Friday, 17 November 2017

Louis de Lorraine, Comte d'Armagnac

On 7 December 1641 Louis de Lorraine was born to the couple of Henri de Lorraine and Marguerite Philippe du Cambout. His childhood was spent in the company of his brother - none other than the Chevalier de Lorraine, Monsieur's lover.

Louis' place at court was secured from an early age. Not only was he entitled to a life at court due to his aristocratic roots but his father also served as Master of the King's Stables (Grand Ècuyer). Once Louis was old enough he was given the same position which immediately made him an officer in Louis XIV's household. The position meant that he was known at court as "Monsieur le Grand". Considering how fond the Sun King was of hunting it is quite certain that Louis was often in the company of the king.
At the age of 25 he inherited the title of Comte d'Armagnac when his father died. In the Middle Ages this particular title had been accompanied by vast land areas but the power that came with it was no longer in his hands.

Louis of Lorraine, Count of Armagnac (1641-1718) by Alexandre Debacq (Versailles).jpg

His marriage was arranged to Catherine de Neufville who was the daughter of the Duc de Villeroy who had been Louis XIV's governor in his youth. Whether the marriage was happy or not is not quite clear but it certainly was effective. No less than 14 children were born to the couple.

The English envoy at the French court, Henry Savile, wrote a document of guidance to his successor. In it he warned him of what men he should be careful of. Savile classed Louis de Lorraine as a questioner but not with malicious intentions. As could be expected the Duc de Saint-Simon had another view of both Louis and his brother, the Chevalier. According to the memoirist Louis XIV sought Louis' help when arranging the marriage of Mademoiselle de Blois (daughter of Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV) to the Duc de Chartres since it was considered a great misalliance. Saint-Simon mentions that Monsieur le Grand accepted but demanded to be made a knight of an unspecified order. Exactly how this took place is not certain but Louis de Lorraine was nevertheless made a knight - and the marriage took place.

As a man Louis de Lorraine is described as being the epitome of a man of the court; his entire world focused around it. Surprisingly, he was also said to be a "very good man and very polite". His house was known to be open to guests whom he would entertain with gambling or plays. The Comte appears to have been somewhat of an enigma. One would think that someone described as a "very good man" would have a good reputation. However, he could also be "brutal and blunt - even to ladies" and apparently had his share of greed and unscrupulousness too when it came to his career at court.

It is not known if his death was caused by an illness but it seems more likely that he simply died out old age. What is known is that he suffered from gout in his last years and that he died in the Abbaye de Royaumont which could be an indicator that he was becoming frail. Still, he was 76 at the time of his death so some frailness is to be expected. Louis died on 13 June 1718.

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