This is essential reading for any serious student of world history; the Bourbon family and its influences have been popping in and out of recorded history since the thirteenth century. Robert of Clermont (born in 1256) was the sixth son of Louis IX of France, when France was very much smaller than it is now. Robert married into what was then simply the ‘lordship’ of Bourbon. Their son became the first Duke, Louis I, born in 1279.
The title passed to the Montpensier branch of the family in 1503, though by 1527 the chieftanship of the Bourbon family had passed to the line of Marche-Vendôme.
Antoine de Bourbon, born 1518 became King Consort of Navarre, while his brother was made Prince de Condé. The last Valois king of France died in 1589 and Antoine’s son became King of France as the ‘reformed’ Huguenot Henry IV (“Paris is worth a Mass”; assassinated 1610). After this his heirs ruled without interruption until 1792 (year of the execution of Louis XVI).
Louis XIII ruled from 1610 to 1643. He was the king mentioned in the D’Artagnan books written by Alexandre Dumas. Louis XIV was rightly known as the ‘Sun King’, built Versailles, thus laying out the ground ready for the French Revolution, though he is acknowledged as the greatest of the Bourbons. He reigned from 1643 to 1715 (seventy-two years!). Louis XV did not do badly either, reigning from 1715 to 1774 (fifty-nine years), and he was succeeded by the unfortunate Louis XVI who married Marie Antoinette, suffered the French Revolution, saw most of the French nobility killed by the Jacobins, and finally lost his own head to the guillotine, a fate reserved for his Austrian wife as well. They had a son who became ‘titular’ king of France but vanished at less than two years old from prison; he should have become Louis XVII but France was by then a Republic.
When the Revolution petered out and Napoleon arrived to save France from extinction, there were still some brothers of Louis XVI left. One of them ruled as Louis XVIII from 1814to 1824, with a brief interruption of roughly a hundred days when Napoleon escaped from Elba and plunged Europe into the last of the Napoleonic Wars, ending in his defeat at Waterloo.
The other brother ruled as Charles X from 1824 to 1830 in what was called ‘The Bourbon Restoration’. Louis-Philippe who ruled from 1830 to 1848 was the last Bourbon King of France and he was a member of the junior or cadet branch of the family – Orléans. The younger brothers of Bourbon kings were always called Duc d’Orléans, from the first duke created by Charles VI in 1392. One of these tried to persuade the Committee of Public Safety during the Revolution that he was a member of it, on the grounds that he had supported the Revolution from the start. They disagreed and chopped off his head too (1793).
We now go back to 1700, when Louis XIV’s second grandson became Felipe V King of Spain with the name of Borbón. He was the first of the Spanish Borbones. But the terrible War of the Spanish Succession (q.v.) had to be fought first, because there were other candidates. Felipe ruled from 1700 to 1746. Excluding the two Republics, his successors have ruled Spain ever since. Don Juan-Carlos is of course a Borbón, and so is his son Felipe.
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