Found in India: the last king of France

S.A.T.A

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Found in India: the last king of France

Balthazar Napoleon de Bourbon, a jovial Indian lawyer and part-time farmer, has always been fascinated by France. Framed pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the palace of Versailles implausibly decorate his house in a dusty, bustling suburb of the central Indian city of Bhopal. He gave his children French names even though he has never set foot in France.

But he may soon make his first trip to Paris, after he was visited by a relative of Prince Philip, who told him that he is the first in line to the lost French throne.

This Indian father-of-three is being feted as the long-lost descendent of the Bourbon kings who ruled France from the 16th century to the French revolution. A distant cousin of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, he is alleged to be not only related to the current Bourbon king of Spain and the Bourbon descendants still in France, but to have more claim than any of them to the French crown.

The story of a potential Asian dauphin to one of the most important royal houses of Europe appears to be a poke in the eye for colonial history, and has sparked a rush of interest among royals in Europe.

Prince Michael of Greece, the cousin of Prince Philip, this week published a historical novel called Le Rajah de Bourbon, which traces the swashbuckling story of Mr Bourbon's first royal ancestor in India. Prince Michael believes Jean de Bourbon was a nephew of the first Bourbon French king, Henry IV. In the mid-16th century Jean embarked on an action-packed adventure across the world which saw him survive assassination attempts and kidnap by pirates to be sold at an Egyptian slave market and serve in the Ethiopian army.

In 1560, he turned up at the court of the Mogul emperor Akbar. It was the beginning of a long line of Bourbons in India, who centuries later would serve as the administrators of Bhopal and become the second most important family in the region.

Michael of Greece, who lives in Paris and is of Bourbon descent, believes his detective work on his newfound Indian "cousins" is more than just the latest whimsy in a history of attempts to uncover relatives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

"If I am right - and I don't have absolute proof, but I completely believe in my theory - then Balthazar Bourbon would be the eldest in the line," he told the Guardian.

"This is the cherry on the cake. Mr Bourbon is head of a decent, dignified, middle-class Indian family. They look so Indian and yet bear this name. When you look at them, it seems incredible. The more unbelievable it is, the more I believe in it."

He said several of his royal relatives in Spain and France were "quite excited and thrilled to have found a new branch". He was in favour of a DNA test, perhaps from a surviving lock of Bourbon hair, to establish the facts.

From his home in the Bhopal suburbs, Mr Bourbon, 48, said he would be glad to take a DNA test, but remained stoical about the "hypothetical question" of whether he was heir to the throne. Conscious of the bloody outcome for royals in France, he felt royal status could bring "trouble", not to mention questions from skeptical historians.

Still, he has long had a brass plaque above his front door reading "House of Bourbon" with the fleur-de-lis crest of the French monarchy. His wife runs the neighbouring school for local children, called the Bourbon school. The family is Catholic and keeps Bourbon relics, including a sword, in their home. He said he felt "a sense of pride" when contemplating the picture of Versailles on his wall.

But he is aware that his family's fortunes waned in Bhopal long ago. He describes the Indian branch of the family as Bourbons on the rocks.

"From the day I was born, I was made to understand that I belonged to the family of the Bourbons," he said.

"I may be from a royal family but I live my life as a commoner. I didn't have time to learn French as a teenager because my father's death meant I had to work to look after my mother and sisters. Life has been very tough for me."

When his sister went to France on holiday she visited a castle once owned by Bourbon kings. It was closed to the public but she showed her Indian passport with the Bourbon name and was allowed in.

"I don't know if any of this will change my life," Mr Bourbon said. "The fact is, we've been having visitors from England, France and across Europe for years, curious about our family name.

"All these travellers, all this publicity, but nothing has happened yet. So how can I believe that something will change now?"

Backstory

War, assassinations, child kings, opulence and revolution marked the two centuries during which the Bourbons ruled France. They were known as much for their colourful personal lives as their politics. The first king, Henri IV, came to power in 1589 and was reputed to have more than 60 mistresses and 11 illegitimate children. Later Louis XIV, the Sun King, became the most powerful ruler in French history and one of the longest reigning kings in Europe. In 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined by revolutionaries, followed months later by his wife Marie Antoinette. Different branches of the Bourbons were restored to the throne from 1814 until the revolution of 1848.
 

Pintu

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Nice article SATA, great find, I am wondering that from the days of Mughal Era , how many links to the European empires still prevail in our country.

Regards
 

Pintu

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A similar an old article from The Telegraph.

The Telegraph - Calcutta : Nation

Lost in France, found in India

OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT


Balthazar Napoleon Bourbon (left)
with his family. Picture by Prakash
Hatvalne


Bhopal, March 4: France may be electing a new President this year, but if it wants it can have a new king.

And in a joke on colonial history, he is from India.

Balthazar Napoleon Bourbon woke up in Bhopal’s rundown neighbourhood of Jahangirabad this morning to learn that the world is ready to acknowledge what he has known for years.

That the 48-year-old Indian lawyer with a skin the colour of chocolate is the “last king of France”.

Well, sort of. What Bourbon happens to be is the first in line to the lost French throne – abolished by the revolution of 1848 after being once ousted earlier during the French Revolution of 1789.

The claim is made by Prince Michael of Greece in his just released novel, Le Rajah de Bourbon, which describes the Bhopali as the descendant of a nephew of France’s first Bourbon king, Henry IV.

And it says that of all the Bourbons now scattered around France, Greece, Australia and elsewhere, he has the first claim to the crown his forefathers wore from 1589 to 1848.

Being a Bourbon makes Balthazar not only a relative of Louis XVI — guillotined in 1789 for the sake of liberty, equality and fraternity — and Marie Antoinette, but also a cousin of Britain’s Prince Philip and Spain’s King Juan Carlos.

Till today, his neighbours knew him as “Bourbon wakil (lawyer)”, smiling indulgently at the royal claims of the brown-skinned man who spoke no French. The crueller ones snidely called him the “nanga (naked) king”, a reference to the gulf between the middle-class householder’s means and a king’s treasury.

The royal with the high forehead and broad nose, in turn, would joke that all that “Bourbon” means to a Bhopali is chocolate-cream biscuits.

Not today, when TV cameras made a beeline to his door and his phone kept ringing all day.

The doorway to Balthazar’s 174-year-old house carries a brass sign that says “House of Bourbon”. So, how did his ancestors land up in Bhopal?

The story could be out of a historical romance. Jean-Philippe de Bourbon Navarre, forced to flee France after killing a nobleman in a duel, set out on a voyage during which he was kidnapped by pirates, sold as a slave in Egypt and was forced to serve in the Ethiopian army before landing up in Goa. He made it to Akbar’s court in 1560 and took up service under the Mughals. Jean-Philippe’s father, a duke, was a cousin of Henry IV, who was still to ascend the throne and found the dynasty. After the fall of the Mughals, the Bourbons began serving the Bhopal nawabs as administrators.

“I regard myself as an Indian,” Balthazar said. “The only thing uncommon about me is my ancestry, which is only incidental.” His Italian-born wife Alisha runs the Bourbon higher secondary school, which teaches Sanskrit and Hindi but not French. She wears the sari or the salwar kameez.

“Perhaps the only French traces left in me are in my blood,” Balthazar laughs. His personal library has a History of Bourbons, written by his late father Salvador II.

What about a claim to the crown? Jokes apart, Bourbons have had the throne restored to them once — in 1814, after Napoleon’s ouster.

Balthazar, instead, would rather narrate the experience of his first sight of the Palais de Versailles in Paris a few years ago. The guard’s mouth fell open when Balthazar’s French-speaking companion told him the Indian-looking man’s ancestors once lived there.

“Suddenly, the sergeant did something odd,” Balthazar says. “He became emotional and said, ‘Monsieur, I feel so sad to see a Bourbon standing outside. Please go in’. And so for the next half-hour, I explored the splendid universe of my ancestors.”
 

Avinash R

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This news has been reported earlier, about an year ago IIRC. Looks like economic downturn is forcing some newspapers to recycle news. :D
 

S.A.T.A

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Nice article SATA, great find, I am wondering that from the days of Mughal Era , how many links to the European empires still prevail in our country.

Regards
As far as blood ties to European royalty does,this perhaps is the only such instance.The only other example would be the Daughter of the last caliph of the Turkish empire, who was married to the last Nizam of Hyderabad and the anointed successor to the Turkish empire.
 

prahladh

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Korea and now France. Wonder if we will get Rafael for half the price if he takes to throne.
 

S.A.T.A

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Korea and now France. Wonder if we will get Rafael for half the price if he takes to throne.
Given the way his grand cousins were treated in France,he will be happy to keep his head on his shoulder.Can't trust French humor :)
 

Pintu

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As far as blood ties to European royalty does,this perhaps is the only such instance.The only other example would be the Daughter of the last caliph of the Turkish empire, who was married to the last Nizam of Hyderabad and the anointed successor to the Turkish empire.
I think you are mentioning about Manoliya Onur former wife of 8th Nijam Prince Mukarram Jah and Princess Niloufer Elis Jah.

Regards
 

prahladh

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any updates on the DNA test. the link says 2007.
 

S.A.T.A

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Nope no updates.Its not easy to run DNA match test in such cases.A direct Bourbon pedigree in Europe of at the top of the aristocratic pecking order,Bourbon descendants are not just any royals in Europe,most are monarchs or in line to be monarchs or would have been monarchs where monarchy does not hold sway anymore.

Very few from this exclusive club will make themselves available for such a test and moreover i think in this case they may want to match DNA with someone from the male line of the Bourbons.
 

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