Born on 9 August 1736 at Chantilly, Louis Joseph was the only son of Louis Henri I, Prince of Conde (1692–1740) and Landgravine Caroline Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg (1714–41). As a cadet of the reigning House of Bourbon, he was a prince du sang.
His father Louis Henri, was the eldest son of Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Conde (known as Monsieur le Duc), and his wife Louise Francoise de Bourbon, legitimated daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan.
During his father’s lifetime, the infant Louis Joseph was known as the Duke of Enghien, (duc d’Enghien). At the age of four, following his father’s death in 1740, and his mother’s death in 1741, he was placed under the care of his paternal uncle, Louis Count of Clermont, his father’s
youngest brother. During both the reigns of King Louis XV and his grandson, Louis XVI, Louis Joseph held the position of Grand Maître de France in the King’s royal household, the Maison du Roi.
Obtaining the rank of general, he fought in the Seven Years’ War with some distinction, serving alongside his father-in-law, the Prince of Soubise. He was also Governor of Burgundy.
Furthermore, the Prince was the leader of the Condé army of emigres. He used her great fortune to help finance the exiled French community’s resistance movement.
Louis Joseph lived with his mistress Maria in France until the French revolution when the couple left for Germany and then Great Britain. In 1795, Prince Honoré of Monaco died, and on 24 October 1798, the Prince of Condé and Maria were married in London. The marriage was kept secret for a decade, the couple reportedly becoming openly known as husband and wife only after 26 December 1808.
During the French Revolution, Louis Joseph was a dedicated supporter of the monarchy and one of the principal leaders of the counter-revolutionary movement. After the storming of the Bastille in 1789, he fled France with his son and grandson, before the Reign of Terror which arrested, tried, and guillotined most of the Bourbons still living in France: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Duke of Orleans (Philippe Egalite) were executed in 1793, and the king’s sister, Madame Elisabeth, was beheaded in 1794
Louis Joseph established himself at Coblenz in 1791, where he helped to organize a new “Court of Nobility” and lead a large counter-revolutionary army of emigres. In addition to containing the prince’s grandson, Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Conde, Duc d’Enghien, and the two sons of his cousin, the late king’s brother, the compte d’Artois, the corps included many young aristocrats who eventually became leaders during the Bourbon Restoration years later. This group also included Armand-Emmanuel du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, Pierre Louis Jean Casimir de Blacas, and Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand.