CHAPTER II. LOUIS PHILIPPE AND HIS FAMILY.
Louis Philippe, after accepting the lieutenant-generalship of the kingdom, which would have made him regent under Henri V., found himself raised by the will of the people - or rather, as some said, by the will of the bourgeoisie - to the French throne. He reigned, not by "right divine," but as the chosen ruler of his countrymen, - to mark which distinction he took the title of King of the French, instead of King of France, which had been borne by his predecessors.
It is hardly necessary for us to enter largely into French politics at this period. The government was supposed to be a monarchy planted upon republican institutions. The law recognized no hereditary aristocracy. There was a chamber of peers, but the peers bore no titles, and were chosen only for life. The dukes, marquises, and counts of the old regime retained their titles only by courtesy.
The ministers of Charles X. were arrested and tried. The new king was very anxious to secure their personal safety, and did so at a considerable loss of his own popularity. They were condemned to lose all property and all privileges, and were sent to the strong fortress of Ham. After a few years they were released, and took refuge in England.
There were riots in Paris when it was known that the ministers and ill-advisers of the late king were not to be executed; one of the leaders in these disturbances was an Italian bravo named Fieschi, - a man base, cruel, and bold, whom Louis Blanc calls a scelerat bel esprit.
The emeute which was formidable, was suppressed chiefly by a gallant action on the part of the king, who, while his health was unimpaired, was never wanting in bravery. "The king of the French," says Greville, "has put an end to the disturbances in Paris about the sentence of the ministers by an act of personal gallantry. At night, when the streets were most crowded and agitated, he sallied from the Palais Royal on horseback, with his son, the Duc de Nemours, and his personal cortege, and paraded through Paris for two hours. That did the business. He was received with shouts of applause, and at once reduced everything to tranquillity. He deserves his throne for this, and will probably keep it."
The next trouble in the new reign was the alienation of public favor from Lafayette, who had done so much to place the king upon the throne. He was accused by one party of truckling to the new court, by the other of being too much attached to revolutionary methods and republican institutions. He was removed from the command of the National Guard, and his office of commander-in-chief of that body was abolished.
All Europe becomes "a troubled sea" when a storm breaks over France. "I never remember," writes Greville at this period, "days like these, nor read of such, - the terror and lively expectation that prevails, and the way in which people's minds are turned backward and forward from France to Ireland, then range exclusively from Poland to Piedmont, and fix again on the burnings, riots, and executions that are going on in England."
Meantime France was subsiding into quiet, with occasional slight shocks of revolutionary earthquake, before returning to order and peace. The king was le bon bourgeois. He had lived a great deal in England and the United States, and spoke English well. He had even said in his early youth that he was more of an Englishman than a Frenchman. He was short and stout. His head was shaped like a pear, and was surmounted by an elaborate brown wig; for in those days people rarely wore their own gray hair.
He did not impress those who saw him as being in any way majestic; indeed, he looked like what he was, - le bon pere de famille. As such he would have suited the people of England; but it was un vert galant like Henri IV., or royalty incarnate, like Louis XIV., who would have fired the imagination of the French people. As a good father of a family, Louis Philippe felt that his first duty to his children was to secure them a good education, good marriages, and sufficient wealth to make them important personages in any sudden change of fortune.
At the time of his accession all his children were unmarried, - indeed, only four of them were grown up. The sons all went to college, - which means in France what high-school does with us. Their mother's dressing-room at Neuilly was hung round with the laurel-crowns, dried and framed, which had been won by her dear school-boys.
The eldest son, Ferdinand, Duke of Orleans, was an extraordinarily fine young man, far more a favorite with the French people than his father. Had he not been killed in a carriage accident in 1842, he might now, in his old age, have been seated on the French throne.