After the execution in 1793 of Louis XVI in the midst of the French Revolution, his son Louis-Charles became Louis XVII at age 7 and the young “King of France” in the eyes of the royalists. However, Louis XVII had been imprisoned by revolutionaries and died from illness at age 10 in 1795. At this time France was a republic, therefore the monarchy was not acknowledged as legitimate and to non-royalists Louis XVII was never king at all (Shusterman, 245).
According to Comte de Provence, Louis XVI’s brother, Louis XVII had reigned as king from prison, in fact he served as his nephew’s regent. Therefore, to Comte de Provence he reigned under the name of Louis XVIII after his nephew’s death (Shusterman, 245). Louis XVIII was labeled as “the pretender” to the French throne before and after Louis XVII’s death. Being “the pretender” meant that Louis XVIII declared himself as king even before the death of his nephew. Considering the young age of Louis XVII, Comte de Provence saw it necessary to take over the duties of king as the young king’s regent. These claims are often seen as confusing and “delusional” considering the monarchy was not in order, but were supported by royalists nevertheless (Shusterman, 245).
Louis XVIII had been out of Paris for 25 years because of the revolution and finally returned in 1814 (Dwyer and McPhee, 193). Louis XVIII officially reigned as king during the Bourbon Monarchy when the constitutional monarchy was restored and the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte allowed him to take the throne as long as he agreed to a constitution (Shusterman, 252).
Dwyer, Philip G, and Peter McPhee. The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, Inc., 2002.
Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. New York: Routledge, Inc., 2014.