Charles X Biography

King (1757–1836)
Charles X was the last Bourbon monarch of France, best known for igniting the July Revolution with his unpopular political positions.


Charles X was born Charles Philippe on October 9, 1757, at the Palace of Versailles. Charles lost much of his family during the French Revolution. A devout Catholic and royalist, he resisted the constitutional reforms instituted by Louis XVIII during the Bourbon Restoration. Charles took the throne as Charles X in 1824, but was driven into exile in 1830. He died in Gorizia on November 6, 1836.

Early Life

Charles X of France was born Charles Philippe on October 9, 1757, at the Palace of Versailles. He was the youngest son of the Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe (Maria Josepha of Saxony). At the time of his birth, Charles received the title of Count of Artois from his grandfather, King Louis XV. Initially far from the throne, Charles drew closer following the death of his oldest brother, Louis Joseph Xavier, Duke of Burgundy, in 1761. Another brother, Louis Auguste, claimed the throne after the death of King Louis XV in 1774.

Charles married Marie Thérèse of Savoy in 1773. In 1775, she gave birth to a boy, Louis Antoine—the first member of the next generation of Bourbons. The couple had a second child, another son, in 1778. Considered to be the most handsome of the young royals, Charles had many affairs. His close friendship with his sister-in-law, Marie Antoinette, sparked rumors of an improper relationship. Both lived lavishly, racking up enormous debts.

French Revolution

Charles's political awakening began in 1786, when an indebted France struggled to implement fiscal reform. He opposed any reduction in the social privileges enjoyed by the nobility and supported a plan to depose Jacques Necker, the liberal minister of finance. This action provoked the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Three days later, Charles was forced to flee the country. In 1792, the National Assembly abolished the French monarchy. The king and queen were sentenced to death in 1793, and the dauphin died in captivity two years later.

The Bourbon Restoration

In January 1814, Charles traveled to southern France to join the pro-monarchy coalition force. Following the abdication of Napoleon I, the senate declared Louis XVIII king of France, with Charles as his regent. Although the new king embraced a liberal constitution, Charles remained staunchly conservative.

Louis XVIII died in September 1824, and his brother succeeded him to the throne as King Charles X of France. In the first few months of his reign, Charles's government passed a series of laws that bolstered the power of the nobility and clergy. Charles's government attempted to re-establish male primogeniture and successfully extended France's imperial power by conquering Algeria.

The July Revolution

Charles was already unpopular when he dissolved much of the government in 1830. When elections held in June of that year did not produce results that favored his policies, Charles and his ministers suspended the constitution. They also took action to stifle the press and dismiss the parliament. Newspaper editors defied Charles's directives, printing his ordinances and calling for revolt. Angry mobs began to form in the streets of Paris.

In August, Charles X abdicated in favor of his young grandson Henry, Duke of Bordeaux.

Exile and Death

Fearing bodily harm, Charles X and his family fled France and settled in England.

The Bourbons moved to Prague in the winter of 1832, residing at the Hradschin Palace at the invitation of Emperor Francis I of Austria. Charles X died of cholera on November 6, 1836, in Gorizia, Italy, and was interred in what is now Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

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