Death of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans

Death of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans: Duke of Orléans

Duke of Orléans by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In July of 1842, a sad event occurred. It was the accidentally death of Ferdinand Philippe when he fell from his carriage. He was the son of King Louis Philippe I and Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, and he was born in his mother’s native Sicily in Palermo, on Monday 3 September 1810, during his parents’ exile.

Ferdinand Philippe was originally given the title Duke of Chartres and for this reason affectionately called “Chartres” within the family circle. However, he had been baptized Ferdinand Philippe Louis Charles Henri, and most people knew him as Ferdinand Philippe in honor of his grandfathers, Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and Philippe Égalité. In addition, as the oldest son, Ferdinand Philippe was heir to the title Duke of Orléans, which was the name he was usually referred to at the time of his death and the name that I will refer to him in this post.

The 13th of July was a sunny, bright day. The Duke of Orléans was leaving Paris for St. Omer to inspect several regiments. He intended to take leave of his parents and the royal family and go to Neuilly. The carriage he was riding in was an open and drawn by two horses that were driven by a postillion. The Duke left around twelve or twelve-thirty. Within a short distance from the Port Maillot, the horses pulling the Duke’s carriage, suddenly got spooked, and despite the best efforts of the postillion, the horses bolted.

The Duke of Orléans seeing that the postillion could not control the horses, decided to save himself and hoping to escape danger, he stood up, placed his foot on the step, and jumped out of the moving carriage. Unfortunately, as the Duke jumped, either his spurs or his sword got entangled in his traveling cloak. The result was disastrous. After the Duke landed, he staggered and fell, suffering severe contusions to his head, leg, and wrist. In the meantime, the postillion finally got the horses under control.

Parents of the Duke of Orléans, Louis Philippe I and His Wife, Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily. Public Domain.

Those who saw the accident rushed to help the 32-year-0ld Duke. He was found senseless on the roadside with blood coming out of his nose, eyes, and mouth. He was carried to the nearest house, a house that belonged to a grocer and located at No. 4, Chemen de la Revolte. Immediate aid was then requested from the Palace of Tuileries, which speedily arrived.

Among the physicians who came to assist the Duke was the Duke’s physician, Dr. Pasquier, and another doctor named Dr. Baumy. One of the doctors immediately bled the Duke, but the Duke never regained consciousness as he had suffered a fractured head. In the meantime, word about the accident was sent to the Duke’s parents, who came quickly to his bedside. The Duke of Orleans’s brother, named the Duke d’Aumale, also learned of the accident, and as he was over 13 miles away at Courbevoie, he immediately hired a carriage, but, unfortunately, the carriage broke down on the way, and the Duke d’Aumale was forced to proceed on foot.

At the Deathbed of the Duke of Orléans. Public Domain.

In the meantime, physicians found there was nothing they could do to save the Duke of Orléans. He died about three o’clock in the afternoon at the grocer’s house. A melancholy scene played out as his body was then placed on a litter and conveyed by soldiers to the Chateau of Neuilly chapel, with the King, Queen, the Duke’s Aunt, and the Duke d’Aumale following on foot and escorted by the 17th light regiment. Behind the litter were other members of the royal family, ministers, officers of all ranks, citizens, and some ecclesiastics reciting prayers for the Duke.

His remains were then removed from the chapel to the Cathedral of Notre Dame on 30 July.  What follows is a description of that event:

“The procession began its march from the Pont de Neuilly; and was headed by the Gendarmerie of the Seine, followed by numerous bodies of troops. Six mourning coaches preceded the car which contained the heart of the prince, on each side of which rode an officer. After it came, the Archbishop of Paris and his clergy; and then followed the funeral car containing the body. … The insignia of the prince’s orders were borne on cushions by three of his aides-de-camp. Next came … the Marshal of France, and the Deputations of the Chambers of Peers and Deputies, the aides-de-camp and orderly officers of the king and princes, the Secretaire de Commandemens, and other officers of the household of the prince. The duke’s charger and his carriage closed. The princes, marshals, and admirals, were in two mourning coaches; ten more contained the household officers of the king and princes. Several bodies of troops terminated the long line.”

The procession passed through the Arc de Triomphe, along the Champs-Élysées, to the Place de la Concorde, past the Quays of the Tuileries, of the Louvre, of L’Ecole, the Place du Chatelet, the Pont Notre Dame, the Quay Napoleon, and the Rue Arcole, to the opening in front of Notre Dame. Upon the arrival at Notre Dame, a 21-gun salute occurred. The Duke of Orléans’s body was placed on a special catafalque covered with black paper instead of black fabric as enough fabric could not be obtained at the time. Vespers for the dead were then performed.

Portrait of Hélène with Her Son the Count of Paris by Franz Xaver Winterhalter c.1839. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Although the Duke of Orléans’s death was shocking, what proved to be more shocking was the controversy that erupted after his death. He had been the heir apparent, which meant his son, 3-year-old Prince Philippe of Orléans, better known as the Count of Paris, was now the new heir apparent. Everyone wanted to know what would happen if King Louis Philippe I died during the Count of Paris’s minority. Who would serve as regent to him? The main contenders were either the Count’s mother (the Duchess of Orléans, known as Hélène) or his uncle, the Duke de Nemours.

To resolve the issue an extraordinary session of the French Chambers was called on 26 July. The King, accompanied by his four sons, the Duke of Nemours, the Prince of Joinville, the Duke d’Aumale, and the Duke of Montpensier, entered the session amidst shouts of “Vive le Roi.” The King was so overcome, he burst into tears, and sank into his chair.

It was some time before the King could proceed. At length, however, Louise Philippe I read a speech that was well received, and at the end of his speech he stood, “crossed his arms on his heart, and in an effusion of gratitude for his reception, after bowing to the chamber, sunk back on his seat and sobbed convulsively, holding his features in his handkerchief.” The twenty-five-minute meeting resulted in the Duke of Nemours resigning his right to act as regent and Hélène proclaimed regent to her young son.

At that time of the extraordinary session, the body of the Duke of Orléans lay unburied. However, after the session, the funeral procession left the Neuilly chapel. The Duke’s body was conveyed in a closed hearse that was drawn by six black post horses. The hearse headed the procession, and though the hearse was ordinary, it was constructed with great splendor as described:

“There are two allegorical figures, in silver, closing the extremity of the dome, bearing armour, and surmounted by plumes and feathers. At the angle of the roof are antique helmets, with plumes. The roof is supported by four winged genii. Behind them are trophies of tricoloured flags, and the drapery of the carriage is in black velvet and silver.”

The Duke’s body was interred in an elaborate tomb in Dreux, Eure-et-Loir. This was the spot where, in the 1770s, the wealthy Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre transferred nine caskets of his relatives having sold Rambouillet (where the bodies previously rested) to Louis XVI. Penthièvre then died in March 1793 and his body was laid to rest in the crypt beside them. However, shortly thereafter, a mob desecrated the crypt and threw all the bodies in a mass grave. The Duke of Penthièvre’s daughter, the Duchess of Orléans, had a new chapel built in 1816 on the site of the mass grave. This became the final resting place for her family, and, in 1830, her son, Louis Philippe I, embellished and enlarged the chapel, which was renamed the Royal Chapel of Dreux.

In 1848, Louis Philippe I was deposed. Soon after Hélène appeared at the French parliament with her son hoping to claim the throne, but her claim was not accepted. She left France for Germany but continued to press the claim for the Count of Paris, saying he had the right to inherit the French throne. Royalists, however, began to favor other royal lines, particularly the line under the Count of Chambord, who was the son of Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry (a younger son to Charles X of France).


  • —, in Yorkshire Gazette, 23 July 1842
  • Clark, William Mark, Tales of Heroism, and Record of Strange and Wonderful Adventures, 1847
  • “Death of the Duke of Orleans,” in Leeds Times, 23 July 1842
  • “Death of the Duke of Orleans,” in Worcester Journal, 21 July 1842
  • “The Funeral,” in the Morning Post, 25, July 1842

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