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First Prince of the Blood


First Prince of the Blood

"Prince of the blood" redirects here. For the novel by Raymond E. Feist, see Prince of the Blood (novel).

A prince of the blood was a person who was legitimately descended in the male line from the monarch of a country. In France, the rank of prince du sang was the highest held at court after the immediate family of the king during the ancien régime and the Bourbon Restoration. A prince du sang or a princesse du sang had to be a legitimate member of the reigning dynasty (after 1589, the House of Bourbon). In some European monarchies, but especially in the kingdom of France, this appellation was a specific rank in its own right, of a more restricted use than other titles.

French usage

In France, the rank of prince du sang was restricted to legitimate agnates of the Capetian dynasty who are not members of the immediate family of the king.

During the reign of the Direct Capetians, the agnates of the French king did not constitute a formal class as princes of the blood. From 987-1316, the French succession was undisputed, passing in direct line from father to eldest living son. The princes du sang gradually emerged as a class during the reign of the House of Valois, due to the recognition of agnatic primogeniture as the principle controlling the succession to the throne. Due to this principle, any agnate of the king, however distant his relationship with the monarch, is a potential successor to the crown. The rank of prince du sang was created in order to recognize this special status.

In theory, the princes of the blood included all members of the Capetian dynasty. In practice, it acknowledged only the agnatic descendants of Saint Louis IX: the Valois and the Bourbons. The first three Bourbon kings, for instance, refused to recognize the Courtenay branch as princes of the blood. The Courtenays were descended from King Louis VI, and had become impoverished minor nobles during the time of their petition. Whether this non-recognition would actually prevent the Courtenays from claiming the throne will never be known, for their line was extinguished before the end of the monarchy.

During the ancien régime, the quality of being a prince of the blood is deemed part of the fundamental laws of the kingdom, which meant that it is beyond legislation. Louis XIV had attempted, twice, to create princes of the blood by law. In the Treaty of Montmartre, Louis XIV made the non-Capetian House of Lorraine heirs to the throne in the event of the extinction of the House of Bourbon. In an edict of July 1714, he gave succession rights to his legitimized sons the Duke of Maine and Count of Toulouse. Louis XIV abandoned the attempt to make the House of Lorraine heirs after being advised against it, but he compelled the registration of the letters patent giving succession rights to his legitimized sons. It should be noted that the parlements of France, such as the Parlement de Paris, are unlike their counterparts in England. In France, a parlement is merely a judicial body that registers laws. Though they may refuse to register laws, the king could compel registration through a process known as lit de justice. The latter edict was revoked and annulled after the king's death. Princes of the blood cannot be made or unmade through law. As a chancellor of Louis XIV warned, a king could only make princes of the blood through his queen.[1]


Those who held this rank were usually styled by their main ducal peerage, but sometimes other titles were used, indicating a more precise status than prince du sang.

The most senior princes used specific styles such as monsieur le prince or monsieur le duc, whereas the junior princes used the style monseigneur followed by their noble title, such as monseigneur le duc de Montpensier. The style Serene Highness (altesse sérénissime) was used in writing only.

Monsieur le Prince

This was the style of the First Prince of the Blood (French: premier prince du sang), which normally belonged to the most senior (by primogeniture) male member of the royal dynasty who is neither a fils de France (son of France) nor a petit-fils de France (grandson of France). In practice, it was not always clear who was entitled to the rank, and it often took a specific act of the king to make the determination.

The rank carried with it various privileges, including the right to a household paid out of state revenues. The rank was held for life: the birth of a new, more senior prince who qualified for the position did not deprive the current holder of his use of the style. The Princes of Condé used the style of Monsieur le Prince for over a century (1589–1709). The right to use the style passed to the House of Orléans in 1709; they, however, seldom if ever used it.

First Princes of the Blood, 1465-1830

    Valois House of Orléans
  1. 1465–1498 : Louis II, Duke of Orléans (1462–1515);
  2. 1498–1515 : François, Count of Angoulême (1494–1547)
    House of Valois-Alençon
  3. 1515–1525 : Charles IV, Duke of Alençon (1489–1525);
    House of Bourbon-Montpensier
  4. 1525–1527 : Charles III, Duke of Bourbon would have been the first prince had he not been banned from the position for treason (1490–1527);
    House of Bourbon-Vendôme
  5. 1527–1537 : Charles IV de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme (1489–1537);
  6. 1537–1562 : Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme, later King of Navarre (1518–1562).
  7. 1562–1589 : Henri III, King of Navarre (1553–1610);
    House of Bourbon-Condé
  8. 1589–1646 : Henri II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1588–1646);
  9. 1646–1686 : Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1621–1686);
  10. 1686–1709 : Henri III de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1643–1709).
    Bourbon House of Orléans
  11. 1709–1723 : Philippe Charles d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1674–1723), was entitled to the style, but did not use it;
  12. 1723–1752 : Louis d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1703–1752);
  13. 1752–1785 : Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1725–1785);
  14. 1785–1793 : Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1747–1793);
  15. 1814–1830 : Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1773–1850), who later ruled as Louis-Philippe I, King of the French.

Madame la Princesse

This style was held by the wife of Monsieur le Prince. The duchesses/princesses that were entitled to use it were:

Monsieur le Duc

This style was used for the eldest son of the Prince de Condé. Originally, the eldest son was given the title of duc d'Enghien, but that changed in 1709 when the Condés lost the rank of premier prince. After that, the eldest son was given the title of Duke of Bourbon, and his eldest son (the eldest grandson of the Prince of Condé in the male line) was given the title of duc d'Enghien.

Madame la Duchesse

This style was used for the wife of Monsieur le Duc. The most famous holder of this honorific was:

Others included:

Monsieur le Comte

This address was used by the head of the most junior branch of the House of Bourbon, the comte de Soissons. The comtes de Soissons, like the Princes of Conti, descended from the Princes of Condé. The line started in 1566 when the Soissons title was given to Charles de Bourbon, the second son of Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, the first Prince of Condé.

The first Prince had three sons:

The Soissons title was acquired by the first Prince of Condé in 1557 and was held by his descendants for two more generations:

The 2nd Count of Soissons died without an heir, so the Soissons title passed to his younger sister, Marie de Bourbon, the wife of Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano, a member of the House of Savoy. She became known as Madame la comtesse de Soissons. On her death, the title passed first to her second son, Joseph-Emmanuel, Prince of Savoy (1631–1656), and then to her third son, Eugène-François, Prince of Savoy.

He married Olympia Mancini, niece of Cardinal Mazarin. She was known as Madame la Comtesse de Soissons[2] like her mother-in-law. On his death, the title went to his eldest son, Louis-Thomas, Prince of Savoy, who was the older brother of the famous Austrian general, Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Soissons title became extinct upon the death of Eugène-Jean-François of Savoy-Carignano in 1734.

Madame la Comtesse

This style was used by the wife of Monsieur le Comte. The best example of this is Olympia Mancini.

Madame la Princesse Douairière

In order to tell the wives of the various Princes of Conti apart after their deaths, the widows were given the name of Douairière or dowager and a number corresponding to when they lost their husband. After being widowed their full style would be Madame la Princesse de Conti 'number' Douairière. Between 1727 and 1732, there were three widowed Princesses de Conti. They were:

Legitimised royal offspring

Legitimised children of the King of France, and of other males of his dynasty, took surnames according to the branch of the House of Capet to which their father belonged, e.g. Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine, was the elder son of Louis XIV by his mistress, Mme de Montespan.[3] After the legitimisation occurred, the child was given a title. Males were given titles from their father's lands and estates and females were given the style of Mademoiselle de X. Examples of this are (children of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan):

Also the child would be referred to as Légitimé de Bourbon; such as Marie Anne légitimée de Bourbon, mademoiselle de Blois daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière. Her full brother was Louis de Bourbon, later given the title of comte de Vermandois.


The branch of the ducs de Longueville, extinct in 1672(1694), bore the surname d'Orléans, as legitimised descendants of Jean, bâtard d'Orléans, the natural son of a Valois prince who held the appanage of Orléans before the Bourbons did.[4] Non-legitimised natural children of royalty took whatever surname the king permitted, which might or might not be that of the dynasty.

Children born out of wedlock to a French king or prince were never recognised as fils de France. However, if legitimised, the king might raise them to a rank just below or even equivalent to that of a prince du sang.[5]

See also


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