Charles Philippe, Count of Artois, was born at Versailles on Oct. 9, 1757. He was the fourth child of the Dauphin Louis, son of Louis XV, and Marie Josephe of Saxony. Artois devoted his youth to dissipation and extravagance. He was the leader of the reactionary clique at the court of Louis XVI. But in July 1789, with the outbreak of the French Revolution and the fall of the Bastille, he left France.
Granted asylum in England, Artois lived first in London and then at Holyrood palace in Edinburgh before establishing his residence at Hartwell. Although he undertook several diplomatic missions for the royalist cause, his contribution to the struggle against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France was insignificant. In February 1814 he returned to France; after Napoleon's abdication in April, Artois acted as his brother's envoy and signed the armistice of April 23, which restored the monarchy.
During the reign of Louis XVIII (1814-1824), Artois was the leader of the ultraroyalists, who considered the King too moderate. After the ultras gained control of the Chamber of Deputies in November 1820, Artois's political role steadily increased as he influenced legislation, foreign affairs, and the appointment of ministers. On Sept. 16, 1824, Louis XVIII died, and Artois became Charles X.
Charles's accession did not signal a radical turn toward reaction as some have asserted. The new monarch possessed many admirable qualities, among them a gracious and warm personality and a strong sense of duty. He was frugal in his tastes and generous toward others. He began his reign by abolishing censorship and by granting a broad amnesty to political prisoners. Charles, indeed, promised to rule according to the Charles, indeed, promised to rule according to the Charter, and many of the bills that he proposed became law. The law which granted an indemnity to émigrés for property confiscated during the Revolution provided a reasonable settlement to the vexing problem of nationalized lands and thereby promoted national reconciliation. The law against sacrilege was never enforced, and the primogeniture bill—defeated by the peers—would have affected only 80,000 families out of 6,000,000.
But despite his many virtues, Charles had two fatal weaknesses: impatience and a lack of judgment, especially in the choice of advisers. A staunch defender of royal prerogative, he could not accept the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy. "I would rather hew wood," he once exclaimed, "than be king after the English fashion." The blunders and divisions of the ultraroyalists themselves constituted another cause of the July Revolution (July 26-Aug. 2, 1830), which overthrew the Bourbon dynasty.
On August 16 Charles sailed to England, where he again lived at Holyrood. Six years later, on Nov. 6, 1836, he died at Göritz in Styria, where he had gone for the winter.
Vincent W. Beach, Charles X of France: His Life and Times (1971), is based on British and French archival materials, and gives the most scholarly and complete account in any language. Guillaume de Bertier de Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration (1963 ed.; trans. 1966), gives the best defense of Charles X. The topical account by Frederick B. Artz, France under the Bourbon Restoration, 1814-1830 (1931), presents a good synthesis and has an excellent bibliography. □
Charles X (king of France)
Charles X, 1757–1836, king of France (1824–30); brother of King Louis XVI and of King Louis XVIII, whom he succeeded. As comte d'Artois he headed the reactionary faction at the court of Louis XVI. He left France (July, 1789) at the outbreak of the French Revolution and became a leading spirit of the émigré party. After his failure to aid the Vendée insurrection, he stayed in England until the Bourbon restoration (1814). During the reign of Louis XVIII he headed the ultraroyalist opposition, which triumphed after the assassination (1820) of Charles's son the duc de Berry. The event caused the fall of the ministry of Élie Decazes and the advent of the comte de Villèle, who continued as chief minister after Charles's accession. Among the many attempts of Charles and Villèle to reestablish elements of the ancien régime, as the prerevolutionary order is called, the law (1825) indemnifying the émigrés for lands confiscated during the Revolution and measures increasing the power of the clergy met with particular disapproval. The bourgeoisie and the liberal press joined in attacking the Villèle cabinet, which resigned in 1827. Villèle's successor, the vicomte de Martignac, vainly tried to steer a middle course, and in 1829 Charles appointed an uncompromising reactionary, Jules Armand de Polignac, as chief minister. To divert attention from internal affairs, Polignac initiated the French venture in Algeria. However, his dissolution (Mar., 1830) of the liberal chamber of deputies and his drastic July Ordinances, establishing rigid control of the press, dissolving the newly elected chamber, and restricting suffrage, resulted in the July Revolution. Charles abdicated in favor of his grandson, the comte de Chambord, and embarked for England. However, the duc d'Orléans, whom Charles had appointed lieutenant general of France, was chosen
"king of the French"
as Louis Philippe.
See studies by V. W. Beach (1967 and 1971).