Philippe II Duc de Orleans

1 Family and childhood of Philippe II

Philippe II duc d'Orleans was the son of King Louis' brother Philip I duc de Orleans (1640-1701) and Liselotte (1650-1722). The older Orleans was a man of great standing in France. He held his own court at Saint Cloud and had the Palais Royal as his Parisian residence. Philippe's mother the Princess Palatine Liselotte of Bavaria was a woman very conscious of her own standing and duties.

At the time of his birth on 2 August 1674 Philippe had an elder brother Alexander Louis Duc de Valois (2 June 1673 - 16 March 1676). Philippe was therefore styled Duc de Chartres 1. After becoming the oldest son Philippe had a very significant chance of ascending to the throne of France some day. In late October 1678 he became exremely ill and immediately the king and court moved to the Palais Royal to attend his illness. The reaction in the media about the House of Orleans and indeed the whole of France being relieved at his recovery indeed illustrated Philippe's importance at the time2. Philippe's chances to become king started to diminish with the birth of the Duke of Burgundy in 1682, but would always remain relevant.

1.1 Education of the Duc de Chartres

His parents ensured that Philippe got an education that centered on the sciences and humanities. In order to effect this they appointed Monsieur Parisot Sieur de Saint Laurens as his 'précepteur´ in 1679. He was known as a man of much merit and an enemy of excess. He knew multiple languages and the king applauded this choice3. At some time during his education a French language grammar was written for Philippe4.

In early 1681 the seven year old Duke of Chartres met King Louis at Saint Cloud and impressed him with his progress5. In December 1681 King Louis went to Paris and visiting a library he remarked to Philippe that being intelligent and wise, one would often see him there6. In October 1686 Monsieur Sauveur was appointed as Philippe´s math teacher7. Less attention was paid to Philippe´s military and physical education, in the latter of which he did not excel anyway.

1.2 Abbé Dubois

A teacher that would have a big and permanent influence on Philippe's life was the abbé Dubois, later Cardinal Dubois. At a certain moment Saint Laurent sought some help in educating Philippe and found Dubois. Guillaume Dubois (1656-1723) was appointed as sous-précepteur on 15 June 1683, and soon proved himself very able to instruct the then eight year old prince. When Saint Laurent died on 3 August 1687, Dubois was appointed as his successor on 30 September 1687.

In order to instruct Philippe Dubois set to work methodically. He first made an overview of everything a prince needed to know, and then arranged for the instruction to take place. In this he made the same observation that the prince was very intelligent. On the other hand he noted that Philippe lacked the discipline to apply himself. Dubois therefore adapted the normal instruction methods to make it easier on Philippe8.

1.3 His cavalry regiment

At age nine the Duc de Chartres (as he was then known) got his first regiment on 18 February 16849. This cavalry regiment got named ´Cavalerie de Chartres´ and was counted among the Régiments Royaux. Because of Philippe's position (and age) M. de Caylus Marquis de Fontanges was appointed as his colonel-lieutenant. He was succeeded in that appointment by Nicolas Antoine de Grouches marquis de Chépy in June 1690. In times of peace a young prince would probably have gotten the opportunity to exercise with his regiment, but there are no indications that this was the case.

1.4 First campaign

The young Duc de Chartres fought his first campaign when in March 1691 he arrived at the siege of Mons (15 March-10 April). He was in the company of the king, the dauphin and his father. After the siege he went back to Paris, but in mid May he again left for the army. His position in the campaign was that of a volunteer10, but on account of his rank he was accorded that a company of the Gardes Françoises and a company of the Gardes Suisses guarded his tent. He would also give orders the first two days.

The army under the Duc de Luxembourg started in a position between Menin and Courtray. On 29 May it sent out a strong cavalry escort to take the Duc de Chartres to its camp at Enghien. The army then went to besiege Halle, but because the defenders left in the night, this city was occupied without a fight.

It seems that this campaign was to Philippe like a first vacation without parents is to any 16 year old. He had his governor the Marquis d'Arcy and Dubois with him, but in the army these could hardly stand up to the influence of all the princes and other nobles that outranked them. It probably resulted in the usual mischief and whatever details history does not transmit to us. In July his father sent a letter instructing Dubois to see to it that Philippe would only be in high-ranking company, and did not study 6 hours a day during the campaign11. This was probably only the result of an intrigue against Dubois, who sourly remarked that Philippe had not read one page during the campaign.

The only remarkable event of the rest of the campaign was the Battle of Leuze fought on 18 September 1691. Here the young Duc de Chartres thought to place himself at the head of the Gardes du Corps, but the Duc de Luxembourg of course did not allow this. It was only in the closing stages that Philippe was allowed to charge with some rallying squadrons. This was Philippe´s first taste of battle. He was said to have been confident and to have shown much application in pursuing the enemy. After leaving the campaign Philippe visited some frontier places and saw a naval spectacle in Dunkirk12.

On 14 November 1691 a number of regiments with 17 companies were reduced to 13 companies. Out of the companies that were not needed anymore 13 were used to form an infantry regiment for the Duc de Chartres. The chevalier d'Estrade was appointed as colonel-lieutenant13.

2 Marriage to a bastard of Louis XIV

2.1 Background of the marriage to Mlle. de Blois

Meanwhile the relative importance of Philippe at court steadily decreased because of the number of children the Grand Dauphin fathered. This probably gave Louis XIV occasion to propose the marriage of the seventeen year old Philippe II to Mademoiselle de Blois (1677-1749). She was the second daughter of the King and Madame de Montespan (mistress of Louis before Maintenon became so). According to Saint Simon the object of this was to raise the bastards of Louis in rank.

It is said that Orleans consented to this shameful marriage because he expected it to raise his son's fortunes. Liselotte vehemently opposed it. The marriage would take place on 9 January 1692.

3 Military career of the Duke of Orleans

3.1 Namur

In 1692 the young duke again went to campaign. The army was split in two parts. The part commanded by the king besieged and took Namur (25 May - 30 June). The observation army was commanded by the Luxembourg. Under Luxembourg Philippe commanded a reserve corps of 20 squadrons. Philippe therefore did not see much action, but probably learned something about commanding a small corps.

3.2 Battle of Steenkerque

After the siege of Namur Luxemburg commanded the whole army and fought the allied army near Steenkerque on 3 August. There were allusions about Philippe having been in the thick of the fight, but for what he was actually allowed to do one should consult Luxembourg´s letter about the battle. I begged the Duke of Chartres to keep himself with his reserve, that was posted behind Enghien. I gave him my word that I would find an occasion to act and to satisfy his extreme desire to show his courage. For that he besieged me from the start, while we were still only observing the enemy. But, in order not to expose him to much I entreated him to return to Enghien. This he did with his usual soft temper, but he did sent me men from his household to inform me that he wanted to see the start of the fight. Because I did not let them convince me, he sent d'Arcy to convince me. I could not resist this and it caused him to be present when the fight started. He received a shot in his justacorps (a knee-length coat) traversing from shoulder to shoulder. The fear that I got from the danger that he had been in caused me to tell him to return to his brigade, which he promised me to do.14. Later histories have Philippe fighting at the head of the guards. These are false and probably caused by confusing his actions with the those of Louis de Bourbon (1668-1710) known as 'monsieur le duc´15.

3.3 Battle of Neerwinden

In 1693 Philippe got his first serious command when he was appointed as ´General of cavalry´ of the army for Flanders for the 1693 campaign with lt-general Rosen under him16. This appointment did not mean that Philippe got a regular rank in the army. As a real prince his authority in the army derived directly from the sovereignty of the king. Because Philippe had turned 18 last fall, the appointment might therefore just as well have been issued to set a clear limit on his authority and to prevent a conflict with the overall commander.

In the battle of Neerwinden (or Landen) of 29 July 1693, Philippe first arranged the deployment of the cavalry in accordance with Luxembourg's orders. During the battle 5 squadrons of the maison du roy had to defile and deploy on very constrained terrain. From that disorderly position Philippe charged at their head. After some initial success these squadrons had to retreat. For a time Philippe was surrounded, and he had to fight his way out to prevent getting captured17. Philippe was furthermore said to have animated the army with his presence and example.

During the whole campaign Philippe's secretary Guillaume Dubois more than helped him in sending reports of his actions to Versailles. This was also true of the journal of the siege of Charleroi later in 1693.

In 1694 the army was under the nominal command of the Dauphin, with under him the Duc de Luxembourg and Philippe again as general of cavalry. Philippe started near Maubeuge and incurred some embarassing gambling debts18. Philippe was again accompanied by Marquis d'Arcy his last governor, who had continued as 'premier gentilhomme de chambre'. During the campaign d'Arcy died.

3.4 1695 second siege of Namur

It seemed that King Louis was indeed worried about Philippe's conduct, for on 26 February it became known that he had chosen the Comte de Cayeux to be near the Duke of Chartres in the place of d'Arcy19. In order to know whether this meant anything we have to look at the personality of the Comte de Cayeux. The Comte de Cayeux (1652-1736) would later be known as Marquis de Gamaches. That he was one of the king's men was demonstrated in 1702, when he was made a 'Menin' of the Duc de Bourgogne.

The Duke of Chartres again served as general of cavalry, but with Luxembourg dead, Villeroy commanded the army. In the campaign it could not do much against the alliance siege of Namur, and only conducted the fruitless bombardment of Brussel. In 1696 Philippe again commanded the cavalry, but in 1697 none of the princes got a command. This probably had to do with France being on the defensive, and fear of a possible defeat.

4 Idleness

4.1 Out of favor?

Despite the fact that his wife was popular at court and that he had served with some distinction Orleans' career now came to a halt. It seems that Orleans led a life of doubtful morality for a while and he certainly neglected his wife, but I cannot ascertain whether these things have anything to do with each other. In April 1701 the Duke of Chartres pressed king Louis for permission to join the army. Initially this permission was given, but on 25 April this was revoked.

It seems that for the Duke of Orleans this slight and the fact that his son had no appointment at all was the reason to start a very hot and long lasting quarrel with his brother the king. This fight seems to have caused a stroke or something that caused his death.

4.2 Interest in music

After his education and military career Philippe's scientific interest had not diminished. On 16 April 1703 his opera was performed for the Dauphin at Meudon20. In October 1703 this was repeated. In July 1703 he had a lyre made to the specifications of the old greeks, in order to re-discover their music. In March 1704 a Misere ordered by Philippe in Venice was sung.

5 Philippe II becomes Duke of Orléans

It was at the death of his father that the Duke of Chartres received the benefits of his marriage: He held his own pensions and also got those his father had enjoyed, giving him 1,800,000 Livres a year, as well as the Palais Royal, Saint Cloud and other Mansions. On top of that he had a Swiss guard and took the title Duc de Orleans.

6 Later military career of the Duke of Orleans

6.1 to Spain?

In November 1703 the Duke of Orleans proposed to go to Spain with an army. In the end the Duke of Berwick was sent, but it at least proved that the then 27-year old Philippe still had military ambitions21. In November 1705 the Duke of Orleans requested the king to be sent to Spain as commander of the French troops, again without result22. That Philippe wanted to go to Spain was kind of logical. In Spain he would probably be supreme commander, and any activity there might strengthen his claim on that throne.

6.2 to Italy

On 24 May 1706 Versailles got the message that Villeroy was camped between the Ghettes (small rivers) and expecting a battle23. According to Saint Simon Philippe told everybody that Villeroy would be beaten if he fought a battle there. Philippe claimed that while there in a previous campaign the Duke of Luxembourg had explained to him the reasons why he (Luxembourg) did not dare to fight there. On 26 May the news of the disaster of Ramillies reached Versailles. If the anecdote about Philippe's prediction is true it might have convinced the king of Philippe's worth as a commander.

On 22 June 1706 Philippe was very happy with the news that he would be the commander of the army in Italy. He would be accompanied by Villars, who was designated as the actual commander. In the end Marsin would accompany him. During the campaign Philippe's army of Italy did not succeed in keeping Eugen away from the siege, and so both armies found themselves near Turin in early September. Here Philippe wanted to do battle outside the lines, but was prevented from doing so by Marsin. The 7 September Battle of Turin was therefore fought for the possession of the lines. In this battle the French command lost control when Marsin was mortally wounded and the other parts of the army did nothing to aid Philippe's part, which was under attack. Philippe was shot in his forearm and hip. According to Saint Simon Philippe had then tried to retreat in the direction of Milan, but La Feuillade and the other officers succeeded in preventing this.

However that may be; there was little reason to blame Philippe for the failed siege of Turin. On the contrary; his wounds proved that he had at least taken a stand and there were serious doubt about others having done their duty. In the autumn of 1706 Philippe therefore continued as commander of the army that had retreated to the Dauphiné. He was supposed to re-enter into Italy with this army, but that did not take place.

6.3 Spain

In March 1707 it became public that the Duc d'Orléans was to command in Spain24. After some delays he was to arrive in the army on 26 April. Just one day before that, the alliance army attacked the Bourbon army, that was still under the command of the Duke of Berwick. The glory of the crushing Bourbon victory thus went to the Duke of Berwick. Philippe had to content himself with reaping the fruits of the victory.

After making a short tour to Madrid in May the Duke of Orleans took command of an army that marched to Saragossa, while Berwick was to march on Tortosa. After taking Saragossa and other places he besieged Lerida. The siege of Lerida ended on 11 November and Philippe earned a lot of credit fot it. He arrived back in Versailles in December and returned to Spain in February.

In 1708 the Duke of Orleans started the siege of Tortosa in June. On 11 July Tortosa surrendered and again Philippe was credited for a difficult siege. He then went to Madrid, where he made his famous remark about the she-captain of France and the she-lieutenant of Spain.

This threw the madames in such a rage that when Orleans should return to Spain in 1709 they prevented it. When Orleans then sent an agent to get his equipages he had left in Spain, this agent was arrested. It was rumored that Orleans through this agent had been acting with some Spanish Grandees to overthrow Felipe V, who was detested for being under the influence of Madame des Ursins. Orleans thus fell into disgrace with Louis XIV.

The disgrace of Orleans was in part also due to the fact that he had a mistress Madame d'Argenton. This mistress was of course unpleasant to Louis because Orleans was married to his bastard daughter. In early 1710 Saint Simon persuaded Orleans to send her away, and he was thus reconciled with the king and Madame de Maintenon. Saint Simon also assisted Orleans in marrying his daughter Marie Louise to the Duc de Berry (third son of the grand Dauphin).

7 The Duke of Orleans as Regent

When the dauphins died Orleans was accused of having poisoned them. According to Saint Simon this was a rumor circulated by the Duc de Main and his cabal. When after Louis XIV's death Orleans became regent he had a long conflict with Maine who wanted to be regent too. Orleans finally triumphed in this. The regency by Philippe saw Cardinal Dubois at the head of affairs. It was a time renowned for doubtful morality at court, but it allowed the population to recover from the misery of the war.

8 Notes

1) Philippe II duc de Chartres only became Duke of Orleans at the death of his father. It's curious to note that the Ducd de Chartres befriended the Vidame de Chartres (Saint Simon) in his adolescence.
2) The Mercure Galant for November 1678 p. 41 has the joy of the court and the population at Philippe II's recovery.
3) The Mercure Galant for May 1679 p. 305 has Laurens'appointment
4) The Grammaire Methodique
5) The Mercure Galant for April 1681 p. 342 has this meeting, but could be slightly exaggerating about Philippe´s incredible progress.
6) The Mercure Galant for December 1681 p. 273 has this remark in the library.
7) The Mercure Galant for Ocotber 1686 has the appointment of Sauveur as his math teacher.
8) Victor comte de Seilhac wrote L'abbé Dubois: premier ministre de Louis XV ,a biography of Cardinal Dubois, which has some documents on Philippe's education
9) Susan Histoire de la Cavalerie Française Paris 1874 vol. 2 p 382, has the history of this regiment known as Chartres during the War of the Spanish Succession.
10) The Reglemens et ordonnances du Roy page 70, has quoy qu'il ne fut que volontaire.
11) The Duke of Orléans to Dubois on 27 July 1691 printed in Seilhac.
12) The Mercure Galant for Sep. 1691 page 333, has for the Battle of Leuze M. de Luxembourg fut obligé de se servir de son autorité de general pour faire retirer de prince (from charging at the start of the battle)
13) The Mercure Historique page 67, has Pour composer un regiment d'infanterie pour M. le Duc de Chartres, qui n'en avoit qu'un de cavalerie.
14) The Present State of Europe 1691 page 342, for the Duke of Chartres at Steenkerque. The text above is my translation of the same French text.
15) The idea of the Duc de Chartres having fought at the head of the guard is probably based on this passage in Luxembourg's letter: Mais la compagnie qui se trouva à leur tête, ...., puis qu'ils y avoient Mr. le Duc, Mr. le Prince de Conti, Mrs. de Vandome, Mr. le Duc de Villeroi, Mr. le Marquis de Tilladet, & le Chevalier de Gassion.
16) The Mercure Historique et Politique for May 1693 page 537, Le roi a déclaré M. le Duc de Chartres Général de la Cavalerie de l'armée de Flandres pendant cette campagne, & M. Rozen sous lui.
17) The Mercure Historique et Politique for August 1693 page 196, 'Ce fut dans cette occasion que Mr. le Duc de Chartres, qui avoit chargé a leur tête, fut envelopé par les ennemis, dont il se débarassa avec beaucoup de valeur: ayant eu plusieurs de ses gens tuez, ou blessez à ses côtez'.
18) Seilhac has the embarassing gambling debts, probably based on a letter by Liselotte to Dubois of 11 June 1694 'Je ne lui conseille pas de perdre son argent, je ne vois personne ici bien empressé à lui en donner'.
19) Dangeau has Cayeux's appointment under 26 February 1695
20) Dangeau this performance at Meudon
21) Dangeau has Philippe proposal to go to Spain
22) Dangeau has Philippe's second proposal to go to Spain under 27 November 1705
23) Dangeau has this new under 24 May 1706: M. le maréchal de Villeroy est campé entre les Ghettes, et il a envie que les ennemis s'avancent de leur côte et que toutes leurs troupes soient assemblées; ainsi dans peu de jours il pourroit bien y avoir une affair considérable en ce pays-là; M. de Marsin ne sauroit joindre M. de Villeroy que dans quelque jours.
24) Dangeau has Philippe's command in Spain under 12 March 1707