The Renunciations of 1713 by Felipe V, the duc d'Orléans and the duc de Berry

The Context of the Renunciations of 1713

Let us briefly review the circumstances: in the 17th century, a series of political marriages tied together the Habsburg dynasty in Spain and the Bourbon dynasty in France. In 1616, Louis XIII married Anna of Austria and his sister Elizabeth married her brother Felipe (soon Felipe IV). Anna renounced her rights to the Spanish crown. Later, Louis XIV, son of Louis XIII and Anna, married Maria-Teresa, daughter of Felipe IV and Elizabeth (1659). Here too, Maria-Teresa renounced her rights by the treaty of the Pyrenees, although the renunciations were conditional on a dowry which Spain never paid, and considered by many to be invalid.

Felipe IV also had a son Carlos II (reigned 1665-1700), and a younger daughter Maria-Margarita married to the Emperor Leopold. When Carlos died on November 1, 1700, the Spanish Habsburgs were extinct in male line. The succession normally passed through the deceased Maria-Teresa to her children, the son of Louis XIV. If not, it passed to the children of Leopold, the Emperor Joseph I and his brother the archduke Charles of Austria. In anticipation of this event, various plans had been devised to divide the Spanish Empire, including one in 1700 which France had accepted, giving Naples-Sicily to France and the rest of Spanish possessions to the archduke Charles.

Carlos II, in his will of Oct 2, left all his possessions to the younger grandson of Louis XIV, Philippe duc d'Anjou (Felipe V), followed by Anjou's brother Charles duc de Berry, followed by the archduke Charles. Louis XIV decided to reject the partition and accept the will. The Austrians invoked Maria-Teresa's renunciations and decided to uphold the rights of the archduke Charles. The resulting conflict was the War of Spanish Succession (1701-13).

The war went badly for France. The archduke Charles conquered Madrid in 1707, France was routed out of Italy and the Low Countries; but in 1710 Madrid was retaken for Felipe V and an invasion of France halted. A stalemate was developping. Moreover, in 1711, Joseph I died and the archduke Charles became Emperor. Great Britain was no more disposed to see Spain united with Austria than united with France. As peace negotiations began in 1712 in Utrecht, it soon appeared that Britain was prepared to let Felipe V keep the Spanish throne, provided he part with some portions of the Spanish empire, and that provisions were made to prevent the union of the Spanish and French crowns.

Thus, the foundation for the new European peace was to be a cross-renunciation of Felipe V to his French rights, and of the French princes (the duc de Berry, younger brother of Felipe V, and the duc d'Orléans, potential heir through Anna of Austria) to their Spanish rights. France resisted this solution as much as it could, but for the British it was a deal-breaker, and they were ready to resume war. For France in 1712 (a country three times as large as Britain!) resuming war meant destruction. Britain proposed a compromise, whereby Felipe V renounced Spain but retained his French rights and was given most of Italy (Savoy, Milan, Tuscany, Naples and Sicily), with the possibility of uniting those to France should he succeed. But Felipe V refused to abandon Spain, and Britain insisted again on the renunciation. Finally, in June 1712 Louis XIV and Felipe V gave in, prefering peace at this price rather than war.

Felipe V formally renounced his French rights on November 5, 1712, and the Spanish Cortes recorded the act on November 9. On November 19 and 24, the duc d'Orléans and the duc de Berry renounced their rights to the Spanish crown. On March 10, 1713, Louis XIV issued Letters Patent accepting these three renunciations. These letters were sent to the Parlement of Paris for registration. On March 15, 1713, the King's attorneys explained the reasons for the renunciations, the letters were read, the First President recalled his objections and the king's reply; a decree was prepared and approved the same day, whereby the letters were registered.

The Parlement had the ability to object: it could issue "remontrances" to the king, a written expression of its objections, and it could even refuse to register the letters patent. The king could only force registration by entering Parlement in person: since Parlement's authority was delegated by the king, in the king's presence the Parlement lost all powers. This procedure was called a "lit de justice". It was not used. The Parlement did not refuse to register the letters patent (though it did insert a clause objecting to the titles of king of Navarre and duke of Burgundy which Felipe V used in his renunciation!).

Instead, the First President of the Parlement, in his response to the King's Attorney General, answered:

"that he could not absolve himself from giving to the Court an account of what the King had honoured him by telling him concerning the decision he had made to authorise the renunciation of the king of Spain by the letters patent just read. When the King has kindly informed him of this decision, he had thought that the duty of his office compelled him to take the liberty of presenting to His Majesty that such a renunciation was absolutely opposed to the fundamental Laws of the State which, for so many centuries, so fortunately governed the order of succession to the crown. The King had honoured him by replying that no one better than he understood everything that could be said and thought on the matter, that he had proven it enough by assenting to the renunciation after having tried in vain all other avenues to reach Peace, that he had wanted the letters patent themselves to inform his people who had shown their zeal by such great efforts and support, and whose repose and happiness he preferred to any other consideration; that therefore, he thought that nothing should delay the arrival of a peace so necessary to his kingdom and which could only be founded on the renunciation of the king of Spain his grandson. After the King had explained himself in those terms full of affection and tenderness for his people, he had allowed him to report them to the Court, and added that the proofs he had of the Parlement's zeal in his service did not allow him to doubt that this body would share his feelings and, following the example of the King himself, would make of its rightful reluctance to change the laws of the State, a sacrifice demanded in this circumstance by the good of the State itself."

After the session, the prince of Condé returned home and drafted a notarized statement, which he signed alone. The text quoted by Guy Sainty above comes from that text. No petition was presented to the king, led by Condé or anyone else.

The texts of the renunciations and Louis XIV's letters patent were inserted in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.

Texts

Letters Patent of March 1713

Text of the Letters Patent of March 1713, registered by Parliament on March 15, 1713. (My translation; paragraph breaks added for legibility).

Louis by the Grace of God king of France and Navarre, to all present and future, salutations. During the various vicissitudes of a war in which we have fought only to uphold the just rights over the Spanish monarchy of the King our most-dear and most-beloved Brother and Grandson, We have never ceased to wish for Peace. The most fortunate successes have not blinded us, and the contrary events which the hand of God used to try us rather than ruin us, have found this desire in us and have not instilled it: but the time set by Divine Providence for the repose of Europe had not yet arrived. The distant fear of seeing one day our Crown and that of Spain born by the same Prince still made the same impression on the powers united against Us, and this fear which had been the main cause of the War, seemed to also put an insurmountable obstacle to Peace.

Finally, after several fruitless negotiations, God moved by the afflictions and moans of so many Peoples, deigned to open a safer way to reach such a difficult Peace. But the same concerns persisting, the first and chief condition proposed to us by our most-dear and most-beloved Sister the Queen of Great Britain, as the essential and necessary foundation of the Treaties, was that the king of Spain our Brother and Grandson, retaining the realm of Spain and the Indies, renounce for himself and his descent in perpetuity, to the rights which his birth could ever give him or them on our Crown; that, conversely, our most-dear and most-beloved Grandson the duke of Berry, and our most-dear and most-beloved Nephew the duke of Orléans, also renounce for themselves and their male and female descent in perpetuity, to their rights on the realm of Spain and the Indies. Our Sister has argued to us that, without a formal and positive commitment on this point, which alone could bind the Peace, Europe would never be in repose: all the Powers in it being equally persuaded that it was in the general interest and common security to continue a War whose end no one could foresee, rather than risk seeing one day the same Prince be Master of two Monarchies as powerful as that of France and Spain.

But since this Princess, whose untiring seal for the return to general peace we cannot praise enough, understood all the reluctance we felt to allow one of our children, so worthy of receiving the succession of our Fathers, to be of necessity excluded, if the misfortunes which it pleased God to inflict on our family took from us in the person of the Dauphin our most-dear and most-beloved Great-grandson, the last of the Princes which our Kingdom so rightly mourned with us; she shared our pain, and after seeking together kinder ways of ensuring peace, we agreed with our Sister to propose to the king of Spain lesser States than those he had, but whose importance would grow all the more under his reign, since retaining his rights he would unite to our Crown a part of those States should he one day succeed us. We therefore used the strongest reasons to persuade him to accept this alternative. We showed him that the duty of his birth was the first he should heed, that he owed himself to his House and his Country, before owing to Spain; that if he failed in his first obligations he might someday regret uselessly having relinquished rights he could no more defend. We added to these reasons personal motives of friendship and love which we thought capable of moving him; the pleasure we would have to see him from time to time and spend part of our days with him, as the proximity of the proposed States allowed us to hope; the pleasure of instructing him ourselves in the state of our affairs, and rely on him for the future; so that, should God preserve the Dauphin, we could provide our Kingdom with a Regent trained in the art of ruling in the person of the King our Brother and Grandson; and, should this child so precious to us and our subjects be taken from us, we would have at least the consolation of leaving to our Peoples a virtuous king, fit to rule them, and who would unite to our Crown considerable States.

Our entreaties, repeated with all the urgency and the tenderness necessary to persuade a Son who so deserves the efforts made to preserve him for France, have produced only repeated refusals on his part, of ever forsaking his brave and loyal subjects, whose zeal for him shined in the circumstances when his throne seemed the least secure; so that, persisting with invincible steadfastness in his first resolve, arguing instead that it was more glorious and advantageous to our House and our Kingdom than the one we urged on him, he declared in the assembly of the Estates of the realm of Spain, called for this purpose in Madrid, that to reach a general Peace and ensure the tranquillity of Europe by the balance of Powers, he renounced, of his own movement and free volition, and without any constraint, for himself, his heirs and successors, for ever more, to all claims, rights and titles which he or any of his descendants have now or could ever have at any time in the future, to the succession to our Crown; that he considered excluded therefrom himselv, his children, heirs and descendants in perpetuity, that he accepted for himself and them, that now as then, his right and that of his descendants pass and be transfered to that Prince called by the Law of succesion and order of birth in the absence of our Brother and Grandson the King of Spain and his descendants, as it is more amply specified by the act of renunciation accepted by the Estates of his kingdom, and consequently, he has declared that he especially relinquished the right that could have been added to his birth by our Letters Patent of December 1700, by which we declared that our will was that the king of Spain and his descendants always retain the rights of their birth and origin as if they resided currently in our Kingdom, and by the registration of said Letters Patent in our Parlement as well as our Chamber of Accounts in Paris.

We understand, as King and as Father, how desirable it would have been to conclude the general Peace without a renunciation which brings such a change in our Royal House, and in the ancient order of succession to our Crown; but we understand even more how it is our duty to promptly ensure for our subjects a Peace they so need. We will never forget the efforts they made for us in the long course of a war we could never have sustained if their zeal hadn't been greater than their strength. The safety of such a faithful People is for us a supreme law which must come before any other consideration. It is to this law that we sacrifice today the right of a grandson so dear to us, and by the price which general Peace exacts from our tenderness, we have the consolation of proving to our subjects that they will always hold the first rank in our heart, to the expense of our own blood.

For these causes, and other considerations moving us, after having seen in our Council the sid act of renunciation of the king of Spain our Brother and Grandson, of November 5 last, as well as the acts of renunciation which our said grandson the duke of Berry,, and our said nephew the duke of Orléans have made reciprocally of their rights to the crown of Spain, for themselves as well as their descendants male and female, in consequence of the renunciation of oursaid Brother and Grandson the King of Spain, all said documents annexed with collated copy of said Letters Patent of December 1700, under the counter-seal of our Chancery, by our special grace, full power and royal authority, we have said, stated and ordered, and by the present signed in our hand, say, state and order, will and please us,

that said act of renunciation of our Brother and Grandson the King of Spain, and those of our Grandson the duke of Berry and our nephew the duke of Orléans, which we have accepted and accept, be registered in all our courts of Parlement and Chambers of Account of our Kingdom, and other places as need be, to be executed according to their form and content; and in consequence, will and consider that our said letters patent of December 1700, be and remain null and void, that they be brought back to us, and in the margin of the Registers of said Court of Parlement and Chamber of Accounts, where those Letters patent are registered, copy of the present be made and inserted, to better mark our intentions concerning the recall and annulment of said letters.

Will that in accordance with said act of renunciation of our Brother and Grandson the king of Spain, hebe henceforth regarded and considered excluded from our succession, that his heirs, successors and descendants be also excluded in perpetuity and considered unable to receive it.

Consider that in their stead, all rights which could at any time belong to them on our Crown and succession of our States, be and remain transfered to our most-dear and most-beloved grandson the duke of Berry, his children and male descendants born in lawful marriage and successively in case of their default, to those princes of our Royal Hosue and their descendants, who by the right of their birth and the order established since the foundation of our Monarchy, shall succeed to our Crown.

So order our beloved and faithful counselors holding our court of Paarlement in Paris, that they have these present, with the acts of renunciation made by our Brother and Grandson the king of Spain, by our grandson the duke of Berry, and by our nephew the duke of Orléans, be read, published and registered, and their content enforce, observe and execute in their form and content, fully, peacefully and perpetually, ceasing and causing to cease any troubles and impediments, notwithstanding any law, statute, usage, custom, decree, regulation and any other contrary, to which and to the exceptions to exceptions contained therein, we make exception by the present in this respect only and without drawing consequences: for such is our pleasure. And so that this be firm and stable forever, we have affixed our seal to the present.

Given in Versailles in the month of March, the year of grace 1713, and of our reign the 70th. Signed: LOUIS. Lower: by the king, PHELYPEAUX. Visa, PHELYPEAUX. Sealed of our great seal of green wax, with strings of red and green silk.

Reference

  • Bourbon, Sixte de: Le Traité d'Utrecht et les Lois fondamentales du Royaume. Paris: Librairie H. Champion, 1914. (Doctoral thesis).

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François Velde

Last modified: Oct 17, 2002