The Long Defeat: Christendom and Its Defenders, 1789 to the Present. Part 6: France

Since it was in France, “the Oldest Daughter of the Church,” that the Revolution began in 1789, it should be no surprise that it was in France that the Counter-Revolution began. In the Vendee, Brittany, Normandy, Auvergne, and throughout the country, heroes and heroines arose to fight the evils unleashed in 1789. But not all the combat was in the field: the Counter-Revolutionaries also fought on the intellectual plain. Such names as de Maistre (who, although French-speaking was actually a Savoyard, as we saw last time), de Bonald, Chateaubriand, Rivarol, Barruel, Ballanche, d’Eckstein, and many others emerged. When Napoleon was banished to St. Helena, the murdered Louis XVI’s younger brother assumed the throne as Louis XVIII. Thus was ushered in the period called The Restoration, in which King Louis played a role analogous to that of Charles II in England’s period of the same name. While attempting to reign in appearance as his fathers had, he was skillful at dealing with the various new powers-that-were.

But the strongest supporters of the Restoration were keen on excising every element of the Revolution from national life; this lead to the rise of two somewhat-linked but distinct organisations that has begun under Bonaparte. These were the more strictly religious Congregation specialising in reviving Church life after the wreck of the Revolution, and the Chevaliers de la foi— the “Knights of the Faith”— acting as a sort of Catholic counter-Masonry in political life. Also aligned with them were the party supporting Louis’ younger brother and heir, the future Charles X; these were called the Ultras.

When Louis died in 1824, his brother came to the throne. Charles X was destined to play James II to Louis’ Charles II. Like the last reigning Stuart King, Charles had had a profligate youth followed by a religious conversion; when he became King he was quite devout, and determined to beat back every element of Jacobinism in the country’s religious, cultural, and political life. The year following his accession, he had a traditional Coronation ceremony at Rheims, where he touched and cured several people suffering from scrofula— the “King’s Evil”— as his medieval ancestors had done.

His policies aroused a great deal of opposition among the Liberal-minded wealthy; the result was his overthrow in the July Revolution of 1830. He abdicated (as did his eldest son, who thus reigned as “Louis XIX” for about twenty minutes), in favour of his grandson, Henri V. This was done on the assurance of their cousin Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, that he would serve as regent for Henri. But even as his father had betrayed Louis XVI— going so far as to vote for his King and cousin’s death in 1793— so it was with Louis Philippe. When Charles X and his family left the country, Louis Philippe convinced the revolutionaries to make him “King of the French”— and so usurped the throne in eerie reminiscence of William of Orange. The supporters of the betrayed Henri would henceforth be called “Legitimists,” as opposed to those of Louis Philippe and his supporters who would be called “Orleanists.”

Louis Philippe encouraged the wealthy to enrich themselves; but the result was the rise of pre-Marxist Socialism. In 1848 he too was overthrown, and was replaced by the Second Republic. But the new entity’s elected president was Napoleon’s nephew, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1851, he overthrew the republic, proclaimed the Second Empire, and took the title Napoleon III. As with his uncle, the new Monarch was pulled in two directions at once: on the one hand he wanted to be a modern, liberal Monarch; but on the other, he also wanted to be a Catholic and Legitimate Sovereign. This duality arose again and again— most noticeably in his policy toward Italy and Rome. It was under his watch that many Legitimists joined the embattled army of the Papal States in the Pontifical Zouaves. His downfall would come with the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War.

During all of this upheaval in the State, much was going in the Church— both in terms of rebuilding the Church in France and in supporting successive Popes in retaining the Papal States, via the Ultramontanist movement. A host of Catholic and Monarchist writers emerged, among whom we may note Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly, Dom Prosper Gueranger, and Louis Veuillot. This was also the era of St. John Vianney, the Cure d’Ars. There were Marian apparitions at the Rue de Bac in Paris, La Salette, and Lourdes— the latter favoured by Napoleon III himself. Two more would occur while France was locked in combat with Prussia— Pellevoisin and Pontmain.

The Franco-Prussian war and the resulting attempt to establish a Communist regime in Paris led to the establishment of the Third Republic, initially under a Monarchist-dominated Parliament. But while Legitimists, Orleanists, and Bonapartists set aside their differences and agreed to accept Henri V as King, in the end he refused to accept the terms set him. In the meantime, such Catholic military figures as Charette of the Pontifical Zouaves and General de Sonis, seeing France’s defeat at Prussian hands as Divine retribution for the murder of Louis XVI and the country’s abandonment of the Faith, agreed on the Voeu Nationale— the “National Vow”— to build a national basilica in honour of the Sacred Heart. This would eventually be fulfilled with the building of the great church of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre; but the public consecration of the nation to the Sacred Heart by its King or Head of State has not yet been done.

In 1878, anticlerical republicans took a majority in Parliament; five years later Henri V died without heirs. Most of his followers recognised Louis Philippe’s far less liberal grandson as Philippe VII; a few looked to the Carlist heir in Spain as the next senior prince of the House of Bourbon. While this much reduced party (the so-called blancs d’Espagne) would continue, they would not play a major role until the late 20th century, as we shall see.

The Third Republic under new management showed itself the enemy of French tradition— and it called forth literary and political opposition. Rene de la Tour du Pin and Albert de Mun started Catholic workingmen’s clubs, and spread what was called Social Catholicism. At this time, however, to be Catholic was to be Monarchist politically. But Pope Leo XIII feared that the anti-clerical Republic would suspend the Concordat between Napoleon I and Pius VII that had heretofore survived all regime changes. Hoping to preserve it, in 1891, he called on France’s Catholics to “Rally to the Republic.” This Ralliement, rather than saving the Concordat split the French Church— symbolised by the rift between de la Tour du Pin, who considered abandoning his King treason, and de Mun, who believed refusing to do so was disobedience to the Pope and just this side of schism. Were this not bad enough, the Dreyfus Affair erupted in 1894. One of the leading anti-Dreyfusards was a writer and journalist named Charles Maurras. An agnostic, he nevertheless impressed and was impressed by de la Tour du Pin. Converting to Monarchism, he founded a journal and a movement, alike named Action Francaise (AF).

Despite Maurras’ own lack of Faith (he would not revert until a few years before his death in 1952), many Catholics joined him because of the key role he realised the Church had played in the development and authentic identity of France. That being so, AF insisted that in a renewed Monarchy the Church would regain its former position in national life; the King himself would be supreme in foreign affairs and the military; and the provinces would be restored with their former autonomy (Maurras himself was an advocate of the Provencal cultural revival). Maurras called his doctrine “Integral Nationalism”— and declared that there were in fact two Frances— the “legal” one, which was anticlerical and republican, and the “real” one, which was Catholic and Monarchical. AF and its youth wing, the Camelots du Roi, would be the largest French Royalist group up until World War II. Moreover, due to their Nationalist inspiration, for AF and its members the Orleans alone could be considered rightful Kings of France because they were French, as opposed to the Spanish Bourbons, who had become foreigners over time.

Leo XIII’s attempt to save the concordat would ultimately fail during the Pontificate of his successor, St. Pius X. The Third Republic seized all church property (which is why all to this day all churches built before 1905 in France belong to the State) and expelled the religious orders. This anti-clericalism would continue until Catholics were needed as cannon fodder in World War I. In response to the war, an Union Sacree was proclaimed by the government, who called on France’s Catholics to give their all for the common nation. This was wise, given that all of the best generals in the French army were Catholic and Monarchist— Foch, Petain, Lyautey, Huntziger, Castelnau, and on and on. This led to several public demonstrations of piety that would have been rigidly attacked before the war.

After the war, AF became ever more influential— not just in France, but in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Quebec, and elsewhere. But in 1926, Pius XI condemned it, and ordered its Catholic members to quit the organisation on pain of excommunication. To be sure, many thought the Pope completely wrong, as had been the case with the ralliement. In protest, Louis Cardinal Billot resigned his red hat the following year. But while Pius XII would lift the condemnation in one of his first acts after having been elected in 1939, the damage was done.

France’s defeat in World War II presented the French Royalists with a terrible choice: to back the new government of Marshal Petain and collaborate to a greater or lesser degree with the Germans, or, to join the Resistance under General de Gaulle, and fight alongside the Communists (after the invasion of the Soviet Union; prior to that time they followed Stalin’s alliance with Hitler by collaborating themselves). This was in itself a tragedy. As Archduke Otto von Habsburg wrote (having known both men): “The great tragedy of [de Gaulle’s] life was that he later came into historical conflict with Marshal Pétain— the only man who could have understood him.” For those who chose Petain and Vichy, the earlier period was somewhat pleasant, as the regime’s “National Revolution” brought a good deal of Church Social Teaching to bear on his internal reconstruction of the country. I have written in this space earlier about Petain’s consecrations of France to the Immaculate Heart; in addition to what I wrote there, I have since found out that he demurred from consecrating the country to the Sacred Heart because he felt that act must be done by the King of France. But the Nazis had no desire for a renascent France, and very shortly began to pressure Petain’s government to purge such people from its ranks and to initiate persecution of the Jews; when the Allies invaded North Africa, the Germans occupied Vichy France and ended the country’s partial independence.

In response, many of those who supported Maurras joined de Gaulle, among whom were Jacques Renouvin, Pierre de Bénouville, Gilbert Renault (Colonel Rémy), Paul Dungler, Luc Robet, Daniel Cordier, Paul Collette, Paul Armbruster, Maurice Dutheil de La Rochère, Doctor Henri Martin, Jean-Baptiste Biaggi, founder of the Orion network, Aristide Corre, Captain Hubert de Lagarde, Colonel Raymond du Jonchay, François de Grossouvre, Robert Buron, Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, Alexandre Sanguinetti, the royalist filmmaker Willy Holt, Michel de Camaret, Hubert Beuve-Méry, and the Duke Gabriel de Choiseul-Praslin.

After the War was over, de Gaulle was briefly in charge, but the politics of the era disgusted hm, and he went into temporary retirement as the Fourth Republic blundered its way through. The then-current Orleanist heir, the Count of Paris (Henry VI to his partisans) had a number of children, and was friendly with de Gaulle. A group of French Royalist intellectuals, Les Hussards formed— establishing a publishing house that survives to-day, Editions Table Ronde. In such circles were Henri Massis, Henry de Montherlant, Jean Giono and Paul Morand. But in 1954, on the heels of the defeat in Indochina at Dienbienphu, the Algerian War began, in which France, the ethnic French long established in the country (the Pieds-Noirs), and the Arabs loyal to France (the Harkis) struggled with Soviet-backed guerillas. This would bring about the overthrown of the Fourth Republic and the return to power of de Gaulle, who in turn established the Fifth Republic.

Brought in to save Algeria, de Gaulle had also been in consultation with the Count of Paris; His Royal Highness and many of his followers believed that de Gaulle intended to restore the Monarchy. So initially, the General’s return was embraced by the French Right. But by 1961 it became obvious that de Gaulle was willing to surrender Algeria if need be— the result was a failed coup d’etat. After its failure, many of the war’s veterans constituted themselves as the Organisation Armee Secrete— the OAS; they extended the terror they had waged against the Algerian rebels to domestic targets. Moreover, when independence took effect in 1962, an exodus began, with a million pieds-noirs and 90,000 harkis fleeing, and thousands more of the latter murdered. In addition, despite signalling otherwise, by 1965, the Count of Paris realised that de Gaulle had no intention of restoring the Monarchy.

Another occurrence that had a strong effect on France was the post-Vatican II implosion of the Church. But it was also in France that some of the most strenuous opponents of the alterations in the Church arose— Archbishop Lefebvre, the Abbe de Nantes, Msgr. François Ducaud-Bourget, and many more. While they differed among themselves as to the best course of action to take, collectively they were responsible for the fact that over half of the 20% of French Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday do so at the Traditional Rite.

The revolution of ’68 so damaged de Gaulle’s standing that he stepped down a year later. Its effects were far reaching, and— as in the rest of Europe and the World— the “Generation of ‘68” insinuated itself in to the religious, political, and cultural institutions of the country. Contraception, abortion, perversion, and all else that the modern mind holds dear continued their march toward supremacy

All during this era, most French Royalists supported the House of Orleans. Since the death of Henri V, the few remaining Legitimists who refused to accept Louis Philippe’s successors had looked to the next senior line— the Carlist Bourbons of Spain. But with their extinction in 1936, these blancs d’Espagne looked at the exiled King of Spain, Alphonso XIII as the next heir. While apparently unconcerned with any rights he might have had to France, he was all too aware that his oldest son, Don Jaime (1908-1975), was deaf and blind. Not expected to marry and have children, the handicapped prince was convinced by his father to renounce his rights to the throne of Spain in favour of younger brother Juan, whose son Juan Carlos would become King of Spain in 1976.

When Philip V had been recognised as King of Spain following the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), the Treaty of Utrecht made it clear that no one would ever be allowed to inherit both Crowns of Spain and France. Thus, when Don Jaime renounced his Spanish rights, it would bring his French rights into focus— the more so because he unexpectedly did marry, and produced an heir, Alphonse (1936-1989). He declared moreover that his oldest son inherited his rights in France. Beginning in 1963, Alphonse began pressing his family’s claim to the throne of France, engaging a disaffected former Maurrassiste, the brilliant writer Herve Baron Pinoteau as his private secretary. Together, they set about rebuilding a Legitimist Party in France.

This task was made easier by the behaviour of the Count of Paris in the 1970s and 80s. Having placed his hopes for restoration in de Gaulle’s promises, he was extremely disappointed. He ignored the existing Monarchist organisations— most especially Action Francaise— and cultivated the Left. His wife, the very popular Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza, gave him eleven children; in 1984 his eldest son, Henri, Count of Clermont, divorced his wife, a Württemberg Princess, and remarried. The Count of Paris disinherited Clermont in favour of his own second son, Jean, Duke of Vendome (the oldest boy, Francois, was disabled). But two years later— in response to his numerous infidelities, his wife left him, though they would not divorce; perhaps chastened by his own experiences, he restored his son to his place in the succession. In 1988, he scandalised a great many more of his supporters by throwing his weight behind the Socialist Mitterand in that year’s presidential election.

All the while, the number of Legitimists grew, and Alphonse, who gave himself the title of Duke of Anjou after his father’s death, became ever more prominent in France. Angered by this and his use of the French Royal Arms, the Count of Clermont took Alphonse to Court to get a judgement against his use of the title of Duke of Anjou and the family crest. In the first action (but not the second) he was joined by their cousins the Duke of Castro (whom we met in the Italian section as a claimant to the throne of the Two Sicilies), and Prince Henry Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma (younger brother of the heir to both the Duchy of Parma and the Carlist claims in Spain, whom we shall meet in the next section!). The suit was defeated, as was an appeal two years later. As far as the French republican judiciary were concerned, Alphonse was both Duke of Anjou and the rightful user of the Royal arms.

Unfortunately, he had little time to enjoy this victory, dying in a skiing accident — beheaded by a cable — in Beaver Creek Resort, Eagle County, Colorado, on January 30, 1989. He had been married to María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú y Franco, the eldest granddaughter of Francisco Franco; their son Louis was born in 1974. His parents separated in 1982, and their Catholic marriage was annulled in 1986. Nevertheless, since his heirship was not affected by that latter development, at his father’s death the 15-year-old was hailed by Legitimists as de jure King of France. Louis was elected by the French Society of the Cincinnati as the representative of Louis XVI; each member of that organisation in France and the United States holds membership as the senior descendant of one of the founding Continental Army officers. As both Legitimist French heir and as great-grandson of Francisco Franco, he has taken political stances in both countries. As regards France, he favours a constitutional monarchy, with a King who acts as moral authority, foreign ambassador, unifying figure, and a living reminder of the nation’s history, and supported the Yellow vests movement. In Spain, he is a close friend of Santiago Abascal, leader of the Vox Party; as head of the Francisco Franco Foundation, he led the fight against the Socialist government’s successful bid to remove Franco from his grave. In both countries he has attacked same-sex marriage and adoption, and abortion. The Duke has called for a return to “Christian Society.” Married to Venezuelan María Margarita Vargas Santaella since 2004, their first child, Eugénie ,was born three years later. Legitimists recognise her as the current Madame Royale, the title of the eldest unmarried daughter of a King of France. Their twin sons, Louis and Alphonse, were born on May 28, 2010— Louis being considered his father’s heir as Dauphin. Their fourth child, Henri, Duke of Touraine, was born on February 1, 2019.

Thanks to their reconciliation, Henri, Duke of Clermont was recognised by the Orleanists as heir to the French throne at his father’s death in 1999. The new Count of Paris came with a great deal of baggage, to put it mildly. Apart from his divorce, he had entered the Masonic Order, only quitting it at his father’s death. He had remarried civilly in 1984, but got an annulment of his first marriage and married his second wife religiously in 2009. He announced that his oldest son, the disabled Prince Francois, would be his successor with his second son, Jean, Duke of Vendome; but in 2016 the Duke of Vendome, announced that he would succeed his father— which in turn led to another round of estrangement and struggle. Francois died a year later however, causing a reconciliation between the two. Apparently the Count of Paris had also begun to explore once more the Catholic traditions of his House; he announced a few days before Christmas, 2018 that he had consecrated France to the Sacred Heart, in accord with the revelations of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the wishes of Louis XVI. Along those lines, he added the Sacred image to the Coat of Arms of his House. A few days later, on January 21, 2019, while preparing to attend a Requiem Mass for the martyred King, he felt ill and stayed home. A few hours later, he died. As far as the Legitimists were concerned, Paris’ consecration meant nothing— but it is certainly illustrative of his sentiments when he died.

Although quietly burying the Sacred Heart issue when he took his father’s place, the Duke of Vendome, now Count of Paris, is— saving the dynastic question— in major agreement with his Legitimist cousin in political affairs, sharing similar views as regards the nature of the Monarchy; the importance of Catholicism to France; a deep opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and the rest; approval of the Yellow Vests, and so on. Their major policy difference has been over the posited return of Charles X and the other exiled Bourbons from their tombs in Slovenia to Saint Denis— Louis opposes and Jean supports such a move. In early 2009, Jean married Philomena de Tornos y Steinhart, and later that year their eldest child, Prince Gaston d’Orleans was born— succeeding his father as Orleanist Dauphin when Jean’s father died a decade later. Four siblings followed: Antoinette (2012), Louise-Marguerite (2014), Joseph (2016), and Jacinthe (2018). The Count and his family lived until recently at the Chateau d’Amboise, a castle in the Loire Valley long owned by his family; his grandfather had put the Orleans’ properties into the hands of a Foundation, the leadership of which Jean has fallen out with.

Looking at the organisations which struggle to maintain or recover France’s traditions, we may start with the Legitimists. The Duke of Anjou’s own blog is La Legitimite, and his chancery, so to speak, is the Institut de la Maison de Bourbon. Associated with the latter is the Memorial de France a Saint-Denis, which looks after the tombs of the French Kings at the Abbey of St. Denis. Le Salon Beige is a blog dedicated to broadly Catholic and Conservative interests, with Legitimist sympathies. The Confrerie Royale is a priestly brotherhood that prays for the Duke of Anjou as King of France. Vexilla Galliae is an online journal and Vive le Roy an online library of Legitimism, while the Union des cercles légitimistes de France is a federation of Legitimist action groups across the country.

On the Orleanist side, the Count of Paris has his own blog. Despite the feud between them, the ancestral properties of the House of Orleans remain under the control of the Fondation Saint Louis. The venerable Action Française is alive and well. The Nouvelle Action Royaliste consider themselves more modern than the AF.

As might be guessed, there are Royalist groups who either feel that the dynastic question should be set aside for the nonce, or else want to focus on the Monarchy as in institution, or simply focus on topics they consider should be of interest to all Royalists regardless of allegiance. Among these are a political party, the Alliance Royale; the registry of Requiem Masses for Louis XVI; and associations dedicated to the martyred King, Marie Antoinette, and the afore-mentioned return of Charles X and his descendants. There are also organisations dedicated to Henri IV, the founder of the Bourbons, and Henri V— the last member of the direct French line. The memory of the Vendee and the Chouans is kept up by still another organisation.

Going further into political history, the active Bonapartist organisations were dissolved by Prince Louis Napoleon in 1937, and replaced with a Foundation, the Souvenir Napoleonien, to protect the Napoleonic memory. The Association pour défendre la mémoire du maréchal Pétain guards the much-maligned memory of the Vichy Head of State, while there are any number of Algerian French and Harki associations. Les Amis de Raoul Salon continue to argue his cause, as does the Fondation Marechal Lyautey for its namesake.

There are also a number of organisations and companies appealing to the French and Catholic Right in General. Among these are: the Centre Charlier; the Alliance générale contre le racisme et pour le respect de l’identité française et chrétienne or Agrif; the Blog of Bernard Anthony; Duquesne Diffusion; Chiré; Rivarol; Action Familiale et Scolaire; and Icthus. On a more purely religious level are such organisations as the Brotherhood of Notre Dame de France; the Association universelle des amis de Jeanne d’Arc; the Confrérie Ste Clotilde; and Fédération des Confréries des Pénitents de France. The Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest, the Institut du Bon-Pasteur, the Society of St. Pius X, the followers of the Abbe de Nantes and a great many other religious communities carry on traditional Catholic liturgical life. The Order of the Annonciades and the great Abbey of Sainte Croix at Poitiers are groups of nuns founded centuries apart by Royal Princesses, and still loyal to the memories of their foundresses. The Association pour la Beatification de Madame Elisabeth de France pursue the elevation to the altars of Louis XVI’s martyred sister. The Association des Recteurs des Sanctuaires de France is an umbrella organisation to which the heads of all of France’s approved Catholic shrines belong.

On a cultural level, there are quite a few groups working to preserve one or another aspect of France’s patrimony. The Association de la Noblesse de France is the union of the country’s old nobility, many of whose members are also active in the historic houses networks of Demeures Historiques and Vieilles Maisons Françaises and with the Fédération Nationale de la Propriété Privée Rurale, the Union des Coopératives forestières, the Federation National des Chasseurs de France, and the Societe de Venerie. The Conférence nationale des academies is a federation of provincial academies of arts, sciences, and letters, many of which go back to the Old Regime. Patrimoine-Environnement is the national network serving heritage and landscapes. France Folklore is a nation-wide Federation of French Folklore Societies. The Conseil Français des Confréries is similarly an organisation which unites the various wine and gastronomic brotherhoods.

Despite the havoc the Revolution has wrought on France since 1789, it is always uplifting to encounter those concerned with defending what is left or restoring what was lost in this marvellous country that was truly “The Oldest Daughter of the Church.”

Click here to see all the articles in the series: “The Long Defeat.”