What is a “Foreign Prince”?

Hugh Capet, King of the Franks

Time and again we come back to this debate.

Arrêt le Maistre denies the throne to “foreign princes,” calling it “contrary to the Salic law.” But the question is, what did the Parlement of Paris mean by “foreign prince.”

We, of course, contend that the words should be read by their plain, natural meaning — that is to say a prince who is, or has become, foreign.

Following the rules of logic, if someone were to contend a meaning contrary to the natural meaning of the words, surely they must provide evidence.

Anjouists claim that a foreign prince is not a prince who is foreign, but a prince who is not of the “Blood of France.”  For their evidence (see footnote 31) they cite the case of Henri IV, claiming he was a foreigner.  Thus, they say, he was a foreigner but was the rightful king because he was of the “Blood of France.”

The problem with their claim is that it is flatly false.  Henri IV was born in Bearn in 1553.  Years earlier, in 1505, the Parlement of Paris ruled that Bearnais were French.  This means Henri IV was not a foreigner.  Therefore, the evidence Anjouists cite is simply wrong, meaning their claim is wrong.

The evidence, however, appears to be contrary to the Anjouist claim.  Le Maistre also states that to put the kingdom into “foreign hands” is “against the laws of the kingdom.”

Magistrate Pierre de Belloy also used the term “foreign hands” and said that the purpose of the Salic was was not to exclude women for “imbecility,” which he said was often found in men, but to keep the kingdom out of “foreign hands.

Belloy further writes:

Now it is quite certain that, without a Salic law, the Crown would have been exploited by an infinite number of non-French Princes [Princes non François], by the marriages of my daughters, daughters of France, who are married in a foreign nation, often in England, Spain, in Germany, in Lorraine, in other provinces of Europe…

And:

For the government of which we all scourge by the testimony of the oldest stories of this kingdom, that our Fathers had nothing ever in greater horror, than to be dominated by other than by a Prince of their nation…[ibid.]

Claude de Seyssel had a similar opinion, justifying the Salic law in similar terms:

And the first specialty that I find good there is that the kingdom goes by male succession, without being able to fall into the hands of a woman, according to the law that the French call “salic”, which is a very good thing. Because, falling in a feminine line, it comes into the hands and power [it can come into power] of a man of strange nation, which is pernicious and dangerous thing: yet that which comes from such a strange nation [the one who comes from strange nation] is other food and condition and has other mores, other language and other way of living than those of the country where it comes to dominate.

As for the “Blood of France,” see the words of André Favyn:

Arnulf opposed the Nobility of France, who never wished to recognise a Foreign Prince for their king; even if he is the blood of France.

Most importantly, however, are the words of Charles IX — that foreigners are “incapable of all succession” and would be struck “at death by the right of Aubaine.”  These words come from a Declaration to preserve the succession rights of the future Henri III because he was leaving France to become King of Poland.  The Declaration and the letters patent that followed were written to preserve the French status of Henri III and his descendants:

…so they will remain all right and whatever other things may be theirs now and in the event of his coming and staying as if he were full, he lived and lived continually in this kingdom until their trespass, and their heirs were original and regnicoles*.

*A regnicole was someone who was “naturally French” — a Frenchman.

So, not only is there no evidence for the Anjouist claim, the evidence appears to support the contrary — that a foreign prince is exactly that — a prince who is foreign rather than French; a prince who is not a regnicole.

It appears that the origin of the Anjouist claim comes from the sycophantic “Observations” of Henri François d’Aguesseau:

There is, moreover, a great difference between a Prince Foreigner who wants to acquire particular property in this Kingdom by succession and a Prince of blood destined by birth to bear the crown of France.

The “Observations” of Aguesseau are full of fallacious logic and sophism — a sycophantic attempt to try and claim that Felipe V of Spain and his descendants retained their rights to the French throne.  This was written as the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, when it became clear that France could not achieve a military victory.

At that time, the letters patent to preserve the rights of Felipe V were revoked.  Much as in the case of Henri III, Felipe’s letters were written to preserve his succession rights by treating him as if he had remained in France, preserving his status as French:

Letters patent of the King declaring that his grandson the King of Spain retains the rights of his birth, as if he continued to reside in the Kingdom, so that he and his heirs will die, if necessary , heirs of the Crown of France, despite their absence from the kingdom and their birth abroad.

And:

Our dearest and most loving little Son, the King of Spain, still retains the rights of his birth in the same way, as if he were doing his present residence in our kingdom.

But again, those letters were revoked (ibid.), meaning the French status of Felipe and his heirs were likewise revoked, making them foreign and “incapable of all succession,” in the aforesaid words of Charles IX.

And about three decades earlier in the Funeral Oration of Maria Theresa of Austria (Habsburg Spain), Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet said:

What need be to speak of the Most Christian House of France, which by its noble constitution is incapable of being subject to a foreign family, which is still dominant in its head, which alone in the whole universe and in every century, after seven hundred years of established kingship…

This is merely further evidence that, prior to the War of the Spanish Succession, it was understood that the king must be a Frenchman.

For all these above reasons, it must be concluded that a “foreign prince” is a prince who is foreign and not a Frenchman.