Henry, Duke of Aquitaine

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
Henry V
Duke of Aquitaine
Portrait of the Duke in the modest Mendicité noble style of the 1790s.
King of France
Reign 18 July 1793 – 18 January 1795
PredecessorPhilip VIII
SuccessorAugustine Spiga (as leader of France)
Louis XV d'Anjou (as head of the Bourbon dynasty)
BornHenry, Duke of Aquitaine
6 October 1749
Palace of Versailles, France
Died18 January 1795
(age 45)
Latin Quarter, Paris, France
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Henry, Duke of Aquitaine (French: Henri d'Aquitaine; 6 October 1749 – 18 January 1795) was a French prince du sang and disputed King of France from 1793 to 1795 as Henry V. A junior son of Philip VIII, he failed to flee to New France with his father and older brother. The insurgent National Assembly selected him as titular leader of the country, restricting his activities to the Île de la Cité for nearly two years. At the age of forty-five, he was crushed by a pro-republican crowd near the College of Sorbonne on 18 January 1795. His death led to the formation of the First French Republic and the appointment of Augustine Spiga as Director-General, an act which would eventually lead to the outbreak of the Augustine Wars.

Life in the Palace: 1749–1770

Henry was born on 6 October 1749 to Philip, Dauphine of France and Blanche the Tuscan, a member of the royal Medici dynasty of Tuscany. Upon birth, he was automatically granted the title Duke of Aquitaine, a title that had been extinct for almost three centuries. Born immediately prior to the Great Silesian War, the choice of dukedom was influenced by the upcoming celebration of the 296th anniversary of France's reconquest of Aquitaine in 1453 as well as contemporary political sentiments being firmly set against Britain.

The royal children were primary raised by governess Irma de Bellefonds, a staunchly Catholic woman closely related to the Marquis de Villars and partly raised in the Madrid court of Charles III. As a young boy, he occasionally visited the Jesuit college at Pontoise, where he would be vividly instructed in the Catholic faith and a myriad of other subjects. Henry was particularly interested in Jesuit foreign missions, culminating in his private sponsorship of a mission to indigenous Americans in colonial Meerenland at age 17.

Measles rendered Henry bedridden for nearly six months between 1769 and 1770. His mother, Queen Blanche, insisted on seeking the care of Papal physicians, who stopped bloodletting procedures administered by French doctors before excessive blood loss caused permanent damage to the Duke. After his illness, Henry briefly took up the sport of hunting before committing himself to the Parisian social scene.

Marriage and interests

The winter of 1772 saw his marriage to Polish-Lithuanian noblewoman Sofia Gosiewska, descendant of notable 17th-century general and statesman Vincent Gosiewski. She was known in France as Sophie, duchesse d'Aquitaine. Together, they had three children, with only one surviving to adulthood:

  • Henry-Frederick, Count of La Marche (17 December 1775 – 4 August 1820)
  • Anne d'Aquitaine (5 February 1775 – 29 March 1783)
  • Madeleine d'Aquitaine (18 October 1773 – 4 November 1776)

After the death of their second daughter Anne in 1783, the couple grew increasingly distant, with Henry's devotion to his Catholic faith steadily increasing. Rekindling his childhood passions, the Duke financed a French exploratory presence in the South Pacific; in modern Australie, he is recognized as one of the early supporters of French colonization of Australia due to his philanthropy and political advocacy. The ship Aquitaine, making its first journey from France to the new settlement Rochefort in 1839, was named in his honor by Flemish and French colonists which it carried.

Captive King: 1793–1795

Murder and recognition

See also