Legitimist: Wikis


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Legitimists are Royalists in France who believe that the King of France and Navarre must be chosen according to the simple application of the Salic Law. Called "Ultra-royalists" under the Bourbon Restoration, they are adherents of the elder branch of the Bourbon dynasty, overthrown in the 1830 July Revolution. Distinguished historian René Rémond analyses the legitimists as one of the three main right-wing factions in France, which was principally characterized by their counterrevolutionary opinions (they rejected the 1789 French Revolution, the Republic and everything that went with it; thus, they progressively became a far-right movement, close to traditionalist Catholics). The other two right-wing factions are, according to Rémond, the Orleanists and the Bonapartists.


The Bourbon Restoration (1814–1830)

Following the Bourbon Restoration in 1814, a strongly restricted census suffrage sent to the Chamber of Deputies an ultra-royalist majority in 1815–1816 (la Chambre introuvable) and from 1824 to 1827. Called as such because they were "more royalist than the king" (plus royalistes que le roi), the Ultras were thus the dominant political faction under Louis XVIII (1815–1824) and Charles X (1824–1830). Opposed to the constitutional monarchy of Louis XVIII and to the limitation of the sovereign's power, they hoped to restore the Ancien Régime and cancel the rupture created by the French Revolution. Just as the Restoration, Ultras opposed themselves to liberal, republican and democratic ideas. While Louis XVIII hoped to moderate the "restoration" of the Ancien Régime in order to make it acceptable by the population, the Ultras would never abandon the dream of an integral restoration, even after the 1830 July Revolution which set the Orleanist branch on the throne and the Ultras back to their castles in the countryside and to private life. Their importance during the Restoration was in part due to electoral laws which largely favored them (on one hand, a Peer Chamber composed of hereditary members; on the other hand, a Chamber of Deputies elected under a heavily restricted census suffrage, which permitted approximatively 100,000 Frenchmen to vote).

Louis XVIII's first ministers, who included Talleyrand, the duc de Richelieu and Decazes, were replaced by the Chambre introuvable dominated by the Ultras. Louis XVIII finally decided to dissolve this chaotic assembly, but the new liberals whom had replaced them were not any more easy to govern. After the 1820 assassination of the duc de Berry, the ultra-reactionary son of the comte d'Artois (Louis XVIII's brother and future Charles X), and a short interval during which the duc de Richelieu governed, the Ultras were back in government, headed by the comte de Villèle.

The death of Louis XVIII in 1824, seen as too moderate, lifted the Ultras' spirits. In January 1825, Villèle's government passed the Anti-Sacrilege Act, which punished by capital punishment the stealing of sacred vases (with or without consecrated hosts). This "anachronistic law" (Jean-Noël Jeanneney) was in the end never applied (except on a minor point) and repealed in the first months of Louis-Philippe's reign (1830–1848). The Ultras also wanted to create courts to punish Radicals, and passed laws restricting freedom of the press.

After the 1830 July Revolution, which replaced the Bourbons with the Orleanist branch, which supported more liberal policies, the Ultras' influence declined, although it subsisted until at least the 16 May 1877 crisis and 1879, and even longer. Thus, they softened their views and made the restoration to the throne of the House of Bourbon their new primary target. From 1830 on they became known as Legitimists.

Legitimists under the July Monarchy (1830–1848)

During the July Monarchy of 1830 to 1848, when the junior Orleanist branch held the throne, the Legitimists were politically marginalized, many withdrawing from active participation in political life. The situation was complicated before 1844 by debate as to who the legitimate king was: Charles X and his son Louis-Antoine the Dauphin had both abdicated during the 1830 Revolution in favor of Charles's young grandson, Henri comte de Chambord. Until the deaths of Charles X and his son in 1836 and 1844, respectively, many Legitimists continued to recognize each of them in turn as the rightful king, ahead of Chambord.

Legitimists under the Second Republic and the Second Empire (1848–1871)

The fall of King Louis Philippe in 1848 led to a strengthening of the Legitimist position. Although the childlessness of Chambord weakened the hand of the Legitimists, they came back into political prominence during the Second Republic. Legitimists joined with Orleanists to form the Party of Order which dominated parliament from the elections of May 1849 until Bonaparte's coup on December 2, 1851. They formed a prominent part of Odilon Barrot's ministry from December 1848 to November 1849, and in 1850 were successful in passing the Falloux Law which brought the Catholic Church back into secondary education.

Through much of this time there was discussion of "fusion" with the Orleanist Party so that the two could effect a monarchical restoration. This prospect prompted several sons of Louis Philippe to declare their support for Chambord. But fusion was not actually achieved, and after 1850 the two parties again diverged. The most committed Orleanists supported the candidacy of Louis Philippe's third son, the Prince de Joinville, for the presidency, while the legitimists largely supported allowing Bonaparte to run for a second term. In spite of this support for Bonaparte's ambitions, they opposed his scheme to restore universal suffrage in the last months of 1851, and their leaders were, like those of the Orleanists, arrested during Bonaparte's coup.

The period of the Second Empire saw the Legitimists once again cast out of active political life.

Legitimists under the Third Republic (1871–1940)

Nevertheless, the Legitimists remained a significant party within elite opinion, attracting support of the larger part of the ancien régime aristocracy. After the Siege of Paris in 1870 and the 1871 Paris Commune, the Legitimists returned for one final time to political prominence. The 8 February 1871 democratic elections, held with the manhood universal suffrage sent to the National Assembly a royalist majority, supported by the provinces, while all Parisian deputies were Republican. This time, the Legitimists were able to agree with the Orleanists on a program of fusion, largely because of the growing likelihood that the count of Chambord would die without children. The liberal Orleanists agreed to recognize Chambord as king, and the Orleanist claimant himself, Louis-Philippe Albert d'Orléans (1838–1894), count of Paris, recognized Chambord as head of the French royal house. In return, Legitimists in the Assembly agreed that, should Chambord die childless, Philippe d'Orléans would succeed him as king. Unfortunately for French monarchism, Chambord's refusal to accept the Tricolor as the flag of France and to abandon the fleur-de-lys, symbol of the Ancien régime, made restoration impossible until after his death, by which time the monarchists had long since lost their parliamentary majority due to the 16 May 1877 crisis. The death of the comte de Chambord in 1883 effectively dissolved the parti légitimiste as a political force in France.

The nationalist Action française, founded in 1899 during the Dreyfus Affair, converted itself to monarchism under Charles Maurras' influence. Although Maurras' integralism and faith in monarchy and the Catholic Church was mostly based on pragmatic reasons, the Action française remained quite popular among French reactionary elements, at least until its 1926 Papal condemnation, and might have attracted in that sense some legitimists. Unsurprisingly, Maurras advocated for the women's right to vote as early as 1919 (obtained only by Charles de Gaulle's 1944 ordonnance), on the grounds that just as the countryside had supported the monarchists during the 1871 elections, women would support the more conservative representatives.

Affected by sinistrisme, few conservatives explicitly called themselves right wing during the Third Republic, a term associated with the Counter-Revolution and anti-republican feelings. As soon as 1910, the appellation was thus reserved to radical groups. Those Legitimists whom had rallied the Republic in 1893, after the comte de Chambord's death ten years before, still called themselves Droite constitutionnelle or républicaine (Constitutional or Republican Right). But they changed their name in 1899, and went to the 1902 elections under the name of the Action libérale party. Thus, the only group which openly reinvidicated itself from the right-wing in 1910 gathered some nostalgics royalists, and from 1924 on the term "right wing" practically vanished from the parliamentary right's glossary.

By this time, the vast majority of legitimists had retired to their castles in the countryside and deserted the political arena. Although the Action française remained an influential movement throughout the 1930s, its motivations for the restauration of monarchy were quite distinct from older Legitimists' views, and Maurras' instrumental use of Catholicism achieved setting them apart. Thus, Legitimists didn't much participate in political events in the 1920s–1930s, in particular in the 6 February 1934 riots organized by far right leagues that, apart from the Action française, had little in common with their reactionary nature. These royalist aristocrats clearly distinguished themselves from the new ultra right, influenced by fascism and nazism, which was appearing. However, Legitimists acclaimed, just as Maurras, the fall of the Third Republic after the 1940 Battle of France as a "divine surprise", and many of them joined Philippe Pétain's Vichy regime as an unexpected opportunity to impose a reactionary program in occupied France.

Legitimists under Vichy and after World War II (1940–Present)

However, they returned to prominence during Vichy France, according to historian René Rémond's studies of the right-wing factions in France. Some would also support the OAS during the Algerian War (1954–62). Marcel Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X, founded in 1970, especially in France, shares aspects with the legitimist movement, according to Rémond.

As of 2006, some remain strongly attached to the traditionalist wing of the Catholic Church and are particularly encouraged by the theological conservatism of Pope Benedict XVI. Such Legitimists are strongly opposed to the proposed European Constitution and anything else perceived as threatening the independence of France. Among French Legitimists, there is diversity of opinion. Some tend to gather around Traditionalist Catholic places, such as the Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet church in Paris, or around far-right parties such as Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National or de Villiers' Mouvement pour la France. Many others are true democrats, wishing France could have a parliamentary monarchy like the ones of the United Kingdom or Spain. There are small but active Legitimist circles throughout France.

After Chambord's death, only the descendants of Philip V of Spain remained senior in descent to the Orléans branch of the royal dynasty. But Philip's branch had been Spanish for 170 years, having been obliged by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht to renounce their claim to the French throne. So most French royalists believed the comte de Paris to be the legitimate pretender.


A remnant, known as the Legitimists, by repudiating Philip V's renunciation of the French throne as ultra vires and contrary to the Fundamental French monarchical law, upheld the rights of the eldest branch of the Bourbons, represented as of 1883 by the Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne. This group was initially minuscule, but began to grow larger after World War II due both to the political leftism of the Orleanist Pretender, Henri, comte de Paris, and to the active efforts of the claimants of the elder line—Jaime, Duke of Segovia, the disinherited second son of Alfonso XIII of Spain, and his son, Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz—to secure legitimist support, such that by the 1980s, the elder line had fully reclaimed for its supporters the political title of "Legitimists". This means that the current legitimist claimant is the Spanish-born Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon (Luis-Alfonso de Borbón y Martínez Bordiú), styled duc d'Anjou, whom the French legitimists consider to be the "de jure" king of France under the name Louis XX. A 1987 attempt[1] by the Orleanist heir (and other Bourbons, none of the elder branch) to contest Louis-Alphonse's use of the Anjou title[2] and to deny him use of the plain coat of arms of France was dismissed by the French courts in March 1989. The duc d'Anjou, a French citizen through his paternal grandmother, is generally recognised as the senior legitimate representative of the House of Capet.

List of Legitimist Claimants to the French throne since 1792

Claimant Portrait Birth Marriages Death
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI of France.jpg 23 August 1754
Palace of Versailles
son of Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie-Josèphe of Saxony
Marie Antoinette
16 May 1770
4 children
21 January 1793
aged 38
"Louis XVII of France"
Louis Charles of France6.jpg 27 March 1785
Palace of Versailles
son of Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette
never married 8 June 1795
Paris Temple
aged 10
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII of France.png 17 November 1755
Palace of Versailles
son of Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie-Josèphe of Saxony
Marie Josephine Louise of Savoy
14 May 1771
No children
16 September 1824
aged 68
Charles X of France
Charles X of France.png 9 October 1757
Palace of Versailles
son of Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie-Josèphe of Saxony
Marie Thérèse of Savoy
16 November 1773
3 children
6 November 1836
aged 79
Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, "Louis XIX"
Louis antoine artois.jpg 6 August 1775
Palace of Versailles
son of Charles X of France and Marie Thérèse of Savoy
Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France
June 1799
No children
3 June 1844
aged 68
Henri, Count of Chambord, "Henri V"
Comte-de-chambord.jpg 29 September 1820
Tuileries Palace
son of Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry and Caroline Ferdinande Louise of Two Sicilies
Marie Thérèse of Austria-Este
November 1846
No children
24 August 1883
aged 63

In the 1870s the rival Orleanist and Legitimist claimants agreed, for the sake of the French Monarchy, to end their rivalry. The comte de Paris accepted the prior claim to the throne of the comte de Chambord. Chambord, who remained childless, in turn acknowledged that the comte de Paris would claim the right to succeed him as heir. Since then, many Legitimists have accepted the descendants of the comte de Paris as the joint Legitimist-Orleanist pretender.

According to the Orleanists and those Legitimists who accepted the Orléans successors following the death of the comte de Chambord, the list of claims is as follows:

However, the more ardent Legitimists argued that the renunciation of the French throne by Philip V of Spain, second grandson of Louis XIV, was invalid, and that in 1883 [when Chambord died childless] the throne had passed to Philip V's male heirs, as follows:

Claimant Portrait Birth Marriages Death
Juan, Count of Montizón, "Jean III"
DonJuanIII.jpg 15 May 1822
Royal Palace of Aranjuez
son of Infante Carlos of Spain and Infanta Maria Francisca of Portugal
Beatrix of Austria-Este
6 February 1847
2 children
21 November 1887
aged 65
Carlos, Duke of Madrid, "Charles XI"
Carlos (VII.).jpg 30 March 1848
son of Juan, Count of Montizón and Beatrix of Austria-Este
Margarita of Bourbon-Parma
4 February 1867
5 children
18 July 1909
aged 61
Jaime, Duke of Madrid, "Jacques Ier"
Don Jaime de Borbón.jpg 27 June 1870
son of Carlos, Duke of Madrid and Margarita of Bourbon-Parma
never married 2 October 1931
aged 61
Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime, "Charles XII"
AlfonsoCarlos.jpg 12 September 1849
son of Juan, Count of Montizón and Beatrix of Austria-Este
Maria das Neves of Portugal
26 April 1871
1 child
29 September 1936
aged 87
Alfonso XIII of Spain, "Alphonse Ier"
Alfonso XIII de España (cropped).jpg 17 May 1886
son of Alfonso XII of Spain and Maria Christina of Austria
Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
31 May 1906
7 children
28 February 1941
aged 54
Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia, "Henri VI"
Grand Royal Coat of Arms of France.svg 23 June 1908
son of Alfonso XIII of Spain and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
Emmanuelle de Dampierre
4 March 1935
2 children
20 March 1975
St. Gallen
aged 67
Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz, "Alphonse II"
Grand Royal Coat of Arms of France.svg 20 April 1936
son of Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia and Emmanuelle de Dampierre
María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú y Franco
8 March 1972
Royal Palace of El Pardo
2 children
30 January 1989
Beaver Creek
aged 53
Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou, "Louis XX"
Louis de Bourbon.jpg 25 April 1974
son of Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz and María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú y Franco
Maria Margarita, Duchess of Anjou
5 November 2004
1 child

See also



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