House of Bourbon

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The House of Bourbon is a European royal family, members of which ruled France, with interruptions, from the sixteenth to the the nineteenth century, Spain from 1700 to the present, again with significant interruptions, Sicily and southern Italy from 1734 to 1806 and 1815 to 1860, and the Duchy of Parma in northern Italy from 1731 to 1735 and 1748 to 1802. The present-day ruler of Luxembourg is also a Bourbon.


The first Bourbon king was Henry IV (1553-1610). He was the son of Antoine de Bourbon, the Duke of Vendôme, (1518-1562), and ruled Navarre (now the province of Navarra in northern Spain) as Henry III before becoming king of France in 1589 after the elimination of his rivals in the so-called War of the Three Henrys (1585-1589). Henry was the leader of the Huguenots (i.e., the French Protestants) but converted to Catholicism after becoming king of France, though by the Edict of Nantes (1598) he protected the religious freedom of the Huguenots.

After Henry's death in 1610 a succession of Bourbon kings - Louis XIII (reigned 1610-1643), Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715), Louis XV (reigned 1715-1774), and Louis XVI (1774-1792) - ruled France until the French revolution, when in 1793 Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, met their deaths on the guillotine.

The Bourbon monarchy was restored briefly in 1814 and more permanently in 1815 after Napoleon's defeat at the battle of Waterloo (1815), and Louis XVI's brother, Louis XVIII, became king. On the latter's death in 1824 the throne passed to his brother, who ruled as Charles X. Inept and uncompromisingly reactionary - it was his conduct that prompted the French politician and diplomat Talleyrand (1754-1838) to say of the Bourbons that 'they had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing' - Charles was deposed in 1830, and the crown was offered to Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orléans, a descendant of the brother of Louis XIV and head of the cadet (or junior) branch of the Bourbon family. Louis Philippe ruled until 1848 when revolution brought the monarchy to an end.


The first Bourbon king of Spain was Philip V (1683-1746), who came to the throne in 1700 on the death of Charles II (reigned 1665-1700). Charles, who had no children of his own, stipulated that the Spanish throne should pass to his great nephew, the Duke of Anjou, one of the grandchildren of his half-sister Maria Theresa (1638-1683), who had married the Bourbon king of France, Louis XIV. (Although on becoming king of Spain Philip renounced any claim to the throne of France, the other major European powers were apprehensive at the possibility of France and Spain united under Bourbon rule, and this fear was a principal cause of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713).)

Bourbon kings ruled Spain, with a brief interruption between 1808 and 1813, until 1931 when the republican movement began to threaten the monarchy and the Bourbon king Alfonso XIII (1886-1941) fled the country. General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain as dictator from 1936 to 1975, named as his successor a grandson of Alfonso, Juan Carlos de Borbón, and on Franco's death in 1975, Juan Carlos became king. He oversaw the country's transition from dictatorship to parliamentary monarchy, was confirmed as king in a referendum in 1978, and today is still king of Spain.

Italy and Sicily

In 1700, when Philip V became king of Spain, the southern half of the Italian peninsula and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia had been under Spanish control for almost a century and a half, and although, in the interests of maintaining the balance of power in Europe, the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) required Philip to surrender these territories, he clearly did not envisage their loss as permanent. In 1717 he reoccupied Sicily and Sardinia, but three years later was forced by the Treaty of the Hague to abandon them.

However, in 1714, after the death of his first wife, Philip had married an Italian, Elizabeth Farnese (1692-1766), a niece of the Duke of Parma. The Treaty of the Hague ensured that their eldest son, Charles, would succeed to the Duchy of Parma on the death of Elizabeth's uncle, and in 1731 Charles became Duke. He ruled Parma until 1735 when the duchy was ceded to the Austrians in exchange for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (i.e., the island of Sicily and the southern half of the Italian peninsula), and Charles, who had invaded the Kingdom in 1731, was recognised as king of the Two Sicilies. In 1748 the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle returned Parma to the Spanish, and Charles's younger brother, Philip became Duke. Philip and his descendants (the House of Bourbon Parma) ruled the duchy until 1802.

In 1759 Charles succeeded to the Spanish throne and was forced by the Treaty of Naples to hand over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to his son Ferdinand, the founder of another branch of the family, the Neapolitan Bourbons. This branch of the family ruled Sicily and southern Italy from 1759 to 1806 and from 1815 to 1860, when Garibaldi's army of volunteers invaded Sicily, drove out the Spanish army, and, moving to the Italian mainland, marched on Naples and forced the Bourbon king, Francis II, to flee.


In 1919 the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg (1896-1985), who abdicated in 1964, married Prince Felix of Bourbon Parma, and so her son, Prince Jean (1921-2000), who ruled from 1964 to 2000, and her grandson, the present ruler, Grand Duke Henri (1955-) are members of the House of Bourbon.

The name Bourbon is pronounced BOOR-ben, in English IPA: /'bʊər bən/ in English and IPA: /buʁˈbɔ̃ / in French. In Spanish, where it is written Borbón, it is pronounced IPA: /bor ˈβon/ and in Italian Borbone IPA: /bor ˈbon e›/.