Henri, Count of Chambord was born on 29 September 1820 at the Tuileries Palace and named Henri of Artois. He was the son of Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, and his wife Princess Caroline of Naples and Sicily. Unfortunately, Henri’s father, the Duke of Berry who was also the youngest son of Charles X of France, was assassinated seven months before Henri’s birth and died on 14 February 1820.
To ensure the legitimacy of Henri’s birth by the Princess Caroline, witnesses were brought in, and among the witnesses was Maréchal Suchet who had been chosen by Bonapartists to witness and certify the birth. The birth happened so quickly the Princess refused to have Henri separated from the umbilical cord before the official witnesses arrived. Thus, when Suchet arrived, the Duchess supposedly told him to tug on the umbilical cord and see that it was still attached. According to the British ambassador Sir Charles Stuart, “Suchet proved a bit faint-hearted and she repeated, ‘Mais tirez donc, M. le Maréchal.'”
Henri was given the title of Duke of Bordeaux on the day of his birth. That was because his birth meant the senior Bourbon line would not become extinct, and so he was dubbed “Child of the Miracle.” According to custom, he was given a long string of names, Henri Charles Ferdinand Marie Dieudonné d’Artois, with the name Dieudonné meaning “God-given.” His birth was widely celebrated, with The Osage County Chronicle reporting:
“All Paris was awakened this morning by the report of twenty-four cannons, which announced the birth of a Prince. Immediately the crowd filled the streets, eager to learn the smallest details concerning an event which will have such a great influence on our destinies. Every one gave vent to this joy. Persons embraced and congratulated each other, and flags were displayed at the windows of private houses. … The crowd, which was increased every moment, wished to see the young prince. They approached the palace and expressed this desire in loud cries. A window was therefore opened and the royal child was shown in his cradle.”
As Henri was fatherless, Henri’s mother devoted herself to providing careful training and preparation for his regal role. Two guardians also “reared him in the ways he was to walk — that is, strictly according to the principles of the old monarchy.” His grandfather, Charles X, also did his part. Besides encouraging Henri in certain royal duties, he named him a colonel over a regiment of Hussars who were paraded weekly before the boy.
Unfortunately, during his reign, Charles X was unpopular with the people because of policies and his ultra-royalist tendencies. This eventually resulted in the July Revolution of 1830, which forced Charles X to abdicate. In response to his abdication, Charles’s oldest son, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, who was he married to his first cousin, Princess Marie Thérèse of France, the eldest child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, assumed the throne for twenty minutes. However, he was as unpopular as his father, and, so, he abdicated in favor of 9-year-old Henri.
Henri’s birth had lessened the chances that Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans would ever see the throne. Now Louis Phillipe became Henri’s regent. For seven days (between 2 August and 9 August), Louis Philippe was urged to proclaim Henri as Henri V, King of France. However, he refused, as the Orléans line had cast doubts about Henri’s legitimacy from birth. On 9 August Louis Philippe was declared Louis Philippe I, King of France, thereby creating a power shift from the House of Bourbon to its cadet branch, the House of Orléans.
On 16 August 1830, with the overthrow and Louis Philippe I’s rule, Henri and his family went into exile. People had been arguing for some time as to who was the legitimate heir to the throne. “Legitimists” recognized Henri V as the rightful heir. Others disputed Henri’s claims as they had never supported Henri’s grandfather or uncle, and these people viewed Louis Philippe I as having the proper claim to the throne.
During Henri’s exile, he and his family lived in Edinburgh for two years, and, then moved to Prague in 1832. That same year Henri’s mother attempted to regenerate interest in Henri acquiring the throne. Her plan proved unsuccessful and she was arrested and imprisoned at Blaye, where she became pregnant. After delivering her baby, she was released in May of 1833, but from that point forward, her children were under the supervision of Charles X, and he only allowed her supervised visits.
In 1835, Charles X moved to Gorizia, on the Slovenian-Italian border and then died a year later, on 6 November 1836. Henri’s uncle, the Duke of Angoulême, died about eight years later in 1844. Henri, who had taken to being called the Count of Chambord, then became senior claimant to the throne, and it was also around this same time that he announced “himself openly as a pretender to the throne of France.”
Three years later, in November of 1846, Henri, Count of Chambord married his second cousin, Maria Theresa Beatrix Gaëtane, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Modena. It was an arranged marriage by Henri’s paternal aunt who sought to ally the exiled French Royal Family with the House of Austria-Este because that family was Roman Catholic and because they did not recognize the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe I. Maria Theresa’s dowry also brought Henri several million francs.
Henri and his wife went to live in a little village near Vienna in the Castle of Frohsdorf and never had any children. Two years later, when they were visiting his mother in Venice, news broke that another revolution occurred. Legitimists quickly rallied around Henri, but he chose to take no action and remained a passive spectator. Thus, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, son of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Louis, became “Prince-President” of the Second Republic, with some regarding his presidency “as a mere stepping-stone to the restoration of the Legitimate Monarchy.”
In the early 1870s, the Second Empire collapsed after being defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. This time Henri, Count of Chambord promised “the integrity of France [would] be maintained, if all the Frenchmen would rally around him … ‘the only true, natural government, whose foundation was right, and whose principle was honesty.'” Moreover, the Royalists gained a majority in the National Assembly, which increased the hope that the two branches of the House of Bourbon would work together.
With a majority, Royalists proposed that Henri become King and that Louis-Philippe I’s grandson and Henri’s liberal cousin, Philippe of Orléans, Count of Paris be his successor. The possibility seemed imminent until Henri issued a proclamation in which he insisted that he would accept the crown only if France abandoned its tricolor flag and returned to the white fleur-de-lys flag, stating, “Frenchmen … [I] cannot abandon the flag of Henry IV.”
To many people, the fleur-de-lys flag that Henri, Count of Chambord supported represented the ancien régime and so a compromise was issued. The suggestion was that fleur-de-lys flag would become Henri’s personal standard, and the tricolor flag would remain the national flag. He rejected that compromise, and thereby dashed the hopes of the Royalists, which in turn strengthened the Republican minority in the Assembly. The end result was the Legitimist movement proved fruitless and the temporary Third Republic waited for Henri’s death so that the Count of Paris could assume the throne.
Henri, Count of Chambord had never been too supportive of an Orléanist succession. One writer noted this when he remarked on Henri’s decision:
“The Bourbon Prince’s quiet, cool, but implacable dislike of his cousins of the younger branch would be enough by itself to explain why he should have been in no hurry to take any course which must eventually have facilitated the Comte de Paris’s succession to the throne.”
In addition, it was reported that Henri’s wife was also not keen on the possibilities that revolution might occur if he assumed the throne.
Henri, Count of Chambord died on 24 August 1883 at his Frohsdorf residence. He was buried in the church of the Franciscan Kostanjevica Monastery in Gorizia, which was then Austria but is now in the Slovenian city of Nova Gorica. Because of his refusal to assume the throne in the 1870s, his successor was unclear at the time of his death. Ultimately, Legitimists determined that Juan, Count of Montizón, the Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne should be their claimant to the French throne.
-  Morton, James, The First Detective, 2011.
-  “Count de Chambord,” in The Osage County Chronicle, 27 Nov. 1879, p. 1.
-  Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Volume 13, 1882, p. 442.
-  Ibid.
-  “The Count de Chambord,” in London Evening Standard, 25 August 1833, p. 5.
-  Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, 1882, p. 442.
-  Ibid., p. 443.
-  Eminent Persons, Biographies Reprinted from the Times, Volume 3, 1893, p. 140.