Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Last Queen of France

Here's a bizarre little story that has captivated the imaginations of two nations over the last week. Apparently, in 1956 the Prime Minister of France, Guy Mollet, traveled to London to meet with the British PM. The reason? The Frenchies were evidently toying with the idea of "merging" Britain and France into one giant super-nation. Including, according to the Guardian, "the possibility of the Queen becoming the French head of state."

But the plan was rejected for the lunacy it was. Quietly, it seems, for no one really heard about the matter until now. Mollet left office nine months later, and General De Gaulle came to power shortly after.

Obviously what makes the story so odd is that it contradicts everything we know about French pride. Previously, suggestions of merging France and England was something only the English ever talked about in moments of extreme opportunism. Like during the year 1940, when Churchill cynically offered the French government the opportunity to merge rather than face Nazi conquest. The French refused- obviously- seeing the Germans as the lesser of two evils. During the subsequent collaboratist Vichy government, pro-Nazi foreign policy would be justified as a way to undermine Britain imperialism.

Regardless, if Mollet's plan had gone through, and Elizabeth the Second had become Queen of France, she would have not been the first British monarch to enjoy such a title. Indeed, every single British monarch from 1337 to 1801 used the tag "King of France" as one of their many titles. The British did control some French land in the early 15th Century, but lost all of it following the conclusion of the 100 Years War. Their monarchs kept the "King of France" title anyway, just to be stubborn. The charade was only dropped after Britain and Ireland merged at the turn of the 19th Century.

The Current King

Presently, there are four men who all claim to be the king of France.

Henri the Seventh (born 1933) is the heir to the Capet family, them being the ones who got their heads chopped off during the revolution. He was born in Belgium, but moved to France in the 1950's after the French government abolished a law that had previously banned members of the exiled royal family from returning to the country. He's not particularly high-profile, but people generally know who he is, and the French tabloids enjoy covering the antics of his dysfunctional family. He tried to get elected to the European parliament in 2004 but failed.

Louis the Twentith (born 1974) is the rival claimant to the Capet dynasty. His side of the family claims that he is more legitimate than Henri the 7th for reasons which are too complicated and boring to get into here. He was born in Spain and now lives in Venezuela with his Latino bride. Sometimes he visits France. He's a cousin of the present King of Spain, but the Spanish royal family officially shuns him.

Napoleon the Eighth (born 1950) is the eighth successive Napoleon. Formally, he is Napoleon the first's great-great-great nephew. Politically, he is the most successful of the pretend-kings of France. He once served on a city council and is now trying to get elected to the French parliament.

Carlo Alessandro (1952) is an Italian man distantly related to Napoleon the first. The reason why he's Italian is because the Bonaparte family produced a lot of female heirs in the late 20th Century and they all married foreigners. The family of Napoleon VIII doesn't allow females to assume the "throne," but this side does, hence the conflict today. According to Regnal Chronologies, Carlo's aristocratic Italian family is most famous for the fact that they "once ran the post office of the Holy Roman Empire."


Anonymous said...

Wow, it never occured to me to look up these "royals in exile". Nuts. I wonder why they even keep track; only the British have a chance at being kings of France anymore...

Didn't know about Churchill's proposal, either. Churchill always knew how to tick someone off...

Furius said...

Just to nitpick: The English held onto Calais untill 1558- about a hundred years after the end of the hundred years war.
And Napoleon VIII and Carlo Alessandro claim to be Emperors of France, which is really only a semantic difference, I suppose but meh...

Anyway, that was just me nitpicking for nitpickings sake..

Jesus Christo said...



Dagonz said...

Other nitpick: Henri and the other one aren't Capets, they're Bourbons. More precisely, one is Bourbon and the other is Bourbon-Orléans.

And they aren't well-known over here, and I've never seen them in the tabloids.

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