Prince du sang
A prince of the blood was a person who was legitimately descended in the male line from the monarch of a country. In France, the rank of prince du sang was the highest held at court after the immediate family of the king during the ancien régime and the Bourbon Restoration. A prince du sang or a princesse du sang had to be a legitimate member of the reigning dynasty (after 1589, the House of Bourbon). In some European monarchies, but especially in the kingdom of France, this appellation was a specific rank in its own right, of a more restricted use than other titles.
During the reign of the Direct Capetians, the agnates of the French king did not constitute a formal class as princes of the blood. From 987-1316, the French succession was undisputed, passing in direct line from father to eldest living son. The princes du sang gradually emerged as a class during the reign of the House of Valois, due to the recognition of agnatic primogeniture as the principle controlling the succession to the throne. Due to this principle, any agnate of the king, however distant his relationship with the monarch, is a potential successor to the crown. The rank of prince du sang was created in order to recognize this special status.
In theory, the princes of the blood included all members of the Capetian dynasty. In practice, it acknowledged only the agnatic descendants of Saint Louis IX: the Valois and the Bourbons. The first three Bourbon kings, for instance, refused to recognize the Courtenay branch as princes of the blood. The Courtenays were descended from King Louis VI, and had become impoverished minor nobles during the time of their petition. Whether this non-recognition would actually prevent the Courtenays from claiming the throne will never be known, for their line was extinguished before the end of the monarchy.
During the ancien régime, the quality of being a prince of the blood is deemed part of the fundamental laws of the kingdom, which meant that it is beyond legislation. Louis XIV had attempted, twice, to create princes of the blood by law. In the Treaty of Montmartre, Louis XIV made the non-Capetian House of Lorraine heirs to the throne in the event of the extinction of the House of Bourbon. In an edict of July 1714, he gave succession rights to his legitimized sons the Duke of Maine and Count of Toulouse. Louis XIV abandoned the attempt to make the House of Lorraine heirs after being advised against it, but he compelled the registration of the letters patent giving succession rights to his legitimized sons. It should be noted that the parlements of France, such as the Parlement de Paris, are unlike their counterparts in England. In France, a parlement is merely a judicial body that registers laws. Though they may refuse to register laws, the king could compel registration through a process known as lit de justice. The latter edict was revoked and annulled after the king's death. Princes of the blood cannot be made or unmade through law. As a chancellor of Louis XIV warned, a king could only make princes of the blood through his queen.
Those who held this rank were usually styled by their main ducal peerage, but sometimes other titles were used, indicating a more precise status than prince du sang.
The most senior princes used specific styles such as monsieur le prince or monsieur le duc, whereas the junior princes used the style monseigneur followed by their noble title, such as monseigneur le duc de Montpensier. The style Serene Highness (altesse sérénissime) was used in writing only.
Monsieur le Prince
This was the style of the First Prince of the Blood (French: premier prince du sang), which normally belonged to the most senior (by primogeniture) male member of the royal dynasty who is neither a fils de France (son of France) nor a petit-fils de France (grandson of France). In practice, it was not always clear who was entitled to the rank, and it often took a specific act of the king to make the determination.
The rank carried with it various privileges, including the right to a household paid out of state revenues. The rank was held for life: the birth of a new, more senior prince who qualified for the position did not deprive the current holder of his use of the style. The Princes of Condé used the style of Monsieur le Prince for over a century (1589–1709). The right to use the style passed to the House of Orléans in 1709; they, however, seldom if ever used it.
First Princes of the Blood, 1465-1830
- Valois House of Orléans
- 1465–1498 : Louis II, Duke of Orléans (1462–1515);
- 1498–1515 : François, Count of Angoulême (1494–1547)
House of Valois-Alençon
- 1515–1525 : Charles IV, Duke of Alençon (1489–1525);
House of Bourbon-Montpensier
- 1525–1527 : Charles III, Duke of Bourbon would have been the first prince had he not been banned from the position for treason (1490–1527);
House of Bourbon-Vendôme
- 1527–1537 : Charles IV de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme (1489–1537);
- 1537–1562 : Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme, later King of Navarre (1518–1562).
- 1562–1589 : Henri III, King of Navarre (1553–1610);
House of Bourbon-Condé
- 1589–1646 : Henri II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1588–1646);
- 1646–1686 : Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1621–1686);
- 1686–1709 : Henri III de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1643–1709).
Bourbon House of Orléans
- 1709–1723 : Philippe Charles d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1674–1723), was entitled to the style, but did not use it;
- 1723–1752 : Louis d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1703–1752);
- 1752–1785 : Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1725–1785);
- 1785–1793 : Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1747–1793);
- 1814–1830 : Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1773–1850), who later ruled as Louis-Philippe I, King of the French.
Louis II, Prince of Condé by Joost van Egmont
Madame la Princesse
This style was held by the wife of Monsieur le Prince. The duchesses/princesses that were entitled to use it were:
- 1646–1686 : Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé (1628–1694). Niece of Cardinal Richelieu and wife of the Grand Condé, she was also the Duchess of Fronsac in her own right from 1646–1674.
- 1684–1709 : Anna Henrietta Julia of Bavaria (1648–1723). She was the daughter of Anna Gonzaga and her husband Charles I, Duke of Mantua. In 1663 she married Henry Jules, Duke of Bourbon the son and heir of the Grand Condé. Anne Henriette was the mother of Louis III, Prince of Condé and Madame la Princesse de Conti Seconde Douairière
- 1709–1723 : Françoise-Marie de Bourbon (1677–1749) - wife of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
- 1724–1726 : Margravine Auguste Marie Johanna of Baden-Baden (1704–1726) - wife of Louis of Orléans
- 1743–1759 : Louise Henriette de Bourbon – daughter of Madame la Princesse de Conti Dernière Douairière and wife of Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans
- 1785–1793 : Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon (1753–1821); wife of Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans. She was the last holder of the style before the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Monsieur le Duc
This style was used for the eldest son of the Prince de Condé. Originally, the eldest son was given the title of duc d'Enghien, but that changed in 1709 when the Condés lost the rank of premier prince. After that, the eldest son was given the title of Duke of Bourbon, and his eldest son (the eldest grandson of the Prince of Condé in the male line) was given the title of duc d'Enghien.
- 1. 1689–1709 : Henri I, Duke of Enghien (1643–1709);
- 2. 1709–1710 : Louis I, Duke of Enghien (1668–1710);
- 3. 1710–1740 : Louis II Henri, Duke of Enghien (1692–1740);
- 4. 1740–1818 : Louis III Joseph, Duke of Enghien (1736–1818);
- 5. 1818–1830 : Louis IV Henri, Duke of Enghien (1756–1830).
Madame la Duchesse
This style was used for the wife of Monsieur le Duc. The most famous holder of this honorific was:
- 1685–1709 : Louise-Françoise de Bourbon (1673–1743) - The illegitimate daughter of Louis XIV and his mistress, Madame de Montespan, she was married in May 1685, to Louis III, Prince of Condé, then known by the courtesy title of duc de Bourbon. Since his style at court was Monsieur le Duc, she became known as Madame la Duchesse. She later held onto the style even in her widowhood when she was the Princess of Condé. She was later known as Madame la Duchesse Douairière.
- 1713–1720 : Marie Anne de Bourbon (1689–1720) - first wife of Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon;
- 1728–1741 : Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg (1714–1741) second wife of the Duke of Bourbon;
- 1753–1760 : Charlotte Élisabeth Godefride de Rohan (1737–1760) - wife of Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé
- 1770–1818 : Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans (1750–1820) - wife of the last Prince of Condé.
Monsieur le Comte
This address was used by the head of the most junior branch of the House of Bourbon, the comte de Soissons. The comtes de Soissons, like the Princes of Conti, descended from the Princes of Condé. The line started in 1566 when the Soissons title was given to Charles de Bourbon, the second son of Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, the first Prince of Condé.
The first Prince had three sons:
- Henri de Bourbon, second Prince of Condé;
- Charles de Bourbon, first Count of Soissons and the founder of the House of Bourbon-Soissons
- François de Bourbon, Prince of Conti, first Prince of Conti but the Conti title lapsed upon his death in 1614 without legitimate heirs. It was later revived in 1629 for Armand, Prince of Conti, the second son of Henry II, Prince of Condé.
The Soissons title was acquired by the first Prince of Condé in 1557 and was held by his descendants for two more generations:
Olympia Mancini, known as Madame la Comtesse at court
The 2nd Count of Soissons died without an heir, so the Soissons title passed to his younger sister, Marie de Bourbon, the wife of Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano, a member of the House of Savoy. She became known as Madame la comtesse de Soissons. On her death, the title passed first to her second son, Joseph-Emmanuel, Prince of Savoy (1631–1656), and then to her third son, Eugène-François, Prince of Savoy.
He married Olympia Mancini, niece of Cardinal Mazarin. She was known as Madame la Comtesse de Soissons like her mother-in-law. On his death, the title went to his eldest son, Louis-Thomas, Prince of Savoy, who was the older brother of the famous Austrian general, Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Soissons title became extinct upon the death of Eugène-Jean-François of Savoy-Carignano in 1734.
Madame la Comtesse
This style was used by the wife of Monsieur le Comte. The best example of this is Olympia Mancini.
Madame la Princesse Douairière
In order to tell the wives of the various Princes of Conti apart after their deaths, the widows were given the name of Douairière or dowager and a number corresponding to when they lost their husband. After being widowed their full style would be Madame la Princesse de Conti 'number' Douairière. Between 1727 and 1732, there were three widowed Princesses de Conti. They were:
- Marie Anne de Bourbon (1666–1739), the legitimised daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière; she was the wife of Louis Armand I, Prince of Conti. She was known as Madame la Princesse de Conti Première Douairière as she was the first to be widowed, in 1685. The title went to husband's younger brother, François Louis, Prince of Conti.
- Marie Thérèse de Bourbon (1666–1732), the wife of François Louis, Prince of Conti; she was known as ''Madame la Princesse de Conti Seconde Douairière after losing her husband in 1709.
- Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon (1693–1775), the wife of Louis Armand II, Prince of Conti, the son and successor of François Louis, Prince of Conti. She was the daughter of Monsieur le Duc and Madame la Duchesse. After her husband died in 1727, she was known as Madame la Princesse de Conti Troisième/Dernière Douairière. This was not a traditional style by right but was simply a means the court used to distinguish between the three widows who held the title of Princesse de Conti at the same time.
Legitimised royal offspring
Legitimised children of the King of France, and of other males of his dynasty, took surnames according to the branch of the House of Capet to which their father belonged, e.g. Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine, was the elder son of Louis XIV by his mistress, Mme de Montespan. After the legitimisation occurred, the child was given a title. Males were given titles from their father's lands and estates and females were given the style of Mademoiselle de X. Examples of this are (children of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan):
- Louise Françoise de Bourbon (1669–1672);
- Louis-Auguste de Bourbon (1670–1736), titled duc du Maine – later married Anne-Louise-Bénédicte de Bourbon-Condé.
- Louis César de Bourbon (1672–1683), titled comte de Vexin;
- Louise-Françoise de Bourbon (1673–1743), titled Mademoiselle de Nantes – later wife of Louis III de Bourbon-Condé, prince de Condé
- Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon (1674–1681), titled Mademoiselle de Tours;
- Françoise-Marie de Bourbon (1677–1749), titled Mademoiselle de Blois – wife of Philippe II d'Orléans, duc d'Orléans.
- Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon (1678–1737), titled comte de Toulouse – later married to Marie Victoire de Noailles.
Also the child would be referred to as Légitimé de Bourbon; such as Marie Anne légitimée de Bourbon, mademoiselle de Blois daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière. Her full brother was Louis de Bourbon, later given the title of comte de Vermandois.
The branch of the ducs de Longueville, extinct in 1672(1694), bore the surname d'Orléans, as legitimised descendants of Jean, bâtard d'Orléans, the natural son of a Valois prince who held the appanage of Orléans before the Bourbons did. Non-legitimised natural children of royalty took whatever surname the king permitted, which might or might not be that of the dynasty.
Children born out of wedlock to a French king or prince were never recognised as fils de France. However, if legitimised, the king might raise them to a rank just below or even equivalent to that of a prince du sang.
|Kingdom of France|
- The Institutions of France Under the Absolute Monarchy, 1598-1789, Volume 2, p.93
- Nancy Mitford, The Sun King, 1966, p.87
- Spanheim, Ézéchiel (1973). ed. Émile Bourgeois, ed. Relation de la Cour de France. le Temps retrouvé (in French). Paris: Mercure de France. p. 70.
- ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp. 104–105.
- ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp. 100–105, 323–327.