Monday, April 30, 2012

The Marquis de Puyguilhem

Antoine Nompar de Caumont, marquis de Puyguilhem and (after 1692) the duc de Lauzun came from a noble French family but grew up mostly with the family of Antoine III de Gramont, a relative of his. If that name sounds familiar, it should; he was the father of Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont who later married HSH Prince Louis I of Monaco. The two shared a great deal of personal history. Long before she was promised to the Grimaldi heir, the beautiful young Charlotte de Gramont was, at the age of twenty, first in love with Antoine Puyguilhem. He was six years older than Charlotte, skinny, blond headed with a witty tongue, a malicious nature and a lust for wealth, women and lofty titles. Puyguilhem was just as passionately infatuated with Charlotte as she was with him, which is not at all surprising given the qualities she possessed. One observer remarked on her captivating beauty that she was, "a creature made for love and sensuality". When her father, Marshal of France de Gramont, informed his daughter that she was to be married, she hoped it would be to Puyguilhem. He was of lofty rank after all and was captain of the King's Household Cavalry. But the old Marshal could not stand the marquis, who could be rather unpleasant and who was rather impoverished for a nobleman.

As we know, her father's choice was Louis de Monaco, duc de Valentinois. Charlotte was less than pleased. Those closest to her witnessed her depression and remarked that, "The reason was that someone else pleased her more". Referring, of course, to Puyguilhem. The marquis remained attached to her, even after her wedding and kept on eye on her while the newlyweds were in Paris. He suspected that, married or not, she would come back to him eventually. However, when Charlotte, six months pregnant at the time, returned to Monaco to be with her husband, Puyguilhem became alarmed that he might be losing her. In a comic turn of events he followed Charlotte to Monaco (or at least to Toulon where Louis and Charlotte took a French galley for the last leg of their journey), dressing up in various costumes to try to disguise himself so her servants would not recognize him but he was never able to approach her. His cause seemed lost.

Then, in 1665 Charlotte, by then Princess of Monaco, returned to Paris and the fashionable society she always most enjoyed. Once again, Puyguilhem thought he would have his conquest. Yet, once again, there was interference but this time from none other than His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XIV of France and Navarre. The King had started to cast his ever-wandering eye in the direction of the Princess of Monaco and Puyguilhem was sensitive to the competition. He was still a regular at court, seen at every lavish dance and still winning criticism from those around him. Court chronicler Saint-Simon said he was, "ambitious, capricious, fanciful, insanely jealous, always going too far, never content with anything, without education, conversation or wit, by nature peevish, solitary and withdrawn, haughty in his demeanor, innately spiteful and sly". So it seems like Saint-Simon was not a big fan.

As King Louis XIV moved closer and closer to Princess Catherine-Charlotte of Monaco, Puyguilhem grew more and more jealous, finally losing his temper and throwing a minor tantrum in front of the King. The "Grand Monarch" was not impressed and ordered the marquis to return to his regiment of dragoons but Puyguilhem pretended that he didn't hear the King and stormed out, stomping in to Charlotte's apartments and threw such a fit he smashed one of her mirrors. Not a smart move to say the least. When he returned to his own quarters he found the King had left him a little note informing him that he would be provided with new accomodations -in the Bastille. After six months of fuming he was released and finally seemed to have given up on Princess Charlotte. Not long after he tried, without success, to seduce a daughter of King Carlos III of Spain. It seems amazing that a man so many described as "ugly" attracted so many women. The Grande Mademoiselle, Anne Duchess of Montpensier (King Louis' cousin) threw herself at him and Puyguilhem decided not to resist.

His affairs and intrigues continues to cause him trouble at the French court (leading to another stay in the Bastille for a time) before he moved to England to enter the employ of King James II. When the Stuart monarch, the last Catholic King of Great Britain, was about to be forced into exile, it was Puyguilhem who escorted James' lovely Italian Queen, Mary of Modena, and their son to safety in France. He also participated in the attempted restoration of James II in Ireland where, despite his much talked-about ill qualities, was known as the most honest in the King's circle of advisors. The failure of the expedition meant that he would never be restored to favor at the court of Louis XIV but Queen Mary of Modena was grateful enough for his support of the Jacobite cause that she used her influence to help secure his title of Duc de Lauzun. He died in 1723, leaving no heirs despite his marriage to a 14-year old girl (Genevieve de Durfort) in 1695.

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