Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Armand de Gramont, Comte de Guiche

Armand de Gramond was born to Antoine de Gramont and Françoise Marguerite de Plessis on 25 November 1637. His first direct touch with royalty came through his sister, Catherine Charlotte, who became the short-time mistress of Louis XIV. His father was a Marèchal de France and his mother was a niece of Cardinal Richelieu.

When Armand made his début at Versailles he joined the entourage of Philippe, Duc d'Orlèans (brother of Louis XIV). The thing that probably attracted Armand to the set of the notorious homosexual Philuppe was that he himself was bisexual and might have found others whose sexuality was not quite accepted by his contemporaries. Armand was considered the handsomest man at court for quite some time but was also known to be vain, occasionally superficial and contemptuous. A handsome man at court was almost obliged to take lovers and so he did - both male and female. Among his mistresses he counted the wife of Philippe, Henrietta of England, which caused quite a scandal at court since it was thought that he later became involved with Philippe as well!
Generally, Armand was quite the source of scandal at court. Once when Philippe, Duc d'Orlèans pretended not to know him at a ball, Armand retorted by kicking him in the playfully rear in front of everyone! And those were just a few of the things he was known for...

Armand even courted Louise de La Vallière but was smart enough to never be too passionately in love and as such managed to keep on Louis XIV's good side. After all the King wanted his mistress to be desired by others but expected his courtiers to know where the line lay. On 23 January 1658 he married Marguerite-Louise-Suzanne de Bethune Sully; the marriage does not appear to have been a good match - hardly surprising considering Armand's tendency to be unfaithful. Actually, he was known to be one of the greatest libertines at court.

Like all young noblemen of his time, he was expected to serve time in the military. Consequently, he travelled to Poland where he fought the advancing Turkish army - later on he would also fight the English and the Dutch. Armand even managed to get wounded in a way that was sure to win him sympathy back home when he lost two fingers in the siege of Dunes. He made a name for himself when he swam across the river Rhine and his regiments followed suit after which they fell on the baffled enemy. Now, with his glory secured, he returned to Versailles in 1669. Sadly, for him he did not get to bask long in the light of his glory because he died on 29 November 1673 - just 36 years old.

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