11am on this Monday morning on rue Saint-Honore, I walk into Sotheby’s Paris to view 200 or so items that belonged to the Count of Paris that will go up for auction next week.
These items were the personal belongings of the last King of France. His name was Louis-Phillipe and in 1848 he lost the French throne and had to leave the country in disguise. He went to live in England, taking his belongings with him.
His descendant, the Count of Paris, Henri d’Orleans, from this dynasty of the House of Bourbon, a one-time pretender to the French throne, his estate is now selling King Louis’ personal things. It’s enough material to make a great TV series. As you might suspect, there are a lot of keepsakes, like paintings of the family and tattered velvet furniture.
But there is more to the story. Apparently, the Count, as descendant of the Bourbons, was once the wealthiest man in France, worth 650 million or so, in castles, forests, decorative treasures, etc. But rumor has it that he squandered much of the inheritance in the casinos of Deauville and Biarritz.
So what remains is lovely and personal, but not splendid. The paintings of the King with his family boating, paintings of the children. King Louis Philipe was known to be a devoted ‘family man.’ And my favorite, the painting of the gentlemen in red coats, their backs turned, looking off toward the Chateau de St. Cloud, one holding a stick to throw for the pup in the foreground. Our dog, Skye, has been to St. Cloud and chased some sticks in the very same forest.
What is left of this grand inheritance of the French kings is being sold to split between the Counts heirs, seemingly, because as the Sotheby’s agent said, “sometimes it’s easier to sell than to share.”
You can see the Sotheby’s agent above pointing out signatures and dates and taking paintings off the wall showing how to determine the age and provenance by the markings on the back of the frames.
Note: All of Sotheby’s auctions are free and open to the public and there is no obligation to bid.