A 48-year-old banker, a 57-year-old financial consultant, and a 36-year-old private equity executive seem unlikely pretenders to the vacant French throne.
Yet there are many who truly support these three sharp-suited financiers and their grandiose ambitions.
So why do the Duke of Anjou, the Count of Paris and the man who styles himself Prince Napoleon think they should be King of France?
The simple answer is that they represent the last three dynasties to wear the crown – the Bourbons, the Orleanists and the heirs to Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Bourbon claimants are known as the Legitimists and believe that the Bourbons, who included Louis XIV were the one true French monarchy.
Socially conservative and a descendant of the Spanish dictator Franco, Louis Alphonse de Bourbon (left) is against same-sex marriage and adoption and wants to see a ‘Christian society’
The banker currently styles himself Duke of Anjou. He is married to Venezuelan wife María Margarita Vargas Santaella (right)
Louis Alphonse de Bourbon’s is the most senior living male descendent of the Bourbon Louis XIV, the Sun King (pictured)
The Orleanists say that descendants of Louis-Philippe I should be king. And the Bonapartists maintain that as the last monarch in France was a Napoleon, then it is they who should have the throne – if it ever becomes available.
Trying to adjudicate between the competing claims of three middle-aged men in the finance industry would outwit even the wisest of judges – and might be more a matter of taste rather than legal or genealogical argument.
The Bourbons or Legitimists
Current pretender: Louis Alphonse de Bourbon
Current title: Styles himself Duke of Anjou
Married to: Venezuelan wife María Margarita Vargas Santaella. They have four children
Claim to the throne: the most senior living male descendent of the Bourbon Louis XIV, the Sun King.
It is fair to say that de Bourbon is on the right of the political spectrum. Socially conservative and a descendant of the Spanish dictator Franco, he is against same-sex marriage and adoption, and wants to see a return to a ‘Christian society’.
Bourbon has also spoken in support of the insurgent Yellow Vest movement which has disrupted France since the first protests broke out over fuel prices in 2018
Although he is entitled to the Spanish Dukedom of Franco, it is not clear why he currently styles himself Duke of Anjou
Bourbon would take the name Louis XX should he ever ascend the throne
He has also spoken in support of the insurgent Yellow Vest movement which has disrupted France since the first protests broke out over fuel prices in 2018.
Born in Madrid, the banker takes his claim from Louis XIV via his grandson Philip V of Spain. He is also a great-grandson of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco through his mother, María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú y Franco.
Bourbon would take the name Louis XX should he ever ascend the throne.
Although he is entitled to the Spanish Dukedom of Franco, it is not clear why he currently styles himself Duke of Anjou – something said to have provoked criticism from his cousin Juan Carlos, former King of Spain.
Current pretender: Jean-Christophe Napoleon
Current claimed title: Prince Napoleon
Married to: Countess Olympia von und zu Arco-Zinnerberg with one child
Occupation: Private equity executive
Claim to the throne: the great-great-great-nephew of Emperor Napoleon 1 (Bonaparte). He is also descended from Emperor Napoleon III, the final French monarch, and, through his mother, from King Louis XV.
The holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School and a successful financier, Napoleon is less politically vocal than his two rivals.
Instead, he enjoys mixing with his fellow European aristocrats and actual royalty – his wedding in 2019 was attended by Princess Beatrice – and he represents the house of Bonapartists at events such as the bicentennial commemoration of the battle of Waterloo in 2015.
Jean-Christophe Napoleon is married to Countess Olympia von und zu Arco-Zinnerberg
Jean-Christophe Napoleon’s claim to the throne is that he is the great-great-great-nephew of Bonaparte, Emperor Napoleon I (pictured)
The holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School and a successful financier, Napoleon is less politically vocal than his two rivals. Pictured: Jean-Christophe Napoleon with his mother Princess Beatrice of Bourbon Two Sicilies
He enjoys mixing with his fellow European aristocrats and actual royalty. His wedding in 2019 was attended by Princess Beatrice
Unlike d’Orleans and de Bourbon, Napoleon does not seem to harbour serious public ambitions for the restoration of the monarchy in France
Unlike d’Orleans and de Bourbon, Napoleon does not seem to harbour serious public ambitions for the restoration of the monarchy in France.
In 2019 he married Countess Olympia von und zu Arco-Zinnerberg (who happens to be the great-great-great niece of Napleon Bonaparte’s wife) at a ceremony attended by Princess Beatrice in Paris. This was followed by a lavish wedding at the 12th century Fontainebleau Palace.
Current pretender: Jean d’Orleans
Current claimed title: Count of Paris
Married to: Austrian aristocrat Philomena de Tornos Steinhart in Paris in 2009. They have five children
Occupation: Financial consultant, reservist Colonel
Claim to the throne: Jean, Duke of Vendome, is head of the House of Orleans, which is a branch of the House of Bourbon. He is also descended from France’s ‘citizen king’ Louis-Philippe d’Orleans (Louis Philippe I), who reigned from 1830-1848
Like his Bourbon rival, d’Orleans is also socially conservative, and is against abortion, same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.
Like his Bourbon rival, Jean d’Orleans is also socially conservative, and is against abortion, same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption
Jean d’Orleans (pictured right with Prince Albert of Monaco) is a financial consultant, reservist Colonel and father of five children
Claim to the throne: Jean d’Orleans is descended from France’s ‘citizen king’ Louis-Philippe d’Orleans (Louis Philippe I), who reigned from 1830-1848 (pictured)
Believing that the French are natural monarchists, he also naturally thinks that he should be the King. Certainly, his magnificent ancestral home, the Chateau d’Amboise, looks palatial enough.
Unfortunately he is in the middle of suing the Saint-Louis Foundation, the institute that owns the property and manages his family’s former estate, for insisting that he pays rent to live at the Royal Domain of Dreux, west of Paris. He is reportedly demanding 1million euro damages from the foundation and requesting the return of five properties.
The neo-Gothic Royal Domain of Dreux features a number of well-appointed buildings including the Royal Chapel, which houses the family’s tombs.
The Saint-Louis Foundation has been under the management of the interior ministry since its creation in 1974 by his grandfather, Prince Henry VI of Orléans.
France has not had a King since 1830, when revolution returned to France for a second time and the last of the Bourbon monarchs, King Charles X abdicated and fled to Britain.
Yet the French monarchy itself survived, because the government chose to elect Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans as King, and he would be known as King Louis-Philippe I. As a result, the House of Orleans, rather than the House of Bourbon, was on the throne.
Louis-Philippe reigned for 18 years, until in 1848 revolution once again swept France. And once again, the French king hopped across the Channel to safety in Britain.
He married Austrian aristocrat Philomena de Tornos Steinhart in Paris in 2009. They have five children
Believing that the French are natural monarchists, he also naturally thinks that he should be the King. Pictured: Jean d’Orleans and Queen Sofia of Spain
Count of Paris Jean d’Orleans (second left), with his wife Philomena de Tornos y Steinhart (second right), and their children Prince Gaston and Princess Antoinette welcome French President Emmanuel Macron (Centre) and his wife Brigitte
The new government was headed by a President for the first time, who came in the form of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon himself.
In 1852, proving that old habits died hard in his family, Louis-Napoleon declared himself Emperor and reigned until 1870.
His surrender and capture in the Franco-Prussian War of that year was the death knell for his reign and with the creation of a Government of National Defence in 1870-71, France finally got rid of the monarchy.
Since then, it has remained a republic, but that has not stopped descendants of all three royal houses maintaining that, should France ever get rid of its president, then it is one of their families who should be sitting on the French throne.
What of the original French Revolution in 1789? Isn’t that when the French people overthrew the King? The answer is yes but only temporarily.
In 1793, in the aftermath of the revolution, the Bourbon monarch, King Louis XVI and his wife, Queen Marie-Antoinette, were beheaded by guillotine.
France would only be a republic for just over a decade, however, because in 1804, perhaps the most famous Frenchman who has lived – Napoleon Bonaparte – declared himself Emperor.
Then, after losing a war in 1814 to a coalition of Prussians, Austrians and Russians, Napoleon went into exile, and his place on the throne was taken by Louis XVIII, who lasted only a year until Napoleon wrested back the crown in March 1815.
The battle of Waterloo that same year saw Napoleon lose the throne once again after just over a hundred days, and the Bourbon monarchy was once again restored.