An Early 19thC French Passport, Signed by Jules, Prince du Polignac, Later Prime Minister of France

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Origin: France
Period: Restauration
Provenance: Unknown
Date: 1824
Length:  17 inches
Width: 10.5 inches

A French passport document bearing the Bourbon arms, made out “Au nom du Roi” (in the name of the king),  to allow a certain Thomas Fitzwilliam “English Gentleman”, safe passage back from Calais to London. The document is countersigned, stamped, and inscribed by various officials in Dieppe, Calais, and Paris, documenting Mr Fitzwilliam's various travels, and is, notably, signed by Jules, Prince du Polignac, then Ambassador to Great Britain.

Jules du Polignac was the son of Gabrielle de Polastron, comtesee de Polignac, a close friend of Marie-Antionette, and a staunch monarchist. Jules inherited his mother's ideals, and he was imprisoned in 1804 for his involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Napoleon; but was released in 1813, after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. After release, he received numerous honours, including the title “Prince” from the Pope in 1820, was appointed Ambassador to great Britain in 1823 (in which capacity he signed this document), and in 1829 was appointed the 8th Prime Minister of France, by the bourbon King Charles X.

However, Polignac's success in the post was short-lived, he was held responsible for  introduction of unpopular legislation, considered the cause for the July revolt of 1830, which led to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, and instilled the Orleans monarchy in its stead.   Polignac was then arrested, exiled, and sentenced to 'perpetual' imprisonment.

A comprehensive summary of these tumultuous times in revolutionary France is impossible to give here. It may be that Thomas Fitzwilliam (information on him is scant, though presumably a member of the aristocratic Fitzwilliam family) went to France on a diplomatic mission. Whatever the purpose of the trip, the document is an exciting and tangible piece of history, with distinctly revolutionary overtones.

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