While awaiting John’s further reply, I have been reading around and have a few points. They are as much queries as counters, so rather than save them up I will set them out now so he can deal with them in his reply, if he wishes. I have bestirred myself to actually read that portion of the 1791 constitution which deals with the monarchy, though (schoolboy French not being up to the task) it had to be in machine translation.
Chapter II, section one, article 1 reads:
La Royauté est indivisible, et déléguée héréditairement à la race régnante de mâle en mâle, par ordre de primogéniture, à l'exclusion perpétuelle des femmes et de leur descendance. – (Rien n'est préjugé sur l'effet des renonciations, dans la race actuellement régnante.)
The first sentence is perfectly clear, I can even understand it without translation; Salic law remains in force. It is, I take it, the bracketed second sentence which John considers to have “unequivocally rejected the impact of renunciations on the French succession”. Now, my French is limited as I say, but I would not go so far. What it seems to me to be saying is that nothing is determined about whether the renunciations (plural, though there had been in fact only one) affected the succession or not, leaving the door open for a later decision one way or the other.
I always was a little sceptical about the idea of a revolutionary constitution forced on an unwilling king being drafted by a cadre of royalists concerned chiefly to retain the inviolability of the succession against all changes. Reading the material rather confirms this feeling. The second article changes the royal title from the traditional King of France and Navarre to King of the French. The third explicitly subjects the king to the law, rather than vice-versa. The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh all deal with ways in which the king by his actions may be deemed to have abdicated (for example, by failing to swear an oath to the constitution within one month of accession), and the eighth confirms his status thereafter as a private citizen, subject to civil and criminal penalties for his acts. Not much sign there of the inviolability and unchanging nature of the succession.
Skipping over five more articles which are not germane, we move to section two of chapter II, dealing with the arrangements for a regency in the event of the king’s minority or incapacity. Article 2 declares that the regent shall be the nearest male to the succession who is aged 25 or older, natural-born French (my understanding of Français et regnicole in the following) and not heir to a foreign crown (pourvu qu'il soit Français et regnicole, qu'il ne soit pas héritier présomptif d'une autre couronne). If there is no such person, articles 3–10 provide for a regent to be elected. There are eight more articles in this section and a further two sections in chapter II, but none of these relate to the succession question as far as I can see.
The provision I gave the original text for obviously does, and I have no need to expound on that. There is though another point, too; the same National Assembly which in September 1791 adopted this constitution had in March of that year legislated for a regency in the event of the Dauphin succeeding as a minor (the constitution incidentally changed the title to Crown Prince, in another illustration of its authors’ questionable devotion to tradition). The persons nominated as regents were the comte de Provence, the king’s next brother, and, not his youngest brother the comte d’Artois, who had fled the country, but – the duc d’Orléans. Now it is true that this does not have the same significance as if it had occurred after the adoption of the constitution, but it nevertheless is evidence that members of the Assembly saw Orléans as near to the throne, and enough of them to vote through legislation, too.
This is purely speculative on my part, but I actually wonder whether ambiguity (which is how I look at it) was introduced over the renunciation as a means of keeping Orléans in check? His ambition and lack of scruple must surely have been evident to all who met him (while I have a qualified admiration for his son, everything one learns about Egalité just seems to make him even more despicable than you already thought he was). The ‘no foreign heirs’ provision would seem to turn things the other way, keeping a balance. Just a thought.
And just two more points, from the reign of Charles X. While reigning, he elevated all the Orléans princes from Serene Highness (a higher rank in France than in other countries, by the way, generally considered to have been above Highness) to Royal Highness. And upon his abdication (which I wonder if John recognises as valid) and the ensuing enforced renunciation of rights by the Dauphin, he nominated the duc d’Orléans, son of the one previously mentioned, to proclaim the young Henri V and act as regent during his minority. That is not how things worked out, and although Orléans was unquestionably ambitious I don’t necessarily blame him for it; the succession of Henri V, albeit he was a child, seems to have been seen as a continuation of the autocracy which had proved itself so unacceptable, and Orléans’ choices appear to have been to be king or to see the establishment of the Second Republic. However that may be, those last two points are to me clear evidence that in the last universally recognised legitimate period of monarchy the nearness of the Orléans branch to the succession was tacitly if not explicitly recognised, and by the King himself.
PS I asked a French-speaking friend what his view was of article 1, section one, and he returned the following, the last sentence somewhat different from both John's reading and my guess:
Kingship cannot be divided. It is to be held in heredity within the ruling dynasty from male to male in order of primogeniture, excluding females and their issue entirely. This is not to the prejudice of the renunciation of the right to succession within the royal family.