Orleans was the family name of cadet (or collateral) branches of both the Valois and Bourbon royal dynasties of France.
The house of Valois-Orleans was founded by Louis, duc d'Orleans, b. Mar. 13, 1372, who was granted (1392) the duchy of Orleans by his brother King CHARLES VI. When Charles went mad, Louis entered into a power struggle with PHILIP THE BOLD, Duke of Burgundy. The murder of Louis (Nov. 23, 1407) precipitated civil war between his followers, called the Armagnacs, and the Burgundians (see ARMAGNACS AND BURGUNDIANS). Louis's son, Charles, duc d'Orleans, b. May 26, 1391, d. Jan. 4, 1465, was titular leader of the Armagnacs, but he was captured by the English at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and held prisoner until 1440. He is remembered primarily as a poet. Charles's son ascended the throne (1498) as LOUIS XII but died without having produced a son.
Bourbon-Orleans The Bourbons first adopted the Orleans title in 1626, when Louis XIII granted the title and the Orleanais area to his brother, Jean Baptiste Gaston, duc d'Orleans, b. Apr. 25, 1608, d. Feb. 2, 1660. Gaston conspired against Cardinal Richelieu and was later a leader of the revolt known as the FRONDE. He was the father of the duchesse de MONTPENSIER but had no male heir.
The founder of the modern house of Bourbon-Orleans was Philippe I, duc d'Orleans, b. Sept. 21, 1640, d. June 9, 1701, brother of Louis XIV. Married to Henrietta, sister of King Charles II of England, he was a notorious libertine and had no political influence. He was the father of Philippe II, duc d'Orleans (see ORLEANS, PHILIPPE II, DUC D'), and great-great grandfather of Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'Orleans (see ORLEANS, LOUIS PHILIPPE JOSEPH, DUC D'). The latter's son LOUIS PHILIPPE became king as a result of the July Revolution of 1830 but was overthrown in 1848.
Thereafter, although France was a republic (and briefly an empire under Napoleon III), the descendants of Louis Philippe continued to claim the throne. When the senior, or Legitimist, Bourbon line died out in 1883, its claim, too, settled on the house of Orleans. The last serious claimant was Louis Philippe Robert, duc d'Orleans, b. Feb. 6, 1869, d. Mar. 28, 1926. Forced to live in exile, he became a notable explorer in the Arctic and East Africa.