Birthday: October 9, 1757
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Charles Philippe de France
Born in: Palace of Versailles, France
Famous as: King of France and Navarre
Spouse/Ex-: Princess Maria Theresa of Savoy
father: Louis, Dauphin of France
mother: Maria Josepha of Saxony, Dauphine of France
siblings: Louis XVI of France, Louis XVIII of France
children: Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Angoulême, Duke of Berry, Louis Antoine
Died on: November 6, 1836
place of death: Görz, Austria (now in Italy)
Charles X of France was born as Charles Philippe to Dauphin Louis de France and Dauphine Marie Josephduring the reign of his grandfather King Louis XV. At birth he was made Count of Artois by the king and spent the greater part of his life as such. As Charles had three elder brothers, he had little chance of becoming the king. However, with the death of his eldest brother in 1761 and father in 1765, he quickly moved two places up in the line of succession and ultimately became the king on the death of his brother King Louis XVIII of France in 1824. From the very beginning, he was an ultra royalist and could never accept the supremacy of the ‘Third Estate’ comprising of common people. Even King Louis XVI, who was guillotined during the French revolution, had described Charles as ‘more royalist than the king’. Later, as he became the king he took every available measure to bring back the glory of the royal house, ignoring the fact that the time had changed and to survive they too must change. It was because of this he had to abdicate his throne in 1830 and die in exile.
Childhood & Early Life
Charles Philippe was born on October 9, 1757 at the Palace of Versailles in France. His father, Louis de France was the only surviving son of the reigning King Louis XVand hence his heir apparent. However, Louis died early (1765) and never became the king.
Charles’ mother, Dauphine Marie Joseph, was the Duchess of Saxony and younger daughter of the King of Poland. She died in 1767 from tuberculosis. The couple had thirteen children out of which many died young. Charles Philippe was born tenth and had three surviving brothers above him.
As a young man, Charles was said to be one of the most attractive men of the dynasty and in spite of his early marriage to Princess Maria Theresa of Savoy he is said to have numerous romantic liaisons. To distract him from such scandalous affairs, he was engaged in the siege of Gibraltar in 1782. Later, he abandoned such a lifestyle to concentrate on politics.
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Charles' Political Awakening
In 1786, the monarchy in France had to face the first ever challenge. By that time, Charles’ grandfather Louis XV had passed away and Louis-Auguste had succeeded him as King Louis XVI of France. During this period, France was nearly bankrupt from wars. It soon became clear that to survive, France must undertake financial reforms.
Charles Philippe agreed that it was time to remove the financial privileges of the aristocracy but he was vehemently opposed to removal of their social privileges. Ultimately, the king set up ‘The Estate General’. It met on May 1789 after almost 160 years.
However, the great assembly failed to find any solution because the Third Estate, consisting of common people, wanted the vote to be taken all together while the clergy (First Estate) and the nobles (Second Estate) favored vote by estates. Charles opposed the demand of the Third Estate as that would have given them more votes.
On 11th July of 1789, Charles Philippe had Jacques Necker, the pro reform Finance Minister of France, dismissed from his post. He was seen sympathetic to the cause of the commoners. The incident led to a popular uprising and on 14th July the fort at Bastille was stormed. On 17th July, Charles Philippe, along with his family, fled France.
Life in Exile
Charles Philippe first went to Savoy. Then he went to Turin and then to Trier. Meanwhile, situation in Paris was turning from bad to worse. Charles tried to organize a counter revolutionary invasion of France. He also set up a court in exile at the Electorate of Trier.
On 1st January 1792, the National Assembly, formed by the Third Estate in France, declared Charles and other emigrants traitor and confiscated their property. By September, monarchy was abolished and the royal family was imprisoned. In the same year Charles escaped to Britain and received a generous allowance from King George III.
In 1793, King Louis XVI along with his queen Marie Antoinette was guillotined. Crown prince Louis XVII died two years later in prison. By then, Comte de Provence, younger brother of King Louis XVI, had also left France. After the death of his nephew, he became the titular monarch of France and began to be known as King Louis XVIII. He had his court in exile in Harland, England.
In January 1814, Charles Philippe left England to join the coalition force in the south of France as the Lieutenant General of the Kingdom. By then, Napoleon I had lost his hold. The coalition forces captured Paris on 31st March.
On April 6, 1814, Senate invited the Bourbons to reassume the throne of France. Napoleon abdicated five days later on April 11 and Charles Philippe entered Paris on 12th. He began to act as the Lieutenant General of the Kingdom until King Louis XVIII arrived on May 3.
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As Lieutenant General of the Kingdom
Before the King could arrive in France, Charles created an ultra royalist secret police. Even after the King was reinstated, the force continued to operate and provided information directly to Charles bypassing the King.
King Louis XVIII died on September 16, 1824. In the absence of a male heir, Charles succeeded him as Charles X of France.
While King Louis XVII had realized that the time had changed and was willing to accept more modern notion of governance, King Charles X refused to see the change.
King Charles X began his rein by abolition of censorship. He also offered broad amnesty to political prisoners and promised to rule according to the Charter. However, he was also very impatient and suffered from lack of judgment. Consequently, he introduced a number of laws, which made him very unpopular.
For instance, in January 1825, the king passed the Anti Sacrilege Act, which made blasphemy a crime. In April of the same year, he offered government bonds to the émigré, whose lands were confiscated during the revolution. It cost the exchequer 988 million francs, an amount France could hardly afford.
The King was anointed in May 29, 1825 at the cathedral of Reims. Although it was the traditional place for coronation of French kings, his brother King Lois XVIII had bypassed the ceremony just to avoid controversy. However, Charles decided to renew the old practice.
The King’s unpopularity began to increase day by day. It became apparent on 29th April 1827. Chaos ensued as the King was reviewing the National Guard and anti government cries were heard from the ranks. In November of the same year, his government lost majority.
From January 1828 onwards Charles dismissed two more Prime Ministers - Villèl and Jean-Baptise de Martignac in quick succession. He finally appointed Jules de Polignac on August 5, 1829. Polignac lost his majority at the end of August but refused to recall the Chamber.
The Chamber was finally convened March 2, 1830. The King’s opening speech evoked negative response, which further proved his declining popularity. Charles X dismissed the chamber on 19th March and fresh election was held on June 23. However, it too failed to provide a favorable government.
On 6 July, 1830, the king and his ministers decided to suspend the Charter and on 25 July, King Charles X issued four ordinances by which the press went under censorship, the newly elected chamber was dissolved and the electoral system was altered. It also called for elections in September.
These ordinances gave rise to unrest and popular uprising. King Charles X left Paris and took refuge at Rambouillet. On 2nd August 1930, he was forced to abdicate in favor of his grandson Henry, Duke of Bordeaux. However, his will was ignored and Lieutenant General Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans, was selected as the new king.
Personal Life & Legacy
King Charles X of France married Princess Maria Teresa of Savoy on 16 November 1773. She was the daughter of Victor Amadeus III, King of Sardinia and Maria Antonietta of Spain. The couple had two sons Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême and Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry; two daughters Sophie and Marie Thérèse.
After abdication, Charles first left for Great Britain. He reached England on August 16, 1830 as a private citizen. Unlike last time, he was not at all welcomed there. Instead he was mocked by the crowd who waved the new tricolor flag as he embarked from the steam boat.
Charles later shifted to Scotland and stayed there until he was invited by Emperor Francis I of Austria in the end of 1832. He then moved to Prague and remained there until1835 and then moved to Gorizia. He died there on November 6, 1836 from an attack of Cholera.