The "Other" French Revolution(s)
I’m enjoying reading many of the reviews of CONFESSIONS OF MARIE ANTOINETTE, the final novel in my historical fiction trilogy about the life of the doomed French queen. Yet I’m kind of surprised by the number of people who have conflated that violent era, which began with the storming of the Bastille in July 1789 and continued through 1794, as several revolutionary factions gained power, one after the other, resulting in the downfall of the monarchy in 1792, and the execution of the king—Louis XVI—and his consort, Marie Antoinette, in 1793, with the revolution depicted through most of the narrative of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
What came to be known in France as the July Revolution or Second Revolution (or for the sake of this post, the prelude to the rebellion depicted in “Les Mis” ), took place in July, 1830, and indeed the monarch was overthrown, although that king was replaced by his aristocratic cousin, not by a bunch of bloodthirsty revolutionaries.
However, the two revolutions share some DNA. The king who was overthrown in 1830 was Charles X, formerly known as the comte d’Artois, the youngest brother of Louis XVI, who had spent the French Revolution safely, cravenly, hiding in exile. Charles X was replaced on the French throne by his cousin, Louis-Philippe, duc’Orléans. His wife, Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, was the daughter of the Neapolitan monarchs Ferdinand IV and Maria Carolina, making Maria Amalia Marie Antoinette’s niece. Ironically, the French citizens were so eager to get rid of Marie Antoinette, but they ended up making her niece their queen thirty-seven years after Antoinette's death (not to mention the fact that Marie Antoinette's grand niece, had been Napoleon's second empress).
Supporters of Charles X during this Second Revolution were known as Legitimists. Those who supported his cousin were called Orléanists.
Charles X was the second consecutive ruler during the period known as the Bourbon Restoration. His overthrow marked the end of the Bourbon dynasty. What followed was known as the July Monarchy: the reign of Louis-Philippe, and the shift from the rule of the Bourbons to that of the family’s cadet branch, the Orléans. The two sides of the family, descending from Louis XIV and his brother Philippe had long been rivals, so much so that the duc d’Orléans (at the time, Louis Philippe II d’Orléans) voted to execute his cousin Louis XVI.
After three bloody, violent days at the end of July, 1830, during which the Tuileries Palace was sacked, Charles X was forced to abdicate. He also abdicated the rights of his son, the dauphin, who was married to Marie Thérèse, the daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Technically, Marie Antoinette's daughter was queen of France for the twenty minutes it took between the time her father-in-law abdicated and the time her husband then abdicated. The French royal family emigrated to England.
The July Column, located in the Place de la Bastille in Paris, commemorates the events of July 27-29, 1830.
The events of the rebellion in "Les Mis" occurred years after the Revolution that toppled Louis XVI's monarchy and cost Louis and Marie Antoinette their lives. It took place in June 1832, during the reign of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French. Parisian students, disillusioned with the outcome of the 1830 Revolution, took to the streets and revolted. Their uprising, known as the June Rebellion, was mercilessly crushed within a week.
Louis-Philippe I and Maria Amalia would remain on the French throne for the next eighteen years, until 1848, when the Third Revolution swept them from power.
Are you familiar with these various French Revolutions, or do you end up getting them confused, too?