Louis Philippe I: King of the French From 1830 to 1848

Born on 6 October 1773, Louis Philippe became King of the French from 1830 to 1848. He was the son of Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans and Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon (sister-in-law to the Princesse de Lamballe). The younger Louis Philippe inherited the title of the Duke de Chartres and was known for much of his earlier life under that name.

Louis Philippe's parents

Parents of Louis Phiilppe, Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans and Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Beginning in 1782, at the age of 9, Louis Philippe was tutored by Madame de Genlis. She instilled in him a fondness for liberal thought and instituted teaching techniques that were unusual and forward-thinking for the times. For example, she made sure that history was taught with the help of slides using an early image projector called a magic lantern, and botany studies were conducted by a real botanist while the children went out for their daily walk.

Madame de Genlis also believed her students should be self-reliant, sleep on hard beds, and get plenty of exercise. She in fact reputedly put lead in the boots of Louis Philippe when he went walking. In addition, it was reported that she established:

“[A] sort of charter, both polyglot and gastronomic, in vertues of which she ordered her élèves to breakfast in German, dine in English, lunch in Italian, and sup in French. Woe to the pupil that had confounded the four idioms, and not applied them to the four meals they were devoted to.”[1]

Louis Philippe also grew up during a changing time in Europe. He followed his father’s lead supporting revolution and joined the Jacobin Club, a move that his father supported. Then in June 1791 he become involved in the affairs of France and became a model officer.

“Entering the army at an early age, we find him when only 18 years old, commanding the 14th regiment of Dragoons, and in the year following (1792) prosecuting his first campaign in the war then waged against Austria. On the 20th of September in that he fought a Valmey, heading his troops with great valour, and on the 6th of November he drew his sword at Jemappes.[2]

Louis Philippe - 1792

Louis Philippe, Duke of Chartres in 1792 by Léon Cogniet. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over time, however, Louis Philippe’s career was reported as “chequered and adventurous.” He found himself disagreeing with the more radical policies of the Republic and everything came to a head for him when he was implicated in a plot with French General Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez. It was reported they planned to ally with the Austrians, march on Paris, and restore the Constitution of 1791. Once Louis Philippe and Dumouriez’s plot was discovered they had no choice but to escape and go into exile. In the meantime, Louis Philippe’s father, now known as Philippe Égalité, was arrested based on his son’s actions. He was also seen as a traitor and executed on 6 November 1793. Of these times The Bradford Observer provided the following information stating:

“[After Philippe Égalité was arrested and guillotine as a traitor] … in company with Dumouriez [Louis Philippe] fled toward the frontiers, and, succeeded, despite the vigilance of French authorities, in gaining the safe ground of the Belgian Netherlands, then in possession of Austria. Here, though offered military employment by the Austrian government he lived for a time as a private gentleman. He also journeyed through Switzerland, visiting many cities and towns, still pursued by the French authorities, and ever escaping their hands.”[3]

Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It would be some twenty-one years before Louis Philippe would again set foot on French soil. During his time in exile, life was difficult. According to The Bradford Observer:

“The hardships and privations through which the royal fugitive had to pass are truly extraordinary. He actually travelled sometimes almost barefoot, and for a long period with a pack on his back. Under the fictitious name of Mr. Corby, he obtained, and from some time held the post of a teacher in a school. At last he resolved on going to America, but his funds provided insufficient, and this purpose was consequently abandoned. He travelled on foot through Norway and Sweden … and at last reached Copenhagen, where he was kindly sheltered. Ultimately what he was unable to accomplish by his own resources was brought about through the intervention of his bitterest enemies. The French Directory, despairing of tracing his retreat, or of becoming possessed of his person, opened up negotiations with him through third parties, offering to ameliorate the condition of his mother, and to permit the expatriation of his two younger brothers, at that time in prison, if he would go to America. The proposal was eagerly embraced, and in 1796, he arrived at Philadelphia, his brothers following him not long afterwards.”[4]

Although Louis Philippe had great hopes about America, it supposedly was not a pleasant stay. However, he did travel throughout the country from Maine to New Orleans and he visited and befriend at least one Native American Indian tribe. That visit that then resulted in at an interesting story:

“[H]e acted as surgeon to an Indian chief, whom he bled in his wigwam, with such success that the tribe bestowed a high, though not very covetable honour, upon the white stranger. It was custom in this tribe that the whole family, however illustrious, should sleep upon one spacious mat, the relations being all ranged according to proximity, rank, age, and other discrimination circumstances. In acknowledgement of the services rendered by the duke to the grandfather of the chief’s family, he was permitted to pass the night upon the family mat between the grandmother and grandaunt, the highest honour every conferred by the tribe upon an individual any age or colors.”[5]

Despite the honor afforded him and news spreading of his medical abilities, Louis Philippe soon took passage to England. There Louis Philippe took lodgings in Twickenham, a southwest suburb in London, where he eventually rented a house that became known as Orleans House, a Palladian villa built by the architect John James in 1710 near the Thames for the politician and diplomat James Johnston and it was while living in Twickenham that Louis Philippe supposedly “had the advantage of the best society of the day.”[6]

Louis Philippe - Painting of the Orleans House

Painting of Orleans House, Twickenham by British artist Joseph Nickolls. Courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art.

In 1809 Louis Philippe married Maria Amalia Teresa of Naples and Sicily, three years after meeting her in Italy. Her mother was Maria Carolina of Austria, older sister to Marie Antoinette. Like Louis Philippe, Maria Amalia was living in exile when they met. Their marriage was considered controversial partly because of her Aunt Marie Antoinette and because of Louis Philippe’s controversial dead father, Philippe Égalité. Moreover, Maria Carolina was skeptical of the marriage and did not necessarily want her daughter to marry Louis Philippe. He however convinced her that he was determined to compensate for the mistakes of his father, and after having agreed to answer all her questions regarding him, she finally consented to allow the marriage.

Maria Amalia Teresa of Naples and Sicily in 1839. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As to Louis Philippe’s personality and characteristics, he was once described in the following fashion:

“Louis Philippe was well read, well traveled and thoroughly conversant both with men and things. His taste was cultivated and refined, and his patronage of the arts and manufacturer most liberal and munificent. He loved money, and accumulated enormous wealth, spending an incredibly trifling amount upon himself, though maintaining his family in regal splendour, and disbursing large sums to innumerable charities. In his family circle he seems to have almost realized the patriarchal usages of ancient days and oriental climes, exercising, unquestioned, an absolute sway, and presiding over a numerous household which included even the married branches of his family. He ever cherished a tender attachment to his late sister, Madame Adelaide, … and he enjoyed the most perfect conjugal felicity with his faithful and devoted [wife].”[7]

In France, King Louis XVIII died in 1824 and was succeeded by his brother, Charles X. Unfortunately, he proved unpopular with the masses. After dissolving the Chamber, disenfranchising a great portion of electors, and restraining the liberty of the press, Parisians took up arms against him in 1830. Bloody warfare ensued that became known as the July Revolution. It also resulted in him being exiled to England and being replaced by Louis Philippe, who was raised to the throne as Louis Philippe I, King of the French and would rule from 9 August 1830 to 24 February 1848.

Louis Philippe in 1841

King Louis Philippe I in 1841. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louis Philippe I as a ruler also had critics. Of him it was stated:

“For if we are to say nothing but good of Louis Philippe, certainly we shall say very little. … Louis Philippe had virtues, but the chief excellencies of his character were domestic, and therefore shut up from observation, whilst his greatest faults were public, and consequently the talk of the whole world. He was a man of large ambition, but his aspirations were soulless, and utterly destitute of any really great element. He was not a patriot; his ambition was, not to raise himself by raising the people, but to raise himself at any cost. He combined the sophistry of a Jesuit with the cunning of an Old Bailey practitioner, apt to cloak his motives, skilled in disguising his true aim, he would nevertheless pursue that aim with consummate craft, but never with magnanimous boldness. He was not an eagle swooping from the sky upon his quarry, nor was he a lion of the forest springing with dreadful majesty upon his prey. He rather resembled the spider spreading his toils, or the stoat tracing in subterraneous darkness the hapless occupant of the burrow. We are far from meaning that he was sanguinary, when asserting that he was sly; he has, indeed, been commended for his antipathy to the shedding of blood, and extolled as the domestic kind, who could leave the affairs of state, to play at shuttlecock with children. He did not love war as Napoleon did; yet greatly have they erred who designate him the ‘Napoleon of peace.’ He certainly aimed at self-aggrandizement, at family alliances – per fas aut nefas. To compass his ends, he little heeded how profusely the seeds of national animosity were scattered, how irreparably national confidences were shaken, how hopelessly national advancement was postponed. … His great fault was a restless ambition, ever seeking by tortuous courses, and intricate schemings to effect purposes of questionable propriety, or absolute wrong; his whole career was the embodied wanderings of a disquiet spirit, whom no possession could satisfy, and whom no spark of transcendent greatness, or impulse of superhuman genius, impelled to the sublimer distinctions which were daily coveted.”[8]

While ruling, Louis Philippe I survived seven assassination attempts. One of the most interesting was an attempt on 28 July 1836 by Guiseppe Mario Fieschi. As Louis Philippe was passing the Boulevard du Temple with his three sons and staff a volley gun that later became known as the Machine Infernale was discharged. It was fired from the third level apartment at 50 Boulevard du Temple, which had been rented by Fieschi.

Eighteen people were killed but luckily the king suffered nothing more than a graze to his forehead while his sons escaping essentially unharmed. As to Fieschi, the gun burst when it was fired, and he was severely injured. His attempts to escape were therefore quickly thwarted and he was captured. A year later, he and two co-conspirators were guillotined. In addition, Louis Philippe ordered the artist Horace Vernet to produce a drawing of the event.

As the years passed Louis Philippe I and his government became more unpopular and some say more corrupt. On 24 February 1848, during the February 1848 Revolution, Louis Philippe I abdicated in favor of his 9-year-old grandson, Philippe, comte de Paris. A disguised Louis Philippe then took an ordinary cab under the name of “Mr. Smith” and successfully fled to England where he spent his final years incognito as the “Comte de Neuilly.”

Louis Philippe

Louis Philippe I. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louis Philippe I remained in exile in Great Britain until he died at 8:00pm at Claremont on 26 August 1850. He was buried at St. Charles Borromeo Chapel in Weybridge, Surrey. Of his passing Le Courrier Francais stated:

“Louis Philippe is dead. Politically he had ceased to exist. His death will not the less cause a profound sensation. After Napoleon, Louis Philippe is the man who has held the greatest place in the age. He wanted to be king, he was so, and he gave France eighteen years of peace and industry. He was a great mind, a superior character, a choice intelligence. He was courageous, and yet in 1848, he did not know how to hold the sword. He was superior in all things, and yet he always failed to have a principle in which to cause his dynasty to take root. France not the less owes homage to the memory of this great man, who possessed so many eminent qualities, and in whom posterity with not find either striking vices or sublime virtues. The country owes tears to this royal tomb; it owes above all sympathy to that afflicted family which had against it the illegitimacy of its starting point, and for it all those whom it has succored, sheltered, enriched. The death of Louis Philippe is an event. By his qualities, as by his faults, he belongs to history, but his disappearance from the changes noting in the present situation.”[9]

The Bradford Observer also noted at Louis Philippe’s passing:

“He is gone, – the child of more than a half a century of revolution and vicissitudes. His path has lain through fire and flood and stormy tempest. Amidst the most terrific developments of human passion he was nurtured, matured, and at length has disappeared. He was familiar with barricades and street warfare; he studied for fifty years the deep dark gulf of people’s discontent and vengeance. Yet to what small account, in the moment of his great exigency, was his unequalled experienced turned! Who better than Louis Philippe understood the causes of the downfall of Charles X? Who better than Louis Philippe understood the utter futility of opposing edicts and ordinances to the determined of the French populace? … Yet with all this before his eyes, the ‘King of the Barricades,’ – the very man who ascended the throne over the ruins of imperial tyranny, – was himself insane enough to encounter, knowingly, the same rock on which, but a few years before, his predecessor made shipwreck! … Louis Philippe has ever found an asylum in England. It has been in three revolutions that harbour his refuge, and its soil will now afford him a grave. Peace to his memory and his name.”[10]

Although it seemed that Louis Philippe I would forever remain in England, in 1876, his remains and those of his wife were taken to France. They were reburied at the Chapelle royale de Dreux, the traditional burial place for members from the House of Orléans. Louis Philippe was laid to rest in the family necropolis his mother had built in 1816, which he had enlarged and embellished after her death.


  • [1] Morning Post, “Madame de Genlis and the Belle-Chasse Pavilion,” March 1, 1843, p. 7.
  • [2] The Bradford Observer, “Death of Louis Philippe: The Ex-King of the French,” August 29, 1850, p. 4.
  • [3] ibid.
  • [4] ibid.
  • [5] The Manchester Times and Manchester and Salford Advertiser and Chronicle, “The Life of Louis Philippe,” October 12, 1844, p. 2.
  • [6] The Bradford Observer, p. 4.
  • [7] ibid.
  • [8] ibid.
  • [9] The Observer, “Death of Louis Philippe,” September 1, 1850, p. 3.
  • [10] The Bradford Observer, p. 4.

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