Paris - Representatives of the royal houses of Europe were among some 600 people who attended the funeral on Monday of Henri d'Orleans, Count of Paris and pretender to the throne of France.

The count died on June 19, aged 90.

Among those paying their last respects was Spain's Crown Prince Felipe, Belgium's Prince Laurent, Prince Rainier of Monaco, the late Shah of Iran's wife Farah Diba, as well as the deceased's nine children and 40 grandchildren.

A message from Pope John Paul II was read at the end of the ceremony at the Royal Chapel of Saint Louis in Dreux, 50 kilometres west of Paris, where the count's body had been lying in state. He was interred in the family crypt, next to his parents and two of his sons.

The new heir to the hypothetical Crown of France is the count's son, also called Henri d'Orleans, a 66-year-old former banker and art enthusiast, who recently raised eyebrows by lending the royal brand to a range of perfumes.

Speaking after his father's death, the new count promised to continue in his father's footsteps, saying he would "strive always to preserve the unity and identity of France".

For nearly 60 years head of the Orleanist royal house (there is a rival Bourbon branch in Spain), the late count worked tirelessly promoting a monarchy he knew had virtually no chance of ever being re-established.

Having broken with extremist right-wing royalists before World War II, he was never seen as a threat by French political leaders, who tended rather to respect his sense of national loyalty.

President Jacques Chirac said in a tribute that the Count "had throughout his life carried out with fidelity the traditions of the Royal House, without ever failing to respect the institutions of the Republic." - Sapa-AFP