Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Birthday: August 2, 1674
Died At Age: 49
Sun Sign: Leo
Born Country: France
Born in: Château de Saint-Cloud, Saint-Cloud, France
Famous as: Regent
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Françoise Marie de Bourbon (m. 1692), Françoise Marie de Bourbon (m. 1692–1723)
father: Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
mother: Elizabeth Charlotte, Madame Palatine
children: Angélique de Froissy, Charles de Saint-Albin, Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans, Jean Philippe d'Orléans, Louis - Duke of Orléans, Louise Adélaïde d'Orléans, Louise Diane d'Orléans, Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans, Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans, Philippine Élisabeth d'Orléans, unknown daughter d'Orléans
Died on: December 2, 1723
place of death: Palace of Versailles, France
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, or Philippe Charles, was a French royal who became the regent of the kingdom in 1715 and held that position until 1723. The period of his rule became known as "the Regency". His birth occurred at Saint-Cloud, a palace belonging to his father, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, the younger brother of Louis XIV. Philippe’s mother, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, was his father’s second wife. Being the grandson of King Louis XIII, he received the style and rank Petit-fils de France. At the time of his birth, he was bestowed upon with the title Duke of Chartres. Philippe was educated in accordance with the plan created by his preceptor, Guillaume Dubois. As a military commander, he distinguished himself against the British, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish forces. In 1692, he wedded his first cousin and Louis XIV’s legitimised daughter, Françoise Marie de Bourbon. The couple had eight children together. Philippe also had at least four illegitimate children with various other women. In September 1715, he was appointed the regent of France for Louis XV and served as such until Louis came of age in February 1723. He subsequently served as the prime minister of state until his death in December the same year.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on August 2, 1674, in Château de Saint-Cloud, France, Philippe was the son of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, and Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. He had a brother, Alexandre Louis d'Orléans, Duke of Valois, and a sister, Élisabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Lorraine.
He also had two older half-sisters, Marie Louise d'Orléans and Anne Marie d'Orléans. Philippe I’s oldest son, Philippe Charles, Duke of Valois, died before Philippe’s birth.
His parents’ marriage had several problems, including his father’s homosexuality and his exorbitant spending on his favourites. The latter directly affected Elizabeth and the children, and they often had to live entirely on the king’s charity.
At the time of his birth, Philippe received the title Duke of Chartres. In 1676, his older brother, the Duke of Valois, died, which made Philippe the heir to his father’s seat and the House of Orléans.
Philippe was raised at his father’s “private” court hosted at Saint-Cloud. He also spent considerable time in Paris at the Palais-Royal, the Parisian residence of the Orléans family.
Philippe’s education was planned by his preceptor, Guillaume Dubois. He was taught by some of the most prominent historians, genealogists, scientists, musicians, and artists in the kingdom. His inaugural appearance at the court of Versailles took place during the visit of the Doge of Genoa, Francesco Maria Lercari Imperiale, in May 1685.
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Like his father before him, Philippe distinguished himself at the battlefield. He saw combat for the first time at the Siege of Mons in 1691. He then demonstrated much courage at the Battle of Steenkerque in August 1692. In the ensuing months, he took part in the Siege of Namur (1692) and the Battle of Landen (1693).
In the intermediate period between military assignments, Philippe pursued knowledge in natural sciences. In the early part of the 18th century, he took part in the War of the Spanish Succession.
In 1706, he served as a commander in Italy, garnering much praise for the Battle of Turin. Later, he travelled to Spain and participated in the Battle of Almansa in 1707, helping the French royal house strengthen its position in the country.
Life At Court
Following the death of his father in June 1701, Philippe became the Duke of Orléans, Anjou, Montpensier and Nemours, as well as the Prince of Joinville. His impertinence, licentious conducts, and inveterate drunkenness garnered him an extremely negative reputation at the court.
There were rumours that Philippe had caused the deaths of Louis, Grand Dauphin, in 1711; Louis, Duke of Burgundy, in 1712; and Charles, Duke of Berry, in 1714 to claim the French throne for himself. Even Louis XIV believed some of these speculations. Despite this, in his will, he made the Duke of Orléans the president of the council of regency for the young king Louis XV.
The Regent of France
Being a premier prince of royal blood, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, was appointed the regent of the five-year-old Louis XV following the death of Louis XIV on September 1, 1715. However, Louis XIV had ensured that the effective power remained with his own two legitimized natural sons to stop Philippe from taking down the system of complete royal despotism.
If Louis XV had passed away, the legitimized princes had the power to turn down Duke of Orléans’ right to the throne and pass it to King Philip V of Spain, who was the son of the Grand Dauphin Louis.
To establish his influence as the regent and promote his own dynastic aspirations, Philippe convinced the Parlement (high court of justice) of Paris to invalidate Louis XIV’s will in September 1715.
He subsequently introduced the unorthodox system of conciliar government. Called la polysynodie, it was created to dismantle the authority of the secretaries of state and bring the high nobility back to political prominence. The new form of government turned out to be unmanageable and inept. As a result, the regent dismissed it in September 1718 and brought back the secretaries of state.
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The foreign policy he implemented was also inspired by his dynastic aspirations. In 1716, he instructed his minister, the abbé (later cardinal) Guillaume Dubois, to enter France into the Quadruple Alliance with Britain, Holland, and the Holy Roman Empire against Philip V to thwart his desire to claim the French throne. These kingdoms launched a war against Spain in 1719 and compelled Philip to give up his claims and acknowledge Philippe as Louis XV’s heir.
Philippe was forced to deal with severe fiscal issues that had been caused by Louis XIV’s unrelenting military escapades. In 1717, he appointed the Scottish banker John Law to deal with the crumbling French economy. However, the reforms that Law introduced resulted in a financial catastrophe, which is regarded as a blemish on his record as the regent.
Also known as le Régent, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, overcame two conspiracies to depose him, namely the Cellamare conspiracy and the Pontcallec conspiracy. After Louis XV became an adult, Philippe stepped down from his position as the regent on February 15, 1723.
Marriage & Issue
Philippe I was informed by Louis XIV that a marriage between Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, and a foreign princess would not likely happen due to the constant wars between France and other major powers in Europe. Instead, Louis suggested his legitimised daughter, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, as a possible bride for Philippe.
The king promised a dowry of two million livres, along with the Palais-Royal for Philippe’s parents. The cousins exchanged wedding vows on February 18, 1692, at the chapel of the Palace of Versailles.
The couple had eight children together: Marie Isabella d'Orléans (1693-1694); Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (1695-1719); Louise Adélaïde d'Orléans, Abbess of Chelles (1698-1743); Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans (1700-1761); Louis d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1703-1752); Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (1709-1742); Philippine Élisabeth d'Orléans (1714-1734); and Louise Diane d'Orléans (1716-1736).
Philippe fathered a number of illegitimate children with several women. He acknowledged four of them: N, bâtarde d'Orléans (1688-unknown); Charles de Saint-Albin, dit l'Abbé d'Orléans, Archbishop of Cambrai (1698-1764, legitimized in 1706); Jean Philippe, dit le Chevalier d'Orléans (1702-1748); and Philippe Angélique de Froissy (1702-1785).
Two of his most prominent mistresses were Marie-Thérèse de Parabère and actress Christine Antoinette Charlotte Desmares. The latter was Philippe Angélique de Froissy’s mother.
From August 10, 1723 until his death, Orléans served as the prime minister. He passed away on December 2, 1723, in Versailles. His heart is kept at the Val de Grâce church in Paris, while his body is interred at the Basilica of Saint-Denis.