France’s monarchists are down for the count: Henri d’Orléans, Count of Paris. Photo from the cover of his 2003 book “L’Histoire en Héritage” (Tallendier).
Believe it or not, there are still French people who would like to see a return of the monarchy. In fact, there are enough of them to have formed not one, but two political parties, the Alliance Royale and Action Française, both proposing to put a king back in power.
However, as is always the case with royal successions, there is some question as to who should get the old orb and scepter, in the unlikely event that either party ever actually wins a national election. The most likely pretender to the throne is Prince Henri Philippe Pierre Marie d’Orléans, Count of Paris and Duke of France. Now aged 77, he is the heir more or less apparent of Louis-Philippe, the last king to rule the country (from 1830 to 1848).
But he wasn’t always the top choice. His father, also named Prince Henri, Count of Paris (probably just a coincidence), stripped the current count of his titles in 1984 after he had the effrontery to marry his second wife, Micaëla Anna María Cousiño y Quiñones de León, Princess of Joinville, in a civil, i.e., non-Catholic, ceremony. Apparently this is a “one strike you’re out” kind of thing for dyed-in-the-ermine royalists. (It’s true that he was divorced, but my guess is that with names like theirs to wade through in the “I do’s” he just wanted to strip the ritual to the minimum so everyone could get out of there on the same day.)
So for several years he was the Aristocrat Formerly Known as Prince, but eventually the tensions eased and Henri regained his status as frontrunner for the crown. He even got his first marriage annulled by the Vatican just last year so he could re-marry Micaëla in front of a priest and keep everyone happy, somehow without affecting the legitimacy of the five children he had with Mrs. Henri the First. Now that, dear readers, is what I call power and privilege. Anyone who can call in a favor like that deserves to spend his wedding night yelling, “Who’s the state? Who’s the state?”
I find it mildly amusing that noblesse still obliges such machinations in the 21st century. But I find it even more amusing to imagine the conversation between Count Senior and Count Junior back in 1984 when their little tiff began. I like to think of the elder Henri saying, “Marry her if you must, son, but if you do, mark my words: you’ll never, ever, ever be king of France!”
© 2010 Paris Update
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