Bruno Goyet

Henri d’Orleans, Count of Paris (1908-1999) The Impossible Prince Publication date : February 1, 2001

Prince Henri d’Orléans, the son of the Duc de Guise, was born at the Château de Nouvion-en-Thiérache, in 1908. The young prince’s future was guaranteed: he was related to most of the royal families of Europe and his own landowing family possessed the largest fortune in France. And yet, he belonged to the younger branch of a large dynasty. How did he become the pretender to the French throne? What political role awaited the young prince?

Eighty years later, what remains of the dynastic issue? After two world wars and two new Republics, does it still make sense to talk about “pretending to the French throne”? The history of the French house ends in scandal and division. It would seem that the royal question has ceased to be an issue. How did this situation come about?

The life of the Comte de Paris is already known. It would be of little interest to correct a few details or alter certain biased interpretations. What is of interest is to understand the role of the pretender to the throne in relation to tradition, to his followers’ expectations and to the character of other pretenders. Although the Comte de Paris’ education followed patterns established by his predecessors and obeyed models that are common to other members of the higher aristocracy, nevertheless it sprang from a voluntary act that implemented a strategy. This is the point that Bruno Goyet makes as he describes Henri d’Orléans’ childhood under the influence of the ideas of Charles Maurras.

What did Henri d’Orléans do before and after World War II? What structures, networks and artistic salons did he rely on? How did his political actions develop, at first in contradiction with the dictates of his birth and education, and later through periods of anxiety? How did he face his own gradual eclipse from the political scene when the period of crises came to an end, and the French Republic finally stabilised under De Gaulle?

In short: What is the role of a pretender to the throne, under a republican government, during a troubled half century ?

Bruno Goyet is a lecturer at the University of Aix-en-Provence. He is the author of Charles Maurras, which has been highly acclaimed among specialists.