Isabelle, Countess of Paris

(13 August 1911, Chateau d'Eu - 5 July 2003, Paris)

From : Eurohistory
Subject : +Madame the Countess of Paris (1911-2003)
Date : Sat, 05 Jul 2003 17:30:07 -0700

Dear Subscribers and Friends,

Madame la Comtesse de Paris died this morning in a Paris hospital, at the age of 92, her children by her side. She entered hospital on June 26th after feeling under the weather; doctors diagnosed chronic heart failure. Her funeral will be held almost certainly at the Royal Chapel at Dreux, on Friday, 11th July.

Born Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganca on August 13, 1911, at the Chateau d'Eu, Normandy, she was the eldest daughter of Prince Pedro d'Alcantara of Orléans-Braganca and his wife Countess Elisabeth Dobrzensky de Dobrzenicz. Princess Elisabeth's other siblings included: Prince Pedro Gaston, married to Princess María de la Esperanza of Bourbon-Two Sicilies; Princess Francisca, married to HRH the Duke of Braganca; Prince Joao, married firstly to Fatimah Sherifa Chirine; and Princess Theresa, Mrs. Martorell.

Princess Isabelle, who was educated at home, spent most of her childhood and early years living between the marvelous Chateau d'Eu (the home of her grandparents, Prince Gaston of Orléans, Count d'Eu, and Princess Imperial Izabel of Brazil, heiress to the throne of Brazil), the Hotel Lambert (Parisian home of a Polish cousin) and her maternal relations in Bohemia. In 1922 the family returned to Brazil after more than thirty years of exile. Sadly the Count d'Eu died on the ship while en route to Rio de Janeiro. The Princess Imperial had died the year before.

She first made the acquaintance of her future husband, Prince Henri of Orléans when a young girl. The marriage of Prince Henri of France (1908-1999), Count of Paris, and Princess Isabelle d'Orléans-Braganca was yet another union between descendants of King Louis Philippe of the French and his consort, the former Princess Marie-Amelie of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.

Prince Henri was the only son of Prince Jean, Duke of Guise (1874-1940) and his wife, the former Princess Isabelle of Orléans (1878-1961). The Duchess of Guise is the daughter of Prince Louis Philippe (1838-1894)), Count of Paris -eldest son of Prince Ferdinand d'Orléans (1810-1842), Duke of Orléans,- and his first cousin Infanta Marie-Isabelle d'Orléans (1848-1919), eldest daughter of Prince Antoine d"Orléans (1824-1890), Duke of Montpensier, a son of King Louis-Philippe and Queen Marie-Amélie, and his wife the Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain. The Duke of Guise was the only surviving son of Prince Robert, Duke of Chartres (1840-1910) and his first cousin Princess Françoise of Orléans (1844-1925), the only surviving daughter of Prince François d'Orléans (1818-1900), Prince de Joinville, a son of King Louis Philippe and Queen Marie-Amélie, and his wife Princess Françoise of Brazil (1824-1898), Infanta of Portugal. The Duke of Chartres was the second son of the prematurely deceased Prince Ferdinand d1Orléans (1810-1842), Duke d'Orléans, and his wife, the former Duchess Hélène of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1814-1858). The Duke d'Orléans, who died in a carriage accident in 1842, was the eldest son of King Louis Philippe and Queen Marie-Amélie.

Princess Isabelle d'Orléans-Braganca was the eldest daughter of the late Prince Pedro d'Alcantara d'Orléans-Braganca (1875-1940), Prince of Grão Pará, and his wife the former Countess Elisabeth Dobrzensky von Dobrzenicz (1875-1951). This union was considered unequal (morganatic), by the Princess Imperial of Brazil, mother of Prince Pedro d'Alcantara. The Prince of Grão Pará's parents were Prince Gaston d'Orléans (1842-1922), Count d'Eu, and Princess Isabel of Brazil (1846-1921), Princess Imperial of Brazil, eldest surviving child of Emperor Pedro II (1825-1891) and his consort, the former Princess Theresa of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1822-1889). The Count d'Eu was the eldest son of Prince Louis d'Orléans (1814-1896), Duke de Nemours, and his wife, the former Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1822-1857), Kohary line. The Duke de Nemours was also a son of King Louise Philippe and Queen Marie-Amélie of the French.

Prince Henri of France, the late Count of Paris, first met his future wife, Princess Isabelle, when both were children. Princess Isabelle had spent most of her life at her family's imposing Château d'Eu in Normandy, a private residence owned by her parents in Boulogne-sur-Seine, and at the magnificent Parisian residence of her relation Prince Czartoryski, the Hôtel Lambert. Henri and Isabelle's first meeting took place in 1920, at the Château de Vinieul-Saint-Firmin, which at the time was the residence of the Duchess of Chartres, Prince Henri's grandmother. Three years later Prince Henri spent a summer vacation at the Château d'Eu with his Brazilian cousins. It was then when Princess Isabelle was smitten by her dashing cousin and promised that she would marry him when older. Four years later the couple met once more at the Neapolitan wedding of Princess Anne of France, Henri's sister, and Prince Amadeo of Savoy-Aosta, Duke of Puglie. The following year Isabelle and her parents visited Henri's family at their Belgian residence, the Manoir d1Anjou. Having succeeded his cousin Prince Philippe, Duke d'Orléans, as Head of the Royal House of France in 1926, the Duke of Guise was condemned to live outside France's borders by a law responsible for keeping the pretender to the French throne and his heir living in exile.

Henri and Isabelle had several other meetings prior to their engagement. One took place in Chotebor, Bohemia, the home of one of her Dobrzensky uncles, in the summer of 1930. On August 10, 1930, Prince Henri of France asked his cousin Princess Isabelle d1Orléans-Braganca for her hand in marriage. For a few days the couple kept their agreement from the family. Then when the family was headed to spend a vacation in Attersee, Austria, Henri and Isabelle made their engagement known to their delighted family.

However, this happy announcement caused some political problems for the family. Living in Belgium, the Duke of Guise wanted to host the marriage of his son and heir at their countryside residence, the Manoir d'Anjou. French authorities were aghast at the possibility of having a major royalist demonstration taking place just across the republic's border with the kingdom of Belgium. To avoid any such gathering from turning into a political embarrassment France asked Belgium to notify the Duke of Guise that his son's wedding could not take place in Belgium. Once told of this sad news, the Duke of Guise, not wanting to cause any problems in Belgium decided to host the wedding at his Sicilian residence, the Palais d'Orléans, which had been given to Prince Louis Philippe d'Orléans and his wife Princess Marie-Amélie of Bourbon-Two Sicilies when they married in 1809.

In the meantime French royalists flocked to the Hôtel Lambert on March 14 and 15, 1931, to pay their respects to Princess Isabelle. The Count of Paris, as Prince Henri was known since 1929 when his father granted him this title, was kept from attending by the law of exile. Some sixty thousand people went through the Hôtel Lambert during those two days.

The wedding of the Count of Paris and Princess Isabelle took place at the Church of Santa Rosalia, Palermo, on April 8, 1931. A large number royal guests attended the wedding from France, Portugal. Spain, Italy, Greece and Denmark. Several thousand French citizens also traveled to Palermo to witness the glorious event.

Princess Isabelle, of whom King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria had once said, was "the most beautiful princess alive," looked resplendent in her wedding gown, which was designed by the renowned couture house of Worth in Paris. She wore a magnificent diadem designed for the occasion with diamonds from the jewel collection of the late Duchess of Guise. The couple's sponsors were Infante Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and the Duke of Puglie for the Count of Paris; Prince Pedro-Henrique of Brazil and Prince Adam Czartoryski for Princess Isabelle.

After the ceremony the wedding procession returned to the Palais d'Orléans in Palermo, with the crowd cheering wildly as the many royal guests left the church. Chants of "Long Live the King," "Long live the Dauphin and Dauphine," deafened those in attendance. At the Palais d'Orléans twelve hundred guests sat down for lunch on that day. After the luncheon the newlyweds alighted on the balcony and greeted the cheering crowds. The Count and Countess of Paris were a magical image of happiness and hope. The Countess once told the author of this study that "my wedding and honeymoon are the most beautiful images I have of my long life."

The marriage of the Count and Countess of Paris lasted until his death on June 19, 1999. Interestingly enough that same day his own grandson, Prince Eudes, third son of the Count de Clermont, himself the eldest son of the Count of Paris, married in a civil ceremony the very lovely Marie-Liesse de Rohan-Chabot.

During the last few decades Madame dedicated a considerable amount of her time to writing history books, all centered around members of her family. Her own memoirs, which were written in two volumes, a third one was added later, are filled with amazing family stories and wonderful vignettes and are a must read for anyone interested in XXth century royalty. Her last book was published last year and it was a photographic story of her amazing life, one book the I have always thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

I was honored with having made Madame's acquaintance and will always treasure the time I spent in her presence. She was one of the doyennes of the Gotha, a symbol of majesty, simplicity, tenacity, humility and duty all in the same being. I remember fondly receiving a signed copy of her last book some months ago. Included inside was a note from Madame in which she asked that I not hesitate to visit her again when in Paris. That is not going to be possible, unfortunately. But the memories I have of this august lady will last me a lifetime.

The Count of Paris and Madame the Countess of Paris had eleven children: Princes Henri, François, Michel, Jacques and Thibaut; as well as Princesses Isabelle, Hélène, Anne, Diane, Claude and Chantal. Their living descendants today number more than 100, an impressive number to say the least.

Madame's funeral is scheduled for July 11 at the Royal Chapel of St. Louis de Dreux, the resting place of the French Royal Family. I intend to be there to be my respects to one of the most admirable symbols of European Royalty. May she rest in peace...

With great sorrow...

Arturo Beéche, Publisher
The European Royal History Journal
110 Linden Street
Oakland CA 94607
Phone: 510-839-4676
Fax: 510-839-4645

Telegraph obituary

News Archive July 2003
European Royal Deaths 2000-2004