Charles X

views updated May 18 2018


CHARLES X (1757–1836; ruled 1824–1830), king of France.

The Comte d'Artois, the younger brother of Louis XVI of France (r. 1774–1792) and the future Charles X, was born in 1757. At age sixteen he entered into an arranged marriage with the daughter of King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia (r. 1773–1796). The diminutive Marie-Thérèse (d. 1805) was a year younger and then stood barely more than four feet tall. Irresponsible behavior, as well as the stubbornness that would always characterize him, marked the future king's adolescence and young adulthood. He also developed a lifelong love of playing cards and, above all, hunting (writing in 1825, "Bad weather has forced me to cancel hunting; therefore, I have decided to consider questions of the hour"). At the time of his spouse's death in 1805 Charles had not seen her in ten years.

Adamantly opposed to reform and strongly influenced by a coterie of reactionary advisors, he once proclaimed, "I would rather be a woodcutter than to reign in the fashion of the king of England." He remained an uncompromising advocate of unmitigated royal sovereignty. Following the Revolution, in July he became one of the first royals to leave France for exile. Now "king of the exiles," he helped organize various royalist conspiracies, but did not participate in the armies raised to invade France and attempt to restore the monarchy. With his brother, the Comte de Provence (the future King Louis XVIII [r. 1814–1824]), he encouraged the Brunswick Manifesto of 1792, in which Prussia and Austria warned that the French would be punished if any harm came to Louis XVI and his family. This helped inspire the popular insurrection that established a revolutionary Commune in Paris on 9 August, leading to massacres in the Tuileries Palace. On 21 January 1793 Louis XVI was guillotined.

At the time of the first Bourbon Restoration in 1814, Artois opposed the Charter that his brother, Louis XVIII, granted his subjects, which referred to "public liberties" and establishing a legislature that would be elected, albeit by extremely limited suffrage. Whereas Louis XVIII realized that the risks of trying to turn the clock back to the ancien régime included the strong possibility of civil war, Artois maintained close ties to the ultraroyalists, many of whom were angry émigrés who had "learned nothing and forgotten nothing," and who refused any accommodation with the Revolution. With the aged Louis XVIII gradually withdrawing from an active role in monarchical politics, the influence of Artois continued to rise. The assassination in 1820 of his son, the Duc de Berri (1778–1820), the heir to the throne, by Louis-Pierre Louvel, whose goal was to extinguish the Bourbon line, only reaffirmed the intransigence of Artois.

Upon the death of Louis XVIII in 1824 Artois ascended the throne at age sixty-six as Charles X. His coronation in May 1825 was spectacularly controversial. Charles attempted to heal crippled people with the "healing touch" of a new monarch. The ceremony, one that came right out of the Middle Ages, drew derisive contempt from liberals. At the Papal Jubilee in 1826 the king prostrated himself before the archbishop of Paris during an expiation ceremony in remembrance of the execution of Louis XVI. Émigrés were compensated for losses of property during the sale of the biens nationaux (national property), while rumors circulated that such lands purchased during the Revolution would be returned to their original owners and that Charles X planned to allow the church to collect the tithe. The Chamber of Deputies passed a law making sacrilege—any crime committed in or against a church—a capital offense. Although no one was executed for sacrilege, the law generated great opposition from liberals, who railed against the alliance of altar and throne.

Charles remained seemingly oblivious to the possible consequences of the mounting organized opposition to his rule, reflected by the election of an increasing number of liberals to the Chamber of Deputies. In August 1829 he appointed as chief minister the reactionary prince Jules de Polignac (1780–1847), who had been one of two members of the Chamber of Deputies who had refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Charter in 1814. Charles delivered an aggressive address to the Deputies, insisting that the opposition had failed to "understand" the king's will. Two hundred twenty-one deputies called on the king to remove from power a government of which a majority in the Chamber did not approve, directly raising the issue of monarchical sovereignty. Charles dismissed the Chamber. However, new elections in July again brought a clear liberal majority. On 26 July 1830 Charles X promulgated the July Ordinances, which dissolved the newly elected Chamber of Deputies, disenfranchised almost three-quarters of those eligible to vote, and clamped down on the press.

In Paris, demonstrations turned into skirmishes with troops. Paris rose up in revolt during the "three glorious days." Seeing that there was no way of maintaining his power, on 31 July Charles X named as Lieutenant-General of the Realm Louis-Philippe, the duc d'Orléans, the junior branch of the Bourbon family, who had a reputation of being liberal and who had fought in the revolutionary armies. Charles then abdicated in favor of his grandson, the Duc de Bordeaux (1820–1883), on 2 August. The victorious liberals then offered the throne to the duc d'Orléans, who assumed the throne as Louis-Philippe I (r. 1830–1848). The tricolor of the Revolution replaced the white flag of the Bourbons, a transformation taken to represent the principle of national sovereignty, embodied in the change in royal title from "king of France" to "king of the French." The electoral franchise was lowered, doubling the number of eligible voters. Charles X, the last of the Bourbon monarchs of France, went into exile to Britain, and then to Prague, dying in Goritz on 6 November 1836.

See alsoFrance; Louis XVI; Louis XVIII; Louis-Philippe; Marie-Antoinette; Restoration; Revolutions of 1830.


Alexander, Robert. Re-Writing the French Revolutionary Tradition: Liberal Opposition and the Fall of the Bourbon Monarchy. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2003.

Beach, Vincent W. Charles X of France: His Life and Times. Boulder, Colo., 1971.

de Bertier de Sauvigny, Guillaume. The Bourbon Restoration. Translated by Lynn M. Case. Philadelphia, 1966.

Bordonove, Georges. Charles X: dernier roi de France et de Navarre. Paris, 1990.

Griffon, Yves. Charles X: roi méconnu. Paris, 1999.

Merriman, John M., ed. 1830 in France. New York, 1975.

Pinkney, David H. The French Revolution of 1830. Princeton, N.J., 1972.

John Merriman

Charles X

views updated May 29 2018

Charles X

The French king Charles X (1757-1836) ruled from 1824 to 1830. The younger brother of Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he was the last Bourbon king of France.

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.

Further Reading

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

views updated May 14 2018

Charles X (1757–1836) King of France (1824–30). Brother of Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he fled France at the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789). He remained in England until the Bourbon restoration (1814), and thereafter opposed the ensuing moderate policies of Louis XVIII. After the assassination of Charles' son in 1820, his reactionary forces triumphed. In 1825 he signed a law indemnifying émigrés for land confiscated during the Revolution. In 1830 he issued the July Ordinance, which restricted suffrage and press freedom, and dissolved the newly elected chamber of deputies. The people rebelled and Charles was forced to abdicate. He designated his grandson Henry as successor, but the Duc d'Orléans, Louis Philippe, was selected.

Charles X

views updated May 29 2018

Charles X (1622–60) King of Sweden (1654–60). He ascended the throne when his cousin Queen Christina abdicated in his favour. His efforts to complete Swedish domination of the Baltic resulted in a reign of continuous military activity. He invaded Poland unsuccessfully and twice invaded Denmark. He established the natural frontiers in Scandinavia, recovering the s provinces of Sweden from Denmark. He was succeeded by his son, Charles XI.

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