Monday, 23 January 2017

Philippe de Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau

Born on 21 September 1638 Philippe was born into a family that was well-known to be Calvinists which separated them from the majority of the Catholic aristocracy. This - however - was not a hindrance when it came to the family's place at court. Like most young men of the aristocracy Philippe went from his home in Maine to the court of Louis XIV.

Once at court Philippe became the centre of attention due to an impressive skill in one particular pastime - gambling. Philippe was an eminently intelligent card player and often won huge sums. As it happens he became such a dreaded opponent that being a good card player became known as "playing like Dangeau". Even Madame notes how impressive he was to watch.

Nevertheless, a young man could hardly be expected to get by alone by gambling. Having caught the King's attention Philippe was made Colonel of one of the King's regiments at the age of 27 years. From then on Philippe received certain other marks of favour including the governorship of Touraine and diplomatic missions to Modena and the Rhine-Palatine.

Portrait Of Phillippe De Courcillon.jpg

Personally, Philippe became somewhat of a man of letters who patronised upcoming writers; it was through such a connection that a work of satire on the nobility by Boileau was dedicated to the Marquis de Dangeau. Despite having not yet published anything himself he was accepted into the Academy Francaise in 1668. As for his family life he married his first wife on 11 May 1670; his bride was Anne-Francoise de Morin with whom he had a daughter, Marie-Anne-Jeanne.

Philippe de Courcillon is best remembered for his journal of the court of Louis XIV. Although critics like the Duc de Saint-Simon has called it "the most insipid book ever written" it does provide a day-to-day account of the events of the royal court. He began this diary in 1684; just two years later he would marry again (his first wife obviously having died). This time his wife was Sophia Maria Wilhelmina von Lövenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort. It is quite likely that Philippe first made contact with this family on his diplomatic tours to what is now Germany. This marriage produced a son who would be known as the Comte de Courcillon. It is believed that they had other children but these did not survive childhood.

Illustration of Philippe's residence in Paris where he died

Louis XIV had noticed Philippe's talent for writing and allegedly used Philippe to write to Louise de La Vallière. On what turned out to be a twist of fate Louise asked Philippe to return the favour - in sense he was writing both the love letters and their replies!
As a mark of the King's good-will to the Marquis de Dangeau, Phillippe's second wedding was celebrated at the chapel of Versailles.

In 1691 he became a knight of the Order of Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem which he possessed until his death; likewise he would receive the Order of Saint-Michel. Later, in 1709 he became an honorary member of the Academy of the Sciences.

By 1720 Philippe spent more time at his Parisian abode; here he died on 9 September that very year.

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