The pro-European projection of Louis Philippe duke of Orléans (b. Paris 1773 – d. Claremont, Surrey 1850), which entailed the launch of an original model, able to settle and maintain the continental order, sanctioned a first important break with respect to the European project that arose from the Vienna Congress of 1814-1815. His work allowed him to govern France for eighteen years, through a balanced formula based on two main guidelines: the defence of the interests of the moderate clergy and the enlightened aristocracy, and, at the same time, the recovery of the founding reference points of the French Girondin tradition, such as liberalism and moderatism.
With Louis Philippe d’Orléans, son of Philippe Égalité, France tried to revive those liberal ideals eliminated by the reign of the previous, decidedly conservative monarch Charles X. Since the beginning, Louis Philippe, who came to power after the July Days of 1830 – acclaimed by the national bourgeoisie – had to struggle amidst the difficulties of a misunderstanding inherent to the origins of the new monarchy. For many, it presented itself as the product of a victorious revolution and therefore destined to develop further revolutionary action at home and abroad, while for others, it represented, instead, the solution adopted to stem and prevent a revolutionary spread. Anyway, the arrival of Louis Philippe sent a paradigmatic shock wave throughout Europe.
Silvio Berardi is Full Professor of History of International Relations at the Niccolò Cusano University of Rome. His research interests focus primarily on the European integration process in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, with particular attention to the republican and liberal continental federalist proposals, aimed at the creation of a united Europe.
The King of the French
Louis Philippe had approved a constitution whose mechanisms, although they did not differ much from the previous one granted by Louis XVIII in 1814 had completely changed in its ideological presuppositions. First, it was a constitution approved by the two branches of Parliament and not obtained, or granted by the sovereign, who was King of the French with the revolutionary formula “by the Grace of God and the Will of the Nation”. This was a major constitutional innovation that linked sovereignty to the bourgeoisie and not only to the monarch, who, according to a fine expression by Adolphe Thiers «règne mais ne gouverne pas».
Louis Philippe sought to reconcile the principle of dynastic legitimacy with the principle of national sovereignty. Another strong symbol of the new monarchy was the adoption of the tricolour flag to replace the white flag with the golden lilies of the Bourbons. The census for being electors or deputies was lowered and the multiple votes – which provided that the richest fourth of the electors elected 55% of the deputies, voting twice – introduced in 1820, were abolished. The legislative initiative also became parliamentary, as well as royal. However, the rise to power in favour of a bourgeois uprising earned Louis Philippe the hostility of numerous European courts and the nickname «Roi des barricades».
The principle of non-intervention
The moderate character of Louis Philippe’s monarchy was confirmed in its foreign policy. It was contrary to any adventure in the international field and much less inclined to support the Italian and Polish uprisings that broke out in that period (1830-1831). In the international field, the principle of non-intervention, which Louis Philippe proclaimed immediately after the revolution of July 1830, was opposed to the concept of intervention entertained by the Holy Alliance. It held that every state must refrain from any interference in the internal affairs of another state.
Thus, at the declaration of independence of Belgium, proclaimed by the revolutionary government, Louis Philippe solemnly formulated the will to defend the people who rose for the protection of the freedom and independence of their homeland. In fact, France defended this principle for the separation of Belgium from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. When, on 25 August 1830, the insurrection broke out in Brussels and quickly spread throughout Belgium, the Dutch government was unable to put down the revolt and asked for help. But neither France nor Great Britain came to its aid and, instead, arranged a discussion on the matter at an international conference held in London between December 1830 and January 1831.
The king of the French thus made it known to the European powers – and above all to Prussia and Russia – that France would not intervene in Belgium and that it would not tolerate the intervention of another power. A kind of entente cordiale had therefore arisen between Paris and London, which (with some interruptions) lasted until 1848. It consolidated itself precisely during the negotiations of 1830-1831on the basis of a shared notion of non-intervention that went against the diplomatic ideals of the Holy Alliance.
A New System of Alliances
Still, on the foreign policy front, France’s colonial enterprise in North Africa must be remembered. The French conquest of Algeria, from 1830 to 1847, the conquest with which Louis Philippe wanted to strengthen French control over the Mediterranean, was perhaps the event that most weakened relations between France and Great Britain. It also went against non-intervention.
Despite many uncertainties and ambiguities on several fronts, Louis Philippe was able to reign and govern and, at the same time, gave vent to his tendency, which often took naive forms of vanity, to appear the inspirer and supreme moderator of a policy aimed at ensuring prosperity and the well-being of the French through peace abroad and a regime of order and authority within; his motto was: enrichissez–vous.
However, as Raymond Guyot well observed, the fundamental weakness of the Anglo-French entente was the lack of a true commonality of economic interests between the two nations. French industrialists complained about the threat of English competition and demanded customs tariffs that were met with indignant astonishment in Britain. French and British commercial interests then clashed in Greece and Spain, as well as in Africa and the Pacific.
The foreign policy of France under the monarchy of July was therefore characterized by two fundamental elements: a new system of alliances marked by the rapprochement with the United Kingdom and the conquest of Algeria in the framework of a policy that aimed, above all, to keep France at peace with its European neighbours and to ensure a mutual security arrangement.
Louis Philippe’s France distanced itself significantly from the previous Bourbon regimes, making a sincere break with the order established at the Congress of Vienna, becoming, at least initially, more distant from Austria, Prussia and Russia. Simultaneously, it became closer to Great Britain at least until 1839-1840, when the conservative characteristics of the regime were accentuated. Things changed when François Guizot, appointed foreign minister in 1840, again shifted the axis of foreign policy towards Austria, Prussia and Russia – at least up to the uprisings of 1848 – and when the underappreciated requests for renewal came from French society, in a very similar way to what happened during the reign of Charles X, provoked the epilogue of the long reign of Louis Philippe d’Orléans.
Cover image: Louis-Philippe serment 1830, E. Devéria (Public Domain)
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