Philippe, the Duke d’Orléans, and King Alphonse XIII of Spain at Wood Norton, England.
The Duke d’Orléans, son of the exiled Count of Paris, like many of the House of France, had chosen England as his place of exile. He owned the sumptuous property of Wood Norton, the future site of the marriage between his sister, Princess Louise of France, and Prince Charles of Bourbon Sicily, Infante of Spain. For the wedding, the young King of Spain, Alphonse XIII, made the trip. He was born king. His father, Alphonse XII, had died while his wife was pregnant, after which the country had to wait many months for Queen Marie Christine to give birth. It was a boy, and no sooner was he born than he was placed on a golden tray and presented to the Court and the authorities as His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain. The Duke d’Orléans was the brother of my grandmother and King Alphonse XIII her first cousin. He was particularly fond of her children, including my mother, who called him “Tio rey”, uncle king.
Audience with the Negus of Ethiopia, Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia, summer, 1964.
King Constantine had sent me to invite many rulers to his wedding. Having left the stifling heat of Cairo and Khartoum, I arrived in Addis-Abeba in a sort of English autumn, gray, rainy, and cold. The emperor, the famous Haile Selassie, who bore the title of Negus, The Lion of Judah, received me in a rather unassuming palace. A lion, his symbol, this one considerably tired looking, was chained to a column. The sovereign, rather short, with features both splendid and Semitic, commanded and innate majesty. Ever courteous, he knew how to quickly put me at ease, and we spoke for some time about the Byzantine churches in Northern Greece. He asked me if I was lacking any comforts in the villa he had left at my disposal. Due to the insolence of my young age, I told him that everything was perfect, especially the silverware on which I was served my breakfast, which carried the monogram of my aunt, Anne of France, who had been Vicereine of Abyssinia in the time of Mussolini. Rather than take offense to this remark, the Negus relied, “She had done so much for my county, and when you have the opportunity, relay to her my gratitude, and that of the Ethiopian people.”
My mother Françoise of France, Princess Christopher of Greece.
King Manoel II of Portugal, on an official visit to Paris.
The sister of my grandmother Amélie had married the King of Portugal, Carlos I. He, along with his eldest son, was assassinated in broad daylight, in the street, in Lisbon. Consequently, his second son, the young Manoel II, ascended to the throne. Hardly two years later, he was overthrown, and the monarchy along with him, by a short revolution in 1911. In the meantime, he had occasion to come to Paris for an official visit, where he was received, pictured above, at the train station by the President of the Republic, Fallières. My mother had a deep affection for her first cousin, who was highly cultivated, extremely interesting, and discreet.
The Countess of Paris and her daughter Helen in front of Stowe House.
My great-grandfather, the first Count of Paris, having been exiled by the Republic, rented from the Duke of Buckingham the immense country house, Stowe House, of which my grandmother told me its many splendors from her youth. In particular, she had lined up all her dolls on an enormous canopy bed that, since the night when the great Queen Elizabeth I had slept there, it had been forbidden to sleep on. My great-grandmother, the Countess of Paris, who was Spanish, detested the English climate. On the other hand, she adored equestrianism, like her daughter Helen. Here, they mount sidesaddle in preparation for fox-hunting.
My uncle Henry, Count of Paris, and my aunt Anne, Duchess d’Aoste, preparing to receive their first Communion, Morocco, 1913-1914.
My grandmother Isabelle had wed a young member of the House of France. Reduced to living in a provincial chateau, she found herself bored to death and decided to move to Morocco. She dragged her husband and young children with her and settled in the small town of Larache, where she was given lands and the family, under the adopted name of Orliac, became farmers. It was a rustic life, as seen in the ceremony of the first communion, lacking any and all pomp, of two of her children, Anne and Henri.
The House of France, posing for an official photograph, 1925
My grandfather, the Duke de Guise, became the head of the House of France following the death of his cousin and brother-in-law, the Duke d’Orléans, and was consequently forced into exile. He settled at the city gates of Brussels, in the “manoir d’Anjou.” Thus began a campaign of monarchical propaganda, starting with photographs that were distributed by the thousands. Here, he poses with my grandmother, and beside them their son Henri, the Count of Paris. Behind them, from left to right: Count Bruno of Harcourt, husband of my aunt Isabelle d’Orleans seen at the extreme right, then my mother Françoise, and my Aunt Anne, the future Duchess d’Aoste. It was a profoundly united family, composed of diametrically opposed personalities.