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Was Louis Henri Joseph, Duke of Bourbon, Murdered ?

Death of the Prince of Condé

The Duke of Bourbon - father of the Duke of Enghien whom was executed on Bonaparte's orders in 1804 - is found dead in his room at the Château de Saint-Leu. Could he have hanged himself, when he lost the use of one arm and three fingers of the other hand?

On August 27, 1830, the valet de chambre of Louis Henri Joseph, Prince of Condé and Duke of Bourbon, knocked on his master's door and found the bedroom closed, the lock pulled from inside. Very worried, he breaks down the partition and, accompanied by the Duke's personal doctor, discovers the old prince hanging from a window pan by means of two handkerchiefs tied together ...

A controversial and botched investigation

At first glance, the two witnesses conclude it was suicide, the door being closed from the inside. However, the circumstances are more than suspicious: it is impossible for the Duke of Bourbon to lift his left arm, due to a broken collarbone dating from 1816, and he is missing three fingers on his right hand. The first people dispatched by King Louis Philippe, including Colonel Rumigny, trusted agent of the sovereign and head of his private police, expressed their doubts about this strange death from day one. Officially, however, the version remains that of suicide, confirmed after autopsy by forensic scientists.

But, while the version of suicide satisfies government officials, it seems suspicious to public opinion. Very quickly, the assassination thesis was put forward, and a request for further investigation was filed with the Pontoise public prosecutor's office by Prince Louis de Rohan, potential heir to the Prince of Condé.

Monsieur de la Huproye, the magistrate in charge of the case, is convinced that the Duke of Bourbon could not have committed suicide. But he was deprived of the means to carry out his investigation to the end: when he wanted to unveil his conclusions, he was replaced by Mr. Brière-Valigny, a much more flexible man.

Why are the voices against the official truth being stifled?

If it is indeed assassination that we are talking about, who is the person involved in the affair powerful enough to shut down justice? Should we seek in the highest spheres of power the one or those who have an interest, in 1830, in the death of the Duke of Bourbon?

The Duke of Bourbon has, since 1811, a mistress, Sophie Dawes, an English maid whom he married a French aristocrat to acquire her title of nobility. Now Baronne de Feuchères, she is officially installed with her lover at the Château de Saint-Leu, which the Duke inherited on his return from exile in 1815. Bourbon is 32 years older than his mistress. Having no direct heir since the death of his only son, he is the head of an immense fortune.

The Baronne de Feuchères, entitled to hope for a considerable inheritance after the death of the Duke of Bourbon, nevertheless fears the greed of the natural heirs of this one, his closest relatives, the Rohans. She knows that the Duke has drawn up a will in which he bequeaths her a considerable sum, but her greatest fear is that he will modify it in favor, for example, of the Count of Bordeaux, grandson of Charles X, in exile with his grandfather.

A disappearance that suits many people

A rapid death of the Duke, already, would arrange Sophie, avoiding that the testamentary provisions are not changed. She finds an unexpected ally in the person of the king himself. In fact, Louis Philippe, before taking the throne, dreams of seeing the Orleans branch inherit the fortune of his cousin, the Duke of Bourbon. To do this, he undoubtedly interested the Baronne de Feuchères, who did everything to ensure that the old prince bequeathed the part of the fortune that she could not collect to the Duke of Aumale, son of Louis Philippe. And she gets her way: apart from twelve million which goes to Sophie, the Duke of Aumale is declared universal heir.

But the king’s motivations are not only financial. Political factors also intervene: the old duke did not accept the change of regime of July 1830; he refuses to appear in the new Chamber of Peers and even thinks of joining Charles X abroad. For Louis Philippe, this departure would be a real slap in the face. The king and the courtesan therefore have an interest in the death of the duke.

The thesis of the accident, in the fires of love

One thing is certain: the Duke of Bourbon could not physically hang himself. Another hypothesis is plausible: that Sophie killed her lover for love! It happens that physically diminished or aged men resort to strangulation pushed to an extreme limit to stimulate their senses and to find what nature denies them because of their weakness or their age. The Duke no longer having the ardor of his 20 years, the Baronne de Feuchères could’ve practice this process during the tragic night and not stop her gesture in time ...

In that event, she would have been surprisingly cool: rather than calling for help, she would have safely left the room, pulling the lock from the outside with a lace. No trace of violence showing on the Duke's body, she was able to camouflage the accident very well as suicide.

The installation of the new monarchy

From 1814 to 1830, Louis XVIII and Charles X succeeded each other at the head of France. They are Bourbons, the brothers of Louis XVI. Louis Philippe is an Orleans. The revolution of 1830 broke out due to political blunders by Charles X: in 1822, after the assassination of the Duke of Berry, his potential heir, he dismissed the liberal minister Decazes and encouraged repression against opponents of his power. In addition to these blunders, there is bad economic conditions. To the troubles, the king responded with rigidity, appointing very conservative ministers and issuing ordinances which put an end to the freedom of the press and of assembly. Then burst the Second French Revolution (July 27-28-29, 1830). Under pressure from the streets, Charles X abdicated in favor of his grandson, the Duke of Bordeaux; but this decision does not satisfy the revolutionaries. The last Bourbons were forced into exile, giving way definitively to the younger branch of the Orleans. On August 9, Louis Philippe was recognized as “King of the French”.