Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orleans (1810-1842) - son of Louis Philippe I

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Feb 2, 2019
Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orleans, was the first son of King Louis Philippe I of France. He was born in exile in Sicily in 1810 and he died very young, at age only 32 in 1842.

He is described as a handsome man, and that's what I see from his portraits - I always thought he resembled Albert, Prince Consort a lot with the facial hair and all. It is said that he was very charismatic and had prospects of a nice military career if he lived longer.

He was married with Duchess Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Their marriage is described as very happy and produced two children: Prince Philippe, Count of Paris (1838–1894), who was Prince Royal, and Prince Robert, Duke of Chartres (1840–1910).

I was always interested in his life and personality. I would love to know more about his marriage with Helene - what was their life together like, how they were as parents, etc.

Also, I would like to know if there are any primary sources such as his diaries and letters preserved in France or a royal archive and where exactly?

Please, if any of you know of a book about his life, old or new edition, send me the titles and names of the authors, as I am much interested in reading about this fascinating royal!

Feel free to share some of his portraits so we can appreciate his good looks!

Thank you, everyone.

I recently read an article about Ferdinand’s search for a bride but can’t find it right now. I’ll keep looking. I think it ended up in box of royalty-related magazines I put in storage.

I do know Ferdinand had a difficult time finding a wife. Many of the Catholic royal families regarded the Orleans family as usurpers and shunned them (the Habsburgs of Austria included) so Ferdinand searched for a Protestant bride instead. Initially he showed interest in a daughter of King Wilhelm I of Wurttemberg who refused to consent to a match, presumably because he feared the Orleans family would be toppled from the throne and his daughter would end her life in exile, just as his sister Catherine had (she married Jerome Bonaparte). Eventually Ferdinand settled on Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a “lesser” royal (her father was only a Grand Duke). The marriage was happy but because she was a Protestant and a liberal Helene had a difficult relationship with her devoutly Catholic mother-in-law Queen Marie Amelie. Following the revolution of 1848 Helene spent most of her time in her native Germany.

Here are some other sources I’ve run across. I’m no expert on the Orleans family so there might be others I’ve missed.

Ferdinand’s sons published a book with his letters: Lettres 1825-1842: Publiés par ses fils le Comte de Paris et le Duc de Chartres (1889). The book is available online: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k246093

The Archives Nationales in Paris holds many personal papers of the Orleans family:

Prince Michael of Greece (son of Princess Francoise of Orleans) published a book about the Orleans family. According to the description the photographs date from 1860-1940 but I suppose there might be a least one or two pictures of Ferdinand and Helene:

I’m currently reading a book called Sons and Heirs: Succession and Political Culture in Nineteenth Century Europe, ed. Frank Lorenz Müeller and Heidi Mehrkens (2016). It includes an article about the political impact of Ferdinand’s death: “The Impossible Task of Replacing a Model Heir: The Death of Ferdinand-Philippe d’Orléans and the ‘New France’” (pp. 196-207). These are some of the sources it cites:

1) Arnaud Teyssier, Les Enfants de Louis-Philippe et la France (2006).

2) Anne Martin-Fugier, Louis-Philippe et sa Famille 1830-1848, 2nd ed. (2012).

3) Joelle Hureau, L’espoir Brisé. Le Duc d’Orléans 1810-1842 (1995).

4) Renate Löschner, Helene Herzogin von Orléans – eine Mecklenburgerin im Französichen Könighaus des 19. Jahrhunderts (2009).

5) Jeanne-Paule d’Harcourt, Die Herzogin von Orléans Helene von Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1859).
Available online:

6) Adrien Pascal, Vie Militaire, Politique et Privée de Son Altesse Royale Mgr.lle Duc d'Orléans: Avec Notes Historiques sur les Campagnes d'Afrique Rédigées par le Prince (1842). Available online: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100879272

7) Achille Eyraud, Histoire de S. A. R. Mgr le duc d'Orléans racontée aux enfants (1842). Available online: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5652137t

8) La vie et la mort du prince royal duc d'Orléans (1842)
Available online: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5651548p

9) Heidi Mehrkens, The Prince, the President and the Cholera (2012)
Available online: Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orleans | Heirs to the Throne Project

To find other [old] online books you could also search Gallica (digital library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France) at BnF - Gallica – The BnF digital library

You could also search HathiTrust, another tool for locating online books. For example, here are the search results I did for books about Ferdinand: https://tinyurl.com/y7lsh699

Search results for Helene: https://tinyurl.com/y73altha

For print books you could search WorldCat: https://www.worldcat.org/

Good luck! I’ve become more interested in the Orleans family myself after reading about the recent death and funeral of the Comte de Paris.
:previous: Considering Ferdinand himself was born in exile, in his mother's Sicily, the fear a daughter married into the family would end up in exile would be strong.

It is said he was originally to marry Louise Marie of Artois. Her father was the younger son of Charles X of France. Such talks came to an end in 1830 when Charles was forced to abdicate, and Ferinand's father came to the throne. Louise's family ended marriage talks, due to the Orleans 'usurping' the throne. Such a marriage would have strengthened Ferdinand's claim to the throne, uniting the two families through marriage. Louise's brother was titled Henry V after their Uncle Louis XIX died childless. Louise would later marry the future Duke of Parma. But her and her son Robert I would live out most of their life in exile.

The Wurttembergs indeed turned down any suggestion of marriage. The duke had two daughters. His daughter Marie ended up marrying a Count, a much lower marriage. His daughter Sophie of course married William III of the Netherlands.

The next suggestion was Maria Theresa, a daughter of Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. Charles was a younger brother of Emperor Francis I. Charles was actually all for the marriage as was Ferdinand's mother. Opposition came from Archduchess Sophie, mother of the soon to be Emperor Franz-Joseph, and from Prince Metternich. Metternich was worried about repeating the same mistake he made by marrying Marie Louise to Napoleon I. Maria Theresa would go on to marry Ferdinand II of two Sicilies. His first wife Maria Cristina of Savoy (now Blessed Maria Cristina) had died the year before giving birth to his heir Frances. Maria Theresa was extremely close to her stepson and served as an advisor to him when he was king. They later were exiled to Rome. It is said her stepson nursed her in her final days.

At this point there were only 2 catholic princesses who were considered eligible left to consider. Princess Januaria of Brazil was ruled out because of her distance Januaria actually became a sister in law to the above Maria Thersa, marrying Ferdinand II's younger brother Luigi. The other was Infanta Isabel Fernanda of Spain. Her father was the youngest son of Charles IV of Spain. Isabel was said to be rejected due to her looks. Her ginger hair, and fear she would become obese like her mother. Isabel would later marry for love, her riding instructor.

Several protestant princesses were considered before Helene was settled on. Louise of Hesse-Kassel (future wife of Christian IX of Denmark, mother of Frederik VIII and Queen Alexandra of the UK among others), Marie of Sax-Altenberg (eventually married George V of Hannover) and Victoria of Sax-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria ended up married to Ferdinand's younger brother Louis D'Orleans.

Helene's family was not supportive of the marriage. When she came to France to marry, she was only accompanied by one person. Her father had died in 1819 and her mother in 1816. Her father's third wife Auguste had married him 18 months before his death. She was said to be a doting stepmother to his four children from his 2 previous marriages. She was particularily close to Helene, being first cousins to Helene's mother, so it was not surprising she would accompany her stepdaughter for the wedding. Auguste was 41 when she married Helene's father, her first and only marriage. She had married later in life as she had been caretaker to her ill father for years.

The couple had 3 weddings, a civil and then a wedding in both faiths. The Archbishop of Paris refused to let them marry at Notre Dame. Instead they were married at the chapel of Henry IV by the bishop of Meaux. The only foreign ambassadors to attend were from Belgium and Prussia.

Ironically considering the fear of exile causing issues with marrying a catholic- of the three Catholic brides who were considered, two of them would end up in exile with their husbands anyways. The only one who didn't was Sophie.
BTW - Helene and Louise of Saxe-Gotha (mother of Prince Albert husband of Queen Victoria) were first cousins. Helene's father Friedrich Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Louise's mother, another Louise, were both children of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I.

Friedrich Franz survived until 1837 and Prince Albert and his brother Ernest often visited their great-grandfather and became acquainted with their cousin Helene before her marriage. Albert and Victoria always considered Helene to be "family" and named their third daughter Helena after her. Helene was also one of Helena's godmothers.

Helene, in turn, was probably named after her father's first wife, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia, daughter of Emperor Paul I.
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One fascinating fact that I learned from the video was that after the demise of Prince Ferdinand Philippe, there were numerous requests to have portraits painted of him.
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