Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma
Prince Sixtus around 1930
|Spouse||Hedwige de la Rochefoucauld|
|Father||Robert I, Duke of Parma|
|Mother||Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal|
1 August 1886|
Schloss Wartegg, Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland
|Died||14 March 1934
Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma (1 August 1886 – 14 March 1934) was a son of Robert I, the last reigning Duke of Parma. He was a prince of the Parmesan branch of the royal House of Bourbon; a Belgian officer in World War I; and the central figure in the Sixtus Affair, an attempt to negotiate a treaty to end Austria-Hungary's participation in the Great War separate from its Central Powers allies. He also wrote a number of books.
Sixtus was the eldest son of the last Duke of Parma, Robert I (1848–1907) and his second wife Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal (1862–1959), daughter of King Miguel of Portugal. His father had had twelve children from a previous marriage and Sixtus was the fourteenth of Duke Robert's twenty four children. Among the twenty four, he was the sixth son, hence he was named, Sixtus.
Sixtus' father had been deposed from the Duchy of Parma during the wars of Italian unification, but having inherited the large fortune of his childless uncle, Henri, Count of Chambord, Duke Robert was very wealthy. He raise his large family between Villa Pianore (a large property located between Pietrasanta and Viareggio) and his castle in Schwarzau, lower Austria. Prince Sixtus was educated at Stella Matutina, a Catholic boarding school for boys run by Jesuits in Feldkirch, near the Swiss border. After finishing high school, he studied law in Paris.
On the death of his father in 1907, the largest part of the family's fortune was inherited by Elias, Duke of Parma, the only healthy son among Sixtus' half-siblings. In 1910, the children of Duke Robert's first wife and those of his second wife reached an agreement dividing their father's assets. The following year, Sixtus's sister, Princess Zita, married Archduke Charles, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who had been Sixtus' childhood friend.
The outbreak of World War I further divided the family. Although their ancestors had reigned in Parma, the brothers had even stronger ties with France and Austria. Unable to fight with the French army, while Prince Sixtus and his brother Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma enlisted in the Belgian Army, their brothers Elias, Felix and René fought on the opposite side, in the Austrian Army.
In 1917, as the War was dragging on towards its fourth year, Sixtus' brother-in-law, Emperor Charles I, secretly entered into peace negotiations with France using Sixtus as intermediary. The Emperor also enlisted the help of his loyal childhood friend and aide-de-camp Tamas Erdody. Charles initiated contact with Sixtus via neutral Switzerland. Empress Zita wrote a letter inviting her brother to Vienna. Zita and Sixtus's mother, who was living in neutral Switzerland, delivered the letter personally.
Sixtus arrived with French-agreed conditions for talks: The restoration to France of Alsace-Lorraine (annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870); Restoration of the independence of Belgium; Independence for the kingdom of Serbia; and the handover of Constantinople to Russia. Charles agreed, in principle, to the first three points and wrote a letter dated 25 March 1917, to Sixtus giving "the secret and unofficial message that I will use all means and all my personal influence" to the President of France.
This attempt at 20th century dynastic diplomacy eventually failed principally because of the requirement that Italy cede the Tyrol. Germany also refused to negotiate over Alsace-Lorraine and, seeing a Russian collapse on the horizon, was loath to give up the war. When news of the overture leaked in April 1918, Sixtus's brother-in-law, Charles I of Austria, denied involvement until the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau published letters signed by him. This led to Austria becoming even more dependent on its German ally and a sharp rebuke for Charles by Wilhelm II. The failed attempt of peace negotiations became known as the Sixtus Affair.
On March 14, 1919 Sixtus married in Paris Hedwige de La Rochefoucauld (1896–1986), daughter of Armand de La Rochefoucauld, Duke de Doudeauville, and his wife Princess Louise Radziwill. On the occasion of their marriage, the family acquired the Bourbon-Parma tiara from Chaumet. Despite the ancient lineage and historical prominence of the House of La Rochefoucauld in France, the marriage lacked the authorisation of Sixtus's elder half-brother, Duke Elias, and was considered non-dynastic until 1959, at which time Elias's son, Robert, Duke of Parma, inheriting his father's position as head of the family, recognised the marriages of his uncles Sixtus and Xavier.
Sixtus had one daughter, Princess Isabella Marie Antoinette Louise Hedwig (1922-2015), who in 1943 married a distant cousin, Count Roger Alexander Lucien de La Rochefoucauld (1915–1970, murdered), son of Count Pierre Paul (1887–1970) and his wife Henriette Marguerite Marie de la Roche (1892–1980). Because Sixtus had no sons and pre-deceased his nephew, Duke Robert, the succession to both the Parmesan ducal title and to the Carlist claim to the throne of Spain bypassed him and his issue, settling on Prince Xavier and his descendants.
The peace Treaty of Saint-Germain, gave France the right to confiscate permanently the property of those who had fought in enemy armies during the war. As Sixtus's half-brother, Elias, had served in the Austrian army, the French government expropriated Chambord castle, owned by the Bourbons of Parma. Because Prince Sixtus and his brother Xavier had fought with the Allied side, they took their brother Elias to court demanding a greater share of the family inheritance. They claimed that the former legal agreement was contrary to French law. In 1925, a French court upheld Sixtus and Xavier's claim, but the appeals court overturned the verdict in 1928. The French Court of Cassation upheld it in 1932. The brothers were given an equal share of the estate. However Chambord was never returned by the French government, which paid compensation to Elias.
Married to a French aristocrat, Prince Sixtus settled in France. In the following years he made several exploratory expeditions to Africa, wrote a number of books (including a biography of his great-great grandmother Maria Luisa of Spain, Duchess of Lucca) and treatises. He died on March 14, 1934 in Paris.
- In Nordostarabien und Südmesopotamien: Vorbericht über die Forschungsreise 1912, with Alois Musil (Vienna: 1913).
- Le Traité d'Utrecht et les lois fondamentales du royaume (Paris: E. Champion, 1914). Reprinted (Paris: Communication & Tradition, 1998).
- L'offre de paix séparée de l'Autriche, 5 décembre 1916 - 12 octobre 1917 (Paris: Plon, 1920). English translation: Austria's Peace Offer, 1916-1917 (London: Constable, 1921).
- La reine d'Étrurie, Paris, Calmann-Levy, 1928.
- La dernière conquête du roi Alger, 1830 (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1930).
The television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles presents Sixtus (played by Benedict Taylor) and his brother Xavier (played by Matthew Wait) as Belgian officers in World War I who help the young Indiana Jones. Sixtus and his brother Xavier and the Sixtus Affair are the central subjects of the historical fiction novel "Kingdoms Fall - The Laxenburg Message" by Edward Parr.