If you google “who is the rightful King of France,” you will undoubtedly have Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon as your first, and likely only, result. Likewise, many sites erroneously state the false “Duke of Anjou” as France’s rightful head of state.
But for people who study the issue, and for most French Royalists, the answer to the above question is not Louis-Alphonse, but Henri d’Orleans, Count of Paris.
Origin of the dispute
The origin goes back to the War of Spanish Succession. Charles II of Spain, the country’s last Habsburg ruler, died without issue. In his will, he named Philip, Duke of Anjou as his successor.
The Habsburgs, who ruled the Holy Roman Empire (i.e. most of the German states/central Europe), were naturally angered. They saw Spain as theirs, so they declared war on France and Philip’s Spain.
Britain, likewise, did not fancy the possibility of Spain and France being united behind a single monarch in the future. Thus, they declared war on France and Philip’s Spain.
This is where the Peace of Utrecht comes in. Philip V of Spain agreed to renounce his claim to the throne of France, and Louis XIV accepted the renunciation.
There is, however, one tiny hiccup: The Fundamental Laws of French succession don’t allow the King to change the order of succession. So, is Utrecht valid?
The validity of the Peace of Utrecht
Yes, Utrecht is valid.
The first duty of the King is the protection and security of the realm. Surely everyone can agree to this.
While France and Philip were winning the war, France’s estimated casualties were between 115,000 and 140,000 men, far more than any other state in the war. Was Louis XIV supposed to just say ‘screw it’ and risk the lives of more Frenchmen when the road to a perfectly amicable and desirable peace was right in front of him? Of course not! To say so would not only be lunatic but downright immoral! The cost of the war was an estimated 400,000 to 700,000 dead!
Louis XIV accepted Philip’s renunciation in a good faith attempt to protect and secure France. The War of Succession constituted a force majeure. Protecting France was a higher priority than respecting the laws of succession. Therefore, the provisions of Utrecht supersede laws of succession.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t render the Fundamental Laws null and void, but was merely a temporary adjustment because of a force majeure. Therefore, despite the change in the order of succession, the Fundamental Laws remain intact and valid.
This is why, when the last French Bourbon, the Count of Chambord, died without issue, most Royalists turned to the House of Orleans in the person of Philippe, Count of Paris. That is why today, most French Royalists support Philippe’s descendant–Henri d’Orleans, Count of Paris–as the rightful King of France.
Don Louis’s disqualifications
With Philip V of Spain’s renunciation being valid, Philip’s descendants lost all rights to the French throne. That should go without question. Therefore, Louis-Alphonse is simply not in the line of succession to the French Throne.
Furthermore, the Spanish Bourbons are not French. They stopped being French the moment Philip V’s renunciation was accepted and the Peace of Utrecht was entered into the National Register of France.
A foreigner cannot become King of France. This has been a rule since at least the 16th century:
Charles Dumoulin, the greatest French jurist of the 16th c., wrote in his Coutumes de Paris (1576 edition): “Le bon sens exige que les princes du sang, devenus étrangers soient écartés du trône au même titre que les descendants mâles des princesses. L’exclusion des uns et des autres est dans l’esprit de la coutume fondamentale qui ne méconnaît le sang royal dans les princesses que pour ne jamais laisser le sceptre aux étrangers.” (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. Note: this is the text cited by Coutant de Saisseval La Légitimité monarchique, but I have been so far unable to locate the source of this citation.)
Louis-Alphonse is not a French prince. He is, first and foremost, a Spaniard. Further, the Spanish Bourbons left France with no intention of returning. Therefore, according to the laws of France at the time, they would have likewise been considered foreigners even if the Peace of Utrecht were considered invalid.
While it is true that Louis-Alphonse has French citizenship through his grandmother, this does not magically restore him to the line of succession to the French throne. Because of Salic law (the main purpose of which was to keep foreigners from ruling France), only the male line is used to determine succession. And even if Salic law weren’t used, the Spanish Bourbons had already been removed from the line of succession because of their foreignness prior to their marriage to a French woman.
Therefore, once again, the Royal House of France is the House of Orleans, and the heir if the Bourbon Monarchy survives in the person Henri d’Orleans, Comte de Paris.