Profiles in Royalty: The House of Bourbon
By Tracy R. Twyman
Originally written for Dagobert’s Revenge Magazine, Copyright 1999
(Does not necessarily represent author’s current viewpoint.)
The House of Bourbon was an extremely powerful aristocratic family of French origin whose members founded royal dynasties in several European countries, exhibiting incredible influence. The chief family seat was the castle and town of Bourbon, the first capital of the province of Bourbonais in central France. Today this is known as the village of Bourbon-le-Archambault, Allier Department, named after an early Bourbon seignneur, Archambaud I. The earliest known Bourbon was a French feudal lord named Adhémar (or Aimar), who in the late 9th century became baron of Bourbon town. In 1276 one of his descendants, the Bourbon heiress Beatrix de Bourbon (d. 1310) married Robert de France, comte de Clermont (1256-1318), who was the 6th son of the Capetian king Louis IX, a.k.a “Saint Louis.” (Louis IX, incidentally, was the one who created the Order of the Ship and the Double Crescent in 1269, for nobles who accompanied him on the 6th Crusade.) Robert de France’s son Louis (1279-1342) became 1st duc de Bourbon in 1327. The eldest of Louis’ two sons founded a branch of the family that eventually acquired the countship of Montpensier. This branch became extinct in 1527 with the death of Duc Charles de Bourbon, constable of France.
The first Bourbon to achieve royal rank was Henry IV, King of France (also Henry III of Navarre.) Through his father, Antoine de Bourbon (1518-62), duc de Vendome, Henry was related to the younger son of Louis, 1st duc de Bourbon. Henry thus became king in 1589 after the death of the last member of the Valois branch of the Capetian monarchs by claiming his descent from Louis IX. Henry’s son succeeded him as king Louis XIII. His three daughters managed to make some great dynastic alliances by intermarrying with three major European royal houses. Elizabeth (1602-44) married Philip IV, King of Spain, Christine (1606-63) married Victor Amadeus I of Savoy, and Henrietta Maria married Charles I, King of England. Louis XIII was succeeded by his son Louis XIV, “the Sun King.” His other son, founded a collateral branch of Bourbons known as the House of Orleans. Louis XIV’s grandson, Philippe, duc d’Anjou became Philip V of Spain, who founded the Spanish House of Bourbon. Both Louis XIV’s son and eldest grandson died before his reign ended, and he was succeeded by his great-grandson, Louis XV, who also outlived his son. He was followed by his oldest grandson, Louis XVI, who was killed during the French Revolution, along with his only son, Louis Charles de France (sometimes known as Louis XVII, although he never held the throne.) The real Louis XVII came after Napoleon was defeated in 1814, and was the brother of Louis XVI. His younger brother Charles X became, upon his death, France’s last Bourbon king. He was overthrown in the July Revolution of 1839. Afterwards, Louis Philippe, duc d’Orleans was declared king by the party known as Orleanists, who supported the claim of the House of Orleans to the throne of France. They were opposed by a party of Bourbon loyalists known as the Legitimists, who recognized Charles X, Louis, duc d’Angoulême as Louis XIX, although he had actually renounced his right to rule. Louis Philippe was deposed in 1848 and his nephew, Henri, comte de Chambord (1820-83) was proclaimed King Henry V by the Legitimists. When he died in 1883 the elder line of the Bourbons became extinct, and the Legitimists named the comte de Paris as the Bourbon successor.
As previously discussed, the Spanish House of Bourbon was founded by Philippe, duc d’Anjou, grandson of King Louis XIV of France, whose own grandson became Philip IV of Spain. Philip IV’s only son, King Charles I died childless, and named Philippe as his successor. Charles’ death sparked the War of the Spanish Succession, after which Philippe became King Philip V of Spain. He was succeeded by his sons Ferdinand VI and Charles II. Charles’ eldest son became King Charles IV of Spain, while his youngest son founded the Neapolitan House of Bourbon. Charles IV was deposed by Napoleon in 1808, but in 1814 his son Ferdinand VII restored the Bourbon throne. He was succeeded by his daughter, Isabella II, but not until after having her succession disputed by Ferdinand’s brother, Don Carlos Maria Isidro de Bourbon as a violation of the Salic law prohibiting inheritance through the female line. (Those who supported Carlos and his successors became known as Carlists.) Isabella abdicated in 1870 so that her son Alfonso XII could be king. He was succeeded by his son Alfonso XIII, who was deposed in 1931. In 1969 his grandson, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon-Dos Sicilias became the legal successor to the dictator of Spain, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and in 1975 ascended the Spanish throne as Juan Carlos I.
The Italian House of Bourbon was founded by two sons of Philip V of Spain. In 1734 Carlos de Borbon (who later became Charles III of Spain) conquered Naples and Sicily to become Charles IV, King of the Two Sicilies. He became King of Spain in 1759 and made his younger son King Ferdinand IV of Naples. Ferdinand became King of Sicily in 1806 and King of the Two Sicilies in 1816. Throughout the years the throne passed on to his descendants, Francis I, Ferdinand II and Francis II, who abdicated in 1860 and allowed his kingdom to become part of Italy in 1861.
When the War of the Austrian Succession ended in 1748, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle assigned the duchies of Parma and Piacenza to Philip (1720-65), who was the younger brother of Charles II, King of Spain. Philip’s son Ferdinand (1751-1802) succeeded him and Ferdinand’s son Louis (1773-1803) was made King of Etruria (Tuscany) by Napoleon in 1801, after the dictator had appropriated the duchies of Parma and Piacenza into the kingdom. Louis’ son Charles Louis (1799-1883) was driven out of Etruria by the French in 1807, but was given the duchy of Lucca in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna. Napoleon’s widow, Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise (1791-1847) was made the duchess of Parma, and upon her death Charles Louis regained the duchies of Parma and Piacenza as Charles II, duke of Parma. He was succeeded by his son Charles II (1823-54), and then his grandson Robert (1848-1907), who lost the titles in 1859 shortly before the duchy was annexed to Italy.
The first half of the 17th century appears to have been a pivotal point for the French Bourbon Dynasty, pivoting, perhaps, on its relationship with a certain rival bloodline, namely the Grail family known as the House of Lorraine, and the chivalric secret order vowed to protect that bloodline, the Priory of Sion. During the mid-1620s the throne of France was occupied by Louis XIII, but the power behind the throne was the Prime Minister, Cardinal Richelieu. The Cardinal established an unprecedented stability in France and the rest of Europe, including Germany, which was just climbing out of the Thirty Years’ War. Spain and Austria were on the Catholic side. Sweden and other small German principalities were on the Protestant side. In 1635 Richelieu brought France into the war on the Protestant side, a strange move for a Catholic Cardinal. At the same time, the House of Lorraine had begun to aspire to the French throne. The claimant was Gaston d’Orleans, younger brother of Louis XIII. He himself was not of the House of Lorraine, but in 1632 he had married the Duke of Lorraine’s sister. his attempts to depose Louis failed. Louis XIII and his wife, Anne of Austria remained childless. Rumors abounded that the king was gay or impotent. (Later an autopsy confirmed that he was sterile.) Then in 1638, after being married and childless for 23 years, Anne suddenly became pregnant and bore a son. Nobody really believed in his legitimacy. He was either the son of Cardinal Richelieu himself or quite possibly his successor, Cardinal Mazarin. Some even say that After Louis XIII died, Mazarin and Anne had a secret marriage. Louis XIV’s birth was a serious blow to the House of Lorraine’s hopes. Both Louis XIII and Richelieu died in 1642, and a series of attempts began to oust Mazarin and keep young Louis XIV from mounting the throne, attempts destined to fail. This eventually became a civil war that went on for ten years, known as The Fronde. It was instigated by Gaston d’Orleans, Frederic-Maurie de Tour d’Auvergne, duke of Bouillon, the viscount of Turenne, the duke of Longueville, and the grandson of Louis de Nevers, a former Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. Many of the insurgents were from the families mentions in the Priory documents. The Fronde headquarters was the town of Stenay in Ardennes, a former Merovingian capitol near where Dagobert II died, and which is currently held with suspicion because its coat of arms bears the head of Satan. Priory documents state that the Order “dedicated itself to deposing Mazarin” during this time.
It is possible that the Priory operated for a while under the guise of a secret society called “The Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement,” which is mentioned repeatedly in the Priory documents and which is acknowledged by authorities as having been involved in the intrigue against the crown. It was founded some time between 1627 and 1629 by “a nobleman associated with Gaston d’Orleans.” (Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Baigent, et. al.) One of the people known to be a member was Charles Fouquet, brother of Louis XIV’s Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet. Saint Sulpice was believed to be their center of operations. The order consisted of a network of provincial branches which were forbidden contact with each other but which were all obedient to Saint Sulpice. All we know is that they were banded together because of a certain “secret which is the core of the Compagnie.” They worked by gathering intelligence and infiltrating centers of power. Anne of Austria was said to be completely under their control, as were huge portions of parliament, the judiciary, and the police. On the surface, the order was officially Catholic and dedicated to both charitable work and rooting out heretics, although there were a number of Protestants within its ranks. Yet, like the Templars, they themselves were charged with heresy and â€œimpious practicesâ€, both by the Jesuits and then by the Bishop of Toulouse. In 1660, the Sun King officially denounced the order and called for its dissolution. Finally in 1665, the Compagnie went underground and concealed their documents in some secret Paris depository, probably Saint Sulpice. Some say the order continues to operate in secrecy against the crown, and may have continued well into this century. In 1667, Moliere, a friend of Louis XIV allegorically attacked the Compagnie in his famous literary work Le Tartuffe. The play was suspiciously suppressed for the next two years, seemingly through the power of the order. They then retaliated through their own literary front man, La Fontaine, whose famous fables were actually veiled attacks on the crown. Around this time, in 1659, Louis XIV ordered the destruction of the Chateau Barbarie, then the residence of the Lorraine offshoots, the Plantard family, wiping out all their possessions.
It was also around this time that something strange occurred regarding the Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet. Those familiar with the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Baigent, et. al.) will recall that in 1656, Nicolas Poussin (whose famous painting, The Shepherds of Arcadia, is supposed to contain clues to the secrets of Rennes-le Chateau and the Holy Grail) was living in Rome for a brief period of time. There he received a visit Abbe Louis Fouquet, Nicolas Fouquet’s brother, stating that “he and I discussed certain things… which even kings would have great pains to draw from him…,” hinting at some great secret that he had just learned. Shortly after receiving the letter, Nicolas Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned on order from the king. The charges were vague, “sedition” and “the misappropriation of funds.” His properties were seized and his papers were taken by the Sun King himself, who insisted on personally sifting through them. The trial dragged on for years, and the Compagnie du Saint Sacrement threw its support behind Fouquet. King Louis demanded the death sentence, but the power of the Compagnie over the jurors managed to reduce the sentence to perpetual imprisonment. He was forbidden to communicate with anyone, and thus many believed him to be “the Man in the Iron Mask.” In 1665, the year of Fouquet’s imprisonment, Nicolas Poussin died, and King Louis immediately acquired The Shepherds of Arcadia, which he kept in his private apartments.
Another interesting connection between the House of Bourbon and the Grail involves the Sun King’s descendant, Louis XVI. But the story begins in 1314 when King Philippe the Fair ordered that Jacques de Molay be slow-roasted over an open fire for recanting his confession to heresy, which he and the entire Templar order had been accused of. Of course, this was all an attempt on his part to get a hold of the Templars’ famed wealth and other treasures, some of them of religious importance. (To understand the importance of this, you must recall that the Templars were once the military arm of the Priory of Sion and the hereditary protectors of the Grail bloodline, often referred to as Grail Knights.) From the flames Jacques de Molay called for the King and Pope Clement, the King’s co-conspirator, to join him, thus supposedly cursing the entire royal line. By the end of the year they both were dead, one from dysentery, the other from mysterious causes. Now fast forward to the French Revolution, which was mainly the result of the activity of French Freemasons who wanted to insure that the curse of De Molay came true. Louis XVI was executed in 1792, as his head dropped from the guillotine someone from the crowd jumped onto the scaffold, dipped his hand in the king’s blood and shouted “Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged!”, a statement revealing the whole purpose behind the carnage of the last few years.