The House of Bourbon is an important European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty. Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples & Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have Bourbon monarchs.
Bourbon monarchs ruled Navarre (from 1555) and France (from 1589) until the 1792 overthrow of the monarchy during the French Revolution. Restored briefly in 1814 and definitively in 1815 after the fall of the First French Empire, the senior line of the Bourbons was finally overthrown in the July Revolution of 1830. A cadet branch, the House of Orléans, then ruled for 18 years (1830–1848), until it too was overthrown. The Princes of Condé (Bourbon-Condé) were a cadet branch of the Bourbon-Vendômes and, in turn, were senior to the Princes of Conti (Bourbon-Conti). Both these lines became extinct in the early nineteenth century.
Philip V of Spain was the first Bourbon ruler of Spain, from 1700. The Spanish Bourbons— in Spain the name is spelled Borbón—have been overthrown and restored several times, reigning 1700–1808, 1813–1868, 1875–1931, and 1975 to the present day. From this Spanish line comes the royal line of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734–1806 and 1815–1860, and Sicily only in 1806–1816), the Bourbon-Sicilies family, and the Bourbon rulers of the Duchy of Parma.
Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg married a cadet of the Bourbon-Parma line, and thus her successors, who have ruled Luxembourg since her abdication in 1964, have also technically been members of the House of Bourbon. The declared heiress and thrice-regent of the now-defunct Empire of Brazil married twenty years before their deposition a prince of Orleans, and their descent, known as the Orleans-Braganza, would have ascended that throne, had the empire not been ended in 1889.
In 1268, Robert, Count of Clermont, sixth son of King Louis IX of France married Beatrix of Bourbon, heiress to the lordship of Bourbon. Their son Louis was made Duke of Bourbon in 1327. His descendant, the Constable of France Charles de Bourbon, was the last of the Bourbon line when he died in 1527. Because he chose to fight under the banner of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and lead a life of exile his title was discontinued after his death.
However the junior line of La Marche-Vendôme remained, the ruling house of the Dukedom of Vendôme. The Bourbon-Vendôme branch were to become rulers of the Kingdom of Navarre on the northern side of the Pyrenees in 1555 and then of France, with Henry III of Navarre becoming Henry IV of France in 1589.
The first Bourbon King of France was Henry IV. He was born on 13 December 1553 in the Kingdom of Navarre. Antoine de Bourbon, his father, was a ninth generation descendent of King Louis IX of France. Jeanne d'Albret, his mother, was the Queen of Navarre and the niece of King Francis I of France. He was baptized Catholic, but raised Calvinist. After his father was killed in 1563, he became Duke of Vendôme at the age of 10, with Admiral Gaspard de Coligny (1519–1572) as his regent. Five years later, the young duke became the nominal leader of the Huguenots after the death of his uncle the Prince of Condé in 1568.
Henry succeeded to Navarre as Henry III when his mother died in 1572. That same year Catherine de' Medici, the influential mother of King Charles IX of France, arranged for the marriage of her daughter, Margaret of Valois, to Henry as a peace offering between the Catholics and Huguenots. Many Huguenots had gathered for the wedding held on 24 August and were massacred by the Catholics in what became known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Henry saved his own life by converting to Catholicism. He repudiated his conversion in 1576 and resumed his leadership of the Huguenots.
The period from 1576 to 1584 was relatively calm in France, with the Huguenots consolidating control of much of the south with only occasional interference from the royal government. Extended civil war erupted again in 1584, when François, Duke of Anjou, younger brother of King Henry III of France, died, leaving Navarre next in line for the throne. Thus began the War of the Three Henries, as Henry of Navarre, Henry III, and the ultra-Catholic leader, Henry of Guise fought a confusing three-cornered struggle for dominance. When Henry III was assassinated on 31 July 1589 Navarre became the first Bourbon king of France as Henry IV.
Much of Catholic France, organized into the Catholic League, refused to recognize a Protestant monarch and instead recognized Henry IV's uncle, Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon, as king as Charles X, and the civil war continued. Henry won a crucial victory at Ivry on 14 March 1590, and following the death of the Cardinal the same year, the forces of the League lacked an obvious Catholic candidate for the throne and divided into various factions. Nevertheless, as a Protestant, Henry IV was unable to take Paris, a Catholic stronghold, or to decisively defeat his enemies, now supported by the Spanish. He reconverted to Catholicism in 1593—he is said to have remarked, "Paris is well worth a mass—and was crowned King of France at the Cathedral of Chartres on 27 February 1594.
Henry granted the Edict of Nantes on 13 April 1598, establishing Catholicism as an official state religion, but otherwise assuring the Huguenots equal rights with the Catholics. This compromise ended the religious wars in France. That same year the Treaty of Vervins ended the war with Spain, adjusted the Spanish-French border, and resulted in a belated recognition by Spain of Henry as king of France.
Ably assisted by Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully, Henry reduced the land tax known as the taille; promoted agriculture, public works, construction of highways, and the first French canal; started such important industries as the tapestry works of the Gobelins; and intervened in favor of Protestants in the duchies and earldoms along the German frontier. This last was to be the cause of his assassination.
Henry's marriage to Margaret, which had produced no heir, was annulled in 1599 and he married Marie de Medici, the niece of the grand duke of Tuscany. A son, Louis, was born to them in 1601. Henry IV was assassinated on 14 May 1610 in Paris. Louis XIII was only nine years old when he succeeded his father. He was to prove a weak ruler, his reign effectively a series of distinct regimes, depending who held the effective reins of power. At first, Marie de Medici, his mother, served as regent and advanced a pro-Spanish policy. To deal with the financial troubles of France, Louis summoned the Estates General in 1614; this would be the last time that body met until the eve of the French Revolution. Marie arranged the 1615 marriage of Louis to Anne of Austria, the daughter of King Philip III of Spain.
In 1617, however, Louis conspired with Charles d'Albert, duc de Luynes to dispense with her influence, having her favorite Concino Concini assassinated on 26 April of that year. After some years of weak government by Louis's favorites, the King made Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu, a former protégé of his mother, the chief minister of France in 1624.
Richelieu advanced an anti-Habsburg policy. He arranged for Louis' sister, Henrietta Maria, to marry King Charles I of England, on 11 May 1625. Her pro-Catholic propaganda in England was one of the contributing factors for the English Civil War. Richelieu, as ambitious for France and the French monarchy as for himself, laid the ground for the absolute monarchy that would last in France until the Revolution. He wanted to establish a dominating position for France in Europe, and he wanted to unify France under the monarchy. He established the role of intendants, non-noble men whose arbitrary powers were granted by (and revocable by) the monarchy and superseded many of the traditional duties and privileges of the noble governors.
Although it required a succession of internal military campaigns, he abolished the fortified Huguenot towns that Henry had allowed. He involved France in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) against the Habsburgs in 1635. He died in 1642 before the conclusion of that conflict, having groomed Jules Cardinal Mazarin as a successor. Louis XIII outlived him but by one year, dying in 1643 at the age of forty-two. After a childless marriage for twenty-three years he had a son with Anne on 5 September 1638, whom he named after himself.
When Louis XIV succeeded his father he was only four years old. He would become the most powerful king in French history. His mother Anne served as his regent with her favorite Jules Mazarin as chief minister. Mazarin continued the policies of Richelieu, bringing the Thirty Years' War to a successful conclusion in 1648 and defeating the noble challenge to royal absolutism in a series of civil wars known as the Fronde. He continued to war with Spain until 1659.
In that year the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed signifying a significant shift in power, France had replaced Spain as the dominant state in Europe. One of the terms of the treaty arranged the marriage of Louis to his cousin Maria Theresa, the daughter of King Philip IV of Spain, by his first wife Elizabeth, the sister of Louis XIII. They were married in 1660 and had a son, Louis, in 1661. Mazarin died on 9 March 1661 and it was expected that Louis would appoint another chief minister, as had become the tradition, but instead he shocked the country by announcing he would rule alone.
Louis intended to glorify France by making war on his neighbors. For six years he reformed the finances of his state and built formidable armed forces. France fought three wars between 1667 and 1697 and gained some minor territory. Maria Theresa died in 1683 and the next year he married Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon. She had great influence over him especially in matters of religion. Louis XIV was staunchly Catholic and he revoked the Edict of Nantes on 18 October 1685, undoing the religious tolerance established by grandfather, Henry IV, almost a hundred years before.
The last war waged by Louis XIV proved to be one of the most important to dynastic Europe. In 1700, King Charles II of Spain died without a son. Louis's son the Grand Dauphin, as nephew to the late king, was closest heir, and Charles willed the kingdom to the Dauphin's second son, the Duke of Anjou. Other powers, particularly the Austrian Habsburgs, who had the next closest claims, objected to such a vast increase in French power.
Initially, most of the other powers were willing to accept Anjou's reign as Philip V, but Louis's arrogance and blunders soon made the English, the Dutch, and other powers join the Austrians in a coalition against France. The War of the Spanish Succession began in 1701 and raged for 12 years. In the end Louis's grandson was recognized as King of Spain, but Spain's other European territories were largely ceded to Austria, and France was nearly bankrupted by the cost of the struggle. Louis died on 1 September 1715 ending his seventy-two year reign, the longest in European history.
The reign of Louis XIV was so long that he had outlived both his son and eldest grandson. He was succeeded by his great-grandson Louis XV. Louis XV was born on 15 February 1710 and was thus aged only five at his ascension, the third Louis in a row to become king of France before the age of ten. Initially, the regency was held by the Philip, Duke of Orleans, Louis XIV's nephew, as nearest adult male to the throne. This Regency period was seen as one of debauchery and loose morals following the austere nature of the latter years of Louis XIV's reign, which had seen a series of cripplingly expensive wars and the King's turn to religiosity.
Following Orleans's death in 1723, another junior Bourbon, the Duke of Bourbon, the representative of the Bourbon-Condé line, became Prime Minister. It was expected that Louis would marry his cousin, the daughter of King Philip V of Spain, but this marriage was cancelled by the duke in 1725 so that Louis could marry Maria Leszczynska, the daughter of Stanislas, former king of Poland. Bourbon's motive appears to have been a desire to produce an heir as soon as possible so as to reduce the chances of a succession dispute between Philip V and the Duke of Orleans in the event of the sickly king's death. Maria was already an adult woman at the time of the marriage, while the Infanta was still a young girl.
Nevertheless, Bourbon's action brought a very negative response from Spain, and for his incompetence Bourbon was soon replaced by Cardinal Fleury, the young king's tutor, in 1726. Fleury was a peace loving man who intended to keep France out of war, but circumstances presented themselves that made this impossible.
The first cause of these wars came in 1733 when Augustus II, the elector of Saxony and king of Poland died. With French backing Stanislas was again elected king. This brought France into conflict with Russia and Austria who supported Augustus III, duke of Saxony and son of Augustus II.
Stanislas lost the Polish crown, but he was given the Duchy of Lorraine as compensation, which would pass to France after his death. Next came the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740 in which France supported King Frederick II of Prussia against Maria Theresa of Austria, archduchess of Austria. Fleury died in 1743 before the conclusion of the war.
Shortly after Fleury’s death in 1745 Louis was most influenced by his mistress the Marquise de Pompadour. She reversed the policy of France in 1756 by creating an alliance with Austria against Prussia in the Seven Years' War. The war was a disaster for France, losing most of her overseas possessions to the British in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Great Britain replaced France as the most dominant European power. Louis’ only son died in 1765 making his grandson the Dauphin. Maria, his wife, died in 1768 and Louis himself died on 10 May 1774.
Louis XVI had become the dauphin of France upon the death of his father, the son of Louis XV, in 1765. He married Marie Antoinette of Austria, a daughter of Maria Theresa, in 1770. Louis intervened in the American Revolution against Britain in 1778, but he is most remembered for his role in the French Revolution. France was in financial turmoil and Louis was forced to convene the Estates-General on 5 May 1789.
They formed the National Assembly and forced Louis to accept a constitution that limited his powers on 14 July 1790. He tried to flee France in June 1791, but was captured. The French monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792 and a republic was proclaimed. The chain of Bourbon monarchs begun in 1589 was broken. Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793.
Marie Antoinette and her son, Louis, were held as prisoners. Many French royalists proclaimed him Louis XVII, but he never reigned. She was executed on 16 October 1793. He died of tuberculosis on 8 June 1795 at the age of ten while in captivity.
The French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars spread nationalism and anti-absolutism throughout Europe, and the other Bourbon monarchs were threatened. Ferdinand was forced to flee from Naples in 1806 when Napoleon Bonaparte deposed him and installed his brother, Joseph, as king. Ferdinand continued to rule from Sicily until 1815.
Napoleon conquered Parma in 1800 and compensated the Bourbon duke with Etruria, a new kingdom he created from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It was short-lived, as Napoleon annexed Etruria in 1807.
King Charles IV of Spain had been an ally of France. He succeeded his father, Charles III, in 1788. At first he declared war on France on 7 March 1793, but he made peace on 22 June 1795. This peace became an alliance on 19 August 1796. His chief minister, Manuel de Godoy convinced Charles that his son, Ferdinand, was plotting to overthrow him. Napoleon exploited the situation and invaded Spain in March 1808. This led to an uprising that forced Charles to abdicate on 19 March in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII. Napoleon forced Ferdinand to return the crown to Charles on 30 April and then convinced Charles to relinquish it to him on 10 May. In turn, he gave it to his brother, Joseph, king of Naples on 6 June. Joseph abandoned Naples to Joachim Murat, the husband of Napoleon’s sister. This was very unpopular in Spain and resulted in the Peninsular War, a struggle that would contribute to the downfall of Napoleon.
With the abdication of Napoleon on 11 April 1814 the Bourbon Dynasty was restored to the kingdom of France in the person of Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI. Napoleon escaped from exile and Louis fled in March 1815. Louis was again restored after the Battle of Waterloo on 7 July.
The conservative elements of Europe dominated the post-Napoleonic age, but the values of the French Revolution could not be easily swept aside. Louis granted a constitution on 14 June 1814 to appease the liberals, but the ultra-royalist party, led by his brother, Charles, continued to influence his reign. When he died in 1824 his brother became king as Charles X much to the dismay of French liberals. Talleyrand reportedly remarked of the restored Bourbon rulers that they had "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."
Charles passed several laws that appealed to the upper class, but angered the middle class. The situation came to a head when he appointed a new minister on 8 August 1829 who did not have the confidence of the chamber. The chamber censured the king on 18 March 1830 and in response Charles proclaimed five ordinances on 26 July intended to silence criticism against him. This almost resulted in another revolution as dramatic as the one in 1789, but moderates were able to control the situation. As a compromise the crown was offered to Louis-Philippe, duke of Orleans, a descendent of the brother of Louis XIV, and the head of the Orleanist cadet branch of the Bourbons. He was proclaimed King of the French on 7 August. The resulting regime, known as the July monarchy, lasted until the Revolution of 1848. The Bourbon monarchy in France ended on 24 February 1848, when Louis-Philippe was forced to abdicate and the short-lived French Second Republic was established.
Some legitimists refused to recognize the Orleanist monarchy. After the death of Charles in 1836 his son was proclaimed Louis XIX, though this title was never formally recognized. Charles' grandson Henri, comte de Chambord, the last Bourbon claimant of the French crown, was proclaimed by some Henry V, but the French monarchy was never restored.
Following the 1870 collapse of the empire of Emperor Napoleon III, Henri was offered a restored throne. The stubborn Chambord refused to accept the throne unless France abandoned the revolution-inspired tricolour and accepted what he regarded as the true Bourbon flag of France. The tricolour, originally associated with the French Revolution and the First French Republic, had been used by the July Monarchy, the Second Republic and both Empires; the French National Assembly could not possibly agree.
A temporary Third Republic was established, while monarchists waited for the comte de Chambord to die and for the succession to pass to the Comte de Paris, who was willing to accept the tricolour. Henri lived until 1883, by which time public opinion had come to accept the republic as the "form of government that divides us least." His death without issue marked the extinction of the French Bourbons. Thus head of the House of Bourbon became the now eldest male heir of the dynasty Juan, Count of Montizón of the Spanish line of the house who was also Carlist claimant to the throne of Spain. His heir as eldest Bourbon and head of the house is today Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou.
By an ordinance of Louis Philippe I of France of 13 August 1830, it was decided that the king's children (and his sister) would continue to bear the arms of Orléans, that Louis-Philippe's eldest son, as Prince Royal, would bear the title of duc d'Orléans, that the younger sons would continue to have their existing titles, and that the sister and daughters of the king would only be styled "princesses d'Orléans", which meant the Orleans royalty did not take the name "of France".
Philip had two sons with his first wife. After she died he married Elizabeth Farnese, the niece of Duke Francesco of Parma, in 1714. She also gave Philip two sons and intended them to win back the lost territory in Italy. She induced Philip to occupy Sardinia and Sicily in 1717.
A Quadruple Alliance of Britain, France, Austria and the Netherlands, was organized on 2 August 1718 to stop him. In the Treaty of The Hague signed on 17 February 1720 Philip renounced his claim to Sardinia and Sicily, but assured the ascension of his eldest son with Elizabeth to the Duchy of Parma upon the current duke’s death. Philip abdicated in January 1724 in favor of Louis I, his eldest son with his first wife, but Louis died in August and Philip resumed the throne.
When the War of the Polish Succession began in 1733 they saw it as another opportunity to advance the claims of their sons. Philip formed the Family Compact with Louis XV, his nephew and king of France. Their son Charles, duke of Parma since 1731, invaded Naples. At the conclusion of peace on 13 November 1738 Parma was ceded to Austria in exchange for Naples and Sicily. Philip also used the War of the Austrian Succession to win more territory in Italy. He did not see it to its conclusion because he died in 1746.
Ferdinand VI, the second son of Philip V and his first wife, succeeded his father. He was a peace-loving monarch who kept Spain out of the Seven Years' War. He died in 1759 in the midst of that conflict and was succeeded by his half brother Charles III. Charles was the eldest son of Philip and Elizabeth. He was born in 1716 and became the Duke of Parma when the last Farnese duke died in 1731. He conquered the kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the War of the Polish Succession and became king there as Charles IV in 1734 renouncing Parma to Austria. When he ascended to the Spanish throne he abdicated in Sicily in favor of his third son, Ferdinand. Charles revived the Family Compact with France on 15 August 1761 and joined in the Seven Years' War against Britain in 1762. He also opposed Britain during the American Revolution in June 1779. He died in 1788.
Elizabeth Farnese’s ambitions were realized at the conclusion of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748 when Parma was ceded by Austria to her second son, Philip. Her eldest son, Charles, was already the king of the Two Sicilies. She died in 1766.
Upon the fall of the Napoleonic empire, Ferdinand I was restored to the throne of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1815. His subjects revolted on 2 July 1820 and he was forced to grant a constitution on 13 July. Austria invaded in March 1821 and revoked the constitution. He was succeeded by his son, Francis I, in 1825 and by his grandson, Ferdinand II, in 1830. Another revolution erupted on 12 January 1848 and Ferdinand was also forced to grant a constitution on 10 February. This constitution was revoked in 1849. Ferdinand was succeeded by his son, Francis II, in May 1859.
When Giuseppe Garibaldi captured Naples on 7 September 1860 Francis restored the constitution on 2 July in an attempt to save his sovereignty. He failed and after the capture of the fortress of Gaeta (13 February 1861) his kingdom was incorporated in the Kingdom of Italy but only on 17 March 1861 because two other fortresses, Messina and Civitella del Tronto, surrendered on 12 March 1861 9 p.m.(Messina) and only on 20 March, Civitella. (As a matter of fact, when the Commander Ascione was convinced to surrender by his King's order, there was still a group of soldiers opposed to the surrender, led by the heroic Sgt. Massinelli and the friar Leonardo Zilli. Ascione, however, succeeded in infiltrating the mutinous group on the morning of 20 March and shot Massinelli and Zilli. Thus fell the last fortress of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.)
After the fall of Napoleon, Napoleon's wife, Maria Louisa, was made Duchess of Parma. As compensation, Charles Louis, the former king of Etruria, was made the Duke of Lucca. When Maria Louisa died in 1847 he was restored to Parma as Charles II. Lucca was incorporated into Tuscany. He was succeeded by his son, Charles III, and grandson, Robert I, in 1854. The people of Parma voted for a union with the kingdom of Sardinia on 13 March 1860. After Italian unification in 1861 the Bourbon dynasty in Italy was no more.
The Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty was the only one to survive into the 20th century. Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne of Spain after the fall of Napoleon in March 1814. Like his Italian Bourbon counterpart his subjects revolted against him in January 1820 and he was forced to grant a constitution. A French army invaded in 1823 and the constitution was revoked. Ferdinand married his fourth wife, Maria Christina, the daughter of Francis I, the Bourbon king of Sicily, in 1829. Despite his many marriages he did not have a son so on 30 June 1833 he was influenced by his wife to abolish the Salic Law so that her daughter, Isabella, could become queen depriving his brother, Don Carlos, of the throne.
Isabella II succeeded her father when he died on 29 September 1833. She was only three years old and Maria Cristina, her mother, served as regent. Maria knew that she needed the support of the liberals to oppose Don Carlos so she granted a constitution in 1834. Don Carlos found his greatest support in Catalonia and the Basques country because the constitution centralized the provinces thus denying them the autonomy they sought. He was defeated and fled the country in 1839. Isabella was declared of age in 1843 and she married her cousin Francisco de Asis, the son of her father’s brother, on 10 October 1846. A military revolution broke out against Isabella in 1868 and she was deposed on 29 September. She abdicated in favor of her son, Alfonso, in 1870, but Spain was proclaimed a republic for a brief time.
When the First Spanish Republic failed the crown was offered to Isabella’s son who accepted on 1 January 1875 as Alfonso XII. Don Carlos, who returned to Spain, was again defeated and resumed his exile in February 1876. Alfonso granted a new constitution on July 1876 that was more liberal than the one granted by his grandmother. His reign was cut short when he died in 1885 at the age of twenty-eight.
Alfonso XIII was born on 17 May 1886 after the death of his father. His mother, Maria Christina, the second wife of Alfonso XII served as regent. Alfonso XIII was declared of age in 1902 and he married Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena of Battenberg, the granddaughter of the British queen Victoria, on 31 May 1906. He remained neutral during World War I, but supported the military coup of Miguel Primo de Rivera on 13 September 1923. A movement towards the establishment of a republic began in 1930 and Alfonso fled the country on 14 April 1931. He never formally abdicated, but lived the rest of his life in exile. He died in 1941.
The Bourbon dynasty seemed finished in Spain as in the rest of the world, but it would be resurrected. The Second Spanish Republic was overthrown in the Spanish Civil War, leading to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. He named Juan Carlos de Borbón, a grandson of Alfonso XIII, his successor on 22 July 1969. When Franco died on 20 November 1975 a Bourbon monarch was restored to the throne of Spain two days later as Juan Carlos I. The new king oversaw the Spanish transition to democracy; the Spanish Constitution of 1978, approved on 28 September 1978, recognized the monarchy.
Though it is not as powerful as it once was under Louis XIV and it does not reign in its native country of France, it is by no means extinct, and the house of Bourbon has survived to the present day world of republics. It seems likely that it will continue as well under Juan Carlos' son, Felipe, who officially became heir apparent when he turned eighteen years old in 1986.
Dates indicate reigns, not lifetimes.
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