PARIS: Far from ending with the French Revolution, monarchical intrigue lives on in modern France, with descendants of the royal house of Orleans bitterly disputing the succession to a non-existent throne.
More than two centuries after King Louis XVI was guillotined, the current pretender to the French throne, Henri d'Orleans, is struggling to settle a dynastic quarrel over which of his sons will inherit his claim to be King of France.
Henri, a descendent of King Louis-Philippe, the last king to ascend to the throne, holds the "courtesy titles" of Count of Paris and Duke of France, which have no legal status under the French Republic.
The 83-year-old count has named as heir his eldest son Francois, who has suffered from a severe mental disability from birth. The count has therefore appointed as regent another of his sons, Jean, Duke of Vendome.
But the duke, 51, argues that instead of acting as regent for his brother, he should himself take over the title of Count of Paris and become the next pretender to the throne on his father's death.
In a statement last week presenting himself as the sole legitimate successor and expressing the far-fetched hope that the monarchy will be restored, he said: "Succession in the House of France follows very precise rules.
"Their purpose is to be capable one day of renewing the national pact, if the French people so wish. I will assume after my father the responsibility of being the head of the House of France."
The duke added that his grandfather, who died in 1999, had "formalised" the rules of succession in view of "the serious disability of Prince Francois, which is without hope of a cure".
Francois, 55, and his younger sister Blanche are both disabled after their mother suffered from the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis during pregnancy.
The count, unmoved by Jean's protestations, has now published a lengthy text refuting his arguments in a Right-wing magazine, Point de Vue.
He invokes "French monarchical tradition" to support his claim that if the rightful heir cannot govern, a regent must be appointed.
It is not the first time the modern-day house of Orleans has squabbled over inheritance. The count's father, also called Henri, bequeathed only handkerchiefs and a pair of slippers to his heirs from his once vast estate. His nine offspring went to court to claim properties including two chateaux, Marie-Antoinette's dinner table and 70 sketches by Louis XIV.