Philippe I, Duke of Orléans

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To understand the Duke of Orléans, watch this video and pay attention to the man doing most of the singing. Although the conventions of musical theater exaggerate the scene somewhat (witness the actors soaring on strings), Philippe himself was an accomplished dancer and socialite who charmed the court of his elder brother, King Louis XIV – somewhat ironic, as his relatives had gone to great lengths to avoid just such competitive popularity, including restricting his access to funds and encouraging his homosexual proclivities, to the point where the local Cardinal set him up with his nephew.

Even outside the realm of the landed gentry Philippe excelled, winning several major battles as a commander (though he reportedly gave in to boredom at one point and retreated to decorate his tent), and investing in the arts and engineering. Through his investments he founded a powerful and wealthy line that came to rival – naturally – his brother’s, even seizing power for a time in the 1800s.

Although he is now popularly known as “Monsieur,” the title was not a nickname exclusive to him; instead, it referred to a younger brother of the reigning king. When he was born he was called “le Petit Monsieur,” signifying that his uncle – “le Grand Monsieur” – was still alive and the brother of the then-living king.

 

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