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A prince du sang (French pronunciation: [pʁɛ̃s dy sɑ̃], Prince of the Blood) is a person legitimately descended in male line from a sovereign. The female equivalent was princess of the blood, being applied to the daughter of a prince of the blood. The most prominent examples include members of the French royal line, but the term prince of the blood has been used in other families more generally, for example among the British royal family and when referring to the Shinnōke in Japan.
In some European kingdoms, especially France, this appellation was a specific rank in its own right, with a more restricted use than other titles.
Under the House of Capet of France, the monarchy was feudal, and the younger sons and grandsons of kings did not have rights or precedence based on their royal descent. Feudal titles determined rank. Under Philip Augustus, the Duke of Burgundy, a peer of France, could be reckoned to be mightier than the Count of Dreux, a "baron of the second rank", even though the latter was a paternal cousin of the king, while the former was only a distant agnate. In the feudal era, the agnates of the king held no special status, because agnatic primogeniture had not yet received its sanction as the law governing the succession to the French throne.
Following the Valois succession, the agnates of the king, being "capable of the crown", rose in prominence. New peerages were created for the king's agnates, and for a long time this continued to be so, before the peerage was extended to non-royalty. Over time, the dignity of a peer, which was feudal in nature, and the dignity of a prince of the blood, which was dynastic in nature, clashed. Non-royal peers and princes of the blood who were peers constantly competed for precedence. As the royal line contracted, each prince of the blood gained greater prominence. Finally, in 1576, King Henry III of France issued an edict, to counter the growing power of the House of Guise, which made the princes of the blood supreme over the peerage, and amongst themselves, the closer in the line of succession would outrank the more distant, without regard to the actual title that they held.
In France, the rank of prince du sang was the highest held at court after the immediate family of the king during the ancien régime and the Bourbon Restoration. The rank of prince du sang or princesse du sang was restricted to legitimate agnates of the Capetian dynasty who were not members of the immediate family of the king. Originating in the 14th century, male princes du sang came to be recognized as entitled to seats on the Conseil du Roi and the Parlement de Paris, to precedence above all peers and to precedence among each other according to their respective places in the order of succession.
During the last century of the reign of the House of Valois, when religious strife brought forth rivals for the throne, prince du sang became restricted in use to refer to dynasts who were distant members of the Royal Family (i.e., those who were not children or grandchildren in the male line of a French king and, as such, entitled to specific, higher rank of their own as enfants and petits-enfants de France).
In theory, the princes of the blood included all members of the Capetian dynasty. In practice, only the agnatic descendants of Saint Louis IX, such as the Valois and the Bourbons, were acknowledged as princes du sang. France's kings, for instance, refused to recognize the Courtenay Capetians as princes of the blood. The Courtenays descended in legitimate male-line from King Louis VI, but had become impoverished, minor nobles over the centuries. Their repeated petitions for recognition to the Bourbon rulers were in vain. When the Treaty of Montmartre was concluded in 1662, declaring the House of Lorraine to be heirs to the French throne in the event of extinction of the Bourbons, the Courtenays protested, requesting substitution of the phrase "the royal house issued in legitimate male line from the kings of France" to no avail. In 1715 Louis-Charles de Courtenay, his son Charles-Roger and his brother Roger were once again rebuffed in their attempt to seek recognition of their status. Roger, abbé de Courtenay, was the last male of the family, dying on 5 May 1733, and his sister Hélène de Courtenay, marquise de Bauffremont (1689–20 June 1768), obtained no redress when she appealed to the king in 1737 after the Parlement of Paris ordered the term "princesse du sang royal de France" deleted from court documents.
Even a cadet branch of the Bourbon line, the Bourbon-Carencys, who were most distantly related to the Dukes of Bourbon, were denied princely rank and excluded from the Conseil du Roi until their extinction in 1530. They descended from Jean, seigneur de Carency (1378–1457), the youngest son of Jean I de Bourbon, Count of La Marche.
Since 1733, all legitimate male Capetians were of the House of Bourbon, of the Vendôme branch, descended from Charles, Duke of Vendôme. Charles' eldest son Antoine, King of Navarre, was the ancestor of the royal dynasties of France and Spain, and of the House of Orléans, while his youngest son Louis, Prince of Condé (1530–1569), was the ancestor of the House of Condé. A cadet branch of the Condés was the House of Conti, who in male line descended of Henri, Prince of Condé (1588–1646).
In an edict of July 1714, Louis XIV declared his legitimized sons, the Duke of Maine and Count of Toulouse, to be princes du sang and accorded them rights of succession to the French throne following all other princes du sang. Though the Parlement de Paris refused to register the decree, the king exercised his right to compel registration by conducting a lit de justice. The edict was revoked and annulled on 18 August 1715 by the Parlement on the authority of the regent after the king's death. As a chancellor of Louis XIV had warned, a king could only make princes of the blood through his queen.
Those who held this rank were usually styled by their main ducal peerage, but sometimes other titles were used, indicating a more precise status than prince du sang.
The most senior princes used specific styles such as monsieur le prince or monsieur le duc, whereas the junior princes used the style monseigneur followed by their noble title, such as monseigneur le duc de Montpensier. The style Serene Highness (altesse sérénissime) was used in writing only.
This was the style of the First Prince of the Blood (French: premier prince du sang), which normally belonged to the most senior (by primogeniture) male member of the royal dynasty who is neither a fils de France ("son of France", i.e. of the King or the Dauphin") nor a petit-fils de France ("grandson of France", son of a fils de France). In practice, it was not always clear who was entitled to the rank, and it often took a specific act of the king to make the determination.
The rank carried with it various privileges, including the right to a household paid out of state revenues. The rank was held for life: the birth of a new, more senior prince who qualified for the position did not deprive the current holder of his use of the style. The Princes of Condé used the style of Monsieur le Prince for over a century (1589–1709). The right to use the style passed to the House of Orléans in 1709; however, they seldom if ever used it. The title should theoretically have passed in 1752 to Prince Philip, Duke of Calabria, the first great-grandson of the Grand Dauphin that was neither a fils de France nor a petit-fils de France; however, Louis XV left the title to the House of Orléans rather than to the Spanish branch of the Bourbons, which had renounced its right to succeed to the French throne by the Treaty of Utrecht. This meant that Louis Philippe, duke of Orleans in the late 18th century, was the First Prince of the Blood immediately before the French Revolution, entitling him to sit on various bodies, such as the 1787 Assembly of Notables, which he used as a platform to advocate liberal reforms.
First Princes of the Blood, 1465–1830
Louis II, Prince of Condé by Joost van Egmont
The last Monsieur le Prince of the Ancien Régime, Philippe Égalité
This style was held by the wife of Monsieur le Prince. The duchesses/princesses that were entitled to use it were:
Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, did not use the style as her husband did not.
Louise Henriette de Bourbon, mother of Philippe Égalité
Madame la Princesse – wife of Philippe Égalité.
This style was used for the eldest son of the Prince de Condé. Originally, the eldest son was given the title of Duc d'Enghien, but that changed in 1709 when the Condés lost the rank of premier prince. After that, the eldest son was often given the courtesy title of Duc de Bourbon, which had been granted to le Grand Condé, and his eldest son was then given the title of duc d'Enghien.
This style was used for the wife of Monsieur le Duc. The most famous holder of this honorific was:
This address was used by the head of the most junior branch of the House of Bourbon, the comte de Soissons. The comtes de Soissons, like the Princes of Conti, descended from the Princes of Condé. The line started in 1566 when the Soissons title was given to Charles de Bourbon, the second son of Louis I de Bourbon, prince de Condé, the first Prince of Condé.
The first Prince had three sons:
The Soissons title was acquired by the first Prince of Condé in 1557 and was held by his descendants for two more generations:
Olympia Mancini, known as Madame la Comtesse at court
The 2nd Count of Soissons died without an heir, so the Soissons title passed to his younger sister, Marie de Bourbon, the wife of Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano, a member of the House of Savoy. She became known as Madame la comtesse de Soissons. On her death, the title passed first to her second son, Prince Joseph-Emmanuel of Savoy-Carignan (1631–1656), and then to her third son, Prince Eugène-François of Savoy-Carignan.
He married Olympia Mancini, niece of Cardinal Mazarin. She was known as Madame la Comtesse de Soissons like her mother-in-law. On his death, the title went to his eldest son, Prince Louis-Thomas, who was the older brother of the famous Austrian general, Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Soissons title became extinct upon the death of Prince Eugène-Jean of Savoy-Carignan in 1734.
This style was used by the wife of Monsieur le Comte. The best example of this is Olympia Mancini.
In order to tell the wives of the various Princes of Conti apart after their deaths, the widows were given the name of Douairière (or dowager) and a number corresponding to when they lost their husband. After being widowed their full style would be Madame la Princesse de Conti 'number' Douairière. Between 1727 and 1732, there were three widowed Princesses de Conti. They were:
Legitimised children of the King of France, and of other males of his dynasty, took surnames according to the branch of the House of Capet to which their father belonged, e.g. Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine, was the elder son of Louis XIV by his mistress, Mme de Montespan. After the legitimisation occurred, the child was given a title. Males were given titles from their father's lands and estates and females were given the style of Mademoiselle de X. Examples of this are (children of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan):
Also the child would be referred to as Légitimé de Bourbon; such as Marie Anne légitimée de Bourbon, mademoiselle de Blois daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière. Her full brother was Louis de Bourbon, later given the title of comte de Vermandois.
The branch of the ducs de Longueville, extinct in 1672 (1694), bore the surname d'Orléans, as legitimised descendants of Jean, bâtard d'Orléans, the natural son of a Valois prince who held the appanage of Orléans before the Bourbons did. Non-legitimised natural children of royalty took whatever surname the king permitted, which might or might not be that of the dynasty.
Children born out of wedlock to a French king or prince were never recognised as fils de France. However, if legitimised, the king might raise them to a rank just below or even equivalent to that of a prince du sang.