Louis IV Henri de Bourbon, prince de Condé

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About Louis IV Henri de Bourbon, prince de Condé

Golden Fleece - Knights: Spanish Branch

Louis Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, Prince of Condé (Louis Henri Joseph; duc de Bourbon, duc d'Enghien, duc de Guise, duc de Bellegarde, comte de Sancerre; 18 August 1692 – 27 January 1740) was head of the cadet Bourbon-Condé branch of the French royal House of Bourbon from 1710 to his death, and served as prime minister to his kinsman Louis XV from 1723 to 1726.

Despite succeeding to the House of Condé in 1709, he never used the title preferring to be known by the title Duke of Bourbon; he was also known as Monsieur le Duc. As a member of the reigning House of Bourbon, he was a Prince du Sang.

Early years

Louis Henri was born at Versailles, the eldest son of Louis de Bourbon and Louise Françoise de Bourbon, the eldest legitimised daughter of King Louis XIV and his favourite, Madame de Montespan.

He was the great-grandson of Louis de Bourbon, le Grand Condé, who died in 1686, and was addressed to as Monsieur le Duc, this style applying specifically the head of the House of Bourbon-Condé.

Following the death one after the other of the heirs to the throne of France in the early 18th century, except for the young duc d'Anjou, the great-grandson of Louis XIV, and future Louis XV, Bourbon was next behind the young dauphin, and Philippe d'Orléans, in hereditary line to the throne of France. He was Louis XV's Prime Minister (Premier Ministre) from 1723 to 1726.

The following is a contemporary description of him:

He was moderately good looking as a young man, but being over-tall he afterwards began to stoop, and became 'as thin and dry as a chip of wood.

Regarding this and other contemporary information, satirical pamphlets directed against royalty were a common form of literature, and the chronicles left by courtiers were influenced by rivalries or prejudice. In other words, he might not have looked so bad. Based on collaborating evidence from other sources, however, it is probably safe to assume that he was tall, and not plump.

It is fairly certain he only had the use of one eye:

He was disfigured by an accident which befell him while hunting, when the Duke of Berry put out one of his eyes.This probably happened before he was twenty five.

La Régence

In September 1715, Philippe d'Orléans, who had just become Regent for the 5-year-old king Louis XV, appointed the then 23-year-old duc de Bourbon to his first Regency Council. The Regency Council was the highest consultative body in the French government during the Regency, equivalent to the Conseil d'en-haut (Conseil du Roi) which was appointed by the King.

In 1718, he supplanted the duc du Maine in the position of superintendent of the king's education. This happened at the Regency Council meeting of 26 August, at which Maine and the comte de Toulouse, legitimised sons (princes légitimés de France) of the late king Louis XIV, were demoted to the same rank as dukes and peers. The actual teaching of the young king was not much disturbed however, since it was mostly done by his old and trusted tutor, André-Hercule de Fleury, bishop of Fréjus, who remained in place.

Many of the surviving descriptions of the duke's personality are highly uncomplimentary. They fall under the general categories greed, bad manners, stupidity. As mentioned earlier, one must be wary of the sources. For example, Barbier said he "had a very limited mind, knows nothing, and only likes pleasure and hunting." But then we are relieved to find, in an indictment for toadyism, that he didn't like hunting: he pretended to like it to ingratiate himself with the king.

Premier Ministre

The Regency ended when Louis XV reached the age of majority, thirteen, in February 1723. Cardinal Dubois, who had been the Regent's Premier Ministre, remained in that capacity for the king. However, Dubois died in August 1723. Thereupon the former Regent became the king's Premier Ministre, until his own death (of a stroke) the following 2 December. Bourbon rushed to see the king that very evening and requested the Prime Ministership, which was granted immediately. He was an intimate of Jeanne Baptiste d'Albert de Luynes.

The Cardinal de Fleury, who was present at the meeting, recommended acceptance, and Louis XV indicated his assent by a silent nod.[citation needed] Guizot says that Louis "sought in his perceptor's [tutor's] eyes the guidance he needed". Gooch and Perkins also say that Fréjus acquiesced in the appointment. Jones, on the other hand, says that Fréjus was not there; also that after the meeting, in order to protect his own influence with the king, which was great, Fréjus got the king to agree never to hold discussions with Bourbon unless he too was present.

There is not much disagreement on this latter point: all sources say that throughout his premiership, Bourbon could never get an audience with Louis XV without Fréjus being there. This was an unusual, and for Bourbon, eventually an intolerable situation. Orléans had been able to see the king whenever he wanted. It illustrates the power of Fréjus, who in a few years was to assume control of the government himself.

To assess why the king — or Fréjus — chose, or allowed, Bourbon to become Premier Ministre, says the French lawyer and writer d'Angerville, writing in 1781:

On Louis XV choosing de Bourbon: In making the choice, which no doubt was not the best he might have made, because he lacked the necessary experience not only of men but of himself, he nevertheless acted in strict accordance with the rules of etiquette. He deemed it his duty to confer the post, which was the most important in the kingdom, upon a prince of the royal house. As they were all young men, he appointed the eldest, who, however, was but thirty one years old. The manner in which His Royal Highness, the Duc de Bourbon, had managed his own revenues, and had added to them, despite his youth (that being a period when a man's thoughts are wont to be exclusively centred upon pleasure) was a strong presumption that he would prove a capable public administrator, and the fact that he was already rich led people to imagine that he would not trouble his head about adding to his fortune. Finance, indeed, was the most important branch of public affairs at that time. What France needed was a government which would pursue a policy of peace, conciliation and retrenchment, and avail itself of the tranquil condition of Europe in order to bring about by trade, industry and the gradual restoration of the metal reserve, a recovery from the state of exhaustion into which the country had fallen. From the wars in Louis XIV's reign. No one, however, failed to appreciate how immensely inferior in talent the Duke was to the Regent.

One of Bourbon's first moves as Prime Minister was to replace d'Argenson, the minister of police, with Nicolas Ravot d'Ombreval, who was a relative of the marquise de Prie. This gave Bourbon control of press censorship, and also gave him control of much of the mail.

He announced a new promotion of the Marshals of France — the first since 1715 — and made some new appointments to France's highest chivalric order, the Order of the Holy Spirit (Ordre du Saint-Esprit). The conferees were almost all supporters of Monsieur le Duc.

Persecution of Protestants

The persecution of the Huguenots under the reign of Louis XIV was stopped by the Regent. Nevertheless, there remained those who advocated rigour in the treatment of the Protestants. Prominent among these was the Archbishop of Rouen, Louis III de La Vergne de Tressan, Grand Almoner of France (Grand Aumônier de France) during the Regency. He argued with both the Regent and his most influential minister, Cardinal Dubois, in favour of severe measures against the Protestants. They rejected his ideas.

When Bourbon came to be Prime Minister, however, the bishop found in him a more receptive audience, and he was given the go-ahead to draw up a general law against heresy.

The King’s affairs

One of the greatest achievements of the Duke's premiership was the arrangement of the King's marriage. The King had been betrothed to Mariana Victoria, the infanta of Spain, daughter of the Spanish King, in 1721, when she was just three years old, and the King only eleven. By 1724, the King was fourteen, and well-grown for his age, but the infanta was still a decade away from child-bearing age. Some felt that this was too long for France to wait for an heir. This was especially so because, if Louis XV died without an heir, it was feared that, armed with a hereditary right he had renounced when he became king of Spain, Philip V of Spain would ignore the Treaty of Utrecht, claim the French throne, thus plunging France and Spain into a terrible conflict into which the other European powers would be dragged.

It appears that by the summer of 1724, the marquise de Prie, and possibly also Monsieur le Duc, were considering breaking Louis XV's engagement with the infanta, despite the great offence this would cause Spain, and finding him a wife who might provide the country with an heir at the earliest date. Despite this, it appears that Monsieur le Duc would have been quite willing to leave the infanta in place if Philippe V had granted him a certain personal favour; of all our sources only Perkins mentions this, but he appears to have ample substantiation:

The Duke of Bourbon asked Philip to make the husband of Mme de Prie a grandee, a title which would have descended to a child Bourbon had by her. If this request had been granted, the infanta would probably not have been sent away… ― Letter of Stanhope.[

By, at latest, the winter of 1725, replacement of the infanta was being considered. Candidates included the Duke's sisters, especially Mademoiselle de Vermandois. Mme de Prie was opposed to this choice because it would give the Duchesse de Bourbon, Vermandois and the Duke's mother too much influence. The duchesse and Mme de Prie did not like each other. Furthermore, Fréjus was opposed to Louis marrying anyone from the Bourbon-Condé branch of the royal family.

In April 1725, the seven-year-old infanta was sent back to Madrid — Louis did not even say goodbye to her. A new candidate was sought urgently because, should Louis die with no heir, and assuming Philippe V of Spain did not seize the throne, then it would pass to the new duc d'Orléans, son of the deceased Regent; the House of Orléans and the House of Condé were rivals, so this would cast Monsieur le Duc into the political wastelands.

Prominent among these was a daughter of George I of England. The prize was offered to her if she would consent to become a Catholic. However that would have caused great difficulties for her father, as he was occupying the throne mainly because he was Protestant, whereas his rival, James Stuart, was Catholic; he had to politely decline the offer of France to his daughter.

Another prominent contender was the grand duchess, later empress, Elizabeth of Russia.

Others on the list included the daughter of the duc de Lorraine; a princess of Savoy who was Louis XV's first cousin, and the princess of Hesse-Rheinfels.

Marie Leszczynska

The choice finally made was the daughter of the deposed king of Poland. Her name was Marie Leszczyńska; her father, Stanislaus, had occupied the Polish throne from 1704 with the backing of Charles XII of Sweden. He lost it after five years because his sponsor was beaten by Peter the Great of Russia, at Poltava. Stanislaus had found refuge, first in Germany, then in France, where the Regent had given him a house at Wissembourg in Alsace, a pension of fifty thousand livres, irregularly paid, and, as a sign of respect, a few regiments of soldiers as companions; they, along with a handful of retainers who had followed the forsaken king in his wanderings, comprised his bare little court. "His property in Poland had been confiscated and his wife's jewels pawned."(Gooch)

Marie did not have a reputation for great beauty or intelligence, but she was not ugly, and was healthy and had a very agreeable character: kind, generous, and calm. She had already been thought of as a wife for the duc de Bourbon. Now he and Mme de Prie decided she would be ideal for the King. On 31 March 1725, the Council met and agreed that the offer would go to Marie Leczińska. On 27 May, the name of the Queen-to-be was made public.

The young duc d'Orléans, who was angry at not having been consulted about the marriage plans, was placated by standing for the bridegroom in the marriage by procuration, which took place in the cathedral of Strasbourg, and was officiated by the Cardinal de Rohan, bishop of Strasbourg and Grand Almoner of France. Marie was dressed in a grand habit de cérémonie "made of silver brocade and embroidered with precious stones."[27] The true wedding which followed took place at Fontainebleau.

Bourbon remained Prime Minister of France until his dismissal, in 1726, in favour of the young king's tutor, Cardinal Fleury.

Saint-Simon, the famous French memoirs writer known for his acid portraits of grandees, described the Duke of Bourbon as a man with "an almost stupid foolishness, an indomitable obstinacy, an insatiable self-interest". On the other hand, the Cardinal de Fleury said that he found in the Duke of Bourbon "goodness, probity, and honour" and that he considered himself one of the duke's friends.

Later life

After his spell in the government if France, Bourbon was exiled to his country estate of the Château de Chantilly, some 40 kilometers northeast of Paris). It was during this time the château went under a sort of renaissance. He redecorated the building along with the grounds and entertained there when he could making sure to stay away from the parisian set which had exiled him. He died in his favourite home on 27 January. He was aged 47. The titles of the Bourbon-Condé family then passed onto his 4-year-old son who was to hold the title of prince de Condé for over a period of over 7 decades.


Chantilly porcelain was established by the Prince de Condé.

He was wealthy, and kept a "splendid residence at Chantilly.".During the Regency his several pensions, together with the income from his extensive estates, gave him an income of 1.8 million livres. To make this figure meaningful to the modern reader, the historian Bernier, writing in 1984, says: "Although it is very difficult to equate money in the preindustrial era with our own, the best possible equivalence would be about $4.50 to the livre.

During the Regency he made large amounts of money by speculating in the financial Système (1716–20) of John Law. He bought paper notes, waited for their value to rise, then, before the Système failed in 1720, took them to Law's bank (which had become the national bank) and traded them in for gold. On 3 March 1720, following the example of the Prince de Conti who the day before had gone to Law's bank and withdrawn fourteen million livres in gold, which he took away in several large carts, de Bourbon went to the bank and took away twenty-five million.[29] The bank closed later that year due to lack of reserves. De Bourbon made 40 million livres off the Système,[30] or perhaps 20 million.[31] Good timing might not have been the only reason for his success in exploiting the Système; his high position in aristocracy and government was an advantage. Historian James Breck Perkins says, "he asked enormous advantages in return for the protection he extended [to John Law and his associates], and the unfortunate adventurer was not in a position to say no to so powerful a nobleman." After the Système went under, "the government compelled some humbler speculators to disgorge their gains, but no one ventured to disturb the head of the house of Condé."

Marriages and Issue

On 9 July 1713 at Versailles, he married Marie Anne de Bourbon who died in 1720. Marie Anne was the eldest daughter of the pious Marie Thérèse de Bourbon and her promiscuous husband, François Louis, Prince of Conti. His younger sister Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon, known as Mademoiselle de Bourbon, married the brother of Marie Anne, Louis Armand de Bourbon, Prince of Conti.

They had no children and the couple both had affairs which they openly showed at court. At her death, Marie Anne gave all her property to her sister Mademoiselle de La Roche-sur-Yon.

On 23 July 1728, he married Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg a daughter of Ernest Leopold, Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg.

They had one son,

  1. Louis Joseph de Bourbon (9 August 1736 – 13 May 1818), who led the Army of Condé during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Caroline had been on a list of possible wives for Louis XV of France but she had been removed on account of her bad temper. Caroline was described as a pretty girl when she arrived at court. Her husband was pardoned by Louis XV in 1730; this was regarding his exile to the Château de Chantilly in 1725. The couple are known to have lived together quietly at the Palais Bourbon which had been built by her mother-in-law Louise Françoise de Bourbon.

In addition, Louis Henri had an illegitimate daughter with Armande Félice de La Porte Mazarin (1691–1729), the wife of Louis de Mailly, marquis de Nesle et de Mailly, Prince d'Orange (1689–1767), that he officially recognized,

Henriette de Bourbon (1725–1780), Mademoiselle de Verneuil, who married Jean de Laguiche, marquis de Laguiche, comte de Serignon, baron du Rousset (1719–1770) in 1740.
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Louis IV Henri de Bourbon, prince de Condé's Timeline

August 18, 1692
Versailles, Île-de-France, France
April 23, 1725
August 9, 1736
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
January 21, 1740
Age 47
Chantilly, Picardy, France