top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

Did you know? French monarchs and emperors were exiled

As soon as the law was repealed on June 24, 1950, the exiled monarchs and emperors started to come back to France

The Statue of the Republic in Paris. built in 1880, symbolising the victory of the Republic in France Pic: neko92vl / Shutterstock

In 1886, a law was passed expelling the heads of all former sovereign houses from France. This included members of the Bonaparte family and pretenders to the throne.

In the late 19th century, France was still working towards its present day status as a Republic, even though the Revolution had happened nearly a hundred years earlier. The 19th century was a turbulent period, ruled over by three Kings and two Emperors before a President became the permanent head of state.

When Napoleon I abdicated in 1814, he was replaced by two brothers of the decapitated Louis XVI, first Louis XVIII, 1814-1824, and then Charles X, 1824-1830.

Charles X was not popular. In 1830, there was a three-day Revolution, the Trois Glorieuses. Charles was replaced by another member of the Royal Family, his cousin Louis Philippe I, who came from the more liberal Orlèans branch, and who agreed to a constitutional monarchy.

His initial popularity quickly waned and led to another Revolution in February 1848. Louis-Philippe I abdicated and fled to England.

In 1848, Napoleon I’s nephew Louis Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President: in 1851 he declared himself President for life and in 1852, Emperor Napoleon III. Napoleon II was Napoleon I’s son but he never reigned and died aged 21.

Napoleon III’s rule came to an end during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He later died in exile in the UK.

France now had its Third Republic, with a President to serve as head of state. But even then there were discussions over whether to re-establish a monarchy.

In May 1886, a sumptuous Royal wedding was celebrated in Paris between the Princess Amélie d’Orléans and Charles de Portugal, future King of Portugal. The Republicans were concerned about a renewed rise in power of the monarchists, and so, in June, 1886 the government passed a law forbidding leaders and the first sons of royal and imperial families, from ever setting foot in France again and from serving in the French army.

Those concerned fled the country and lived in other parts of Europe, including the UK.

Napoleon descendant Comte Baudoin de Witt

Napoleon descendant Comte Baudoin de Witt

As soon as the law was repealed on June 24, 1950, they started to come back. Princess Marie-Clotilde Bonaparte bought a manor house in the Dordogne. Her son, Count Baudoin de Witt, still lives there and has opened a museum about his great, great uncle showing family heirlooms such as the telescope Napoléon I used at the battle of Austerlitz.

Orléanist pretender to the throne, Henri, Count of Paris, also returned to France from exile in Belgium. He died in 2019 and his son is now Prince Jean of Orléans. He has a website which shows his pride in his royal background and family heritage.

Related stories

La Fête Nationale: 14 facts to know about le quatorze juillet

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France