Henri VI
King of France
Reign 16 January 1947 – 21 December 1958
Predecessor Philippe Pétain (as Chief of the French State)
Successor Charles de Gaulle (as President of France)
Spouse Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza
Full name
Henri Robert Ferdinand Marie Louis Philippe
House House of Orléans
Father Jean, Duke of Guise
Mother Princess Isabelle of Orléans
Born 5 July 1908
Aisne, France Flag of France.svg
Died 19 June 1999 (aged 90)
Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Belgium Flag of Belgium.svg
Burial Chapelle royale de Dreux
Religion Roman Catholicism

Henri VI (Henri Robert Ferdinand Marie Louis Philippe d'Orléans; 5 July 1908 – 19 June 1999), was the King of France from 1947 to 1959. Born during the Third Republic to Orleanist pretender Jean, Duke of Guise Henri spent most of his early and later life in exile. He was proclaimed king in 1946 after a plebisite restored the French monarchy. Royal popularity faded and he willingly abdicated in 1959; he lived out his life in exile in Belgium.

Youth and education[edit | edit source]

He was born at the castle of Le Nouvion-en-Thiérache in Aisne, France to Jean, Duke of Guise (1874–1940), and his wife, Isabelle of Orléans (1878–1961). His family moved to Larache, Morocco in 1909, purchasing a plantation in the Spanish sector, Maarif, and one in the French sector, Sid Mohammed ben Lahsen, after Morocco became a French protectorate in 1912. Here, Henri rose at 4 am daily, accompanying his father to oversee livestock management and crop production on their scattered lands, later in the day being tutored by European governesses and his mother: He acquired fluency in French, Arabic, English, German, Italian and Spanish. He visited relatives in France often, spending the beginning of the World War in Paris while his father sought to fight on the side of the French. Being rebuffed by France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, Prince Jean finally took his family back to Morocco and farming.

In 1921 Henri's governesses were replaced with a series of preceptors, all coming from France. First among these was the abbé Carcenat from Auvergne. In 1923 the abbé Thomas took over Henri's instruction and, being less traditional in his approach, awakened in his charge a hitherto undetected thirst for knowledge. Using the wedding of the prince's sister that year in France as an opportunity, Thomas obtained permission to take Henri to the Parisian banlieues of Meudon and Issy-les-Moulineaux, then working class slums in which the abbé would volunteer to serve the needy daily, bringing Henri into close contact with day laborers. He would later write that this wretched urban experience profoundly affected his future political outlook and sense of justice, contrasting unfavourably with the deprivation to which he was accustomed in Morocco where, he observed, the poor were at least able to enjoy fresh air, space and sunlight while surrounded by relatives and neighbors who shared a near universal poverty, compared to the depressing grime, crowded conditions and anonymity in which Parisian workers toiled amidst extremes of wealth and deprivation. After a year Thomas, whose health suffered in Morocco, was replaced as Henri's preceptor by abbé Dartein, who accompanied the family to France in 1924, preparing the prince for his collegiate matriculation while they occupied an apartment near his parents in Paris.

Henri began a two-year study of mathematics and the sciences at the University of Louvain in 1924, studying the law for the two years following. His father, having become heir presumptive to the royal claims of the House of Orléans in 1924, betook the family to Europe again but, now banned by law from living openly in France, took up residence at the Manoir d'Anjou, a 15 hectare estate in Woluwé-Saint-Pierre near Brussels, Belgium that had been purchased in 1923 for 75,000 francs. From across the border in France came scholars and veterans of renown to coach Henri for his future role as a royalist leader, including jurist Ernest Perrot, military strategist General de Gondrecourt and Charles Benoist, a member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques who would serve as his advisor from 1930.

In 1926, he became the Dauphin of France in pretence when his father became the Orléanist claimant to the throne. In 1939, after being refused admission to both the French Armed Forces and the British Armed Forces, Henri was allowed to join the French Foreign Legion. One month following the formation of the Vichy government, his father died making Henri head of House of Orléans.

Reign[edit | edit source]

Under the Vichy system the Chief of State, Philippe Pétain, reserved the right to proclaim a new constitution. In July 1946 Henri was summoned by Pétain to Vichy with his cousin Prince Jaime of Spain, the Legitimist claimant. Henri accepted the crown on the condition that the restoration be approved by the French people.To international, as well as personal, shock a referendum saw 53% of the voters in favour of a royal restoration. Henri was proclaimed King of France on 14 October 1946. While he was not officially king at the time, he negotiated with Pétain for the restoration of certain parliamentary institutions in the new constitution. Pétain agreed that he would allow some democracy be restored in France as long as the monarchy remained limited, Henri agreed.

As king, Henri attempted to reconcile political factions within France and warm relations between France and its allies. He was criticized for France's ailing economy and political turmoil in the postwar period, and the war in Indochina. A series of debilitating strikes were waged across France in 1947, largely in reaction to peace treaty with Germany. The strikes escalated into violence in November of that year, leading, on 28 November, to the government deploying 80,000 French Army reservists to face the "insurrection". The Communist Party, who often supported the strikes, were expelled from the legislature in early December. The strikes ended on 10 December, but more would come in 1948, and again in 1953 in response to the Joseph Laniel government's austerity program.

Apart from the inconclusive war in Indochina, France's colonial empire decayed under Henri's reign. Clashes in Morocco, Madagascar, and Algeria became more frequent; an Algerian independence movement, the Front de Libération Nationale, was founded in 1951, in 1953 the French overthrew Mohammed V, the Sultan of Morocco, after he demanded greater autonomy. France waged a brutal war of repression in Madagascar.

His entire reign was troubled by the political instability of the nation and the Algerian question. With the deepening of the crisis in 1958, on 29 May of that year, Henri appealed to Charles de Gaulle, the "most illustrious of Frenchmen" to become the last Prime Minister of the Kingdom. Henri had threatened to abdicate if de Gaulle's appointment was not approved by the National Assembly.

De Gaulle drafted a new constitution, and on 28 September, a referendum took place in which 79.2% of those who voted supported the proposals, which led to the Fourth Republic. De Gaulle was elected as President of the new Republic by parliament in December. Fearing a civil war Henri formally abdicated on 9 January 1959. Henri commented on his abdication later in life: "The work was killing me; they called me out of bed at all hours of the night to receive resignations of prime ministers" (there were twenty-five different governments during his twelve years on the throne.)

Titles, styles and honours[edit | edit source]

Monarchical styles of
Henri VI of France
Coat of Arms of Kingdom of France.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir
  • 5 July 1908 – 28 March 1926: His Royal Highness Prince Henri of Orléans
  • 28 March 1926 – 25 August 1940: His Royal Highness Prince Henri of Orléans, Dauphin of France, Count of Paris
  • 25 August 1940 – 16 January 1947: His Royal Highness Prince Henri of Orléans, Count of Paris
  • 16 January 1947 – 21 December 1958: His Majesty The King of France
  • 21 December 1958 – 19 June 1999: His Majesty King Henri VI
Henry VI of France
Cadet branch of the House of Bourbon
Born: 5 July 1908 Died: 19 June 1999
French royalty
Title last held by
Napoleon III
as Emperor of the French
King of France
16 January 1947 – 21 December 1958
Monarchy abolished
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
King of France
21 December 1958 – 19 June 1999
Succeeded by
Henri VII
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