Obeyed as a father but impotent and outraged as a king, Charles X, on the breaking up of his council, wrote that letter to the Duke of Orleans which announced the spirit and resolution of this council.
Continuing Absolutism Ends in France,
our selection from History of the Restoration of Monarchy in France by Alphonse Lamartine published in 1854. The selection is presented in 3 installments, each one 5 minutes long. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
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Fortune had irrevocably abandoned King Charles. The insurrection had left him no part of his kingdom but the castle and park of Rambouillet, and the little army encamped in the forest. One of two courses must be taken — civil war or abdication. Before leaving St. Cloud the King had humbled his heart before God, and abdicated, beforehand, a crown which he could never recover only through streams of his people’s blood. He therefore continued on his defense at Rambouillet to retain an attitude of authority, but not to fight.
Being apprised of the universal spread of the revolt, of the desertion and disaffection of the troops of the line, of the failure of his son to maintain the posts of St. Cloud and Trianon, and the course of the Seine, moreover that even the regiments of his guard had begun to waver, he thought the moment was come to declare his resolution to his family and to his people. He no longer gathered about him his ministers and his generals, but held a council made up of his own family: his son, the Duchess of Angouleme, the Duchess of Berry, and his grandson — the darling of so many hearts — too young as yet to understand the affecting solemnity of this meeting in which they were, at once, to give him an empire and to take it away. The doors were closed upon all who were not of the blood of Louis XIV. No one knows the language, the entreaties, the objections, the sub lime resignation, the tears, both bitter and dutiful, that accompanied this secret council wherein two voluntary abdications were made.
It would be rash and impious to seek to unveil the secrets of family devotion and the policy of the heart. All we are permit ted to say — on the evidence of some words which escaped the son of Charles X the next day, and the one following, and which the ill-concealed regrets of the Duchess of Angouleme, in her exile, testified to — is that the Prince did not for a moment resist his father’s orders, when it was thought that the innocence of a child might prove a means of reconcilement more generally acceptable to France; that the Duchess of Angouleme bewailed her fate in having been twice pushed off the steps of a throne which was to have made her amends for so many reverses; and that, while she sacrificed herself to her nephew, she felt all the sharpness of the trial; that the Duchess of Berry acknowledged with tears of joy the greatness of this sacrifice which, by crowning her son, bestowed upon her the unhoped-for guardianship of an empire. Obeyed as a father but impotent and outraged as a king, Charles X, on the breaking up of his council, wrote that letter to the Duke of Orleans which announced the spirit and resolution of this council.
I am,” said he, “too deeply disturbed by the calamities which afflict and threaten my people not to have sought for a measure to prevent them. I have therefore formed the resolution to abdicate the crown in favor of my grandson. The Dauphin, who participates in my sentiments, has likewise renounced his rights in his nephew’s favor. It will therefore devolve upon you, as Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, to pro claim the accession of Henry V to the crown. You will take moreover all the necessary measures which belong to your office to settle the form of government during the new King’s minority. In this letter I confine myself to the declaration of these settlements; it is a measure to prevent a host of calamities.
You will communicate my intentions to the diplomatic body, and let me know as soon as possible the proclamation by which my grandson will be declared king with the name of ‘Henry V.’
I commission Lieutenant-General Viscount de Latour-Foissac to deliver this letter to you. He has orders to settle with you the arrangements to be made in behalf of the persons who have accompanied me, as well as the arrangements concerning myself and the rest of my family. We will regulate hereafter the other measures which will be the consequence of this alteration in the successsion.
I renew to you, my cousin, the assurance of the sentiments with which I am your affectionate cousin
It was strange that Charles X should have drawn up in the form of a letter the important document which changed the succession to the crown. Such an instance of carelessness was remarkable, especially in a monarch who was a scrupulous observer of the laws of etiquette; but the pledges of fidelity contained in the letter of the Duke of Orleans had removed from the mind of Charles X every doubt. The very manner in which the act of abdication was indited was a solemn proof of it. The Duke of Orleans, in this act, was spoken of as the natural protector of the childhood of Henry V, and he was left the chief arbiter of every measure which the sinister state of affairs might demand.
Meanwhile the Duke of Orleans felt alarmed on knowing that Charles X was so near the capital and in the midst of an army which might either fall back upon Paris or become the van guard of a Vendean force. Under the pretense of protecting the royal family from the vengeance of the people he sent commissioners to watch over his safety. These were M. de Schonen, M. Odilon Barrot, and Marshal Maison. These commissioners had presented themselves at the outposts of the royal army and been driven off. On their return to Paris the Duke sent them back with injunctions still more decisive. “Let him go!” said he to them with reference to the King, “let him go directly; and in order to compel him he must be frightened!”
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