émigré (āmēgrā´), in French history, a refugee, usually royalist, who fled the French Revolution and took up residence in a foreign land. The émigrés comprised all classes, but were disproportionately drawn from the privileged. Immediately after the fall of the Bastille (1789), the exodus of the princes of the blood began, and successive waves of emigration took place after that date. King Louis XVI himself tried to flee (1791) France but was arrested at Varennes. Many of the émigrés gathered about Prince Louis Joseph de Condé (see under Condé, family) and the king's brother, the comte d'Artois (later King Charles X), to form a counterrevolutionary army to restore the old regime. In Oct., 1792, the Convention, a Revolutionary national assembly, decreed the confiscation of their property and their perpetual banishment. After 1802, Napoleon permitted the émigrés to return to France, with restrictions. Many rose to power in the empire. With the restoration of the monarchy (1814) the rest of them returned and became a powerful reactionary group opposing the moderate policies of King Louis XVIII. The comte d'Artois favored them, and when he ascended the throne (1824) a law was passed indemnifying the nobility for their confiscated estates. This pro-émigré (or, more properly, ultraroyalist) legislation helped to bring about the July Revolution of 1830 against Charles X. The term émigré has subsequently been applied to refugees from any revolution.
See D. Greer, The Incidence of the Emigration during the French Revolution (1951, repr. 1966), M. Weiner, The French Exiles, 1789–1815 (1960).