Louis Philippe

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Louis Philippe

Louis Philippe (1773-1850) was king of the French from 1830 to 1848. Although his authoritarian regime was overthrown by the February Revolution, his reign was marked by domestic prosperity, stability, and intellectual fecundity.

Born in Paris on Oct. 6, 1773, Louis Philippe was the eldest son of Philippe égalité, Duc d'Orléans. From 1785 until his father's execution (Nov. 6, 1793), he was known as the Duc de Chartres, thereafter as the Duc d'Orléans and the leader of the cadet branch of the Bourbon family.

In 1790 the duke joined the Jacobin Club and after 1792 posed as a republican. A lieutenant general at 18, he fought at Valmy, Jemappes, and Neerwinden. But, alienated by the Terror, he joined Charles François Dumouriez in a plot to overthrow the Republic. The army, however, refused to follow them, and on April 5, 1793, they deserted.

For the next 2 decades the duke sojourned in Switzerland, America, England, and Malta before repairing in 1809 to Sicily, where he remained until Napoleon's abdication. Meanwhile, the juste milieu (middle course) became the maxim which guided his political actions: he cautiously refrained from committing himself to Dumouriez's intrigues; and he remained apart from the émigrés while he and his cousin Louis XVIII became reconciled.

When Louis Philippe returned to France in 1814, Louis XVIII elevated him to the peerage, appointed him colonel general of Hussars, and restored to him all of the family's sequestered estates that had not been sold—a restitution which made him rich. But his attacks upon the ultraroyalists led in 1815 to a 2-year exile in England. After his return, he cultivated popularity by making the Palais-Royal the foyer of liberals, dressing en bourgeois (wearing long trousers instead of knee breeches), and sending his sons to a public school. He even strolled the streets of the working-class sections of Paris and stopped frequently to chat with workers. Thus, when the Revolution of 1830 overthrew Charles X, both classes were willing to raise the duke to the vacant throne. On August 7 the rump Chamber of Deputies proclaimed him "King of the French."

While the "citizen king" consolidated his position, he liberalized the Charter of 1814 and increased the electorate from 90, 000 to 170, 000. But for all Louis Philippe's astuteness, he loved personal power as much as the Bourbons had; he wanted to rule as well as reign and would not compromise to meet the needs of a changing society. In September 1835 he muzzled the press and refused to broaden the suffrage. Liberals and nationalists alike were also dissatisfied with his noninterventionist foreign policy. After 1840, moreover, the King and his conservative premier, François Guizot, resorted to corruption to defeat mounting opposition in the Chambers. But it was Louis Philippe's stubborn refusal to sponsor electoral reforms that precipitated the February Revolution. Paris rose against him on Feb. 22, 1848, and 2 days later drove him again into English exile. He lived at Claremont until his death on Aug. 26, 1850.

Further Reading

The best biography of Louis Philippe in English is Thomas E. B. Howarth, Citizen-King: The Life of Louis-Philippe, King of the French (1961). For a scholarly, up-to-date synthesis of the Orleanist era see Paul H. Beik, Louis Philippe and the July Monarchy (1965). David O. Evans gives an excellent analysis of the intellectual movements of the reign in his Social Romanticism in France, 1830-1848: With a Selective Critical Bibliography (1951). □

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Louis Philippe (1773–1850) King of France (1830–48). He returned to France from exile in 1814 and acquired a reputation as a liberal. He gained the throne after the July Revolution. Although known as the ‘Citizen King’, Louis Philippe retained much personal power. He abdicated when revolution broke out again and the Second Republic was declared in February 1848. He died in exile in England.