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Philip II, Duke of Orléans

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- Philippe of Orléans -

Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Philippe Charles (August 2, 1674 - December 2, 1723) called Duke of Chartres (1674-1701), and then Duke of Orléans (1701-1723) was Regent of France from 1715 to 1723. His regency being the last in the kingdom of France, he is still commonly referred to as le Régent and his regency as la Régence.

He was born in Saint-Cloud, the son of Philippe I of Orléans and nephew of king Louis XIV. In 1698, he married Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, the daughter of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan.

On the death of Louis XIV, the late king's five-year-old great-grandson was crowned king Louis XV of France and the then forty-one-year-old Philippe became Regent.

Philippe was a professed atheist who boasted to read the satirical works of François Rabelais inside a Bible binding during mass, and liked to hold orgies even on religious high holidays. He acted in plays of Molière and Racine, composed the music for an opera, and was a gifted painter and engraver.

A liberal and imaginative man, he was however, often weak, inconsistent and vacillating. Nonetheless, as Regent, he changed the manners of the ruler and his nobles from the hypocrisy of Louis XIV to complete candor. He was against censorship and ordered the reprinting of books banned under the reign of his uncle. Reversing his uncle's policies again, Philippe formed an alliance with England, Austria, and the Netherlands, and fought a successful war against Spain that established the conditions of a European peace.

Philippe promoted education, making the Sorbonne tuition free and opening the Royal Library to the public. He is however most remembered for the debauchery he brought to Versailles and for the John Law banking scandal.

He died at the Palace of Versailles and was buried in the city of his birth, Saint-Cloud.

Philippe had only one son: Louis, duke of Orléans (1703-1752)

Last updated: 11-10-2004 20:13:40