Foreign Prince Redux

Henry, Duke of Guise, a foreign prince

Not long after our publication of “What is a ‘Foreign Prince’?” there has been some confusion.  Anjouists, who are wont to manipulate facts to absurd levels, claim we are “ignorant of history” and the meaning of a “foreign prince” (Prince étranger).

The purpose of the above article was not to go into the history of the title of Foreign Prince, nor to explain its full meaning.  Our purpose was only to explain the meaning of the term as it was used by the Parlement of Paris in the Judgment of Le Maistre and by the writers of the 16th and 17th centuries.

In other words, our purpose was only to mention the meaning of a Foreign Prince in the context of Arrêt le Maistre. 

The context of Le Maistre was pretty simple.  The Parlement of Paris, a judicial body, declared that the throne could not pass to a foreign prince, nor could it be put into “foreign hands.”

As explained in our original article, the meaning of Foreign Prince was any prince who was a foreigner.  We see evidence of this in the writings of Pierre de Belloy, whose writing in defence of Henri IV played an impact on the Parlement of Paris:

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 and other writers justified the Salic law as keeping the kingdom out of “foreign hands.”  This was because the Daughters of France would marry into foreign families, meaning their children would be foreigners by being born and reared in foreign countries.

Belloy writes further:

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

[On the Salic Law. P. 85-86]

French Foreign Princes

Certainly it was the case that there were Frenchmen who held the rank of Foreign Prince.  Once such person was Henry, Duke of Guise (pictured above).  Guise was a Foreign Prince by virtue of being a member of the House of Lorraine.

At the time of the writing of Arrêt le Maistre, Guise was already dead, having been assassinated on the orders of King Henri III.  (Guise had been leader of the Catholic League and previously had ambitions of taking the throne.)

According to the Fundamental Laws, a prince who was not a male line descendant of Hugh Capet was outside the line of succession.

Based on the context of Arrêt le Maistre, and the writers who inspired it, it is clear that the Judgment was not referring to French Foreign Princes, but mainly to foreigners.

Infanta Isabella

The main foreign ‘candidate’ against Henri IV, largely supported by the Catholic League, was Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, a Spanish Habsburg.  The Judgment of Le Maistre does not refer to her by name but specifically denies the throne to “a foreign prince or princess.”

Just prior to this ruling, the Estates General stated, in reference to Infanta Isabella:

…our laws and customs prevent us from calling forward as king any prince not of our nation.1.

From all of the above, it should be clear that the Parlement of Paris was referring to foreigners (i.e. non-French).

Succession by Natural Right

Succession to the French throne is a type of natural right.  It is the nature of the prince, as determined by the Fundamental Laws, which calls him to the throne.  To succeed to the throne of France, the prince must have the following nature:

  • He must be a legitimate, hereditary descendant of Hugh Capet;
  • He must be a male;
  • He must be descended in the male line;
  • He must be French;
  • His line of descent must be French;
  • And he must be a Catholic.

The most senior agnate of Hugh Capet who meets all of these requirements is, by his nature, the rightful King of France.

Additional Citations

  1. David Buisseret. P. 43 Henry IV: King of France.