Profile - Some Blue Bloods in the Legion
It’s generally assumed that the French Foreign Legion tends to enlist men who haven’t many prospects in civilian life; Outcasts, criminals, and so forth. But from time to time, the Legion has found some seriously blue blooded folks in its ranks, men of the noblest lineage. Some have joined to escape the suffocating social burdens they bore due to their birth. Others joined for the sheer joy of soldiering. And not a few did so because the Legion offered a way to strike at a monstrous foe.
It’s probable that no one, perhaps not even the Legion (though that’s a long “perhaps”) knows how many genuine blue bloods have served, but here’s list of some people with remarkable lineages who have worn the white kepí, some of whom can only be tentatively identified.
- A prince of the ancient Florentine Mori Ubaldini family, reportedly a bishop in the Roman Church, abandoned the religious life to enlist in the Legion. He earned the Medaille Militar in the Crimea and the Cross of the Légion d'honneur as a corporal in Algeria in 1857, and eventually rose to captain.
- Napoléon Charles Grégoire Jacques Philippe Bonaparte (1839-1899), the Prince of Canino and Musignano, grandson of Napoleon I’s brother Lucien, served in the Legion during the reign of his cousin Napoleon III, seeing action in Italy, Mexico, and the Franco-Prussian War. He married Princess Christine Rusopli, kinswoman of another legionnaire
- Prince Peter Karadjordjevic (1844-1921), son of Prince Alexander of Serbia, attended Saint-Cyr, and then entered the Foreign Legion, serving during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), in North Africa, and the Far East, before becoming King Peter I of Serbia (1903-1918 ) and later of Yugoslavia (1918-1921)
- A prince of the Roman Rusopli family served in the Legion in the 1880s, including duty in Indochina, where he distinguished himself and rose to captain
- Prince Louis II Grimaldi of Monaco (1870-1949), attended the French military academy at St. Cyr, and upon graduating in the mid-1890s joined the Legion. He served in various colonial conflicts with the 2nd Regiment, until he returned to Monaco in 1908. In 1914 he returned to active duty, and rose to brigadier general by the end of World War I. He was the grandfather of his successor, Prince Ranier III (1923-2005), who served in the French Army during World War II, but not in the Legion.
- An anonymous Prussian prince, nephew of Emperor William II, reportedly died of disease at Sidi Bel-Abbès early in the twentieth century, while in the service of the Legion, and his body was taken back for burial in a German cruiser.
- Maurice Magnus (1876-1920), author of Memoirs of the Foreign Legion (London, Martin Secker, 1924), which was edited for publication by D. H. Lawrence, is generally believed to have been the son of a German-born American scientist and an illegitimate daughter of a prince of the House of Hohenzollern, probably Kaiser Wilhelm I (r. 1871-1888), thus making Magnus a cousin of “Kaiser Bill,” Wilhelm II (r. 1888-1918). Magnus’ memoir claims he enlisted in the Legion in Tunisia in 1916 and served until he deserted some months later, making his way to Italy. Magnus claimed that his subsidy from his Imperial kin continued to reach him during the war, despite his being in the enemy’s service, and only ended when the Hohenzollerns were ousted from Germany in November 1918.
- Count Louis de Renneville (unkn), reportedly served with Maurice Magnus in 1916. Apparently, although descendant from a sixteenth century family of noble rank, and from the Napoleonic nobility as well, Count Louis, who was living in France on the outbreak of World War I, was legally a foreigner, and so enlisted in the legion as a way of serving France and securing French citizenship. By 1920 he had served six years, including combat in France, on the Salonika Front, and in Morocco, but had still not received citizenship.
- Prince Aage of Denmark (1887-1940), grandson of King Christian IX of Denmakr, and great-great-grandson of King Louis Philippe of France, who founded the Legion, enlisted in 1922, after 13 years in the Danish Army. He served until his death from natural causes in 1940, while on active duty as a lieutenant colonel in the 3rd Regiment, in Morocco.
- Prince David Shalikashvili (unkn), who had served in the Tsarist Army before rising to colonel in the army of the Republic of Georgia in 1918-1921, joined the Legion in 1924 as a second lieutenant, seeing action in Morocco and rising to lieutenant before being retired in 1939. Soon after, World War II having broken out, he was recalled to active duty; he ended the war as a lieutenant colonel, having served in North Africa, with the Count of Paris. He was the brother of Prince Dimitri Shalikashvili (d. 1960), who served variously in the Russian, Georgian, Polish, and German armies, and was the father of John Shalikashvili, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the mid-1990s.
- Prince Dimitri Zedguinidze-Amilakhvari (1906-1942). A Georgian nobleman, and fugitive from the Bolsheviks, he attended a military academy in France and joined the Legion as a second lieutenant in 1926, remaining in the service until he was killed in action as a lieutenant colonel serving in the 13th Demi-Brigade, at Garet El Himeimat, near Alamein, on October 24, 1942.
- Prince Imperial Louis Jérôme Victor Emmanuel Léopold Marie Bonaparte (1914-1997), pretender to the throne of France as Emperor Napoleon VI. Prohibited from living in France, he nevertheless enlisted in the 1st Regiment when World War II broke out in 1939 using the name “Louis Blanchard,” and served until discharged in 1941, whereupon joined the Resistance, and, after the Liberation, served in the French Army, until the end of the World War II.
- Henri Robert Ferdinand Marie Louis Philippe d'Orléans (1908-1999), the Count of Paris, pretender to the throne of France as King Henri VI. Like “Napoleon VI,” prohibited from living in France, he nevertheless joined the Legion in 1939 using the name "d'Orliac," and served in the 1st Regiment during the war, for a time along side his rival for the throne of France.
- Prince Ali Solomone Aga Khan (1911-1960), known as Aly Khan, son of the Aga Khan III and father of the Aga Khan IV, leaders of the Ismaili Moslem community, although a notorious playboy, joined the Legion in 1939 and served in the Middle East before transferring to British service in 1940, ending the war as a lieutenant colonel. For a time married to Rita Hayworth, he was for some years Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations.
- Prince Bao Long (1936-2007), son of the Emperor Bao Dai of Annan, and later Crown Prince of Vietnam, served as an officer in the Legion during the 1950s and 1960s, seeing active duty during the Algerian War.