Wednesday, 29 July 2015

House of Montmorency

Motto: God aid the first Christian Baron

The House of Montmorency traces its' roots back to the 10th century and had a rather clever way of gaining power. Rather than the usual methods of marriage, bribery or fighting for the King, the Montmorency family moved from south of Paris to the north. From here, they controlled a strategically important area which held the principal roads leading into Paris - an area that French Kings had been fighting over for years.
Also possessing a stronghold on the island of Saint-Denis, the family made quite a bit of money from taxing sailors.

Anne de Montmorency, portrait par Léonard Limosin (1556), émail conservé au musée du Louvre, Paris.
Anne de Montmorency - first Duc de Montmorency

Such a position was bound to attract royal notice and the family fully intended to stay there. For the next centuries they would particularly distinguish themselves on the battlefield. In 1214 when the French battled the Holy Roman Empire, the then leading head of the House of Montmorency, Mathieu II, achieved the incredible feat of capturing 12 of the enemy's standards. Following this battle, the King allowed Matthieu to add 12 victorious birds to his coat-of-arms - since it already had four, there would now be a total of 16.
Anne de Montmorency also managed to make a successful military career during the Italian wars in the 16th century. 

The family attached themselves further to power when the 15-year old Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency married Henri II de Bourbon-Condé. Up until then, the family had been rising ever higher but that came to an abrupt halt in 1632.

Portrait du duc de Montmorency par un peintre anonyme, Musée du Louvre
Henri II - executed by order of Louis XIII

In that year the Duc de Montmorency, Henri II, was executed by Louis XIII for treason which meant that the line technically died out on the male side. The title of Duc was transferred to his sister, Charlotte-Marguerite (read above) and was from then on held by the House of Bourbon-Condé.

D'après un portrait de Rubens (vers 1610)
Charlotte-Marguerite who inherited the title

In 1688 the title of Duc de Montmorency actually ceased to exist. Jules Henri de Bourbon-Condé renamed it to Duc d'Enghien and that could easily have been the end of the Montmorency-title. But just the year after it was revived by Louis XIV for Louis-Joseph de Vendôme.

Blason Mathieu II de Montmorency.svg
By 1789, the House of Montmorency had spread into six branches, each holding a particular title:

Duc de Montmorency
Duc de Piney-Luxembourg
Duc de Beaumont
Prince de Robecq
Duc de Laval 
Comte de Montmorency-Laval

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