The Myth of Foreign Kings

Merchant Flag. CC 3.0 – Sodacan

Anjouists claim there have been “foreigners” who have become kings of France.  Famously they cite Philip IV, Louis X, Francis II, Henri III, and Henri IV.

It is important to state that the requirement of the king being French only came into being after the Hundred Years’ War and was confirmed by Arrêt le Maistre of 1593, stating that to put the kingdom in “foreign hands” was “against the laws of the kingdom” and that to give the throne to a “foreign prince” was “contrary to the Salic law.”

Further, it is likely anachronistic to apply such a rule to before the Hundred Years’ War, when such concepts were not well-defined.  Regardless, we will be tracing the line of kings from Hugh Capet to Charles X.

It is important to remember that the standard for determining who was French during the 16th,  17th, and 18th centuries was jus soli.  It is also important to note that becoming king of a foreign state or inheriting foreign properties did not make one a foreigner.

Before the Hundred Years’ War

Hugh Capet.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Robert II.  Born in Orleans, France.  Died in Melun, France.

Henri I.  Born in Reims, France.  Died in Vitry-aux-Loges, France.

Philip I.  Born in Champagne-et-Fontaine, France.  Died in Melun, France.

Louis VI.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Béthisy-Saint-Pierre, France.

Louis VIIExact birthplace unknown; most likely France.  Died in Saint-point, France.

Philip II.  Born in Gonesse, France.  Died in Mantes-la-jolie, France.

Louis VIII.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Montpensier, France.

Louis IX.  Born in Poissy, France.  Died in Tunis (Crusade).

Philip III.  Born in Poissy, France.  Died in Perpignan, Kingdom of Majorca (Aragonese Crusade).

Philip IV.  Born in Fontainebleau, France.  Died in Fontainebleau, France.

Louis X.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Vincennes, France.

Jean I, the Posthumous.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Philip V.  Born in Lyon, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Charles IV.  Born in Clermont, France.  Died in Vincennes, France.

During the Hundred Years’ War

Philip VIExact birthplace unknown; most likely France.  Died in Nogent-le-Roi, France.

Jean II.  Born in Le Mans, France.  Died in London, England (Prisoner of War*).

Charles V.  Born in Vincennes, France.  Died in Beauté-sur-Marne, France.

Charles VI.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Charles VII.  Born in Paris, France.  Died in Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France.

Louis XI.  Born in Bourges, France.  Died in La Riche, France.

After the Hundred Years’ War

Charles VIII.  Born in Amboise, France.  Died in Amboise, France.

Louis XII.  Born in Blois, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Francis I.  Born in Cognac, France.  Died in Rambouillet, France.

Henri II.  Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Francis II.  Born in Fontainebleau, France.  Died in Orleans, France.

Charles IX.  Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.  Died in Vincennes, France.

Henri III.  Born in Fontainebleau, France.  Died in Saint-Cloud, France.

Henri IV.  Born in Bearn.  Bearnais were considered naturally French in 1505.  Died in Paris, France.

Louis XIII.  Born in Fontainebleau, France.  Died in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.

Louis XIV.  Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.  Died in Versailles, France.

Louis XV.  Born in Versailles, France.  Died in Versailles, France.

Louis XVI.  Born in Versailles, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Louis XVII.  Born in Versailles, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Louis XVIII.  Born in Versailles, France.  Died in Paris, France.

Charles X.  Born in Versailles, France.  Died in the Austrian Empire (Exile; July Revolution).

Supposedly “Foreign” Kings

Again, it is anachronistic to apply a nationality rule to monarchs before the 16th century, but for the sake of argument, we will be applying the 16th century standard to such monarchs.  Note: “Nationality” is a modern term, but in the 16th century there was an understanding of foreign (etranger/aubain) versus French (regnicole).  Thus, for simplicity, we use the modern term of “nationality.”

The standard was jus soli and a person could lose his French status by leaving sans esprit de retour (without spirit/intent of return).  Of course, it would be ridiculous to apply the latter after a person becomes king, but for the sake of argument, we will anyway.

Philip III

Philip III was born in France, but died in the Kingdom of Majorca of dysentery during the Aragonese Crusade.  So it would be hard to say that Philip III left without spirit of return.  Again, applying that rule after he had become king would be ridiculous, since a king would likely be out of the country on “official business.”

Philip IV

Philip IV did become King of Navarre by marriage, but that did not make him a foreigner.  Foreign simply meant not French.  Holding foreign estates did not make one foreign.

Philip IV was born in and died in France.  Thus, he never lost his status as French.

Louis IX

Louis IX was born in France.  And while he died of dysentery in Tunis during a Crusade, it would be very difficult to say he left without spirit of return.

Louis X

Louis X was also King of Navarre.  But again, this did not make him foreign according to 16th century standard we are using retroactively.  Foreign simply meant non-French.  Louis was born in and died in France.

Jean II

Jean II was born in France, but died in England in a very unusual case.  He was a prisoner of war who was released, but when his son escaped imprisonment, Jean voluntarily returned to England as a prisoner as a matter of “good faith and honour.”  While in England, he fell ill and died from an unknown disease.  He was an honourable man and would be remembered as Jean the Good.  It is difficult to say he died without intent of returning.

Francis II

Here we see the first supposedly “foreign” monarch since the Hundred Years’ War.  Yes, Francis II became King of Scots by his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots.  But again, being king of a foreign country does not make one foreign.  Foreign meant non-French.  Francis never actually ruled Scotland, which was ruled over by his mother-in-law, Mary of Guise.  Francis was born in, lived in, and died in France.  Thus, he was never a foreigner.

Henri III

Henri III

It is true that Henri III became King of Poland and even went there until the death of his older brother Charles IX.  Henri, however, received letters patent to preserve his French status (regnicole), thus preserving his succession rights and those of 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

It is also important to note that Poland was an elective monarchy.  Thus it was unlikely that any children of Henri III would become King of Poland.  We discuss more of this here.

After the death of his brother, King Charles IX, Henri returned to France to become king.  The polish deposed him.  Henri III died in France.

Henri IV

Henri IV is the most famous example of a supposedly “foreign” monarch.  It is true he was born in Bearn, but the Bearnais were ruled to be naturally French by the Parlement of Paris in 1505.  Thus, by the time Henri was born in 1553, he would have been a natural Frenchman.  So, he was born French and died French in Paris.  We can therefore say that Henri IV was not a foreigner.


We can definitively say, that since the Hundred Years’ War, there has never been a foreign King of France.

Furthermore, with the rules of nationality being nebulous and anachronistic prior to the Hundred Years’ War, the Capetian monarchs, almost all of whom were born in France, cannot be definitively said to be foreigners.

It is unknown whether Louis VII or Philip VI were born in France, though they most likely were, and we cannot definitively say otherwise.

Thus, since Hugh Capet, we cannot say to a certainty that there has ever been a foreigner to take the French throne.  And it appears highly probable that all the Capetian kings have been naturally French.

And since the Hundred Years’ War, we have seen the exclusion of foreigners in the favour of the French princes.  The independence of France from foreign rule was the whole point of the war, of course (at least from the French perspective).

Contrasting the Spanish Bourbons

Arms of Felipe V of Spain

Here we will examine the Spanish Bourbons in contrast to the Capetian Kings of France.  We will be ignoring those Spanish princes who died without issue.

Carlos III.  Born in Madrid, Spain.  Died in Madrid, Spain.

Carlos IV.  Born in Portici, Naples.  Died in Rome, Papal States.

Infante Carlos (de jure Carlos V of Spain).  Born in Aranjuez, Spain Died in Trieste, Austria.

Juan, Count of Montizon (de jure Juan III of Spain).  Born in Aranjuez, Spain.  Died in Hove, England.

Then there are the words of Montizon’s son, the Duke of Madrid:

Before now I said that I would never leave Spain, and today I repeat it. I am bound to their destinies by the torrents of generous blood that I have seen spilling in my defense. I swear it one more time: I will never abandon it.

Thus, we see four generations of foreign-born princes.  They were born, raised, and died in foreign countries.  Who, then, can possibly call them French? And the quote above, from the fifth generation, shows that the Spanish Bourbons were Spanish, and had acclimated to the ways and mores of Spain.

Context of the Fundamental Laws

Lit de Justice of Charles VII in 1450

It is not just enough to examine the Fundamental Laws themselves, for they were not created in a vacuum.  They must be viewed from their history and context.  Otherwise, one fails to see their true meaning and purpose.

The Salic Law

This first begins with the rejection of Joan and the accession Felipe V in 1317.  The term “Salic law” was not used at this time, only to be rediscovered a few decades later, and is only mentioned in 1410 against the claims of Henry IV of England.

There was another succession crisis in 1328.  Philip of Valois is chosen as Philip VI over Edward III of England, who claimed the throne through his mother, Isabella (The She-Wolf) of France.  It was decided that one could not pass on a right one does not have.  This rule became known as Male Collaterality, the passage of the throne from male to male, so as not to pass through the feminine line.  Thus, keeping the throne out of Foreign hands.

Then, after the Hundred Years’ War, comes the 16th century.  The Salic law is re-purposed and justified as keeping the throne out of foreign hands:

Indeed, it must be considered that the reason for the law of France and other kingdoms, which the Salic law is kept, which excludes the female sex from the succession of the crown, is not only tested on the imbecility, and infirm condition of the sex, which is too often found also to the male sex: But mainly to prevent, that it does not fall in foreign hands, and that the kingdom is governed by other than by a Frenchman, who makes blood and origin of his father, and who has a notable interest, and a natural affection for the preservation of his country.

[Pierre de Belloy.  On the Salic Law. P. 85-86]

This is based on a simple understanding and assumption.  Princesses would go to foreign countries and marry into other families, while the princes would remain in France:

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…

[Belloy. P. 86]

Belloy, however, confirms that daughters have the blood of their parents, mother and father, but that the law excludes them from the throne:

Also as we cannot deny, that naturally under the name of Children, the girls are understood, and their posterity: So that causes, which are judged by the only instinct of the blood and natural explanation of the word Children, hope from the entrails of Nature, all its and all lines must be heard, as the name of parents, includes the paternal and maternal line: However, as regards and belongs to the effects of the ordinance of the civil law, or the singular law of Here [France], the denomination of the children must be made by the interpretation and the civil significance of those who descend from the males, to whom only the law has had regard, and on which it has placed its intention.

[Belloy. P. 84-85]

Belloy goes on to state that foreigners are “different in their mores” (P. 88).  Claude de Seyssel says the same, stating this is a good justification for the Salic law:

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.

[Seyssel. La Grand Monarchie. P. 8]

Then we have Arrêt le Maistre of 1593:

JUDGMENT of the sitting parliament in Paris which annuls all treaties made or to be made which would call to the throne of France a foreign prince or princess, as contrary to the salic law and other fundamental times of the state.


…and that it is necessary to employ the authority which has been committed to him to prevent that, under pretext of religion, be transferred in foreign hands against the laws of the kingdom…

And it is important that Le Maistre be put into proper context.  A great many refused to acknowledge Henri IV as king because he was a Protestant.

There was an attempt to place Infanta Isabella (granddaughter of Henri II) on the throne, despite the fact that she was a woman and that this would also violate the Inalienability of the Crown.

Despite this, the Parlement of Paris denied Isabella not because she was a woman, but because she was foreign.  So again, we see the rejection of a foreigner.  And, that in 16th century mindset, the Salic law’s purpose was not so much to exclude women, but to exclude foreigners.

Inalienability of the Crown

Battle of Agincourt

It was after the Battle of Agincourt that the Treaty of Troyes was imposed on France, which would have named Henry V of England and his heirs as Kings of France, disinheriting Charles VII.

In anticipation of this treaty, the Inalienability of the Crown rule was created.  The crown is no longer the property of the king, and he can no longer abdicate, renounce, or alter the succession.  The law of succession is now based on custom.

Charles VII and the French had to fight the English in order to cement this rule.  Finally, after the Battle of Castillon, the English are defeated.  The English are mostly driven from France, and the rule of Charles VII is confirmed, confirming the Inalienability of the Crown.

So, by looking at history, we see that this rule was created to keep the English off the French throne — that is to say — to keep the kingdom out of foreign hands.

The Election of Hugh Capet and Revisionist History

Hugh Capet, King of the Franks

It has been said that “all history is revisionist history.”  There is probably a grain of truth in that.  Take, for example, the election of Hugh Capet as King of the Franks over Charles de Lorraine.

The Contenant L’Histoire depuis Hugues Capet Jusques a Louis XI stated that the French chose Hugh Capet because he was a “natural Frenchman” who had the “air of France.”

Further, here are the words of Professor François Velde:

 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).

This is clearly revisionist history.  But, as Velde points out, this demonstrates the mindset of the time that France could not be ruled by foreigners.

This is not all.  Belloy stretches the French desire for independence all the way back to Roman times:

For the naturalness of the inhabitants of France is such that they would not suffer long a foreign prince, as they were afraid for a long time to carry the domination of the Roman Emperors of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius began to stomp, and to be fooled by orders by Princes of another nation than of theirs: finally fecundated the yoke, and Gaul was the first who retreated from the empire.

[Belloy. P. 87-88]


It cannot be definitively said that, since the election of Hugh Capet, a foreigner has ever ruled France.  And, since the Hundred Years’ War, all foreigners have been rejected.

The Salic law was justified as keeping the throne out of foreign hands.  Male Collaterality and Inalienability of the Crown were also used to keep the throne out of foreign hands.

Those rejected include:

  • Edward III of England
  • Henry V of England
  • Henry VI of England
  • Infanta Isabella

Inalienability of the Crown mandated that the laws of succession are based on custom.  If there is one common custom, it is the rejection of foreigners.

The Spanish Bourbons left France and were foreign-born.  Under the laws of the time, they were foreign a priori.  Thus, they are excluded from the line of succession.

Anjouists claim that the agnatic rights of the Spanish Bourbons call them to the throne.  To counter, here are the words of Belloy:

But it is clear, that our Law has considered something more than the right of agnation, so that only the males know how to succeed one after the other to the Crown, for the dignity of the sex. Provided and provided that they were derived from males, so that the foreigners, who would bear the quality of males, rows of daughters, could not be called: for the fear that our father had a foreign government, as well as it is remarked by all our French historians, who have observed the perpetual fear and jealousy, that our Fathers had, that the strangers had no bar over them, and no longer knew how to love and cherish their Prince, than they themselves, who are his natural subjects.

[Belloy. P. 239]

In a form of revisionist history, the election of Hugh Capet was done as a way of keeping the kingdom out of foreign hands.

So, with the apparent lack of foreign kings, and the exclusion of foreigners from the French throne, and with many rules being made for their exclusion, we can only come to one conclusion: that foreigners, those who are not French, must be excluded.  And yes, even those who are agnates, for the revisionist case of Hugh Capet showed that a Carolingian could be rejected.  So, thus, it is good and right to reject all foreigners, even if their ancestors came from the Royal House of France.