Protest against the Legitimation of Charlotte, Duchess of Albany, 1784

On March 30, 1783, King Charles III signed an Act of Legitimation by which he recognised his natural daughter, Charlotte, thus permitting her to succeed upon his death to his private estates. This Act of Legitimation was forwarded to King Louis XVI of France who confirmed it and had it registered in the Parlement of Paris (the most important of the French law courts). The Cardinal Duke of York (later King Henry IX and I) protested against this act, considering that it was unbecoming and might cause confusion about the succession to the throne (which was unaltered).

A printed version of the text can be found on pages 64 and 65 of The Life and Letters of H.R.H. Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany, by Francis John Angus Skeet (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1932).

The Cardinal Duke of York cannot do less than complain strongly of the proceeding of his Royal Brother concerning the irregular and improper action taken in summoning a natural daughter of his to live with him in so much publicity. It will be easily perceived on what grounds he may complain, if it is considered in the first place, what an indecent uproar was made some time ago about supposed poverty and destitution, when it was pretended his Royal Brother had not enough to live upon, and the burden was thrown on the shoulders of the Cardinal Duke, against all justice; who is now informed in the most outrageously pompous manner, that he has taken upon himself an expense which will naturally exceed the maintenance of his own consort; an action which is in manifest contradiction to the former exaggerated statement.

In the second place, the Cardinal Duke represents the situation in which he finds himself, on seeing follow immediately after a feigned reconciliation by means of autograph letters from his Royal Brother, a public proceeding of this description, as to which he has no information, and to which his consent was not asked.

In the third place, he represents the irregularity of this pretended legitimation, which was not necessary to enable his brother to give to this person a fair subsistence, which he had already been bound in conscience to do for thirty years past. As he did not do it, the Cardinal Duke, touched by pure compassion supplied the money privately. But it was not necessary to give her those titles, and to place her in a position for which there can be no explanation to the mind of any intelligent person, aware of the facts and of present circumstances, except the intention of putting a public slight upon the Cardinal Duke and his sister-in-law.

And here is reached the fourth point raised by the Cardinal Duke: that the said legitimation, as it seems to be intended, goes very much father than has been the invariable custom in similar cases, and as in the recent example of James II in the person of the Duke of Berwick, since it reaches the very height of presumption to pretend to have the lady recognised as of the stem of the royal house, by granting her titles which would be most justly contested if he were in actual possession of his lawful right. Nor in that case would his royal brother, according to the law of the Kingdom, have the faculty thus to habilitate thus a natural child, and place her in the succession to the throne; a case utterly without precedent. In this state of things, the Cardinal Duke flatters himself that all his friends will accept his statement, convinced of its justice with regard to this business, so disgusting to hi; which he protests for his part to regard as null and void: in short, to ignore it so long as God gives him life.

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