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King of the French, by the grace of God and the will of the people
Louis Philippe [lU' E fuh lEp'] was born at the Palais Royal in Paris on October 6, 1773. He was the eldest son of Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'Orléans, who was fifth in the line of succession to the throne of France, and of Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon, daughter of the duc de Penthièvre. Sympathetic with the democratic ideas of the French Revolution, he joined the National Guard at the beginning of the revolt, becoming a Lieutenant General at the age of 18. He took part in the battles of Valmy, Jemappes, and Neerwinden, but later became involved in a plot against the Republic and had to leave France.
In 1796, the French Directory agreed to release his mother and two younger brothers, who had been imprisoned since the 1793 Reign of Terror, on condition that Louis depart for America. Louis agreed, and in October he settled at Philadelphia; he was joined by his brothers soon after. The three brothers spent the next four years exploring thousands of miles of the American frontier from Maine to New Orleans. During this period the men met with George Washington at his Mount Vernon estate, journeyed through the Shenandoah Valley of Tennessee and Kentucky, and sailed down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Years later, as King of France, Louis said that his American adventures "have had a great influence on my political opinions and on my judgement of the course of human affairs."
Receiving news that a coup d'etat had unseated Napoleon, Louis and his brothers returned to Europe in 1800, but found to their dismay that Napoleon was still firmly in power. Rather than fighting against their own people to unseat Napoleon, the brothers chose to settle at Twickenham, England. During his stay in England, Louis was reconciled with the exiled King of France, Louis XVIII. On November 25, 1809, Louis married Princess Maria Amelia, daughter of King Ferdinand IV of Italy.
Louis was finally able to return to France in 1814, following the abdication of Napoleon. He was cordially received by King Louis XVIII, was named Colonel General of Hussars, and his family estates were restored to him.
Deliberately out of the spotlight during the July Revolution of 1830, Louis was elected Lieutenant General of the Realm by the Chamber of Deputies on July 30. On August 7, the Chamber declared Charles X deposed, and proclaimed Louis Philippe "King of the French, by the grace of God and the will of the people."
Although the king was a constitutional monarch, Louis Philippe gained considerable personal power by splitting the liberal movement and appointing weak ministers. In foreign policy, he promoted Anglo-French friendship and supported colonial expansion; Algeria was conquered in his reign. He cooperated with England in support of Belgian independence (1831), and in the Quadruple Alliance of 1834. Domestically, Louise Philippe became increasingly unpopular. On the right he was opposed by the legitimists, who supported the descendants of Charles X, and by supporters of Napoleon Bonaparte. The leftist elements organized numerous secret revolutionary societies. Both sides were united, however, in calling for electoral reforms, and it was this issue that led to the February Revolution of 1848. Louis Philippe abdicated in favor of his grandson, but a Republic was established instead and his grandson never took the throne.
Louis Philippe and his wife escaped France and took refuge in England, where he died on August 26, 1850.
This page was last updated on March 25, 2017.