If you visit Angel Hill, you may have noticed a small plaque high on a wall next to the Angel Hotel. It reads Louis Philippe, King of France, Born 1773, Died 1850. But who was Louis Philippe? And what was his connection to Bury St Edmunds?
Born in the Palais Royal in Paris in 1773, Louis Philippe was an aristocratic member of the ruling House of Bourbon. He fled France in 1793 to avoid the French Revolution and the guillotine (unlike his father, Louis Phillipe II, Duke of Orléans), and spent the next 21 years in exile in Europe, the USA, Cuba, and Canada. In 1800 he arrived in England and remained here for 15 years.
This may have included visiting the enclave of French aristocratic émigrés living in Bury, which centred around Angel Hill in the late 18th/early 19th century. Interestingly, Abbeygate Street is referred to as Frenkysemanestrete (Frenchman’s Street) in a deed of c1270, suggesting that this area may have been a French Quarter since the medieval period.
Louis Philippe returned to France following the restoration of the monarchy and the Second French (July) Revolution, becoming King of the French (‘The Citizen King’) in 1830. He reigned until 1848, when he abdicated in favour of his nine-year-old grandson, who never assumed the throne: instead a Republic was proclaimed and Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, later Emperor Napoleon III, was elected President in December the same year.
Louis, fearful of the fate of Louis XVI, disguised himself and fled Paris. He and his family returned to England, and remained in exile at Claremont in Surrey until his death in 1850. His remains were translated to the Royal Chapel of Dreux, the traditional burial place of the House of Orléans, in 1876.
Adrian Tindall, Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides
Further reading: T E B Howarth (1961) Citizen-King: The Life of Louis-Philippe, King of the French