The Comte de Chambord has been generally blamed for stubbornly refusing to accept the tricolore, and thereby throwing away the last chance of a restoration. This judgment is not supported by the facts, however, as it would seem to have been plotting by a small number among the Orleanists, hoping to provoke the abdication of the Comte de Chambord in favour of the Comte de Paris (with or without the latter’s knowledge), which led to the Comte de Chambord giving up the crown.
The issue of what the Comte de Chambord intended with the reconciliation with the Comte de Paris is also not entirely clear. Orleanists argue that Chambord’s intention was to recognize the Comte de Paris as his eventual heir, but the direct evidence of the time is slight. One quotation was recorded by the Marquis de Flers on the 5th March 1873, when the Comte de Paris had his second meeting with the Comte de Chambord after stating that he and the Comte de Chambord had political differences, to which Chambord replied: “Croyez, mon cousin, que je trouve tout naturel que vous conserviez les opinions politiques dans lesquelles vous avez été élevé; l’héritier du trône peut avoir ses idées comme le roi a les siennes.”
The request by the Comte de Paris to visit Frohsdorf was received well by the Comte de Chambord, but on strict terms: “Les intérêts les plus chers de la France exigent d’une manière impérieuse que la visite faite, dans la situation présente, par S.A.R. le Comte de Paris à M. le Comte de Chambord, ne puisse donner lieu à aucune interprétation erronée ; M. le Comte de Chambord demande que M. le Comte de Paris déclare qu’il ne vient pas seulement saluer le chef de la Maison de Bourbon, mais bien reconnaître le principe dont M. le Comte de Chambord est le représentant, avec l’intention de reprendre sa place dans la famille. Frohsdorf, le 3 août 1873.»
The Comte de Paris replied that “Je désire porter le plus tôt possible mes respectueux hommages au chef de ma famille.” This was not enough for the Count of Chambord, however, who asked for “une signification plus accentuée, les relations de famille ne pouvant être utilement renouées qu’avec la reconnaissance du principe dont il est le représentant.”
The Comte de Paris then declared : “Mon grand-père a brisé l’anneau ; je veux renouer la chaîne des traditions. J’ai certaines idées, mon cousin a les siennes. Les miennes sont personnelles. Ce n’est que par un accord avec la nation qu’il peut faire prévaloir ou modifier les siennes ; je n’ai pas plus à les examiner qu’il ne aurait me demander d’abdiquer les miennes.”
His written declaration followed, stating : “M. le Comte de Paris pense, comme M. le Comte de Chambord, qu’il faut que la visite projetée ne donne lieu à aucune interprétation erronée. Il est prêt, en abordant M. le Comte de Chambord, à lui déclarer que son intention n’est pas seulement de saluer le chef de la Maison de Bourbon mais de reconnaître le principe dont M. le Comte de Chambord est le représentant. Il souhaite que la France cherche son salut dans le retour à ce principe et vient auprès de M. le Comte de Chambord pour lui donner l’assurance qu’il ne rencontrera aucun compétiteur parmi les membres de sa famille.”
The famous meeting then took place on the 5th August, at which the Comte de Chambord made his remark about the political opinions of the Comte de Paris. The statement following, however, stated clearly that there had been no discussion regarding the circumstances that would lead to a monarchical restoration, which would be in the exclusive competence of the National Assembly. “Mais il est établi par cette visite que les princes d’Orléans ne seront plus un obstacle à la réconciliation de la France et du prince qui représente la monarchie traditionnelle.”
The drapeau blanc, however, was not the real obstacle that prevented the Comte de Chambord from returning, as is usually claimed. The constitutional problem was in reality the interpretation of the powers of the King, which if there was an immediate confrontation with the Assembly, would have led to a constitutional crisis; but it was the evident political divisions among the royalists that prevented a compromise from being found. This compromise could have worked, because the Comte de Chambord understood that the army would not accept the abandonment of the tricolore and any proposal to re-establish the drapeau blanc would likely have been postponed, at least until the new King had found a way to persuade the army to accept some workable compromise solution. This, however, was eventually sabotaged at the last minute by the Orleanists Vicomte d’Haussonville and Duc Decazes (the latter through an agent, a M. Savaray). Their hope was that their actions would provoke the Comte de Chambord to abdicate in favor of the Comte de Paris; indeed, apparently Haussonville stated that he would prefer a republic to the return of Chambord.
The compromise the Comte de Chambord was persuaded to accept by M. Charles Chesnelong, who was sent to see him on behalf of the monarchist deputies and who sought a solution acceptable to the right and the center who made up the majority in the Assembly (14 October 1873). was:
(1) “M. le Comte de Chambord ne demande pas que rien soit change au drapeau national avant qu’il ait pris possession du pouvoir.”
Chambord’s reply : “Soit ! J’accepte cela. Je ne demande pas que l’assemblée prenne l’initiative d’un changement dans le drapeau et je n’ai pas l’intention de prendre moi-même avant d’être monté sur le trône. Je n’ai donc aucune objection à ce que vous disiez, en mon nom, que je ne demande pas que rien soit changé du drapeau avant que j’aie pris possession du pouvoir.”
(2) “Monseigneur se réserve de présenter au pays, à l’heure qu’il jugera convenable, et se fait fort d’obtenir de lui, pas ses représentants, une solution compatible avec son honneur et qu’il croit de nature à satisfaire l’assemblée et la nation.” Chambord replied “J’accepte que la seconde déclaration que vous ferez en mon nom, soit formulée ainsi que vous venez de le dire.” (3) “M. le Comte de Chambord accepte que la question du drapeau, après avoir été posée par le roi, soit résolue avec l’accord du Roi et de l’Assemblée.”
This latter clause was not quite so easy for the Comte de Chambord, because it allowed for the possibility that the assembly would reject any change, even though Chesnelong considered it in effect dependent upon the 2nd condition and not in conflict with it. Chambord’s reply to this condition («J’entends bien présentert la solution à l’Assemblée.”) was not exactly what Chesnelong wanted, but he considered that it was a natural extension of the 2nd, and therefore that there was no conflict. However, when these terms and his responses were written down, the Comte de Chambord hesitated, saying to Blacas that “La troisième me met trop à la merci de l’assemblée; je vous demande de la supprimer.” Chambord therefore requested that Chesnelong not include the third condition and Chesnelong left for Paris. So confident was the Comte de Chambord that this would be accepted that he asked Chesnelong to convey to the duc de Broglie that he would confirm him as first minister. Chiappe suggests that what the Comte de Chambord was hoping to do, in the event that the National Assembly refused, was to dissolve the assembly and put the question to the people – a very Bonapartist solution; but the proposed powers of the King would not in fact have included the power to dissolve the assembly.
Chambord was not the ultra-reactionary he has been portrayed, as he had earlier made it clear (19 September 1873) that he rejected the “fantôme de la dîme, des droits féodaux, de l’intolérance religieuse, de la persécution contre nos frères séparés… [and that he rejected the]… gouvernement des prêtres, de la prédominance des classes privilégiées”, the very allegations against him made by the republicans led by Gambetta and Thiers. He considered himself above party, but that his act of reconciliation with the Comte de Paris had been “de rendre à la France son rang, et dans les plus chers intérêts de sa prospérité, de sa gloire et de sa grandeur.”
Nonetheless he did not fully comprehend the reality of the divisions between the differing groups which, on some or other terms, were prepared to support the restoration. Perhaps this was why, on 14th October, he did not receive the deputies who had accompanied Chesnelong. The position of the Church was also uncertain; some, on the extreme right, vigorously demanded that the Comte de Chambord reject the tricolore because it symbolized the sovereignty of the people; yet the Pope, in an audience accorded to the royalist deputy Keller said “La couleur du pavillon n’a pas une grande importance. C’est avec le drapeau tricolore que les Français m’avaient rétabli à Rome. Vous voyez qu’avec ce drapeau on peut faire de bonne choses, mais M. le Comte de Chambord n’a pa voulu me croire.”
The solution offered by Chesnelong was immediately subject to debate; duc d’Audiffret-Pasquier, leader of the center right and an Orléanist, was concerned that if the King’s proposal was rejected there would be an immediate crisis following the restoration. The army had made it clear that it would accept nothing less than the tricolore; some among the Orléanists were hoping for a solution that would provoke the speedy abdication of the Comte de Chambord in favor of the Comte de Paris, who would have immediately compromised on this question. Orleanist historians consider that the Comte de Paris was ignorant of these maneuverings, but he was certainly privy to the distribution of large sums to the deputies – estimated at between six and forty million francs to try and persuade them to accept the compromise proposed by Chesnelong. Chesnelong introduced the two clauses to which the Comte de Chambord had agreed to the Assembly in a passionate speech on 18th October that was received with a standing ovation. He made it clear that these two declarations were all he had been charged to transmit, stating that «Le prince n’usera de son initiative qu’après avoir pris possession du pouvoir; … mais usera-t-il de son initiative après son élévation au trône? J’en suis convaincu. Sera-ce dès le lendemain de son avènement ou plus tard? Je l’ignore. Quelle solution présentera-t-il ? Il ne me l’a pas indiqué. Voilà tout ce que je puis dire.”
A text was then proposed by Audiffret-Pasquier that was voted on and passed by a large majority : “D’après ces propositions, la monarchie serait rétablie, toutes les libertés civiles, politiques et religieuses qui constituent le droit public de la France seraient garanties ; le drapeau tricolore serait maintenu et des modifications ne pourraient y être accordées, l’initiative royale restant d’ailleurs intacte, que par l’accord du Roi et de la représentation nationale ; les réunions que ces bureaux représentent seront immédiatement convoquées.”
Unfortunately there still need to be a clear accord between the right and center right, and it was this that was deliberately sabotaged by the ardent Orléanists Decazes and Haussonville. Haussonville and Decazes’ protégé Savaray were secretaries of the session of the center right, and the former now used his office to alter the terms agreed by Chesnelong, who had stated that: “le Roi est dispose par avance à la plus complète harmonie de sentiments avec la majorité royaliste” to “à la plus complète harmonie avec les membres les plus libéraux de l’Assemblée et du pays,” and “solution compatible avec son honneur et transaction compatible avec son honneur.” Savary made an even more egregious change, altering the words reported as having been said by the Comte de Chambord to Chesnelong from “L’accord est complet entre le Comte de Chambord et la majorité royaliste sur les questions constitutionnelles” to “L’accord était donc complet, absolu, entre les idées de M. le Comte de Chambord et de la France libérale,” words that could never possibly have been used by the unfortunate prince at Frohsdorf. These wordings were then communicated to the press, and of course immediately were drawn to the attention of the Comte de Chambord, in Austria.
The Orleanists argue that it was “incontestable [that] le chef de la branche cadette apparaît trop subtil et trop honnête pour tremper dans de semblables intrigues.” This may have been the case, but it is hard to understand why he did not then immediately disassociate himself from them, or order Decazes and Haussonville, both close friends and advisers, to withdraw them and record the actual agreed wording. Certainly Decazes and Haussonville hoped that the Comte de Chambord would now abdicate to the Comte de Paris and thus effect the Orléanist restoration that they had always sought; the Comte de Paris himself said nothing in the face of this disastrous blow to reconciliation and restoration. Whether Audiffret-Pasquier was privy to these intrigues is uncertain, his apologists assert that he tried to stop the reports of these deliberations form being published, but was too late.
The Comte de Chambord was now faced with a fateful choice and, fully conscious of the reality of the political divisions even among the monarchists, despite his gesture to the Comte de Paris, decided to reject the uncertain compromise. His letter was transmitted directly to Chesnelong but he insured that a copy arrived at the same moment with the publication Union. After complimenting the deputy for his efforts, it continued: “On me demande aujourd’hui le sacrifice de mon honneur. Que puis-je répondre ? Sinon que je ne rétracte rien, que je ne retranche rien de mes précédentes déclarations. Les prétentions de la veille me donnent la mesure des exigences du lendemain et je ne puis consentir à inaugurer un règne réparateur et fort par un acte de faiblesse.” Did he know this would mean the end of his hopes and that of all French monarchists ? It would seem not as he still proceeded with his plan to return to France. The newspapers realized it, however, those on the right and center justly portraying this as an act of honour ; Le Gaulois commented “Il a préféré le suicide au déshonneur. La France aura pour lui le respect commandé par une si noble attitude;” L’Ordre “Le prince est sorti avec honneur et dignité de l’intrigue dans laquelle on l’avait indiscrètement mêlé. Des honneurs tels que lui peuvent se passer de la couronne;” Le Pays, “Cette lettre enlève à la France un roi, mais lui laisser un honnête homme.” No such generous sentiments were expressed by the journals of the left, all of which ridiculed the Comte de Chambord; sadly it is the memory of the supposedly obstinate reactionary that remains the general view.
Chambord arrived in France on 5th November, going straight to Versailles, where he took up residence appropriately in the rue Saint Louis. He now sought a meeting with the president, the duc de Magenta, whose wife was a devoted legitimist. Chambord hoped that an accidental meeting could be arranged, and Comte Stanislas de Blacas, his aide, suggested this to the Maréchale Duchesse de Magenta, who thought it impossible but that Monseigneur could pay a call on the President. This Chambord and his advisers did not consider appropriate for the future King. Blacas now went to see the President himself, and asked him to present the Comte de Chambord to the National Assembly, but Magenta could not oblige and was nervous of the reaction of the army. When informed of his response Chambord remarked: “je croyais avoir affaire à un connétable de France, je n’ai trouve qu’un capitaine de gendarmerie.” He had been ready; the uniform of a Lieutenant-General with the Grand Cordon of the Legion d’Honneur, with the center of the star with the fleurs de lys rather than the Henri IV of the restoration, instead of the more ancient régime Saint Esprit, was laid out; but the call did not come. Nonetheless the projected restoration still went to the vote but failed by 378 to 310 votes; the republic was preserved and MacMahon assured the presidency until 20 November 1880. Chambord now left France for Austria; he did not want to live there if he could not reign.
There was still hope for a restoration, but the legitimists could not agree to establish the Comte de Paris as King, as Haussonville and Decazes had hoped. The government was still heavily inclined towards the monarchy; the prime minister was still the duc de Broglie, while duc Decazes was given foreign affairs. The duc de la Rochefoucauld-Bisaccia, deputy, but also Ambassador in London, proposed a new law by which “(1) le gouvernment de la France est la monarchie; le trône appartient au chef de la Maison de France; (2) le maréchal de Mac-Mahon [duc de Magenta] prend le titre de lieutenant général du royaume ; (3) les
institutions politiques de la France seront réglées par l’accord du Roi et de la représentation nationale.” This failed to obtain a majority and was the last serious attempt to re-establish the monarchy in the Assembly.
In the winter of 1874 the former Queen of Spain, Isabel II, now living in Parisian exile, arrived in Vienna and received Chambord’s representative, to whom she made the astonishing suggestion that the Comte should adopt the Prince Imperial as his heir, criticizing the “tentative de fusion, c’est gravis les marches du trône pour en ouvrir le chemin aux princes d’Orléans”. To the surprise of his representative, M. de Monti, the Comte de Chambord far from being scandalised by this suggestion responded: “Cela pourrait sans doute faire le bonheur de la France, et, tout en gardant ma dignité, je pourrais un jour faire passer l’héritage de mes pères en des mains jeunes où s’ailleraient deux conceptions qui s’entrechoquent encore. Mais je suis trop vieux et on ne me comprendrait pas.” Does this suggest that the Comte de Chambord’s familial reconciliation was merely familial, and only political to the extent that it served the interests of the monarchy at the moment? Did he perhaps now consider that as the last of his line, the dynastic position of his successor was of less importance than effective government? Chambord was in fact on excellent personal terms with the Empress Eugènie, a legitimist at heart, while he was himself fascinated with Bonaparte’s military glory. When the Prince Imperial was killed, in 1878, Chambord sent his mother an emotional letter of condolence, professing his admiration for a brave young Frenchman.
Somewhat surprisingly the Orléanists paid little further heed to the exile at Frohsdorf and the Comte de Paris himself took the reconciliation no further, only meeting once more with the Comte de Chambord when he was on his death-bed. Was this failure simply a recognition that there was to be no further political gain?
After 1881 there was a legitimate excuse, as the government had threatened to close the border to the Orléans princes and had expelled them from the army, but for the seven years after Chambord left France it is hard to understand why there was no contact. When they did come the Comte de Chambord was immediately forgiving, welcoming the Comte de Paris and the Ducs de Nemours and Alençon, embracing them and even placing the Comte de Paris’ head upon his heart. It was a short interview, just seventeen minutes, ending with the Comte de Chambord taking the hand of the Comte de Paris and saying: “Quand vous rentres en France, dites bien à tous que c’est pour ma chère France qu’il faut prier et non pour moi. Mon seul regret est de n’avoir pu la servir et mourir pour elle comme l’a toujours désiré mon Coeur. Soyez plus heureux que moi, c’est tout ce que je désire.” Just before they left, the duc d’Alençon took the dying man’s hand, saying “Vous êtes mon roi et je voudrais mourir pour vous…” Those among the legitimists who later supported the claims of the Orléans blamed the Comtesse de Chambord for the poor relations between her husband and the princes of the cadet branch during his last years; they ascribed considerable influence to her as well as antagonism to their line.
In France legitimist sentiments were still strong; fifteen steamers had been rented, each with a thousand royalists, to celebrate the feast of Saint Henri on the 15th July, in Brighton (this because it was the residence of the Comte de Montemolin, future head of the House of Bourbon?), but the celebrations were cancelled because of the grave health of their prince. Chambord continued to rest, his strength gradually dissipating until 23rd August when, in the presence of his wife, the Countess of Bardi (wife of the duke of Parma’s brother and a sister of Francis II of the Two Sicilies), the Duchess of Madrid (daughter of Chambord’s sister, the dowager duchess of Parma), and the Grand Duchess of Tuscany (half-sister of the Duchess of Berry, Chambord’s mother), he received the Last Rites of the Church. Also present in the castle were his half-brother, the Duca della Grazia, his aide the Comte de Monti and his wife, the Marquis de Foresta, Général de Charette (his half-nephew through his father’s relationship with Amy Brown) and MM. de Chevigné, de Raincourt, d’Andigné. De Champeaux-Verneuil and Joseph du Bourg, most of whom were later to rally to the duke of Madrid. After repeating the word “France” several times, M. le Comte de Chambord passed away at 7.27 a.m. on the morning of the 24th August, 1883.
The Comtesse de Chambord announced that the funeral would be “private” and turned over responsibility for organizing the protocol to Emmanuel Bocher and Comte Stanislas de Blacas. After the representative of the Emperor Franz Joseph, the Archduke Ludwig-Karl, the first three places were reserved for the Duke of Madrid, the Duke of Parma and the Count of Bardi, with Francis II, King of the Two Sicilies, seated immediately behind them. The Comte de Paris attended, accepting that this was a “family” occasion but informing his supporters that the second funeral mass, in the cathedral at Goritz, would be the “official” ceremony at which he would preside. He then issued a statement, distributed to the sovereigns of Europe: “Sire, j’ai la douleur de vous faire part de la perte cruelle que la Maison de France vient d’éprouver dans la personne de son chef, Monseigneur Henri Charles Ferdinand Dieudonné d’Artois, duc de Bordeaux, Comte de Chambord, décédé à Frohsdorf, le 24 août 1884. Je prie Votre Majesté de vouloir bien accorder dans cette circonstances à la Maison de France sa haute sympathie. Philippe, Comte de Paris.” This was a curious form of words ; in his lifetime Chambord had been referred to by his supporters – Blacas, for example, when he met with Maréchal Mac-Mahon - as “Roi” and “Henri V” ; now he was restored to the surname “Artois” and the title of Duc de Bordeaux that he had not used for thirty-seven years ; the Comte de Paris himself meanwhile dropped the name “Louis”, given him in honor of his grandfather, for the single name “Philippe”.
The second, larger funeral service took place in the Cathedral at Goritz; this time the Emperor was represented by the Prince of Thurn und Taxis (brother-in-law of King Francis II of the Two Sicilies). The issue of precedence again arose, and now the Comte de Mun asked the Comte de Chambord’s confessor, Fr Boll, to explain to the dukes of Madrid and Parma that they were wrong in their view of the placement and that the Comte de Paris should take first place. To Mun’s evident surprise, Fr Boll replied, that no, on the contrary, the Comte de Paris has no right to be placed first, neither right of family nor by inheritance. The priest continued: “Vous n’avez aucune raison de soutenir le Comte de Paris; il n’a pas le droit pour lui. Les legitimistes d’aujourd’hui ont oublié cela ; il y a cinquante ans, on le disait tout haut ; M. de Genoude, M. Coquille, plus tard, ont publiquement soutenu cette thèse historique. En 1791, à l’Assemblée constituante, Mirabeau, lui-même, a déclaré qu’il fallait réserver les droits éventuels de la branche d’Espagne. Le traité d’Utrecht a imposé la renonciation à qui ? Au roi d’Espagne. Don Carlos est lié à cette clause parce qu’il a revendiqué ses droits, qu’il a fait acte de prétendance. Son père, don Juan, peut être considéré comme lié aussi, parce qu’il les a fait valoir autrefois ; son fils également parce qu’il est son héritier. Mais son frère Alphonse [later Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime, last Carlist claimant] n’est pas lié et c est là qu’est l’hérédité.” ‘
Poor Mun tried to insist, that everyone knew the Comte de Paris, no-one knew of this Alphonse,
and indeed those monarchists who supported the claim of the senior line did not support him, but his father, don Juan. It was don Juan who now presided at the funeral at Goritz; the Orléans, unable to take the place they considered theirs, declined to attend.
The Comte de Chambord in his will of 5 July 1883 had named his nephew the duke of Parma his universal heir, with the reserve for the enjoyment first of his widow, with many individual legacies to other family members, including the duke of Madrid, who was bequeathed the collars of the Orders (perceived by legitimists as a highly significant bequest, since they could be bestowed only by the legitimate successor to the crown). It was alleged by the Orléanists that he left another, political testament, but no trace or evidence of this has ever appeared. Chiappe asserts that he never sustained the rights of the Spanish Bourbons, there is not much evidence that after the failure of the compromise of 1873 that he had any intention of supporting the claims of the Orléans either. Immediately following his death, on 26th August, all the legitimist organizations were dissolved; was this to hinder the Comte de Paris (which it certainly did)? Although this happened 120-130 years ago, it somehow seems a more distant memory; for most all possibilities for the Bourbons ended in 1830. There was still one attendant working at Frohsdorf in the 1960s whose parents had served the Comte de Chambord; the duke of San Jaime died in 1936, but his political heir as Carlist claimant, Prince François-Xavier de Bourbon-Parme did not die until the late 1970s – he had known well the last duke of Madrid. The château of Chambord, where a floor recently collapsed as a result of subsidence due to the drought and some thirty were injured, remains an historic relic of this last hope for restoration – there are many paintings and objects connected with the Comte de Chambord on view. Its last owner was Elie, Duke of Parma, who after his rights to possession of the castle were affirmed in a judgment of the French courts, after being challenged by Princes Sixte and François-Xavier of Bourbon-Parme, was forced to sell its contents and park to the French state, as a result of the right of pre-emption agreed in the final peace Treaty between France and Austria.