Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (Philippe Charles; August 2, 1674 – December 2, 1723), was a member of the Royal Family of France and served as Regent of the Kingdom from 1715 to 1723. Born at his father’s palace at Saint-Cloud, he was known from birth under the title of Duke of Chartres. His father was Louis XIV’s younger brother Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, his mother was Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate.
Philippe II’s mother, Princess Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate was born on May 27, 1652 in Heidelberg Castle, to Carl I Ludwig, Elector Palatine of the Simmern branch of the House of Wittelsbach, and Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Cassel. She is directly related to several iconic European monarchs. Her grandmother Elizabeth Stuart was a Scottish and later English princess, daughter of James I-VI of England and Scotland and granddaughter of Mary I, Queen of Scots. Her first cousin became George I, the first Hanoverian King of Great Britain. Through her daughter, she was the great-grandmother of Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Navarre, wife of Louis XVI of France and Navarre.
Princess Henrietta Anne of England
In March 1661, his father, Philippe I Duke of Orléans, married his first cousin Princess Henrietta Anne of England, known as Madame at court. She was youngest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France, the youngest daughter of King Henri IV of France and Navarre and his second wife, Marie de’ Medici.
The marriage was stormy; Henrietta was a famed beauty, sometimes depicted as flirtatious by those at the court of Versailles. A year into the marriage, Henrietta gave birth to a daughter later baptised Marie Louise. The paternity of the child was doubted by some of the court, who insinuated Louis XIV or the Count of Guiche was the father. Henrietta and Guiche may have started an affair early in her marriage, despite his having been an alleged former lover of Philippe I.
Nonetheless, the marriage produced three children: the aforementioned Marie Louise d’Orléans, future queen of Spain, (wife of Carlos II) who left France in 1679 when Philippe was just five; Philippe Charles (1664–1666), Duke of Valois; and Anne Marie d’Orléans, born at Saint-Cloud in 1669, later queen consort of Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia (they became the maternal grandparents of Philippe’s future protégé Louis XV).
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, the Duke of Orléans wed Princess Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, only daughter of Carl 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 and quickly became the mother of Alexandre Louis d’Orléans in 1673, another short-lived Duke of Valois. The next year, the duchess gave birth to another son, Philippe Charles d’Orléans.
Philippe II Charles d’Orléans was born at the Château de Saint-Cloud, some ten kilometers west of Paris. As the grandson of King Louis XIII of France, Philippe 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.
Philippe II Charles Duke d’Orléans
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, the Duke of Valois died at the Palais-Royal in Paris, making Philippe the new heir to the House of Orléans. 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.
Marriage with a foreign princess unlikely, or so Louis XIV told his brother, Philippe, also known as Monsieur, when persuading him to accept the king’s legitimised daughter, Françoise Marie de Bourbon (known as Mademoiselle de Blois), as wife for Philippe. Her mother was Louis XIV’s mistress, Madame de Montespan. The king 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’s mother slapped his face in full view of the court and turned her back on the king as he bowed to her. Nonetheless, on February 18, 1692, the cousins were married.
Françoise Marie de Bourbon
On the death of his father in June 1701, Philippe inherited the dukedoms of Orléans, Anjou, Montpensier and Nemours, as well as the princedom of Joinville. Philippe had died at Saint-Cloud after an argument with his brother Louis XIV at Marly about Chartres’ flaunting his pregnant mistress, Marie-Louise de Séry, before Françoise Marie. It has also been claimed that Philippe I became so infuriated with Louis for not paying his daughter’s dowry that he suffered a paroxysm.
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.
On 29 July 1714, upon the insistence of his morganatic wife, the marquise de Maintenon, Louis XIV elevated his legitimised children to the rank of Princes of the Blood, which “entitled them to inherit the crown if the legitimate lines became extinct”. Thus, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine and Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse were officially inserted into the line of hereditary succession following all of the legitimate, acknowledged princes du sang. Louis XIV’s Will left the Regency in the hands of, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine.
Louis XIV died at Versailles on September 1, 1715, and was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis XV. On September 2, the Duke of Orléans went to meet the parlementaires in the Grand-Chambre du Parlement in Paris in order to have Louis XIV’s will annulled and his previous right to the regency restored. After a break that followed a much-heated session, the Parlement abrogated the recent codicil to Louis XIV’s will and confirmed the Duke of Orléans as regent of France.
Young King Louis XV of France and Navarre.
On December 30, 1715, the regent decided to bring the young Louis XV from the château de Vincennes to the Tuileries Palace in Paris where he lived until his return to Versailles in June 1722. The regent governed from his Parisian residence, the Palais-Royal.
On the majority of the king, which was declared on February 15, 1723, the Duke stepped down as regent. At the death of Cardinal Dubois on 10 August of that year, the young king offered the Duke the position of prime minister, and he remained in that office until his death a few months later.
The regent died in Versailles on December 2, 1723, aged 49, in the arms of his mistress the duchesse de Falari. Louis XV mourned him greatly. The Duke of Bourbon took on the role of Prime Minister of France.
On December 3, the Duke of Orléans’ body was taken to Saint-Cloud where funeral ceremonies began the following day. His heart was taken to the Val de Grâce church in Paris and his body to the Basilica of Saint Denis, (about 10 km north of Paris), the necropolis of the French kings and their family.