The King's Royal Rifle Corps


Prince Philippe, Duke of Orleans


Prince Philippe, born on 24th Aug 1869, was an heir claimant to the French throne. He was keen to follow a military career and was enrolled at Saint-Cyr to train as a French officer. But his education was interrupted when the Republican Government sent him into exile in 1886. He came to England and went to Sandhurst. After his training there he was allowed into the King's Royal Rifle Corps who were in India.

French law forbade him from holding a commission in a foreign army so his position in the regiment must have had honorary status. He was placed on the staff of Lord Roberts. In 1990 after a spell in Switzerland, he went to Paris where he was arrested for entering France illegally. He spent a few months in prison and was then expelled from the country.

His amorous inclinations resulted in all sorts of trouble because his affair with Nellie Melba the Australian opera star ended his engagement to his first cousin, Marguerite of Orleans, and caused him to be cited in Dame Nellie's divorce. After trips abroad to the US, Canada, Egypt, Palestine and Ethiopia he returned to England where, in May 1894 he enrolled in the Bucks Hussars Yeomanry.

His father died in 1894 and he inherited the title of pretender to the French throne. The following year he was involved in another divorce case, the Woolstons. The following year he married the Archduchess Maria Dorothea of Austria. It was a disaster. There were no children and the marriage ended after a few years. He left the UK in 1900 to live in Belgium, then spent much of his time sailing in northern waters, Greenland, the Kara Sea, Siberia and the Arctic.

When war broke out in 1914 he tried to join the French army, then the Belgian army, then the Italian Army. But before he could try another army he was knocked down by a bus. His health was poor after this and he eventually died of pneumonia on 28th March 1926 in Palermo.


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by Stephen Luscombe