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Heirs and Spares

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Louis XIV and his brother Philippe d’Orléans with their governess, the marquise de Lansac, French, 1643 © Akg-images.

Rumours flew throughout Paris in the summertime of 1658 that the 19-year-old Louis XIV was significantly unwell, maybe close to loss of life. Senior courtiers rushed to kind a brand new authorities across the king’s youthful brother by two years, Philippe, duke of Anjou. Philippe himself – identified at courtroom merely as ‘Monsieur’ – did little in help of this potential coup and, by the autumn, Louis having recovered, was rewarded for his passivity with the reward of a big nation home on the outskirts of Paris, the château of Saint-Cloud.

The loyalty of a royal second son in direction of his older brother the sovereign was not all the time a given, and Philippe’s lack of lively political ambition on this scenario marks a turning level within the historical past of fraternal relations within the French royal household. Courtiers and authorities officers had honest trigger to fret on this transient political disaster; there are many examples of extra aggressive behaviour in earlier generations, notably by the earlier Monsieur, Gaston, duke of Orléans, the youthful brother of Louis XIII. Gaston’s rebellions had been legion within the 1620s and 1630s and a critical risk to the steadiness of the federal government of France, although they’ve typically been romanticised and trivialised by means of novels and movies set within the period of the Three Musketeers.

Fraternal strife was nothing new within the seventeenth century, nor in fact restricted to France. Tales of brothers combating over an inheritance return so far as the Biblical tales of Jacob and Esau. And within the glare of recent media spotlights, rivalries between eldest sons and royal spares can nonetheless be seen in royal households in the present day. In western European kingdoms, the system of primogeniture – all the pieces passing to the eldest son – had been established within the Center Ages as a way to stop the civil wars and bloodletting that had plagued earlier generations. In France particularly, a system generally known as the apanage was developed, by means of which youthful royal brothers got sizeable parts of the royal patrimony to control and from which to attract a princely earnings. French princes constructed up their patronage networks with the native the Aristocracy, constructed giant palaces and generally developed wealth and energy that rivalled the royal courtroom itself.

In response, the French monarchy of the sixteenth century tightened its management over the prolonged members of the royal dynasty. Nonetheless, some youthful brothers threatened to outshine their sovereign. King Charles IX (r.1561-74), for instance, was not identified for his army valour and was annoyed to see his brother, Henry, duke of Anjou, achieve glory on the battlefield. Charles and Henry’s youngest brother, François, duke of Alençon (1555-84) was the primary prince to be identified solely as ‘Monsieur’. The title had first developed within the 1570s as a method formally to mark Henry of Anjou because the second prince of the dominion, a fantastic honour however with out inherent wealth or energy connected, and Alençon took over this moniker (and the title of Anjou) as soon as Henry succeeded as king (as Henry III, r.1574-89). But, though François was honoured with a title like Monsieur, he was more and more annoyed. As somebody whose birthright was to rule – a king in ready, ought to his brother die with out a son – he had an innate compulsion to specific his authority in politics or warfare. If he did this too effectively, he was seen as a risk; if he didn’t, he was criticised as lazy or weak. It’s a downside royal siblings face in the present day: if they’re lively, they’re seen as stepping out of line; in the event that they do nothing, they’re criticised for being idle.



Within the 1570s, a number of younger noblemen, sharing younger Prince François’ frustrations at being overlooked of army and political decision-making, shaped a gaggle at courtroom known as the ‘Malcontents’. Their ‘Conspiracy of the Malcontents’ in spring 1574 was short-lived, however in September 1575, Monsieur and his supporters left courtroom and took refuge in his apanage lands, the place he issued a proper declaration: his main pursuits weren’t private, however to protect the ‘historical legal guidelines of the Kingdom’ – vaguely outlined – and known as for the elimination of foreigners from their influential locations within the authorities. On the top of the Wars of Faith, he pleaded for peace within the realm and for a normal church council to be convened to settle non secular variations. In his textual content, Monsieur known as for toleration, imploring Frenchmen ‘to deal with each other as brothers, kinsmen, neighbours, and fellow countrymen’. The king feared Monsieur would ally with Protestant England or the Dutch, upsetting the delicate peace with Catholic Spain. However he lacked the sources to mount a critical insurrection and home concord was restored by November.

François, duke  of Alençon and Anjou (1555-84), 16th century. Left: Henry III (r.1574-89), by Étienne Dumonstier, c.1578.
Left: François, duke of Alençon and Anjou (1555-84), sixteenth century © Heritage Picture Partnership Ltd/Alamy Inventory Photograph. Proper: Henry III (r.1574-89), by Étienne Dumonstier, c.1578. Courtesy Nationwide Museum in Poznań Assortment through WikiMedia/Inventive Commons.

But by spring 1576, Monsieur was as soon as once more within the countryside, aligning his private troops with Protestant rebels. In Could he met along with his mom, Catherine de’ Medici, who was capable of negotiate the ‘Peace of Monsieur’, which did little for his Protestant allies, however did achieve him a big enhancement of his territorial energy base.

From right here on, Monsieur would by no means overtly insurgent in opposition to his brother Henry III. However he did proceed to pursue his personal private ambitions that always went in opposition to the insurance policies of the royal authorities. Anjou regarded exterior the dominion for alternatives to shine. He picked up the place his older brother had left off as a suitor of Elizabeth I of England, being offered by his envoys as ‘much less papistical’ than Henry and due to this fact extra tolerable as a consort for Protestant England. Nonetheless, Elizabeth was over 40 and Anjou solely 23, and the Protestant-Catholic divide as huge as ever. The story of their courtship, on and off between 1578 and 1581, is lengthy and sophisticated. Though at some factors it regarded as if Elizabeth genuinely desired their union, many commentators of the time (and historians since) concluded that each events have been merely utilizing the concept of a wedding to push ahead an Anglo-French alliance that might assist the Dutch of their bid for independence from Spain. This was not all the time in accordance with the wishes of Henry III, nonetheless, who needed above all issues to take care of peace inside his deeply fractured kingdom and to keep away from scary the wrath of Catholic Spain.

Nonetheless, Dutch brokers tried to utilize fraternal bonds: if one French prince was drawn into their battle with Spain, absolutely his older brother the king would observe, in defence of household honour? Henry III made it clear time and again that this was not the case. But Monsieur despatched a messenger to Paris to tell the king that ‘as a prince of France’ he couldn’t ignore pleas for help. A deal was made with the Dutch: in alternate for his army help, Anjou can be given a sizeable pension and can be appointed ‘Lord Protector’ of the Dutch provinces (Holland, Flanders, Brabant, and many others).

Catherine de’ Medici wrote diplomatic letters furiously in an effort to maintain the peace. Her frustration is greatest proven in a letter she wrote to Anjou in late 1579: ‘My son, you made all these negotiations with out us, to my nice remorse, and it doesn’t observe that you need to place this kingdom in peril, destroy it, and displease the king your brother merely to maintain your phrase.’ She as soon as once more highlighted his place as Monsieur: ‘Irrespective of how a lot you owe this honour [of being elected lord of the Netherlands] to your place as brother of the king, you’re nonetheless his topic and also you owe him full obedience.’

View of Saint-Cloud,  by Étienne Allegrain, 1674.
View of Saint-Cloud, by Étienne Allegrain, 1674. Courtesy Palace of Versailles through WikiMedia/Inventive Commons.

Following a sequence of stately ceremonial entries into varied cities of Flanders and Brabant in spring 1582, and an virtually royal enthronement in Antwerp as ‘Sovereign Lord of the Low International locations’, Anjou tried to organise his troops in defence of Dutch freedoms. However his princely authority was principally ignored and his troops have been unpaid and virtually ravenous. On 17 January 1583, his troopers took issues into their very own arms and sacked the town of Antwerp, an occasion generally known as the ‘French Fury’. Monsieur misplaced the belief of the Dutch individuals and his brother, the king of France, by no means gave his full help to their trigger. By July, Anjou was again in France in shame. His well being deteriorated and by June 1584 he was lifeless.

The position of Monsieur was not crammed within the subsequent reign, as Henry IV (r.1589-1610) had no brother. His early loss of life, nonetheless, left an influence vacuum that finally was crammed by Cardinal Richelieu, first minister of Louis XIII (r.1610-43) and one of many chief architects of French absolutism. It was Richelieu’s want for a kingdom to be dominated by solely ‘one king, one religion, one regulation’ that led to the extremely fraught interval of insurrection by Louis’ youthful brother, Gaston, duke of Orléans.


Nobody like Gaston

Just like the earlier Monsieur, Gaston d’Orléans (1608-60) considered himself as the first defender of the rights of the outdated the Aristocracy within the face of encroaching royal absolutism. One of many chief sources of discord was the truth that between 1610 and 1638 Gaston was inheritor to the throne. Louis XIII’s marriage to Anne of Austria was, for over 20 years, childless, so Gaston’s marriage decisions have been political beliefs and sources of competition. Political conflicts additionally centred on Louis XIII’s tense relationship along with his mom, Marie de’ Medici, and her reluctance to yield energy. These two points developed into the ‘Chalais Conspiracy’ of 1626 and resulted within the imprisonment and loss of life of the primary of Monsieur’s chief favourites, Marshal d’Ornano. In the long run, Gaston was obliged to marry his brother’s alternative, however was rewarded along with his personal apanage, the duchy of Orléans. A sample emerges: after a insurrection, a prince’s counsellors and mates are punished, however the prince himself is reconciled by the use of a big reward. Cardinal Richelieu, a fantastic political tactician, knew how essential it was to maintain the ‘spare’ glad, writing in late 1628:

To maintain Monsieur content material in all issues that aren’t prejudicial to the State, and to disclaim him something that might weaken the authority of the king, are the 2 maxims for learn how to deal with this prince, who, if handled honourably, won’t ever undertake something in opposition to the peace of the dominion and the true pursuits of the State.

Gaston’s first spouse quickly died and, in 1629, he was as soon as once more angered by his brother’s refusal to approve his personal alternative of a brand new bride and his unwillingness to provide him command of a military. Goaded by a brand new favorite, Antoine de Puylaurens, Gaston left courtroom and fled to the close by duchy of Lorraine. He was quickly reconciled, nonetheless, and given one other duchy: Valois. However following the ‘Day of the Dupes’ (10-11 November 1630), a palace coup ‘duping’ the queen mom and her supporters, he fled overseas as soon as once more, married the duke of Lorraine’s sister in opposition to the king’s will and settled in Brussels within the Spanish Netherlands. Right here, Gaston issued a manifesto in Could 1631 – within the custom of disgruntled royal princes – denouncing Richelieu as a usurper of royal authority and oppressor of the rightful leaders of the dominion (the the Aristocracy). He vowed to dismantle the cardinal’s oppressive and unjust taxation on behalf of the odd individuals of France. Certainly, Frenchmen did see the gallant prince because the true inheritor of his father Henry IV, the individuals’s king, and this notion would stay an irritant for the taciturn Louis XIII for the remainder of his reign.

Above: Gaston d’Orléans (1608-60), 17th century. Left: Louis XIII  (r.1610-43), by Philippe de Champaigne.
Left: Louis XIII (r.1610-43), by Philippe de Champaigne © Bridgeman Photos. Proper: Gaston d’Orléans (1608-60), seventeenth century © Prado, Madrid/ Bridgeman Photos.

Monsieur’s insurrection of 1631-32 was his most critical. With Spanish help he raised a military and marched south throughout France, hoping to draw disgruntled nobles to his trigger. They didn’t come and his forces have been crushed close to Toulouse on 1 September 1632. This time, the king was not able to reconcile along with his brother, however he nonetheless couldn’t punish him severely as he remained the inheritor to the throne. As an alternative, Louis executed his brother’s chief commander, the duke of Montmorency, the pinnacle of one of the historical and highly effective noble households in Europe. Aristocratic households throughout Europe have been shocked.

Humiliated, Gaston returned to Brussels. In 1634 he lastly made peace along with his brother. This time it was the favorite, Puylaurens, who was rewarded – with a dukedom of his personal; although this success was brief lived and he too quickly expired in a dungeon cell. Exasperated, Gaston tried to retreat from courtroom and from political ambition, however in 1636 the transient ‘Conspiracy of Amiens’ positioned him below the king’s suspicions, as soon as once more over an alleged alliance with Spain. As earlier than, its leaders have been executed, whereas Gaston was rewarded – his important money owed have been paid and he was given giant sums to steer him to concentrate on his new ardour, the château of Blois within the Loire Valley. This might hold him removed from authorities, removed from political intrigue. But the royal brothers have been by no means really reconciled.



Right here the story of Gaston d’Orléans’ rebellions would possibly finish. Certainly, the mature prince was now changing into generally known as a number one patron of the humanities. His courtroom grew to become a haven for out of favour writers and poets, and a wing was constructed at Blois to showcase a brand new model of structure, the neoclassicism normally related to the reign of Louis XIV. After 1638 and the close to miracle start of the dauphin (the longer term Louis XIV), Gaston was not the direct inheritor. But conspiracy as soon as once more reared its ugly head in 1641, in maybe essentially the most well-known of the courtroom conspiracies of this reign, the ‘Cinq-Mars Affair’. At first this squabble between Richelieu and one in all his former protégés had nothing to do with Monsieur, however because the conspiracy started to contain a plot with Spanish brokers, Gaston was as soon as once more drawn in. His letters to the king of Spain have been intercepted and his betrayal was clear. Within the now acquainted sample, it was the nobleman Cinq-Mars who was executed and Gaston merely disgraced and despatched from courtroom, again to his poetry and gardening at Blois.

In the long run destiny intervened. First Richelieu then Louis XIII died, in 1642 and 1643. On his deathbed, as a ultimate snub, Louis denied Gaston the publish of regent for his five-year outdated son, naming as an alternative his spouse, Anne. The remainder of this Monsieur’s story is as an uncle, not a brother.


Personal squabbles

Solely a 12 months after the loss of life of Gaston, his nephew Philippe (1640-1701), youthful brother of Louis XIV, was given the duchy of Orléans as his personal apanage. Right here we see a slight shift, in that he was given this reward not as reconciliation after a insurrection, however as a recognition of the efficiency of his obligation. That spring he married the English princess Henrietta Anne as a way of advancing his brother’s overseas coverage. Within the years to return, Philippe would not often confront his brother, and their squabbles have been over household issues and private honour, by no means something overtly political. Nonetheless, these rifts have been taken significantly by the courtroom and by overseas diplomats, and the outcomes have been related: fraternal reconciliation effected by a sizeable reward. However Philippe had additionally discovered one thing from the experiences of his uncle: a royal prince may shine in areas aside from politics and the army. His cultural and mental patronage set a brand new customary to be adopted by second sons throughout Europe.

Louis XIV receives his brother the duke of Anjou,  by Philippe de Champaigne, 17th century.
Louis XIV receives his brother the duke of Anjou, by Philippe de Champaigne, seventeenth century © Photograph Josse/Bridgeman Photos.

Conventional histories of the reign of Louis XIV cling to the concept of Philippe being ‘conditioned’ to be gay as a toddler to weaken his political ambitions as a prince. The memoirs of the abbé de Choisy – most likely exaggerated for dramatic impact – point out that the younger prince’s curiosity in cross-dressing was cultivated on the orders of Cardinal Mazarin himself to be able to hold Monsieur effeminate, ‘for worry that he would trigger grief to the King as Gaston did to Louis XIII’. The thought of intentionally ‘weakening’ the inheritor to the throne, particularly on this interval of frequent adolescent mortality, is unconvincing.

Even when the concept had been to suppress private ambition within the younger prince, it was unsuccessful. Philippe was adamant in his calls for for the publish of governor of the province of Languedoc in 1666. He argued it was his proper, because it had been held by Gaston, however Louis denied his brother this place. Philippe responded, as earlier youthful brothers had executed, by retreating from courtroom to his apanage, to his chief nation residence at Villers-Cotterêts, northeast of Paris. Courtiers, remembering that this was how fraternal rebellions normally started, have been involved.

Just a few years later, in January 1670, angered and humiliated to find out about an essential diplomatic position being proposed by Louis for his spouse (however not himself), Monsieur retreated as soon as extra to Villers-Cotterêts and took his spouse with him. Nobody knew the place they have been for a number of days, which triggered nice apprehension in authorities and diplomatic circles. In the end Louis XIV’s most senior minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, was despatched in particular person to ask Philippe to return to courtroom. Monsieur lastly returned in March, received over by the promise that the king would give essential positions within the church to his favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine.


Princely insurrection

Thereafter, Philippe’s assertions of princely autonomy got here in a distinct kind. His rebuilding of his château at Saint-Cloud within the mid-1670s was a type of insurrection, since he pointedly didn’t seek the advice of Colbert, the superintendent of royal constructing initiatives, nor the painter Charles Le Brun, Louis XIV’s arbiter of creative style. Monsieur grew to become a passionate collector, notably of Chinese language porcelains and lacquerware, and constructed a ‘Chinese language room’ in his residence lengthy earlier than it grew to become modern. His favoured composers drew on the extra passionate Italianate model, somewhat than the austere classicist model that prevailed on the courtroom of the Solar King. As Louis XIV aged, and his courtroom descended into sombre piety within the 1690s, it was to Monsieur’s courtroom, significantly his city residence in Paris, the Palais Royal, that folks flocked to get pleasure from extra modern music and theatre.

Top: Louis XIV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701. Above: Philippe, duke of Orléans, (1640-1701),  by Pierre Mignard.
Left: Philippe, duke of Orléans, (1640-1701), by Pierre Mignard © Alamy Inventory Photograph. Proper: Louis XIV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701 © Niday Image Library/Alamy Inventory Photograph.

In these later a long time of the reign, fraternal conflicts continued. These derived mainly from Louis XIV’s jealousy for his personal glory. In distinction to his ordinary picture as a frivolous fop, Philippe had turned out to be a good army commander, profitable a big battle in opposition to William of Orange in Flanders in 1677. However he obtained no nice honours for it and was by no means once more appointed to excessive command. This petty jealousy spilled over into the following era as Monsieur’s son, the duke of Chartres (1674-1723), threatened to outshine the king’s son, the dauphin. And certainly, including salt to the wound, the king’s most beloved illegitimate son, the duke of Maine, aged solely 12, was named in 1682 provincial governor of Languedoc – the identical publish denied to Monsieur. The king soothed his brother’s anger as ordinary with a present of sizeable funds to brighten Saint-Cloud and extra giant presents for the Chevalier de Lorraine. Their final argument, in June 1701, is alleged to have been sparked by the king’s refusal but once more to provide Chartres a discipline command. Monsieur grew to become so enraged he had a coronary heart assault and died inside hours.

There was no Monsieur once more till the reign of Louis XVI (r.1774-92), when his brother Louis-Stanislas, depend of Provence (1755-1824), clearly took on board the teachings discovered first by Gaston d’Orléans then by Philippe d’Orléans: that true princely energy didn’t should be expressed by means of political authority or army would possibly and that patronage of the humanities, structure and studying could possibly be equally highly effective. He made himself fashionable in Paris in a method his brother by no means did by means of his engagement with the Enlightenment salons. This Monsieur disagreed with the king on many factors about how greatest to reform France because it moved in direction of political and financial disaster, but he was by no means overtly disloyal. He knew that, in an period when the facility of the media and public opinion had risen dramatically, the efficiency (a minimum of) of unity in royal households was important. Two centuries later, in a interval of much more heightened public scrutiny, second sons in trendy royal households would possibly take observe. There are maybe classes to be drawn from the fates of royal spares with personalities that have been extra vivacious but extra unpredictable than their older brothers, and within the risks posed by youthful sons retreating from courtroom to arrange rival centres of patronage.


Jonathan Spangler is Senior Lecturer in Early Fashionable European Historical past at Manchester Metropolitan College and the creator of Monsieur: Second Sons within the Monarchy of France, 1550-1800 (Routledge, 2021).

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