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Legitimists are those Royalists in France who believe that God has chosen the King of France and Navarre by divine right and the simple application of the Salic Law. They are adherents of the elder branch of the Bourbon dynasty, overthrown in the Revolution of 1830. The death of the comte de Chambord in 1883 effectively dissolved the parti ligitimiste as a political entity in France. A remnant, known as the Blancs d'Espagne, by repudiating the act of renunciation through which Philippe de Bourbon had become king of Spain in 1700, upheld the rights of the eldest branch of the Bourbons, now however represented by the line of Anjou.

This means that the current legitimist King of France and Navarre is the Spanish Louis-Alphonse de Borbón, styled duc d'Anjou.

By contrast, the other party of French monarchists, the Orléanists, were the adherents of the Duc d'Orléans, Louis-Philippe, (reigned 1830-1848), and of his heirs. Henri, comte de Paris (1933-1999) challenged Louis-Alphonse de Borbón's right to the title duc d'Anjou in a French court of law, and lost.

The word légitimiste was not admitted by the Académie française until 1878; but meanwhile it had spread beyond France, and in English 'legitimist' is now applied to any supporter of monarchy by hereditary right, as against a parliamentary or other title.

For other 'legitimists' compare British Jacobites, Spanish Carlists and Portuguese Miguelistas.

In the history of Nicaragua the liberals (called Democrats) were opposed by the conservatives (called Legitimists), who expelled the Democrats from the constitutional assembly in 1853, driving them underground or into exile, and promulgated a constitution of 1854. Under its terms Fruto Chamorro was elected Presidente. The Democrats rejected the constitution and the Chamorro government and returned from exile to fight against it, with help from the governments of Honduras and El Salvador. Civil war broke out in 1854, in which the American adventurer William Walker played a major role.