Madame de Genlis and Louis Philippe

M.L. Clarke profiles an enterprising governor in the education of Louis Philippe for eight years, until 1790.

Few princes in history can have had so unusual an education as Louis Philippe, the future King of the French, who was placed on the throne by the Revolution of 1830 and removed from it in that of 1848. Other princes, and princesses too, have been educated by men, by philosophers, scholars and divines. He was put in the charge of a woman, and a woman who had her own somewhat unorthodox ideas about education.

He was born in 1773, heir to the Dukedom of Orleans, which was held by the junior branch of the Bourbon family. His father, kept out of affairs by the King, flirted with liberal and democratic ideas, and when the Revolution broke out threw in his lot half-heartedly with it, from Duke of Orleans became Philippe Egalite, and was among those who voted for the death of Louis XVI. This did not save him from being himself condemned to death and executed.

In 1772 a new lady-in-waiting was appointed in his household. She was Stephanie Felicite Ducrest de Saint-Aubin, Comtesse de Genlis, generally known as Madame de Genlis. She was born in 1746, daughter of an impoverished member of the nobility, was mainly self-educated, married at the age of seventeen and had three children. She was a gifted and energetic woman with a high opinion of herself. She had a passion for conveying instruction, and was a prolific writer, author of one hundred volumes in all.

At the same time, she had an attractive appearance and manner. Children loved her, and not only children. The Duke of Orleans was charmed by her, and she became his mistress for a time. The Duchess, ignorant of her husband’s relations with her, was no less charmed, and was on terms of close friendship with her, though they eventually fell out.

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