Emperor of the French, French Revolution, House of Bourbon, King Felipe V of Spain, King Louis XVIII of France and Navarre, Napoleon Bonaparte, Princess Marie Joséphine of Savoy, Queen of France and Navarre, The One Hundred Days
Louis XVIII (November 17, 1755 – September 16, 1824) was King of France and Navarre from 1814 to 1824, except for a brief interruption during the Hundred Days in 1815. He spent twenty-three years in exile: during the French Revolution and the First French Empire (1804–1814), and during the Hundred Days.
Prince Louis Stanislas Xavier de Bourbon of France, styled Count of Provence from birth, was born on November 17, 1755 in the Palace of Versailles, a younger son of Louis, Dauphin of France, and his wife Maria Josepha of Saxony, daughter of Augustus III, Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria (daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I and Wilhelmine Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg).
Louis, Count of Provence was the grandson of the reigning King Louis XV. As a son of the Dauphin, he was a Fils de France. He was christened Louis Stanislas Xavier six months after his birth, in accordance with Bourbon family tradition, being nameless before his baptism.
By this act, he also became a Knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit. The name of Louis was bestowed because it was typical of a Prince of France; Stanislas was chosen to honour his great-grandfather King Stanislaus I of Poland who was still alive at the time; and Xavier was chosen for Saint Francis Xavier, whom his mother’s family held as one of their patron saints.
At the time of his birth, Louis Stanislas was fourth in line to the throne of France, behind his father and his two elder brothers: Louis Joseph, Duke of Burgundy, and Louis Augusté, Duke of Berry. The former died in 1761, leaving Louis Augusté as heir to their father until the Dauphin’s own premature death in 1765.
The two deaths elevated Louis Stanislas to second in the line of succession, while his brother Louis Augusté acquired the title of Dauphin.
On April 16, 1771, Louis Stanislas was married by proxy to Princess Maria Giuseppina of Savoy. The in-person ceremony was conducted on May 14 at the Palace of Versailles. Marie Joséphine (as she was known in France) was a daughter of Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy (later King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia), and his wife Infanta Maria Antonia Ferdinanda of Spain who was the youngest daughter of Felipe V of Spain and of his second wife Elisabeth Farnese.
A luxurious ball followed the wedding on May 20. Louis Stanislas found his wife repulsive; she was considered ugly, tedious, and ignorant of the customs of the court of Versailles. The marriage remained unconsummated for years. Biographers disagree about the reason.
The most common theories propose Louis Stanislas’ alleged impotence (according to biographer Antonia Fraser) or his unwillingness to sleep with his wife due to her poor personal hygiene. She never brushed her teeth, plucked her eyebrows, or used any perfumes. At the time of his marriage, Louis Stanislas was obese and waddled instead of walked. He never exercised and continued to eat enormous amounts of food.
Despite the fact that Louis Stanislas was not infatuated with his wife, he boasted that the two enjoyed vigorous conjugal relations – but such declarations were held in low esteem by courtiers at Versailles.
He also proclaimed his wife to be pregnant merely to spite Louis Augusté and his wife Marie Antoinette, who had not yet consummated their marriage. The Dauphin and Louis Stanislas did not enjoy a harmonious relationship and often quarrelled, as did their wives.
Louis Stanislas did impregnate his wife in 1774, having conquered his aversion. However, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. A second pregnancy in 1781 also miscarried, and the marriage remained childless.
On September 21, 1792, the National Convention abolished the monarchy and deposed Louis XVI, who was later executed by guillotine. When his young nephew, nominally Louis XVII died in prison in June 1795, the Count of Provence proclaimed himself (titular) king under the name Louis XVIII.
Following the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic era, Louis XVIII lived in exile in Prussia, England, and Russia. When the Sixth Coalition finally defeated Napoleon in 1814, Louis XVIII was placed in what he, and the French royalists, considered his rightful position.
However, Napoleon escaped from his exile in Elba and restored his French Empire. Louis XVIII fled, and a Seventh Coalition declared war on the French Empire, defeated Napoleon again, and again restored Louis XVIII to the French throne.
Louis XVIII ruled as king for slightly less than a decade. The government of the Bourbon Restoration was a constitutional monarchy, unlike the Ancien Régime, which was absolutist. As a constitutional monarch, Louis XVIII’s royal prerogative was reduced substantially by the Charter of 1814, France’s new constitution.
His return in 1815 led to a second wave of White Terror headed by the Ultra-royalist faction. The following year, Louis dissolved the unpopular parliament, referred to as the Chambre introuvable, giving rise to the liberal Doctrinaires. His reign was further marked by the formation of the Quintuple Alliance and a military intervention in Spain.
Louis XVIII’s health began to fail in the spring of 1824. He was experiencing obesity, gout and gangrene, both dry and wet, in his legs and spine. Louis died on 16 September 16 1824 surrounded by the extended royal family and some government officials. Since didn’t have a son or heir hewas succeeded by his youngest brother, Prince Charles Philippe, the Count of Artois, as King Charles X of France and Navarre.
Louis XVIII had no children and was the last French monarch to die while still reigning, as Charles X (1824–1830) abdicated and both Louis Philippe I (1830–1848) and Napoleon III (1852–1870) were deposed.