Saturday, 16 October 2021

Two Comments Left on Yesterday's MM Post

Here are two comments left on MM's blog on yesterday's post which I thought worth sharing. Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

From The Mad Monarchist

From Firmus et Rusticus

    If I may, I'd like to take you up on the conclusion's invitation, even though your thoughts here are also mine.

    The bottom-line story that is common coin (the Count of Chambord refused the tricolor, thus he did not reign) is of course true, but only part of the truth; and half-truths, I think Chesterton said, are the worst kind of falsehoods. I think we can only begin to glimpse the motives behind this often misunderstood episode when two things are considered: the dynastic schism of the Orléans and the context of the founding of the Third Republic.

    The origin of the tricolor as a bargaining chip lies in the several encounters that took place between the Count of Chambord and the sons of Louis-Philippe as early as the latter's ousting in 1848. For Chambord, it was a matter of repentance and submission on their part, forgiveness on his (which he always earnestly offered). For them, it was rather about dynastic "fusion": they would recognize him provided he accepted certain conditions. These were laid out with some variation in the meetings that ensued up to the 1870's, and generally included a recognition of Louis-Philippe's fallen regime (which Chambord would certainly never agree to) and the acceptance of constitutional monarchy (which he would, though his interpretation of it was of course quite different to that of the Orléans). At some point early on the adoption of the tricolor was added as an afterthought (by Guizot I believe), and at this point it was not an insurmountable obstacle for Chambord: in fact, he is recorded to have said in those days that he did not wear a uniform because his hat would have to have a cockade, which would then automatically become his own, and he did not want to make a choice that would bind his future action.

    Eventually, this condition stuck. It became a major point in future dynastic talks, which failed ominously for many decades and severed good will between Chambord and many of Louis-Philippe's sons. It seems reconciliation only came in the early 1870's, when the Count of Paris, already a grown man, became independent enough to engage himself. By this point, a provisional government had been set up in Bordeaux (moving to Versailles later) after Napoleon III was defeated and overthrown. In essence, at most points in its existence the members of the Assembly were prone to restoring the monarchy (it was initially divided as to which branch to restore, but it eventually reconciled as soon as the princes did), the Assembly being understood to be constituent and the government provisional. Being a time of national crisis, the government was entrusted to men reputed to be partisans of order and, eventually, monarchy. Notably, Thiers and later Mac-Mahon. The provisional government became more stable bit by bit, with Thiers styling himself President of the Republic only a few months after agreeing in a formal pact to leave the question of the form of government for the future.

    Despite the government's less-than-enthusiastic attitude, it was beginning to run out of excuses to procrastinate in bringing about restoration to a willing Assembly. After decades of tug-of-war, the flag was now perceived as central in the Orléanist struggle to constrain Henry's future reign to the parliamentary elite that had dominated France throughout the century, surviving one regime after another. To him it was a symbol of the Revolution, yes, but I think more importantly of the humiliation of these negotiations, and of the Assembly heaping up conditions to limit his rule. So he issued a manifesto saying that his flag was the white one, end of story.

    This produced discontent among the Orléanists, but eventually it was surmounted once the Count of Paris agreed to the above-mentioned reconciliation. The curious thing is that many royalist deputies, even legitimists, should have taken these manifestos to mean a forfeiture of the throne. The tricolor was assumed to be a sine qua non condition, which of course it only was insofar as they made it be (the lobbying of Joinville and Aumale, the two sons of Louis-Philippe that were least favorable to Chambord, having entered this Assembly since its beginning, was perhaps not alien to this).

    Eventually, however, a compromise was reached, however unstable. Chesnelong, a deputy, met Chambord in his exile and got him to agree, if I remember well, to something along the lines of being proclaimed King and then deciding jointly with the Assembly as to whether the tricolor flag would be modified or not (even though, privately, Henry made it clear that he would never accept it, modified or otherwise: modification, strictly speaking, included changing it completely). Chesnelong runs back to Versailles confident that he had solved the impasse, and makes it known... enthusiastically omitting the finer points of the agreement. The press quickly picks up: Chambord has accepted the "tricolore". Having always made a point of not being ambiguous about his intentions, Henry cannot now enter France under what everybody would consider a false pretense: thinking that he had accepted the flag, what would they think when he dropped it as soon as he got there? So he issues a second manifesto, his famous "letter to Chesnelong", reiterating his position.

    From here it all went downhill, even though it was not so clear at the time and Chambord never gave up. Hoping to let things cool down and anxious to slow down revolutionary advances (and some, as you say, hoping to sponsor the Count of Paris after Henry V's death), the monarchist Assembly voted an extension to Mac-Mahon's mandate -which Henry survived only a few years-, thus unwittingly consolidating France's longest republican regime.

    All in all, I think the essence of this episode lies in the efforts of a well-consolidated parliamentary elite to bind Henry V not only to a constitutional rule, which he had always accepted, but also to the ruling class that had sprung in the XIXth century and was by now used to calling the shots. In the end, it was their anxiousness to settle for a conservative republic that kept away the only one who could have stopped the revolutionary tide that soon after took over that very republic. When MacMahon assured them that he was "profoundly republican and profoundly conservative", Henry cried out -in private- that it was the very opposite that France needed: a strong monarchy to undertake the necessary reforms.

    I think this anecdote is very revealing of the tension between Chambord and the oligarchy that he would not submit to: the refusal of the imposed tricolor flag being a simple way to communicate this to the everyday Frenchman.

    From Jack B.

To add on to what Firmus has stated, I've always though part of Henri V's calculations were that he knew that he would be succeeded by the great-grandchild of Egalite and the grandchild of Louis Phillipe (the man who usurped the young Chambord's own crown and then put Henri and his beloved family, including the Duchess of Angouleme, into a final exile). The Orleanists had always been opportunists -remember Louis Phillipe and Theirs brought Bonarparte's (the man who bragged in his will about the judicial murder of their blood kinsman, the Duke D'Enghien) body home and buried it with pomp and huge ceremony with his sons playing major roles to prop up his own regime - and for the Orleanists to continue to press "conditions" on Henri after what they had done to his branch of the family must have seemed particularly galling. I can just imagine him thinking after a lifetime in exile why he should sacrifice his principles for a few years on the throne, and accepting the regime of Louis Phillipe and the tri-color, all to prop up the Orleanist dynasty after him? If I recall right his widow recognized the Duke of Madrid as the heir to his claims and not the Count of Paris. I don't think this was an accident.

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