansel, Paris Between Empires, 21. 

  8. Beach, Charles X, 128. 

  9. Beach, Charles X, 127-8. 

  10. Beach, Charles X, 135-7. 

  11. Beach, Charles X, 133-6. 

  12. Beach, Charles X, 131, 135. 

  13. Beach, Charles X, 132. 

  14. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 193. 

  15. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 194. 

  16. René Rémond, The Right Wing in France: From 1815 to de Gaulle. 2nd American ed., translated by James M. Laux (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1969), 47. 

  17. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 193. 

  18. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 179. 

  19. Beach, Charles X, 141. 

  20. Beach, Charles X, 143. 

  21. Paul Britten Austin, 1815: The Return of Napoleon (Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2002), 181-4. 

  22. Austin, 1815: The Return of Napoleon, 184-5, 190. 

  23. Beach, Charles X, 145. The translation of the first four lines come from Beach; I translated the last two myself in pursuit of a better rhyme scheme, after finding the original French version in — of all places — a Spanish-language history book. Ildefonso Arenas, Álava en Waterloo, Edhasa, 2013

  24. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 245. 

  25. Beach, Charles X, 149. 

  26. Beach, Charles X, 152-3. 

  27. Guillaume de Bertier de Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration, translated by Lynn M. Case (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966), 119. 

  28. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 326, 332-3. 

  29. Beach, Charles X, 154-5. 

  30. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 290-1. 

  31. Philip Mansel, The Court of France: 1789-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 99, 206. 

  32. Mansel, The Court of France, 98-9. 

  33. Mansel, The Court of France, 119, 98. 

  34. Beach, Charles X, 164. 

  35. Mansel, Paris Between Empires, 118. 

  36. Mansel, Paris Between Empires, 118. 

  37. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 194, 291, 293. 

  38. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 337. 

  39. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 293. 

  40. Beach, Charles X, 171. 

  41. De Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration, 166. 

  42. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 380. 

  43. Margery Weiner, The French Exiles: 1789-1815, (London: John Murray, 1960), 158-9. 

  44. Beach, Charles X, 172. 

  45. De Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration, 178. 

  46. Beach, Charles X, 173. 

  47. Beach, Charles X, 177. 

  48. Beach, Charles X, 177-7. 

  49. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 193. 

  50. David Skuy, Assassination, Politics and Miracles: France and the Royalist Reaction of 1820 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003), 106. 

  51. Mansel, Louis XVIII, 333. 

  52. Beach, Charles X, 179-90 287-92. 

  53. Munro Price, The Perilous Crown: France between Revolutions (London: Macmillan, 2007), 69. 

  54. De Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration, 302-27.