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Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (Philippe Charles; August 2, 1674 – December 2, 1723), was a French royal, soldier, and statesman who served as Regent of the Kingdom of France from 1715 to 1723. He is also referred to as le Régent.

Philippe Charles was the son of Monsieur Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, (September 21, 1640 – June 9, 1701), was the younger son of King Louis XIII of France and Navarre and his wife, Infanta Anne of Austria.

Philippe Charles’ mother, Infanta Anne of Austria, she was the eldest daughter of King Felipe III of Spain and his wife (his first-cousin, once-removed) Archduchess Margaret of Austria. Anne of Austria held the titles of Infanta of Spain and of Portugal (since her father was king of Portugal as well as Spain) and Archduchess of Austria.

Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Regent of France

Despite her Spanish birth, she was referred to as Anne of Austria because the rulers of Spain belonged to the senior branch of the House of Austria, known later as the House of Habsburg, a designation relatively uncommon before the 19th century.

Philippe Charles’ father Philippe I Duke of Orléans, who’s older brother was the “Sun King”, Louis XIV of France and Navarre. Philippe I was styled Duke of Anjou from birth, Philippe became Duke of Orléans upon the death of his uncle Gaston in 1660.

In March 1661, Monsieur Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, married his first cousin Princess Henrietta of England, known as Madame at court; she was the sister of King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland.

The marriage was stormy; Henrietta was a famed beauty, sometimes depicted as flirtatious by those at the court of Versailles. Nonetheless, the marriage produced three children: Marie Louise, later Queen of Spain; Philippe Charles, Duke of Valois, who died in infancy; and Anne Marie, who became Queen of Sardinia.

Madame Henriette died at Saint-Cloud in 1670; rumors abounded that she had been poisoned by her husband or his long-term lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine; the two would remain together till the death of the Duke of Orléans in 1701.

In the following year, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans wed Princess Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, only daughter of Charles I Ludwig, Elector Palatine, and Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Cassel.

The new Duchess of Orléans, who had converted from Protestantism to Catholicism just before entering France, was popular at court upon her arrival in 1671.

In 1673 the Duke Philippe and Duchess Elisabeth Charlotte had a son named Alexandre Louis, another short-lived Duke of Valois. The next year, the Duchess gave birth to Philippe Charles d’Orléans, the future Regent, at the Château de Saint-Cloud, some ten kilometers west of Paris.

As the grandson of King Louis XIII of France, Philippe Charles was a petit-fils de France. This entitled him to the style of Royal Highness from birth, as well as the right to be seated in an armchair in the king’s presence.

At his birth, he was titled Duke of Chartres and was formally addressed as Monseigneur le Duc de Chartres. As the second living son of his parents, his birth was not greeted with the enthusiasm the Duke of Valois had received in 1673.

In 1676, his three year old, older brother, Alexandre Louis d’Orléans, Duke of Valois died at the Palais-Royal in Paris, making Philippe Charles the new heir to the House of Orléans; the future heirs of the Duke of Orléans would be known as the Duke of Chartres (Duc de Chartres) for the next century.

His distraught mother was pregnant at the time with Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans (1676–1744), future Duchess and regent of Lorraine. Élisabeth Charlotte and Philippe would always remain close.

The Duke of Chartres grew up at his father’s “private” court held at Saint-Cloud, and in Paris at the Palais-Royal, the Parisian residence of the Orléans family until the arrest of (his grandson) Philippe Égalité in April 1793 during the French Revolution. The Palais-Royal was frequented by, among others, Marie Anne Mancini, Duchess of Bouillon, part of Philippe’s father’s libertine circle.

On February 18, 1692, the 18 year old Philippe Charles married his 14 year old first cousin Françoise Marie de Bourbon, the youngest legitimised daughter (légitimée de France) of King Louis XIV and his maîtresse-en-titre, Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, Marquise de Montespan.

Françoise Marie de Bourbon

King Louis XIV offered a dowry of two million livres with his daughter’s hand (not to be paid until the Nine Years’ War was over), as well as the Palais-Royal for the bridegroom’s parents. Upon hearing that her son had agreed to the marriage, Philippe Charles’s mother slapped his face in full view of the court and turned her back on the king as he bowed to her.

The young couple, mismatched from the start, never grew to like each other, and soon the young Philippe Charles gave his wife the nickname of Madame Lucifer. In spite of this, they had eight children.

There were contemporary rumors of an incestuous relationship between the Philippe Charles and his daughter, Marie Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, Duchess of Berry. These rumors were never confirmed, although Philippe Charles reacted to them by demonstrating affectionate behavior towards her at court. The rumors were also used by the opposition during his period as regent, and were the inspiration of libelous songs and poems

Court life

On the death of his father in June 1701, Philippe Charles inherited the Dukedoms of Orléans, Anjou, Montpensier and Nemours, as well as the princedom of Joinville. Philippe I, Duke of Orléans had died at Saint-Cloud after an argument with Louis XIV at Marly about Chartres’ flaunting his pregnant mistress, Marie-Louise de Séry, before Françoise Marie. It has also been claimed that Philippe became so infuriated with Louis for not paying his daughter’s dowry that he suffered a stroke.

After inheriting his father’s titles Philippe Charles became known as Philippe II, Duke of Orléans.

Marie Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, Duchess of Berry

In 1715 with the death of Louis XIV and the accession of his grandson as King Louis XV, Philippe II was named regent of France during the minority of Louis XV, his great-nephew and first cousin twice removed, the period of his de facto rule was known as the Regency (French: la Régence) (1715–23).

Philippe II, Duke of Orléans had a difficult time gaining the regency. I have written about that before and will repost that information tomorrow.

Throughout his life Philippe II had many mistresses; his wife came to prefer living quietly at Saint-Cloud, the Palais-Royal, or her house at Bagnolet. His most famous mistress was arguably Marie-Thérèse de Parabère, who was his main mistress during almost the entire regency, with other high profile affairs being those with Madame de Sabran, Madame d’Averne and Marie-Thérèse Blonel de Phalaris.

Upon the death of the Henri Jules, prince de Condé in 1709, the rank of Premier Prince du Sang passed from the House of Condé to the House of Orléans. Philippe was thus entitled to the style of Monsieur le Prince. But the rank of petit-fils de France being higher than that of premier prince, Philippe did not change his style; nor did his son or other heirs make use of the Monsieur le Prince style, which had been so long associated with the cadet branch of the Princes de Condé that the heads of the House of Orléans preferred to be known at court by their ducal title.

Philippe II, The Duke of Orléans died at Versailles in 1723.