While one might call me an Orleanist for the sake of simplicity, I prefer to think of my self as a legitimist. This may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t, and the this post explains why.
What is Legitimism?
The dictionaries differ as the definition of legitimism. Oxford’s online dictionary defines legitimism as the support of a ruler based on direct descent. Google has the same definition. Webster’s, however, defines the term as “adherence to the principles of political legitimacy or to a person claiming legitimacy.” Dictionary.com uses a mixture of both.
The website Russian Legitimist defines the term as “the notion that the laws of a dynasty or a kingdom determine the identity of the rightful king.”
Let’s examine the etymology of the word to give us a clue. Legitimism, like the word legitimate, is derived from the Latin legitimus, meaning ‘lawful.’
Based on the etymology of the word, it seems that Russian Legitimist and Webster’s appear to be on to something.
It’s not to say that the other definitions are wrong, but merely incomplete, missing a crucial piece of information. That piece of information being the law.
Let’s look at the Spanish legitimist movement: Carlism. In Bourbon Spain, prior to 1830, Spain used semi-Salic law. This generally meant succession to males in the male line.
Ferdinand VII had no issue (but his wife was pregnant with the future Isabella II) in 1830 and issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1830, which ratified a 1789 proposed change to the rules of succession, restoring the pre-Salic system used in Habsburg Spain. This meant that Isabella, born later that year, was next in line to the throne.
Infante Carlos naturally felt deprived of his rights. From his point of view, that was clearly the case. There was nothing ‘pragmatic’ about the Pragmatic Sanction. Ferdinand had a perfectly good brother ready to take the throne. After Ferdinand died in 1833, this set off the First Carlist War.
Infante Carlos, Carlist Pretender to the Throne of Spain
The Carlist cause was based not direct descent. Based purely on direct descent, Isabella had a better claim since she was the eldest child of the previous king. The Carlist cause was in support of the traditional legal system, semi-Salic law. The Carlist question was a legal question, not one of mere descent.
Based on the etymology and the historical example of Carlism, it appears that Russian Legitimist is right. Legitimism is about law, not just descent. In other words, the laws determine the legitimate successor.
Laws of France
The laws of succession vary by country. In addition to Salic law, France developed a custom that the king must be French:
Common sense requires that princes of the blood who have become foreigners be excluded from the throne just as the male descendants of princesses. The exclusion of both is in the spirit of the fundamental custom, which overlooks the royal blood in princesses only to prevent the scepter from falling in foreign hands.
It is understood that this law became established after the Hundred Years’ War to make the English claim to the throne of France even more illegitimate. The war started when Queen Mother Isabella (the She-Wolf of France) claimed the French throne on behalf of her Son, Edward III. The claim was invalid based on Salic law, but that didn’t stop the English from invading.
Let us be clear, being foreign does not, in and of itself, make one ineligible to the throne of France. The law merely requires that one be French, regardless of other nationality, foreign titles, or holdings.
A Frenchman lost his nationality if he left France and settled abroad “sans esprit de retour” without intent of returning. Since the early 16th c. at least, French nationality was based on jus soli and jus sanguinis: it was not enough to be of French blood, one had to reside in France.
While there was never a case of a claimant denied the throne because he wasn’t French (because such a thing hasn’t happened since the 16th century), that doesn’t make it any less a law.
Further, there is only one example of a foreigner taking the throne of France since the 16th century, and that is Henri IV, who was King of Navarre. It should be noted that Henri resided in France and participated in French politics. He even ruled Navarre from France. Thus, he never gave up his French nationality.
Ineligibility of the Spanish Bourbons to the throne of France
When Philip, Duke of Anjou became King of Spain, he left France with no intention of returning. He and his successors were thus removed from the line of succession.
The Court of Blois later ruled that: “one must deem that the duc d’Anjou, in accepting the royal crown of Spain, and settling permanently in that country as an inevitable consequence of his accession to that throne, has lost the French nationality.”
Unsurprisingly, after the death of Comte de Chambord, most French legitimists supported Prince Philippe, Comte de Paris as the rightful king. This was because they understood that the Spanish Bourbons were Spanish and not French.
From the Wikipedia page of Henri, Count of Chambord
A few thoughts on the July Monarchy
It was illegitimate.
It was rubbish. Next.
Legitimism is the idea that the laws of realm determine its rightful king. It is a movement based on legal traditions, not just of descent.
The traditional laws of the Kingdom of France make the Spanish Bourbons ineligible to take the throne of France.
Therefore, the rightful legitimist claimant to the throne of France is Henri d’Orleans, Comte de Paris.