The Nationality Requirement in the French succession laws

first published: July 22, 1999

Contents

Introduction

One of the points of contention in the debate between Orleanism and Legitimism is the question of nationality. The Orleanists argue that the succession laws required French nationality, and that Louis XIV's grandson, by ascending the Spanish throne, lost his French nationality. Thus, in 1883, the Spanish branch was ineligible (independently of the validity of the Utrecht renunciations).

(Note that the current Legitimist pretender Luis-Alfonso de Borbón has dual Spanish-French citizenship, as did his father, Alfonso de Borbón, because the latter's mother Emmanuelle de Dampierre was French.  This was recognized by a court ruling ot the tribunal de Montpellier, Nov. 13, 1987 [Quid.fr].  This, however, has no bearing on the question, since the time at which the nationality requirement came into play was 1883, when no descendant of Philip V was French.)

The Legitimists answer that foreign nationality was never a a bar to the throne, and cite many examples of foreign princes ascending the French throne. 

(Some misinformed Legitimists accuse the Orléans branch of inconsistency on the subject, citing the case of the "pacte de famille" of 1909 as giving rights to the Brazilian branch of the Orléans family in spite of their alien status; but see the correct version of events).

Nationality requirement according to jurists

The notion that French nationality was required to inherit the French crown is one that appears in the 16th century.  It no doubt sprang from the struggles against English claims to the French throne during the Hundred Years War, and received further strengthening during the civil wars between Catholics and Protestants, particularly in 1593.
 

Interpretations of the Salic law

One first strand of the literature is in the interpretation of the Salic law, which excluded females and their issue from the crown.  It was first applied in 1316, then again in 1322, 1328, 1498, and 1515.  Renaissance historians and jurists justified it as preserving the French realm from falling under the domination of foreigners.  This does not mean that those authors thought that all foreigners were always excluded from the crown.

Claude de Seyssel: La Monarchie de France, I,7 (Paris, 1961; page 112-3)

Claude de Seyssel (d. 1520) was a jurist from Savoie who studied in Pavia and taught in TUrin.  He became an advisor to king Louis XII who made him bishop of Marseille in 1508; he later became archbishop of Turin in 1517.  This work, which dates from the last years of his life, was published several times (1519, 1541, 1557): the variants as they appear in the published editions are indicated in smaller font.

CHAPITRE VII: Comment il est bon que le Royaume aille par succession masculine.

Et la première spéciauté que j'y trouve bonne est qu'icelui royaume va par succession masculine, sans pouvoir tomber en main de femme, selon la loi que les Français appellent « salique», qui est une très bonne chose. Car, tombant en ligne féminine, elle vient en main et pouvoir [elle peut venir en pouvoir] d'homme d'étrange nation, qui est chose pernicieuse et dangereuse : pourtant que celui qui vient de telle nation étrange [celui qui vient d'étrange nation] est d'autre nourriture et condition et a autres moeurs, autre langage et autre façon de vivre que ceux du pays où il vient dominer. Et si veut communément avancer ceux de sa nation et leur bailler la plus grande et principale autorité au maniement des affaires ; et davantage les préférer aux honneurs et profits: pourtant qu'il a toujours plus d'amour et de fiance en eux et si se conforme plus à leurs moeurs et conditions qu'à ceux du pays où il vient nouveau. Dont s'en ensuit toujours envie et dissention entre ceux du pays et les étrangers, et indignation contre les princes, ainsi que l'on a souvent vu par expérience et voit l'on tous les jours. Aussi, venant les successeurs de mâle en mâle, l'héritier est toujours certain et si est du même sang de ceux qui ont été auparavant. Par quoi les sujets y ont toute telle amour et révérence qu'aux autres et sans varier ni mettre aucun scrupule, s'adressant à lui dès que [1557: incontinent que]  l'autre est failli, encores qu'il soit en lointain degré et qu'il y ait filles du défunt, sans ce qu'il y ait aucune mutation ni difficulté, ainsi que l'on a vu à la mort du roi Charles VIII et du roi Louis XII dernier décédés. Et combien qu'en autre temps ci-devant, y ait eu grands questions et différends pour telles occasions (dont s'en sont ensuivis [ensuivies] grands guerres, persécutions et désolations au royaume), toutefois c'était plus par autres occasions (sous couleur de telles querelles, encores qu'on les connût être frivoles et mal fondées) que pour la raison. Et si sont les choses finalement parvenues à leur droiture et tellement établies qu'il n'y peut plus en aucun temps avoir différend ni difficulté touchant cela. Et j'ai compris, en décrivant cette Monarchie, [Et, pour prouver et maintenir ce que j'ai dit de la perfection de la Monarchie de France, j'y ai compris, en décrivant ce recueil,]   l'État de France tel qu'il est de présent, joignant les anciennes lois, coutumes et observances avec les nouvelles et plus récentes.

The Accession of Hugues Capet in 987

Several jurists and historians of the 16th and 17th c. explained Hugues Capet's success over Charles of Lorraine (a Carolingian, hence a better candidate a priori) in 987, by pointing out that Charles, as duke of Lorraine, was a vassal of the emperor and a foreigner; and that the letter of the law might call him to the throne as agnate, but the spirit rejected him as foreigner. This is not necessarily a correct historical analysis, but demonstrating its inaccuracy is totally beside the point. It demonstrates what writers in the 16th and 17th centuries considered to be a fundamental rule, justified by the same rationale that justifies the Salic law: the preservation of French independence. This belief that France could not be ruled by foreigners finds an early expression in the 12th c. Vie de Louis VI by Suger, who mentions the English king William II's attempts at scheming to become French king disapprovingly, "quia nec fas nec naturales est Frances Anglis, immo Angles Francis subici" (1929 ed., p. 10-11; cited by Luchaire, vol. 2, p. 42).

The exclusion of foreigners from the crown

Attested in many places. Charles Dumoulin, the greatest French jurist of the 16th c., wrote in his Coutumes de Paris (1576 edition): "Le bon sens exige que les princes du sang, devenus étrangers soient écartés du trône au même titre que les descendants mâles des princesses. L'exclusion des uns et des autres est dans l'esprit de la coutume fondamentale qui ne méconnaît le sang royal dans les princesses que pour ne jamais laisser le sceptre aux étrangers." (Common sense requires that princes of the blood who have become foreigners be excluded from the throne just as the male descendants of princesses. The exclusion of both is in the spirit of the fundamental custom, which overlooks the royal blood in princesses only to prevent the scepter from falling in foreign hands. Note: this is the text cited by Coutant de Saisseval La Légitimité monarchique, but I have been so far unable to locate the source of this citation.)

Nationality requirement for high office in France

The Edict of May 1616, article 8, states (Isambert: Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, vol. 16, p. 86):

Déclarons suivant les anciennes loix du royaume, renouvellées par l'ordonnance faicte sur les remonstrances des estats de Bloys, en l'année 1576, qu'aucuns estrangers ne seront à l'advenir admis ès offices de nostre couronne, ni ès gouvernements de nos provinces et places fortes, charges et dignitez militaires, offices de judicature et des finances, dignitez et prélatures ecclésiastiques, et autres foncitons publiques: sinon qu'en considération de leurs signalez et recommandables services, et de leurs qualitez et mérites, et que pour la réputation de nos affaires et grandeur de notre couronne, il y soit par nous desrogé, ainsi qu'il a esté souvent faict par les roys nos prédécesseurs, que l'on a veu par expérience en avoir esté utilement servis.

Did a foreigner ever accede to the French throne?

Legitimists cite a number of counter-examples of princes they call "foreigners" who ascended the French throne:
  • Philippe de France, king of Navarre jure uxoris since 1284, became Philippe IV in 1285
  • Louis de France, his son, king of Navarre by the death of his mother in 1305, became Louis X in 1314
  • François de France, king of Scotland jure uxoris since 1558, became François II in 1559
  • Henri de France, duc d'Anjou, elected king of Poland in 1573, became king of France in 1574
  • Henri de Bourbon, king of Navarre since 1572, became Henri IV in 1589
Are these valid counter-examples to the nationality requirement? To be so, it must be the case that these princes had lost the French nationality prior to ascending the throne. The Orleanist contention is not that owning foreign properties, or even ruling foreign states, is a bar to succesion: but only that the successor must be French.

Loss of Nationality under pre-1789 laws

A Frenchman lost his nationality if he left France and settled abroad "sans esprit de retour" without intent of returning. Since the early 16th c. at least, French nationality was based on jus soli and jus sanguinis: it was not enough to be of French blood, one had to reside in France. This loss of nationality is described by Loisel (d.1617), who treats as "aubins" (foreigners who cannot inherit estates in France) those who, born in France, have voluntarily left it. (Incidentally, the ordinance of 1669 made the following prohibition: "Défendons à tous nos sujets de s'établir sans notre permission dans les pays étrangers, par mariages, acquisitions d'immeubles, transport de leurs familles et biens, pour y prendre établissement stable et sans retour, à peine de confiscation de corps et biens, et d'être réputés étrangers.") This provision of French nationality law remained in place until a law of 26 June, 1889.

Jurists tended to presume in the favor of the absentee Frenchman. Pothier, in his Traité des Personnes (title II, section IV) says "on doit présumer toujours cet esprit de retour, à moins qu'il n'y ait quelque fait contraire qui détruise une présomption aussi bien fondée, et qui prouve une volonté certaine de s'expatrier." (one must always presume this intent of returning home, unless some contradictory fact negates such a well-founded presumption, and proves a clear desire of expatriation). He goes on to say that the expatriated Frenchman is almost like a foreigner, the only difference being that, upon returning home permanently, he recovers his nationality. The children of an expatriate can also recover their nationality and inherit on condition that they return permanently (this was established by a case in 1576). But various authors, such as Bacquet and Bourjon, required proof that this return was not opportunistic. Bourjon thought that the intent to return had to be manifested prior to the inheritance. Bacquet (d. 1597; he wrote a treatise on the "droit d'aubaine", the king's right to inherit any estate left by a foreigner in France) asserted that the returned expatriate could only inherit successions open after his permanent return.

The precedents examined

Let's begin with the favorite example, Henri de Bourbon, king of Navarre. He was French as son of Antoine de Bourbon, who clearly did not lose his nationality when he married Jeanne d'Albret in 1548, because he did not leave France without intent of return; he continued to live part, perhaps even most of his time in France, hold office in France, and be involved in French affairs. The same goes for his son Henri, although born in Béarn in 1553, but a peer in Parlement, holder of military and civil offices, "Premier Prince du Sang" after 1584. That was possible because Navarre, albeit a sovereign kingdom, was a small and neighbouring state, and a very minor part of Henri's estates; being king of Navarre was almost ceremonial, and he did not have to leave France to be king of Navarre. (He did have to leave France now and then to save his skin!).  The case of the future François II is similar.  The example of Henri III will be discussed below: suffice it to note that, before his departure for Poland, he received letters patent securing his succession rights in spite of his departure from France.

The medieval examples (Philippe IV and Louis X) are more difficult to assess, because the rules of nationality are more obscure; indeed it is not contended that they were applicable, and it would probably be anachronistic to apply them.  Nevertheless, it would be difficult to contend that the eldest son of the king of France, heir apparent residing in France, had lost his French nationality as a result of marrying a foreign ruler, or inheriting a foreign sovereignty. In both cases, their titulature placed the title of "filius regis" before the foreign royal title, clearly indicating the priority of the former on the latter.

An interesting contrast is afforded by the case of Charles de France (1226-85) comte d'Anjou, brother of Louis IX of France, who was vested with the kingdom of Naples by the Pope in 1265 and defeated the rival claimant (Conradin) in 1266. Prior to his accession, his style was Karolus, filius regis Franciae, comes Andegaviae et Provincie et Forcalquierii, et marchio Provinciae. The papal bull investing him was issued on 28 June 1265, and thereafter his style was "Carolus, Dei gratia rex Sicilie, ducatus Apulie et principatus Capue, Alme Urbis senator, Andegaviae, Provincie et Forcalquerii comes". With a few rare exceptions in the very first months of his reign, the phrase "filius regis Franciae" disappears completely from his style. (See Paul Durrieu: Les Archives Angevines de Naples. Paris, 1886: Ernest Thorin. Vol. 1, pp. 186-92). Once he had permanently settled abroad, he had ceased to be a son of France. He later arranged to dispose of his French apanages (Anjou, Maine, Touraine) by entailing them to his grand-daughter Marguerite who married in 1290 Charles de Valois (the apanages merged with the crown in 1328 when Charles' son acceded the throne). He retained Provence, which was not part of France at the time, but a fief of the Empire.

Something similar may be noted in Jean Juvénal des Ursins's Chronicles, where he mentions Louis, duc d'Anjou who was adopted as heir by the queen of Naples, whom he calls "Louis, roi de Sicile, jadis fils du roi de France" (Louis, king of Sicily, who once was son of the king of France). This example, cited by Guy Augé, is dismissed on the grounds that the author was not really familiar with the statutory theory of the French succession; a manifest error for anyone who takes the time to glance at Juvénal des Ursins' writings, in which he explains why the treaty of Troyes was illegal.

Was a foreigner ever excluded from the French throne?

Obviously not: there is no instance of such a nexclusion having ever been applied.  What we do find is that:
  • the theory of the droit d'aubaine, according to which the French estates of foreigners were forfeited to the king, could be applied even to peerages;
  • from the 16th century, every French prince who planned to settle abroad obtained letters securing his eventual rights to the throne before doing leaving.

Droit d'aubaine

The case of Mantua.

Princes leaving France


When the duc d'Anjou was elected king of Poland in 1573, he was obviously leaving France permanently and settling abroad, which is why letters patent were issued to preserve his French nationality; likewise such letters were issued when the duc d'Alençon was chosen by the provinces of the Low Countries as sovereign in 1581, and again planned for the prince de Conti in case he became king of Poland in 1697 (see Dangeau's journal, Nov 29, 1700: "le roi avoit promis à M Le Prince De Conty, quand il alla en Pologne, de lui en faire expédier sitôt qu' il seroit couronné roi de Pologne"); and likewise, such letters were issued in 1700 for the duc d'Anjou, but repealed in 1713.

From Dangeau's Journal, 30 nov 1700 (1856 ed., 7:439): "Le roi d'Espagne emportera des lettres patentes registrées au parlement par lesquelles on déclarera que, quoiqu'il soit devenu étranger en devenant roi d'Espagne, ses droits à la couronne de France pour lui et pour ses descendants seront conservés. Henri III, étant Duc D'Anjou et sortant de France pour aller être roi de Pologne, ne voulut point partir sans avoir de pareilles lettres patentes, et le roi avoit promis à M Le Prince De Conty, quand il alla en Pologne, de lui en faire expédier sitôt qu'il seroit couronné roi de Pologne."

Did Philip V's descendants remain French?

Interestingly, the question of whether the duc d'Anjou lost his French nationality when he became Felipe V of Spain was settled in court (Tribunal civil de Blois, 30 avr. 1925: Dalloz 1926 2.25; Cour d'appel d'Orléans, 29 févr. 1928, Cour de Cassation, 13 avr. 1932: Dalloz 1932 1.89).
 

The Parma inheritance and the court rulings of 1925-32

Roberto, last reigning duke of Parma, settled in exile in Austria, where the Emperor granted him extra-territorial privileges and the right to use the Obersthofmarschallamt (the specialized court for all civil cases involving members of the Austrian imperial family).  He died on Nov. 16, 1907, having had 21 children who reached adulthood(!).  Of those, one (the queen of Bulgaria) had died and was represented by her children, six were declared mentally incompetent on Feb 6, 1908, and twelve (all the children of his second marriage) were minors, being under the age of 24.  Roberto's will dated July 18, 1898 reserved half of his inheritance, in the form of an entailed estate, for his third surviving son Elias (1880-1959), distributing the rest among his other children and his widow.  It was not, however, possible to actually form an entailed estate, as this would have required a law in Parliament, which the cabinet said would certainly not pass.  Instead, the family reached a private agreement on March 31, 1910, which was approved by the court on April 15, 1910.  

The agreement created a family trust which provided with a sort of entailed estate for Elias, and for the six sons of Roberto's second marriage. Specifically, it gave 20 million crowns to the six institutionalized children and the twelve minors, of which 4 million crowns were to endow an "apanage" trust for the eight sons of the deceased; 595,000 crowns to the Beatrice, countess Lucchesi Palli; 970,000 crowns to the children of the queen of Bulgaria; the rest, including the castle of Chambord.  The settlement of the succession was not declared until July 10, 1918 by the same court.

Chambord, built by François I,  was included in a list of royal properties put up for sale by a decree of the Constituent Assembly of May 26, 1791.  It was then estimated at 500,000F, and had 12,500 acres of farmland and woodland.  It remained unsold until 1809, when Napoleon gave it to maréchal Berthier.  His widow still owned it when a national subscription was launched by M. de Calonne in 1820 to purchase the castle as a gift for the duc de Bordeaus, her son.  He kept possession of it in spite of going into exile in 1830, and at his death bequeathed it to his sister's sons, Roberto, duke of Parma, and Enrico count of Bardi (who died childless in 1905).  In the agreement, the castle was valued at 5 million F.

In the meantime, World War I had broken out.  On April 22, 1915, Chambord was sequestered by the French government as enemy property.  In application of article 249b of the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which gave France the right to keep the sequestered property, proceedings to liquidate the sequestered estate was initiated in 1919.  At this point, on March 13, Prince Sixte (1886-1934) sued to have the 1910 agreement annulled under French law which mandates equal division of inheritances, to have Chambord declared the undivided property of the co-heirs, Elias deprived of his share for having diverted part of the succession for his profit, and the sequester lifted.  He later acquired from his siblings, for paltry sums, all claims to Chambord, except those of Prince Xavier (1889-1977).  The two brothers sued jointly in 1924, claiming to be sole rightful owners of Chambord, and to be not enemies,  by virtue of having served in the Belgian Red Cross and the Belgian army during the war, and being French as descended from Louis XIV.

The court of Blois acepted some arguments and rejected others; it voided the 1910 agreement as far as Chambord was concerned, but rejected the nationality argument, ruling that "on doit considérer que le duc d'Anjou, en acceptant la couronne royale d'Espagne, et en fixant de façon définitive son domicile dans ce pays, ce qui était une conséquence inéluctable de son accession au trône, a perdu la nationalité française" (one must deem that the duc d'Anjou, in accepting the royal crown of Spain, and settling permanently in that country as an inevitable consequence of his accession to that throne, has lost the French nationality).  The court of Orléans confirmed that portion of the lower court's ruling, and declared Roberto and his children heimatlos, but overruled the annullment of the 1910 agreement, saying that, although French courts had sole jurisdiction to impose a division of estates located in France, it had nothing to say about valid agreements into which heirs had entered.  Princes Sixte and Xavier appealed on the validity of the agreement (not on the matter of nationality), and lost before the Court of Cassation in 1932.

As for the castle of Chambord, its destination had been settled even before the outcome of the appeals was known (see the information provided by the procureur, in Dalloz 1932 1.97):

  • On one hand, the sequester of Austrian property was lifted after an agreement was reached in the Hague between Austria and the Allies by a convention of Jan 20, 1930; waiving all claims; however, a bilateral agreement between France and Austria allowed France to pre-empt any property before the commencement of the agreement (June 28); which it did for Chambord on April 13, 1930, for 11 million F, to be paid to the franco-austrian liquidation commission if the courts ruled Elias the owner.  Thus, if Elias won, he would only have a claim against that commission.
  • On the other hand, Sixte and Xavier sold all their rights to Chambord (which represented all the rights of the co-heirs except Elias) for the same sum of 11 million F, should they win in court.
Thus Chambord has been a property of the French government since 1930, with the identity of the seller in doubt until 1932...

Here is the text of the portion of the ruling by the appeals court of Orléans dealing with nationality (Dalloz 1932 1.92).

Attendu qu'avant d'aborder la discussion des demandes telles qu'elles sont formulées dans les exploits visés, il échet de rechercher quelle est la nationalité des héritiers du duc Robert de Parme ; 

Attendu que le prince Sixte et le prince Xavier soutiennent qu'ils sont de nationalité française, comme étant issus d'un père français, don't tous les ascendants mâles sont demeurés Français jusque et y compris le duc d'Anjou, petit-fils de Louis XIV, devenu roi d'Espagne, sous le nom de Philippe V, le 24 novembre 1700 ; qu'ils prétendent que l'accession du trône d'Espagne n'a point fait perdre à celui-ci la naitonalité française, et qu'en tout cas, il la conserve en puissance, de même que l'ont conservée tous ses descendants mâles ;

Attendu que si, dans l'antiquité, c'est la filiation jus sanguinis dont il est exclusivement tenu compte pour déterminer la nationalité d'un enfant au moment de sa naissance, et si, à Rome, en particulier, c'est la filiation qui donnait à l'enfant la qualité de citoyen, à l'époque féodale un principe contraire a prévalu ; que l'enfant prend alors jure soli la nationalité du pays où il est né ; que, sous ce régime, c'est la terre qui détermine la condition de la personne, l'enfant etant l'homme du seigneur sur la terre duquel il est né, et, plus tard, sujet du roi, lorsqu'il est né dans son royaume ;

Attendu que ce principe est resté en vigueur pendant toute la durée de notre ancien droit, et mêwme encore à l'époque du droit intermédiaire ;

Attendu que le même principe conduisait à décider que tout individu né hors de France, même de parents français, était étranger, le terme d'aubain qui était alors employé pour désigner l'étranger, siginifiant homme natif hors de France ;

Attendu que sous l'ancien droit, la terre déterminait la condition de la personne, on doit en conclure que celui qui quittait le sol où il était né, et s'en détachait pour se fixer en pays étranger, perdait la nationalité à laquelle il appartenait de par sa naissance;

Attendu qu'on doit, dès lors, considérer que le duc d'Anjou, en acceptant la Couronne Royale d'Espagne, et en fixant de façon définitive son domicile hors de ce pays, ce qui était une conséquence inéluctable de son accession au trône, a perdu la nationalité française ;

Attendu qu'alors même qu'il eût conservé cette nationalité, ses enfants nés en Espagne, c'est-à-dire hors de France, auraient été ipso facto des étrangers, étant donné le principe du droit français alors en vigueur ;

Attendu qu'on ne saurait admettre qu'en dépit de ces principes, le duc d'Anjou et ses descendants mâles ont conservé en puissance la nationalité française, sous le prétexte qu'ils auraient conservé, malgré le traité d'Utrecht, leur droit à monter sur le trône de France ; à supposer que la renonciation à ce droit stipulée dans ce traité ait été sans valeur, rien ne se serait opposé à ce qu'ayant perdu la nationalité française, ils la recouvrassent lors de leur accession au trône de France, au cas où cet événement se serait produit ;

Attendu qu'il n'a jamais été établi par le droit français de catégories différentes de nationaux ; que les mêms règles s'appliquaient à tous, quelle que soit leur origine, le jus sanguinis qui était appliqué dans l'antiquité, ne l'étant plus pendant toute la période s'étendant de la féodalité au Code civil;

Attendu qu'aucun des descendants mâles de Robert de Parme n'ayant rempli les conditions fixées par les différentes lois intervenues depuis l'époque révolutionnaire jusqu'à nos jours, pour se farie reconnaître la nationalité française, et ce prince lui-même ne les ayant pas remplies, ni ses ascendants, ni lui n'ont cessé d'être des étrangers, au regard de la loi française[...]
 


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