Emperor of the French, House of Bourbon, House of Orléans, Louis XIV of France, Louis-Philippe of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, Philippe Égalité, Prince Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Prince of Conde, The Duke of Enghien
His Serene Highness Prince Louis Antoine de Bourbon, The Duke of Enghien (Louis Antoine Henri; August 2, 1772 – March 21, 1804) was a member of the House of Bourbon of France. More famous for his death than for his life, he was executed on charges of aiding Britain and plotting against France.
The Duke of Enghien was the only son of Louis Henri de Bourbon and Bathilde d’Orléans. As a member of the reigning House of Bourbon, he was a prince du sang (Prince of the Blood). He was born at the Château de Chantilly, the country residence of the Princes of Condé – a title he was born to inherit. He was given the title Duke of Enghien from birth, his father already being the Duke of Bourbon and the heir to the title the Prince of Condé, the Duke of Bourbon being the Heir apparent of Condé.
His mother’s full name was Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d’Orléans; she was the only surviving daughter of Louis Philippe d’Orléans (grandson of the Regent Philippe d’Orléans) and Louise Henriette de Bourbon. His uncle was the future Philippe Égalité and he was thus a first cousin of the future Louis-Philippe I, King of the French. He was also doubly descended from Louis XIV through his legitimated daughters, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Blois and Louise Françoise de Bourbon, Duchess of Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes.
He was educated privately by the Abbé Millot, and in military matters by Commodore de Vinieux. He early on showed the warlike spirit of the House of Condé, and began his military career in 1788. In 1792, at the outbreak of French Revolutionary Wars, he held a command in the corps of émigrés organized and commanded by his grandfather, Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé? The Army of Condé shared in Charles Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg’s unsuccessful invasion of France.
The Duke of Enghien privately married Princess Charlotte de Rohan, niece of the Cardinal de Rohan, and took up his residence at Ettenheim in Baden, near the Rhine. Princess Charlotte de Rohan was born in Paris. Her father was Charles Jules, Prince de Rochefort, a member of the House of Rohan, which held princely rank in France prior to the revolution, although they were not prince du sang. Her mother was Marie-Henriette d’Orléans-Rothelin, a descendant of Joan of Arc’s ally the Bastard of Orléans, whose legitimate heirs, the Orléans-Longueville dukes, died out in 1694 leaving only the Rothelin branch, prominent in the kingdom despite a bar sinister, which in Heraldry is the usual mark used to identify illegitimate descendants of royalty.
Early in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, heard news which seemed to connect the young duke with the Cadoudal Affair, a conspiracy which was being tracked by the French police at the time. It involved royalists Jean-Charles Pichegru and Georges Cadoudal who wished to overthrow Bonaparte’s regime and reinstate the monarchy. The news ran that the duke was in company with Charles François Dumouriez and had made secret journeys into France. This was false; there is no evidence that the duke had dealings with either Cadoudal or Pichegru.
Bonaparte, First Consul, by Ingres. Posing the hand inside the waistcoat was often used in portraits of rulers to indicate calm and stable leadership.
On March 15, 1804, upon orders from Napoleon, French dragoons crossed the Rhine secretly, surrounded his house and brought him to Strasbourg and thence to the Château de Vincennes, near Paris, where a military commission of French colonels presided over by General Hulin was hastily convened to try him. The duke was charged chiefly with bearing arms against France in the late war, and with intending to take part in the new coalition then proposed against France.
The military commission, drew up the act of condemnation, being incited thereto by orders from Anne Jean Marie René Savary, who had come charged with instructions to kill the duke. Savary prevented any chance of an interview between the condemned and the First Consul, and, on March 21, the duke was executed, shot in the moat of the castle, near a grave which had already been prepared. A platoon of the Gendarmes d’élite was in charge of the execution. In 1816, his remains were exhumed and placed in the Holy Chapel of the Château de Vincennes.
The execution of The duc d’Enghien
Royalty and the aristocracy across Europe were shocked and dismayed at the Duke’s death, many who still remembered the bloodletting of the Revolution. Emperor Alexander I of Russia was especially alarmed, and decided to curb Napoleon’s power.
The duc d’Enghien was the last descendant of the House of Condé; his grandfather and father survived him, but died without producing further heirs. It is now known that Napoleon’s wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais and Claire Élisabeth de Vergennes, Madame de Rémusat had begged Bonaparte to spare the Duke; but nothing would bend his will.
Conversely, in France the execution appeared to quiet domestic resistance to Napoleon, who soon crowned himself Emperor of the French. Cadoudal, dismayed at the news of Napoleon’s proclamation, reputedly exclaimed, “We wanted to make a king, but we made an emperor”.