The Princes of Condé descend from the Vendôme family, the progenitors of the modern House of Bourbon. There was never a principality, sovereign or vassal, of Condé. The name merely served as the territorial source of a title adopted by Louis, who inherited from his father, Charles IV de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme (1489–1537), the lordship of Condé-en-Brie in Champagne, consisting of the Château of Condé and a dozen villages some fifty miles east of Paris.
It had passed from the sires of Avesnes, to the Counts of St. Pol. When Marie de Luxembourg-St. Pol wed François, Count of Vendôme (1470–1495) in 1487, Condé-en-Brie became part of the Bourbon-Vendôme patrimony.
After the extinction in 1527 of the Dukes of Bourbon, François's son Charles (1489–1537) became head of the House of Bourbon, which traces its male-line descent from Robert, Count of Clermont (1256–1318), a younger son of France's Saint-King Louis IX. Of the sons of Charles of Vendôme, the eldest, Antoine, became jure uxoris King of Navarre and fathered Henry IV.
Arms of the Princes of Condé, 1546-1588
The youngest son, Louis, inherited the lordships of Meaux, Nogent, Condé, and Soissons as his appanage. Louis was titled Prince of Condé in a parliamentary document on 15 January 1557 and, without any legal authority beyond their dignity as princes of the Blood Royal, they continued to bear it for the next three centuries. He was succeeded by his son Henri I de Bourbon, prince de Condé.
Louis, the first Prince, actually gave the Condé property to his youngest son, Charles (1566–1612), Count of Soissons. Charles' only son Louis (1604–1641) left Condé and Soissons to female heirs in 1624, who married into the Savoy and Orléans-Longueville dynasties.
Upon the accession to France's throne of Henry IV of Bourbon in 1589, his first cousin-once-removed Henry, Prince of Condé (1588–1646), was heir presumptive to the crown until 1601. Although Henry's own descendants thereafter held the senior positions within the royal family of dauphin, Fils de France, and petits-fils de France, from 1589 to 1709 the Princes of Condé coincidentally held the rank at court of premier prince du sang royal (First Prince of the Blood Royal), to which was attached income, precedence, and ceremonial privilege (such as the exclusive right to be addressed as Monsieur le prince at court).
The arms of the duc de Bourbon.
However, the position of premier prince devolved upon the ducs d'Orléans in 1710, so the seventh Prince, Louis III (1668–1710) declined to make use of the title, preferring instead to be known by his hereditary peerage of Duke of Bourbon, which still afforded him the right to be known as Monsieur le Duc. Subsequent heirs likewise preferred the ducal to the princely title.
After the death of Henry III Jules de Bourbon, prince de Condé in 1709, the family were in regular attendance at court. Louis de Bourbon-Condé (at that point known as the Duke of Bourbon) had in 1685 married Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, the legitimated daughter of Louis XIV of France and Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan.
The couple had many children and produced an heir to the Condé titles and lands. Their son was Louis Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc de Bourbon. He led a quiet life and was known at court as Monsieur le Duc after the loss of the rank of premier prince du sang in 1723. After his death the family retreated from court life but Louis Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Condé was vital in the forming of the Army of Condé - formed to support his cousin Louis XVI during his imprisonment during the revolution. He was the longest holder of the title, being known as the prince de Condé for seventy-eight years.
His son married the sister of Louis Philippe II d'Orléans better known as Philippe Égalité. She was called Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans. She was the last princesse de Condé and mother of Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Condé - titled duc d'Enghien. He was executed by Napoleon I of France at the Château de Vincennes. With the death of the duc d'Enghien, the heir to the Condé name, his father was the last holder of the title.
After his death in 1830 the Condé lands passed to the last prince's cousin Henri Eugène Philippe Louis d'Orléans, duc d'Aumale whose eldest son Louis was later a prince de Condé after gaining the title from his father.