A few years ago I happened on a strange bar in the Rue de Rivoli. A haunt of taxi drivers and people buying tickets for the tiercé and lottery, it is also dedicated to the cause of Royalism, and, if you enquire, you will be given a pamphlet explaining why France needs a king. On one visit I even found a Royalist conclave in session, and on my last, earlier this year, there was a huge bouquet of lilies by the portrait of Louis XVI, sent, on the anniversary of his execution, by the faithful Royalists of Nîmes. However, it’s not merely a Royalist bar, but a Legitimist one, scorning the Orleanist claimant, the Comte de Paris, and professing allegiance to a handsome young prince of the House of Bourbon-Parma, known to his adherents as Louis XX. There isn’t of course the slightest possibility of a Restoration, though the previous Comte de Paris nursed for a long time the fond hope that de Gaulle would name him his successor. But there are still tiny groups of Royalists, who, like the fringe parties of the Left, exchange bitter words with each other.
The division between the two branches of the French royal family dates back to the Revolution of 1789. Louis XVI, passive and dutiful, accepted the Revolution, however reluctantly, until in 1792 he tried to escape. His brothers, the Comte de Provence and Comte d’Artois, had already emigrated. In contrast, their