Story of Modern France - Helene Guerber

The Orleanists

Believing that nothing could be better for France at this stage of proceedings than a real constitutional monarchy, with a king of the people's own choosing, the provisional government begged Lafayette to visit and sound the Duke of Orleans. Descended from the brother of Louis XIV., and eldest son of the abhorred Philip Equality, Louis Philippe had won the approval of the nation by fighting at Valmy and Jemappes for the French Republic. But since Dumouriez had lured him from the army, this youth had lived in exile, teaching school in Switzerland, traveling on horseback in the United States, and becoming a thorough democrat. Even after royalty had been restored in France, he insisted that his large family of children be brought up to attend the public schools, and become independent of circumstances by being fitted to earn their own living. Ever since the return of the Bourbons to France, this Duke of Orleans had lived in state in the Palais Royal, and, although not in sympathy with the government, he had nevertheless been received at the Tuileries as next of kin to the royal family.

Lafayette introduced his mission to the Duke of Orleans by saying, "You know that I am a Republican, and consider the American constitution the most perfect!"

"I am of the same opinion," promptly replied the Duke. "No one could have been two years in America and not share that view. But do you think that constitution could be adopted in France in its present condition, with the present state of popular opinion?"

"No," rejoined Lafayette. "What France needs is a popular monarchy, surrounded by republican—thoroughly republican—institutions."

"There I quite agree with you," said Louis Philippe.

As their opinions so thoroughly coincided, all preliminaries were quickly settled, and Lafayette himself presented Louis Philippe to the people, saying, "Behold, the best of republics!" Thus, on the 9th of August, 1830, the "citizen king," Louis Philippe, swore to respect the revised Charter, and, taking possession of the deserted Tuileries, began his reign as "King of the French,"—so called because he was chosen by the people.

Selected by the moneyed middle class,—the bourgeoisie,—Louis Philippe naturally catered to their wishes, allowing the real authority to rest mainly in the hands of such ministers as Guizot and Thiers. Although the Charter purported to be republican in nature, only citizens paying above $40 taxes were entitled to vote, so the ballot was restricted to some 200,000 voters, and therefore hardly represented the wishes of the whole country.

The very year after Louis Philippe began his reign, a demonstration was made by the Legitimists in favor of the Count of Chambord, the mob surrounding the Tuileries and breaking into a church near by. But this disturbance was promptly quelled without bloodshed, by using fire engines against the rebels, who scattered as promptly before streams of water as before grapeshot! Wishing to prevent his wife and daughters from hearing the rude remarks frequently made by people passing directly under the palace windows, Louis Philippe now had the street removed farther back, and separated from the palace by an iron railing, a thicket of shrubbery, and a deep moat. "My wife shall never be exposed to hear all the horrors Marie Antoinette heard there in the course of three years!" was his grim comment, for Louis Philippe was a much firmer man than Louis XVI., although no better husband or father.

[Illustration] from The Story of Modern France by Helene Guerber


Whatever France does is apt to be imitated by the rest of Europe. Thus the Revolution of 1830 inspired Poland to try—in vain—to recover her independence; induced Belgium to break away from Holland, with which it had been united in 1814; and led Italy to rebel—unsuccessfully—against the ever-increasing tyranny of Austria. In fact, people everywhere began to demand more liberty, so European kings hotly blamed Louis Philippe for every concession he made, while most of his subjects seemed to think he was inclined to play the autocrat. He had, besides, to contend continually with various political parties in France; that of the Legitimists, who wished to place the Count of Chambord on the throne; that of the Bonapartists, who wished to restore the Empire; and that of the Red Republicans, or partisans of the old Republican system. This constant rivalry of parties gave rise to strikes, riots, and plots galore, as well as to several conspiracies against the king's life.

Belgium, having finally made good her independence,—thanks to the aid of the French and English at the siege of Antwerp,—offered its crown to one of Louis Philippe's sons; but the "citizen king," perceiving that an acceptance might cause jealousy among the other nations, declined this honor, which was passed on to Leopold. Still, it seemed decreed by fate that one of Louis Philippe's children should rule over the Belgians, for Leopold, being a widower, soon after his accession married Louise, one of the French king's accomplished daughters.

In 1832, France was visited by a terrible epidemic of cholera, which, starting in India, rapidly made its way around the globe, causing an awful loss of life. In Paris, where it raged 189 days, it carried off no less than 20,000 victims, but the courage displayed by the royal family—who visited the hospitals and stricken districts and took great pains to organize speedy relief measures—greatly endeared them to the French people. Among the victims of this epidemic was the prime minister Casimir Perier, one of many statesmen who helped to direct the government of France during this reign.