While Americans generally may regard royalty as something of a throwback, they often don’t mind rolling out the red carpet on occasion as Savannah did recently for Prince Jean d’Orleans, who according to his pedigree is the next in line to be king of France.
Who can forget Huck Finn‘s encounter with the two con men, one of whom passed himself off as an impoverished English duke, while the other said that he “really” is the dauphin (“Looy the Seventeen”), son of “Looy the Sixteenth” and Marie Antoinette.
Prince Jean is no con. There is no question that he is the rightful descendant of the Orleans line and his ancestor Louis Philippe reigned from 1830 to 1848 as leader of the Orleanist party having taken over from Charles X, the last Bourbon king.
During an interview with Global Atlanta, he had no qualms in dismissing the Bourbon claims of its pretender, calling him Spanish. “If he wants to be king, why doesn’t he become king of Spain,” he replied at one point in another interview captured by Wikipedia.
The prince was in Savannah on Oct. 9 to commemorate the 236th anniversary of the efforts of the French and American armies at the siege of Savannah, a ferocious battle in 1779 during which they were roundly defeated by the British.
The battle, however, led to strengthening their alliance until their success at the Battle of Yorktown.
Savannah holds its battle dear having bought in 2004 a 9.5-acre tract along with two other properties and some railroad track west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard where it was fought.
It also honors the life of Brigadier General Count Casimir Pulaski, who was widely admired for his role as a cavalry leader and died during the battle in Savannah leading a charge against the British. A monument in his name was erected in his honor the center of the city’s Montgomery Square.
Savannah’s Haitian Memorial in Franklin Square also commemorates the lives lost of the “Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint Domingue,” who made up the largest contingency of black soldiers fighting in the American revolution.
The prince was faced with a full day of commitments on Oct. 9, beginning at 7 a.m. with a memorial march followed by a wreath-laying at Battlefield Park during which he paid tribute to Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French soldier who was severely wounded during the battle, and later gained fame as the designer of Washington, D.C.
He also participated in a flotilla that sailed down the Savannah River past Old Fort Jackson, which honored him with a one-cannon firing salute.
Finally, he then reenacted the appearance of the Marquis de Lafayette on the balcony of the Owens-Thomas House at 124 Abercorn St. who in 1825 was greeted by Savannah residents during his year-long tour in the United States.
Prince Jean’s Georgia tour, which was organized by the Millennium Gate Museum of Atlanta to mark the anniversary of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Alliance, didn’t end in Savannah on the 9th but rather on the 10th at Atlantic Station.
The treaty was negotiated and signed a year before the Siege of Savannah battle in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, with the newly established U.S. as a military pact. A treaty of amity and commerce was signed at the same time.
During an evening fund raising gala for the museum , the prince was honored with the Middelthon-Candler Justice Prize in gratitude for the French government’s agreement under the alliance for its fleet to be deployed across the Atlantic, which ultimately led to the victory at Yorktown.
Matthew Middelthon, a descendant of Asa G. Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Co., established these prizes as a tangible way to continue the Candler family’s tradition of extraordinary stewardship of Atlanta’s arts, charitable and civic institutions, and patronage of the Millennium Gate.
Prince Jean, who has created his own company, Avenir & Potrimoine Conseil, to showcase the heritage of France’s kings and princes seemed a natural to win this year’s award given that Rodney Mims Cook Jr. is founder and president of the the National Monuments Foundation, which backed the construction of the Millennium Gate and seeks to further the cause of classical architecture, monuments and urban design.
Although the past days’ activities were focused on Prince Jean, he was in good company among the honored guests. Andrew Young, the former U.S. congressman, mayor of Atlanta and U.S. representative to the United Nations received the annual peace prize “for a lifetime of service in promoting social and economic justice within the United States and around the world.”
Carole Tome, the chief financial office of Home Depot Inc., received the Millennium Gate Prize “for her leadership in business, philanthropy, and the civic realm.”
Among many other activities, Ms. Tome serves on the board of United Parcel Service Inc., and has been the past board chair at the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the past chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Not to diminish the accomplishments of the prize winners, it seemed as if Mr. Cook was saving the best surprise for last when he announced that Joe Lonsdale, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur who serves on the board of the National Monuments Foundation, has pledged $1 million toward the development of greenspace in Vine City near English Avenue.
The space is to be known as the Historic Mims Park, named in honor of Mr. Cook’s ancestors and a project his father pursued as a member of Atlanta’s city government and state legislator.