|Count of Chambord|
Further complicating matters was the fact that the man in charge in France, with the army behind him, was Marshal Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta. He had fought with distinction for Napoleon III but came from a royalist family and was a legitimist, thus the idea of simply bypassing the uncooperative Count of Chambord was inconceivable for him, yet it also meant that so long as the National Assembly refused his demand on the flag the monarchy would not be restored. This brought about the birth of the third republic but, again, there was no popular demand for it and it was done by a mostly monarchist assembly. They intended for this third republic to be only a temporary measure, awaiting the death of the Count of Chambord at which point the Count of Paris could be raised to the throne as King of France. The trouble was not with the public at large but with the monarchists themselves. The Count of Chambord ended up living much longer than expected, people became accepting of the republic so long as it worked passably well and the in-fighting among the two monarchist factions put off more pragmatic types. Hence the third republic came to be accepted, in the words of Adolphe Thiers as the government which “divides us least” -a dreadful indictment for French monarchists.
|"Philippe VII" in the US Army|
In 1899 “Action Francaise” was founded by a journalist and a politician but the most prominent member and advocate of the group was Charles Maurras. He made it a decidedly monarchist group as well as a conservative and French nationalist one. Their membership supported the Orleanist line of pretenders. Railing against liberal democracy and taking second place to none in their hostility toward the Germans “Action Francaise” rose in popularity, particularly during and immediately after the First World War. More and more people came to support the movement, electing about thirty members to the National Assembly, however, as it became more successful it also became increasingly less monarchist in an effort to appeal to a greater section of the populace that had become comfortable with the republic. However, because Maurras was a non-believer who saw Catholicism as simply a tool of social order and because of clerical distrust of him and the influence of the movement, in 1926 Pope Pius XI condemned “Action Francaise”, effectively breaking it as a major force given how heavily Catholic the membership was. In 1939 Pope Pius XII withdrew the condemnation but by that time the monarchism of the movement had deteriorated even further due to royalist divisions and the rising popularity of fascist type groups that were firmly republican.
Sadly, French royalists were, by this time, even more divided than before. The legitimist camp broke into three factions, one favoring the deposed King of Spain Alfonso XIII, another supporting Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma and a third supported Archduke Karl Pius of Austria Prince of Tuscany. Prince Xavier had served in the Belgian army and then joined the French resistance and, as a result, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. After the war he gained quite a large following amongst the Spanish Carlist faction but not so much in France. Archduke Karl (then in Andorra) never made much of an effort at all and, needless to say, the King of Spain and his heir were concerned with the Spanish throne and not the French one. The Orleanist claimant, Henri Count of Paris (Henri VI), who is best known for disinheriting his sons, had a more realistic chance of gaining the throne. It seemed possible as the republic had become decidedly unpopular and most at least recognized the Vichy regime as the legitimate government of France which contained many elements hostile to the republic.
To wipe away the shame and divisions of the occupation, what was basically a noble myth was invented which was that France and the French people had always been devoted to the republic and its ideals and that everyone had, throughout the war, been either supporting the underground resistance or at least cheering for the Free French forces from afar with De Gaulle universally recognized as the true leader and savior of France. In the aftermath of the war the Fourth Republic was founded, consisting basically of the supporters of De Gaulle and the communists as everyone else had been deemed part of that “tiny” collaborationist minority. It was hardly different from the Third Republic and did not last long being replaced in 1958 by the Fifth French Republic (the current model) after the disaster of the Algerian crisis caused France to put all its faith in Charles De Gaulle under a new regime that gave the President far greater power. In some ways, it was more like a monarchy than previous regimes had been but by that time a majority of the French had become comfortable embracing the trappings of republicanism. It has the distinction of being one of the few (perhaps really the only one) French republics that was willingly accepted by the people of France.