Saturday, January 8, 2011

Louis Joseph, Prince de Condé

Louis Joseph, Prince de Condé, had more than a few connections with the Grimaldi Princely Family during the tumultuous period of the French Revolution which saw the Kingdom of France destroyed and the Principality of Monaco annexed to the French Republic. He was born Louis Joseph de Bourbon on August 9, 1736 to Louis Henri Duc d’Bourbon and Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg. As a prince of the blood he was a member of the very highest echelon of French society. His grandmother, in fact, was the daughter of King Louis XIV by his famous mistress Madame de Montespan. His father died in 1740 and his mother the following year and Louis Joseph was raised by his uncle the Comte d’Clermont. By his mother he was related to the House of Savoy and to a whole horde of French royals and aristocrats on the side of his father. On May 3, 1753 he married Charlotte Elisabeth Godefride de Rohan, granddaughter of the Duc d’Bouillon at Versailles.

Soon the father of three (though one daughter did not long survive) the Prince de Condé busied himself with building projects, attending court and overseeing the upbringing and beneficial marriages of his children. His was a very familiar face at the courts of King Louis XV and King Louis XVI as well where he held the rank of Grand Maître de France in the King’s household. The military was also a long established duty and the Prince de Condé saw action in the Seven Years’ War (known in America as the French and Indian War) and rose to the rank of general, also serving for a time as Governor of Burgundy. However, life in France was soon to take a very dark turn with the growing discontent that eventually led to the outbreak of the French Revolution. Up to this point there was not much of a connection between the Prince de Condé and the House of Grimaldi. They would have met at court where the Prince of Monaco was well known and since the Princes of Monaco were also members of the French aristocracy. The Revolution, however, would bring the Grimaldi and the Condé together.

Sensing the trouble to come, when the Paris mob stormed the Bastille in 1789 the Prince de Condé went into exile, saving himself from what would surely have been certain death in the Reign of Terror that followed. To be a Bourbon in France at the height of the terror was almost as good as a death sentence. The King, the Queen and even the Duc d’Orleans were executed in 1793. That same year Prince Honore III of Monaco was deposed and later arrested, his country annexed to the French Republic and renamed Fort Hercules. His son and heir, Honore IV, was arrested in Paris with his father, but his second son, Prince Joseph of Monaco had fled with his wife into exile. While in exile Prince Joseph of Monaco made common cause with Prince Louis Joseph de Condé who was organizing a royalist army at Coblenz in 1791, made up mostly of French exiles, with the aim of returning to France to liberate their country from the forces of the revolution and the rule of Madame Guillotine.

The Army of Condé, as it came to be called, included a long list of famous names from the French aristocracy and Royal Family. Aside from the Prince de Condé and Prince Joseph of Monaco there was the Duc d’Enghien (grandson of the Prince de Condé), the Comte d’Artois (brother of the late King Louis XVI), the Duc d’Richelieu, the Duc d’Blacas and Chateaubriand and so on. Originally they fought alongside the imperial forces of Austria until squabbling between the two forces compelled the Prince de Condé to transfer his men to the British jurisdiction in 1795. However, that year was to see the last of Prince Joseph in the ranks, though his presence had already cost him dearly. Word that he had joined the counter-revolutionary forces of the Prince de Condé reached Paris and when his wife returned to France to see about their children she was discovered, arrested and sent to the guillotine in 1794. She was the last victim of the terror and the more moderate forces that took charge after allowed Prince Joseph to return to France to take charge of family affairs after the death of his father.

The Prince de Condé, however, continued onward with his mission, fighting in Swabia in 1796 before being forced to transfer to Poland and join with the Imperial Russian Army when Austria made peace with the republic in 1797. When Russia left the allied camp in 1800 the Prince returned his forces to the British camp, undoubtedly not an easy thing to do for a man who was a veteran of the Seven Years’ War. The Prince and his army fought in Bavaria but was disbanded in 1801 without ever seeing their dream of the liberation of France and the restoration of the monarchy come to fruition. The Prince de Condé went into exile in England where he lived with his second wife, none other than Marie Catherine de Brignole-Sale, the ex-wife of Prince Honore III of Monaco, whom he had married in 1798. In fact, it was the Prince de Condé, already the smitten kitten, who had helped obtain the final break between the then Princess of Monaco and her husband while she had taken refuge in a convent following after Honore III had been driven to fury by the affair his wife had been having with the Prince de Condé in Paris.

In any event, the former Princess of Monaco spent herself into poverty supporting French royalists and their cause, which was also the cause of her husband, until her death in 1813, so much so in fact that the British Royal Family had to step in to help with the funeral expenses. When Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated the Prince de Condé was able to return to Paris and take up his place again in the French court after the restoration of King Louis XVIII. He died in 1818 leaving two children; his son who succeeded to his title and his daughter who had taken vows and risen to become abbess of Remiremont Abbey. He was buried in St Denis Basilica.

1 comment:

  1. One usually just hears about the prince's French royalist exploits, so it is interesting to learn about his Monegasque connections.

    Here is a post about the Prince de Condé and the Duc d'Orléans; Princess Henriette of Belgium discusses them quite a bit in her books on Queen Marie-Amélie and Madame Elisabeth:


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