Texas History -The King of France Visits Texas

The King of France Visits the Republic?

In April of 1837 the King of France sailed into Galveston aboard the United States revenue cutter Campbell. His Majesty was officially greeted by the secretary of the Texas Navy, Samuel Rhoads Fisher.

A few days later he visited the glorified campsite that was the capital at Houston, where he met with President Sam Houston.

The king wrote in his diary:

"We walked toward the President’s house, accompanied by the secretary of the navy, and as soon as we rose above the bank, we saw before us a level of far-extending prairie, destitute of timber, and of rather poor soil.

Houses half finished, and most of them without roofs, tents, and a liberty pole, with the capitol, were all exhibited to our view at once. We approached the President’s mansion, however, wading through water above our ankles.

This abode of President Houston is a small log-house, consisting of two rooms, and a passage through, after the southern fashion. The moment we stepped over the threshold, on the right hand of the passage, we found ourselves ushered into what in other countries would be called the ante-chamber; the floor, however, was muddy and filthy, a large fire was burning, a small table, covered with paper and writing materials, was in the center; camp-beds, trunks, and different materials were strewed around the room.

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The “Executive Mansion” of the Republic of Texas was still standing in 1916

We were at once presented to several members of the cabinet, some of whom bore the stamp of men of intellectual ability, simple, though bold, in their general appearance. Here we were presented to Mr. Crawford, an agent of the British Minister to Mexico, who has come here on some secret mission. The President was engaged in the opposite room on national business, and we could not see him for some time.

Meanwhile we amused ourselves by walking to the capitol, which was yet without a roof, and the floors, benches, and tables of both houses of Congress were as well saturated with water as our clothes had been in the morning. Being invited by one of the great men of the place to enter a booth to take a drink of grog with him, we did so; but I was rather surprised that he offered his name instead of the cash to the bar-keeper.

We first caught sight of President Houston as he walked from one of the grog-shops, where he had been to prevent the sale of ardent spirits. He was on his way to his house, and wore a large, gray, coarse hat; and the bulk of his figure reminded me of the appearance of General Hopkins of Virginia, for like him he is upwards of six feet high, and strong in proportion. But I observed a scowl in the expression of his eyes that was forbidding and disagreeable.

We reached his abode before him, but he soon came, and we were presented to his Excellency. He was dressed in a fancy velvet coat, and trousers trimmed with broad gold lace; around his neck was tied a cravat somewhat in the style of seventy-six. He received us kindly, was desirous of retaining us for a while, and offered us every facility within his power.

He at once removed us from the ante-room to his private chamber, which, by the way, was not much cleaner than the former. We were severally introduced by him to the different members of his cabinet and staff, and at once asked to drink grog with him, which we did, wishing success to his new republic.

Our talk was short; but the impression which was made on my mind at the time by himself, his officers, and his place of abode can never be forgotten."

Being in a rustic setting didn’t bother the king. He was an avid hunter and a fine horseman. He was also quite the artist. While in Texas he made many sketches birds and animals, at the same time taking copious notes on their habits and habitats.

These were studies for his large scale paintings, which where later engraved and published in two monumental books: Birds of America and Quadrupeds of America.

These books bore not the name of Louis XVII, but the Anglicized version of the one he was raised under in hiding, after his parents went to the guillotine: John James Audubon.

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Red Texan Wolf - from Audubon’s Quadrupeds of America

Audubon’s ‘official’ biography has him born in Haiti to French sea captain Jean Audubon and a creole woman who died soon after his birth. Captain Audubon then, supposedly, took his young son to France to be raised by his wife (it would seem Mme. Audubon was a tolerant woman.)

Even during his life time there were rumors as to his true parentage, which Audubon neither confirmed nor denied. His journal adds fuel to the fire with references to his “high birth”, his “noble nose” and his resemblance to “not my adopted father, but my own father.”

In one journal entry he writes about walking the streets of Paris, “dressed as a common man, bowing and asking permission to this or that. I, who should command all!”

In another entry he says, “Versailles is truly a magnificent place; how long since I have been there, and how many changes in my life since those days.”

In a dramatic letter to his wife, he writes that he, “must flee France, or a dagger may put an end to _________.”

So, did the King of France really visit Texas, or is this just another of history’s fun conspiracy theories? Take a look below and see what you think.

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Prince Louis-Charles (Louis XVII) age 7 and John James Audubon - about age 40

Texas Quote

“The good people of this world are very far from being satisfied with each other and my arms are the best peacemakers.”

  • Samuel Colt
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