She was the eldest daughter of Prince Pedro de Alcântara of Orléans and Bragança, claimant to the title of Prince of Grão Pará, son of the celebrated Princess Imperial of Brazil, Dona Isabel, "The Redemptress". Her mother Elisabeth was the daughter of Johann Wenzel, Count Dobrzensky von Dobrzenicz.
Isabelle first met her future husband, and cousin, Prince Henri of Orléans, when she was eight. They both descended from King Louis Philippe of France and his wife Marie-Amélie, a Princess of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Henri was the only son of Prince Jean, Duke of Guise, and Princess Isabelle of Orleans.
The wedding took place at the Church of Santa Rosalia, Palermo, on April 8 1931, in the presence of a large number of royal guests from France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Denmark. Princess Isabelle wore a wedding gown created by Worth, and a beautiful diadem designed for the occasion from the jewel collection of the late Duchess of Guise. After the ceremony the wedding procession returned to the Palais d'Orléans in Palermo, for a reception for 1,200 guests, before which the couple appeared on the balcony.
Madame gave birth to five sons and six daughters between 1932 and 1948. Of these, François was killed in the Algerian War in 1960, and Thibaut was killed hunting in Africa in 1983. Nine of them married into royal or noble houses. In 1950 the French Government revoked the Law of Exile, after which the family lived at the Manor of Coeur-Volant at Louveciennes, just outside Paris. The Comte de Paris now took a more active role in French politics, issuing a monthly bulletin and setting up two foundations.
The Comte de Paris died on the 19th June 1999, on the day of the civil wedding ceremony of his grandson HRH Prince Eudes, Duke of Angoulême, to Marie-Liesse de Rohan Chabot. Madame later celebrated her 90th birthday in rather grand style, with several celebrations in her beloved Eu in 2001. She died on the 5th July 2003, on what would have been the birthday of her husband, and is survived by nine of her 11 children and more than 100 grand-children and great-grandchildren.
We celebrate Madame's happiness, her radiant and captivating smile, the impressive blue light of her eyes and her unique presence with a series of pictures from different moments of her life. Most pictures were made during Madame's presence at different gatherings of European royalty, such as the weddings of her own children, where her elegance and her "joie de vivre" was always noted. As we celebrate Madame's life with this humble tribute, we hope she will rest in peace.
July 2003, the Editors