The House of Bourbon (English //; French pronunciation: [buʁ.bɔ̃]) is a 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 were a cadet branch of the dukes of Vendômes and, in turn, were senior to the Princes of Conti both of which are now extinct.
Philip V of Spain was the first Bourbon of Spain. The Spanish Bourbons (in Spain the name is spelled Borbón and rendered into English as Borbon) 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 of the Two Sicilies family, and the Bourbon rulers of the Duchy of Parma.
Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg married a cadet of the Parmese line and thus her successors, who have ruled Luxembourg since her abdication in 1964, have also been members of the House of Bourbon. Isabel, Princess Imperial, the declared heiress and thrice-regent of the now-defunct Empire of Brazil, married twenty years before their deposition Prince Gaston, Count of Eu, their descendants, known as the Orléans and Braganza, would have ascended to that throne had the empire not ended in 1889.
From the time of Hugh Capet to Charles X (987–1830), the senior Capets were also the Kings of France. In 1589, Henry IV, Head of the House of Bourbon, became the senior Capet, following the extinction of male line of the House of Valois. All members of the House of Bourbon and its cadet branches alive today are direct agnatic descendants of Henry IV.
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 senior 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 the dukes of Vendôme remained, the ruling house of the Dukedom of Vendôme. The 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. From then on, they were simply called Bourbon, until the creation of cadet branches.
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 descendant 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 1569.
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 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 the right to practice their religion. However, it did not grant full civil and religious equality to the Huguenots. 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 was 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 by concluding an alliance with Sweden in 1631 and, actively, in 1635. He died in 1642 before the conclusion of that conflict, having groomed Cardinal Jules 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 Elisabeth, 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 the Habsburg'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 Philip, Duke of Orléans, 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 Orléans'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 Orléans 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 Andre Hercule de 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. 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.
"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."
Napoleon was conquered by his own greed as elites often are it seems.