In many nations without a monarchy, there are influential and blooming groups and organisations which struggle to re-establish their royal dynasties. The French-led “International Monarchist Conference” has become one of the leading umbrella organisations and meeting points for many of Europe and the world’s pro-monarchy groups. Royal Central’s Senior Europe Correspondent, Oskar Aanmoen, has talked to Fredric de Natal, the leader of the International Monarchist Conference, to learn more about him, his work for the monarchist cause and the current situation of monarchism in France.
Fredric de Natal is a 43-year-old resident of the French Republic. In addition to leading the International Monarchist Conference, he is a writer for several high profile French magazines like L’Incorrect, Causeur, Politique Magazine and Point de Vue-Histoire, to mention a few. Natal descends from a prominent French family with strong ties to French diplomacy and the military. He previously lived in Africa and the United Kingdom for 20 years before returning home to France to dedicate himself fully to the monarchist cause.
Please explain to our readers what the “International Monarchist Conference” is:
The International Monarchist Conference (IMC) is a coordinating structure of world monarchist movements made in 2008, but it is not a political party. We have made demonstrations of support for monarchists imprisoned for their ideas, as in Iran. We were the first to detect that the uprising in Libya was from monarchist origin and even tried to federate the French monarchist movements under one umbrella, but we failed. In 2015, we decided to focus on informing the political actions of all foreign monarchist movements and spread them on social networks.
You lead the “International Monarchist Conference” one of the world’s most prominent sources of news about the monarchies. Is this hectic work, and do you enjoy it?
You know, I am passionate, and one of few French journalists, maybe only with Stephane Bern or Philippe Delorme, to do this kind of work. I spend hours looking for information in all languages to show everyone that the monarchical idea is a daily reality and not just something that you can find in books. I think. I eat. I sleep monarchy. It is more than a credo; it is a real crusade for me; it is part of me. I sleep only 5 hours per day.
What is it about the monarchy that has engaged you? What is the reason you are a monarchist?
For me, the monarchy incarnate tradition, continuity, and the great history of France. The king is the arbitrator that is currently missing for our country, which is, unfortunately, falling into some kind of anarchy now. I had the chance to live 20 years abroad and bathe in a broth of family culture. I came naturally to the monarchy by asking myself those simple questions. What became of the royal or imperial families of France after 1848 and 1870? Why do [sic] we stop talking about it? I have always loved history, my parents; my grandparents have given me this passion. Since I was 14, I became convinced that the monarchy was the only legitimate government for France. This idea never left me.
French royal news made headlines in January when the Count of Paris died. How has this news influenced the French national media? Also, how do you feel the international community responded to the report?
It is hard to say. Everything depends on which side you are. If we take the royalist one, obviously it has been very well welcome. From a media point of view too, it was a great success. More than fifty articles have appeared as much in the French press on this issue as the international ones, like in Europe where the media have made long articles about the life of the Count of Paris. The French have been able to rediscover that they had pretenders to the throne of France. And our divisions.
How have the French people accepted the new head of the Orleans family?
Prince Jean of Orleans was expected by his followers and remains today a source of hope for some of the monarchists who nicknamed him the “prince of the future”, unlike his father that had received the sobriquet of “prince of bad luck”. However, for most of the French population, I would rather say with a kind of indifference. This is only due because his father was not really known to the French instead of the current Count of Paris’s grandfather.
How would you describe Jean d’Orléans as a person and head of the Orleans branch?
I met several times the new Count of Paris. He reminded me a lot of his grandfather, Henri of Orleans, that used to be a very charismatic political prince in France. I found the prince deeply rooted in the analysis and reflection of the current events, independent from royalist movements. I could feel the influence of his grandfather who prepared him to rule one day. According to me, he draws a political project that is to come, and that should surprise his compatriots. We might have one day a French prince deeply involved in politics. Who knows?
Which royal family is the most popular among the French people and why?
Undoubtedly the Orleans family. I am aware that by saying this, I will not please the Legitimacy supporters, but it is the truth. Everybody agrees with that today. Why? It is simple; he comes from the last king of the French, lives in France, very well introduced in various media, political parties and supported by the main monarchist movements as indicated by a survey made on this issue in 2009. That is not the case of Prince Louis-Alphonse of Bourbon who lives most of the time in Spain, very busy currently with the issues linked to Franco, his great-grandfather, and he rarely comes to France and rarely publishes statements. However, he is not the only one like this. Imperial Prince Jean- Christophe Napoléon is busy doing banking stuff in London and fully absent from the French political debate. After unfortunately, we can always say that the Orleans family is better known to the French for feeding tabloids or their numerous lawsuits against the rival line.
How do you perceive the relationship between the Bonaparte, Orleans and Bourbon families?
It has always been complicated even though they are all cousins. The old generation of prince-pretenders, who have now disappeared, did not appreciate each other at all and used to settle their many disputes in front of the court. Today it has changed. We have seen both Bourbon pretenders on several occasions like in 2010. Neither of them wishes to feed the dynastic dispute. Prince Jean and Prince Louis-Alphonse fully respect each other, openly and publicly regretting that their respective supporters feed the divisions on social networks. Ironically, they have many identical political points of view. The death of Prince Henri changed the cards of the French games of thrones
France has three rival royal families. How does this affect the monarchy debate in France?
Unfortunately, yes. It is very sad that the Count of Chambord clearly did not appoint his successor when he died in 1883. A century and a half later, this division considerably hampers the political messages that the royalists are trying to send to the French population. Among the Napoleons, the dynastic issue has been recently settled. Prince Charles Napoleon recognised his son, designated in 1997 by will, Jean-Christophe as the only head of the imperial house.
Nevertheless, politically it is not the same song. Bonapartists are deeply divided between republicans and monarchists. There is no real debate about the monarchy in France. In addition, if there is one, he is the victim of caricatures shared from the media who continuously mock the monarchists in their broadcasts or always associate them with far-right movements. France has still not recovered from the death of Louis XVI in 1793. However, it is also true that the idea is scoring points. Since the beginning the crisis of yellow vests, we heard politicians, mostly from the right, or ordinary citizens claiming that the state needs a real arbitrator evoking the picture of a king, waving royalist flag. When we know that eight million French watched the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, that means a lot. The press dedicated to monarchy issues in France still has big sales.
Do the French royals practice a non-political line, or do they interfere with French politics and, if so, how?
The role of a King is to remain neutral, to be above parties. The pretenders to the throne of France emerge only from this neutrality when the defence of the common good, of the nation, is requested, like same-sex marriage issue, the desecration of churches or the yellow vest crisis by example. Recently with the crisis of yellow vests, both Bourbon princes took support positions for this yellow vest movement and their statement highly publicised, especially with the one from Prince Louis-Alphonse of Bourbon who made the “buzz” in France. Prince Jean of Orleans has written a long tribune in favour of our constitution, issued many statements on the preservation of the environment or for the defence of the French language.
We often forget that the princes of France, especially the Orleans ones, have played important political roles since the fall of the monarchy, throughout our history. Rumours says that might be granted a status comparable to what is known within royal houses in Eastern Europe. It is also interesting to note that Prince Louis-Alphonse of Bourbon is extremely and politically involved in Spain since the Spanish government decided to unearth his great-grandfather, General Franco. He is close to the Vox movement. His Francoist positions are not necessarily always appreciated whether from his opponents or his supporters [who are] very divided between legitimist modernists and ultra-Catholic legitimists. Although he is in his role as “very Christian” prince, both have official Twitter or website accounts that give their political point of views or actions.
France has recently had a turbulent time with the Gilets Jaunes rebellion. Is this the end of the fifth French Republic, and can it help France to become a monarchy again?
Let us be clear. If France wants to get back his monarchy, it would require a profound upheaval that leads the French to claim the return of a king. Alternatively, an emperor. Today, the question is not an issue. Firstly, because in France, the constitution prevents the questioning of republican institutions, then because the French do not really know their pretenders. If Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon keeps a very people image, the Franco issue does not act in his favour. The caudillo is widely disliked in France. Prince Jean has begun a re-conquest of the political field for months, especially through the social networks he consults very much. Let us not talk about Prince Jean-Christophe Napoléon who is almost unknown to the French.
In addition, if we add the ideological divisions among the monarchist movements, it will take time before the monarchy will be back in France even if the idea makes its way again for a decade in France. Thanks to the actions of militant movements like Action française or the Nouvelle action royaliste – unless one day an Orleans or Bourbon prince tries to stand for election. Prince Charles Napoleon was elected city councillor or deputy mayor of a large city at various times with high scores.
Do you think France has an opportunity ever to become a monarchy again?
Of course. France has had several attempts to restore the monarchy. First and the most known of all of them, between 1870 and 1873 with the Count of Chambord. Then in February 1934, it was the final goal of the Action Française during the riots, in 1942 with Prince Henry of Orleans who tried to seize power in French Algeria after having assassinated Marshal Pétain’s dolphin, Admiral Darlan and finally in the sixties with General de Gaulle who wanted to make the Count of Paris, his successor. Henri of Orleans should have even run for the 1965 presidential election, but unfortunately, General de Gaulle decided to run again. France could become a monarchy again. Today, and even more with the crisis of yellow vests, the French are looking for a new alternative, a new regime that makes them proud of their national history. The monarchy is one solution among others.
A survey published in 2016 states that 17% of French people would like the restoration of the monarchy. Unfortunately, however, the French royalists lack a genuinely charismatic leader able to gather all of them, beyond their divisions. On the other hand, it is obvious that they will not accept the return of an absolute monarchy as claimed by the ultra-Catholic minority of the Legitimacy. Both princes, Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon and Jean of Orleans, are in favour of a constitutional monarchy as they said in many statements. Nevertheless, with a different shade. For the first one, that should be rethought, for the second one, should be inspired by the current constitution.
Are you a supporter of the Bonaparte, Orleans or the Bourbon family, and why?
You know I am a journalist-monarchist. I rather prefer to stay out of these partisan disputes that divide the royalists. My role is to inform, to remain neutral. Even if sometimes, when I write things about French crown pretender that does not please the supporters of one or the other. All truth is never good to be written!