Louis de Rouvroy
commonly known as Saint-Simon
was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...
ist and writer of memoirs, was born in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...
(Hôtel Selvois, 6 rue Taranne, today at 175 Bd. Saint-Germain). The dukedom-peerage
The Peerage of France was a distinction within the French nobility which appeared in the Middle Ages. It was abolished in 1789 during the French Revolution, but it reappeared in 1814 at the time of the Bourbon Restoration which followed the fall of the First French Empire...
granted to his father, Claude de Rouvroy
Claude de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon , French courtier, was the second son of Louis de Rouvroy, seigneur du Plessis , who had been a warm supporter of Henry of Guise and the Catholic League....
(1608–1693), is a central fact in his history.
No one was made a peer who was not a nobleman, but men of the noblest blood might not be, and in most cases were not, peers. Derived at least traditionally and imaginatively from the douze pairs
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...
, the peers were supposed to represent the chosen of the noblesse
, and gradually became associated with the parliament of Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...
as a quasi-legislative (or at least law-registering) and directly judicial body. The peerage was further complicated by the fact that not persons but the holders of certain fiefs were made peers. Strictly speaking, Saint-Simon was not made a peer, but his estate was raised to the rank of a duché-pairie. The peers were, in a way, representative of the entire body of the Nobility, and it was Saint-Simon's lifelong ideal to convert them into a sort of great council of the nation.
The family's main castle, where the Memoirs
were written, was the castle of La Ferté-Vidame, bought by duke Claude shortly after being awarded his dukedom. The castle brought with it the title of vidame de Chartres
. It was a rare title ; in the Middle Ages a vidame commanded the military forces of a bishop and performed other feudal duties unsuitable for a man of the Church. Over time, seven of these titles relating to some of the larger dioceses became attached to specific properties and usable as titles by the owner. An earlier Vidame of Chartres (not related) had been a famous intriguer and participant in the Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...
on the Huguenot side, which still cast something of a shadow over the title in Saint-Simon's day. Rather oddly, the title was given to an elderly character in the court novel La Princesse de Clèves
La Princesse de Clèves is a French novel which was published anonymously in March 1678. It is regarded by many as the beginning of the modern tradition of the psychological novel, and as a great classic work. Its author is generally held to be Madame de La Fayette.The action takes place between...
published in 1678, three years after Saint-Simon was born. Since he himself went by this title until he was eighteen, it may have been the subject of jokes.
His father was a tall and taciturn man who was keen on hunting. Saint-Simon was the opposite, garrulous, exceptionally short, and preferred to live indoors. His father had become a minor favourite
A favourite , or favorite , was the intimate companion of a ruler or other important person. In medieval and Early Modern Europe, among other times and places, the term is used of individuals delegated significant political power by a ruler...
of Louis XIII, who was addicted to hunting. Louis made him his Master of Wolfhounds and then gave him a Dukedom when relatively young; he was 68 when Saint-Simon was born. Saint-Simon was high up the order of precedence
Precedence may refer to:* Message precedence of military communications traffic* Order of precedence, the ceremonial hierarchy within a nation or state* Order of operations, in mathematics and computer programming...
among the Dukes, but many of them were higher, in terms of ancestry and wealth.
His mother, Charlotte de L'Aubespine, belonged to a family which had been distinguished in the public service at least since the time of Francis I
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...
; she was a formidable woman whose word was law in her family, even in extreme old age. Her son Louis was well educated, to a great extent by herself, and he had for godfather and godmother Louis XIV
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...
and Queen Marie Thérèse. After some tuition by the Jesuits, he joined the mousquetaires gris
in 1692. He was present at the 1692 siege of Namur
The Siege of Namur, 25 May–30 June 1692, was a major engagement of the Nine Years' War, and was part of the French grand plan to defeat the forces of the Grand Alliance and bring a swift conclusion to the war...
, and the battle of Neerwinden. Then he began the crusade of his life by instigating an action on the part of the peers of France against François-Henri de Montmorency, duc de Luxembourg, his victorious general, on a point of precedence.
He fought another campaign or two (not under Luxembourg), and in 1695 married Marie Gabrielle de Durfort (styled as Mademoiselle de Lorges
), daughter of Guy Aldonce de Durfort de Lorges
Guy Aldonce de Durfort, duc de Lorges, marshal of France, , was a French nobleman and soldier.Guy Aldonce was the fourth son of Guy Aldonce de Durfort , marquis of Duras, count of Rozan and of Lorges, maréchal de camp, and Élisabeth de La Tour d'Auvergne, daughter of Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne and...
, a marshal who had commanded him. He seemed to have regarded her with a respect and affection unusual between husband and wife at the time; and she sometimes succeeded in modifying his aristocratic ideas.
As he did not receive the promotion he desired, he flung up his commission in 1702. Thus Louis XIV took a dislike to him, and he kept his place at court only with difficulty. He was, however, intensely interested in all the transactions of Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...
, and kept a collection of informers ranging from dukes to servants, who gave him the extraordinary secret information which he has handed down.
Saint-Simon's own part appears to have been entirely subordinate. He was appointed ambassador to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...
in 1705, but the appointment was cancelled before he started. At last he attached himself to Philippe II of Orléans, Louis XIV's nephew and the future Regent. Though this was hardly likely to conciliate Louis, it gave him at least the status of belonging to a definite party and it eventually placed him in the position of friend to the acting Chief of State. He also was attached to Louis, duke of Burgundy, the Dauphin's son and next heir to the throne.
Saint-Simon hated "the bastards," the illegitimate children of Louis XIV. It does not appear that this hatred was founded on moral reasons or fear that these bastards would be intruded into the succession. The true cause of his wrath was that, by Royal fiat, they had ceremonial precedence over the peers. The Saint-Simon that is revealed through the Mémoires had many enemies, and had a deep hatred against many courtiers. However, it should be remembered that the Mémoires were written 30 years after the facts, by a disappointed man, and that Saint-Simon as a courtier had lived on very polite and friendly terms with most.
The death of Louis XIV seemed to give Saint-Simon a chance of realizing his hopes. The duke of Orléans was at once acknowledged Regent and Saint-Simon placed on the council of regency. But no steps were taken to carry out his favourite vision of a France ruled by the nobility, and he had little real influence with the Regent. He was gratified by the degradation of "the bastards," and, in 1721, he was appointed special ambassador to Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...
to arrange for the marriage (which never took place) of Louis XV
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...
and Infanta Mariana Victoria of Spain
Mariana Victoria of Spain was an Infanta of Spain and Queen consort of Portugal as wife of King Joseph I. The mother of Queen Maria I of Portugal, she also acted as Regent of Portugal during the last months of her husband's life and advisor to her daughter during her reign.-Background:Mariana...
. There he and his second son received the grandee
Grandee is the word used to render in English the Iberic high aristocratic title Grande , used by the Spanish nobility; Portuguese nobility, and Brazilian nobility....
ship, and, though he also caught smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...
, he was quite satisfied with the business: he could now hope for two lineages of dukes (a grandee was recognised in France as duke). Saint-Simon was not eager, as most other nobility, to acquire profitable functions, and he did not use his influence to repair his finances, even further ruined by the magnificence of his embassy.
After his return he had little to do with public affairs. His own account of the cessation of his intimacy with Orléans and Guillaume Dubois
Guillaume Dubois was a French cardinal and statesman.-Early years:Dubois, the third of the four great Cardinal-Ministers , was born in Brive-la-Gaillarde, in Limousin...
, the latter of whom had never been his friend, is, like his account of some other events of his own life, rather vague and obscure. But there can be little doubt that he was eclipsed, and even expelled from the Meudon castle by Dubois. He survived for more than thirty years; but little is known of his life. His wife died in 1743, his eldest son a little later; he had other family troubles, and he was loaded with debt. When he died, at Paris on 2 March 1755, he had almost entirely outlived his own generation and the prosperity of his house, though not its notoriety. This last was in strange fashion revived by a distant relative born five years after his own death, Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies; perhaps most notably Marxism, positivism and the discipline of sociology...
– the founder of Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...
. All his possessions, including his writings, were seized by the State on his death, and a large part of his Memoirs is missing.
Fame as a writer
It could be said that the actual events of Saint-Simon's life, long as it was and high as was his position, are neither numerous nor noteworthy. Yet he posthumously acquired great literary fame. He was an indefatigable writer, and he began very early to write down all the gossip he collected, all his interminable legal disputes of precedence, and a vast mass of unclassified matter. Most of his manuscripts came into the possession of the government, and it was long before their contents were fully published. Partly in the form of notes on Marquis de Dangeau's Journal
, partly in that of original and independent memoirs, partly in scattered and multifarious tracts, he had committed to paper an immense amount of matter.
Saint-Simon's memoirs display a striking voice. On the one hand, he is petty, unjust to private enemies and to those who espoused public parties with which he did not agree, and an omnivorous gossip. Yet he shows a great skill for narrative and for character-drawing. He has been compared to Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, and to historians such as Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...
. He is at the same time not a writer who can be "sampled" easily, inasmuch as his most characteristic passages sometimes occur in the midst of long stretches of quite uninteresting matter. His vocabulary was extreme and inventive; among other words he is supposed to provide the first use of "intellectual" as a noun, and to have invented "patriot" and "publicity".
A few critical studies of him, especially those of Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was a literary critic and one of the major figures of French literary history.-Early years:...
, are the basis of much that has been written about him. His most famous passages, such as the account of the death of the dauphin, or of the Bed of Justice
Lit de Justice is an American Champion Thoroughbred racehorse. He was bred by Robert Sangster's Swettenham Stud, and purchased by the French racing operation Mise de Moratalla who named him for a famous Parlement of Paris known as the Lit de justice...
where his enemy, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine
Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Legitimé de France was the eldest legitimised son of the Louis XIV of France and his maîtresse-en-titre, Madame de Montespan...
, was degraded, do not give a fair idea of his talent. These are his gallery pieces, his great "engines," as French art slang calls them. Much more noteworthy as well as more frequent are the sudden touches which he gives. The bishops are "cuistres violets
" (purple pedants); M. de Caumartin "porte sous son manteau toute la faculté que M. de Villeroy étale sur son baudrier
" (holds under his cloak all the power that M. de Villeroy displays on his sheath); another politician has a "mine de chat fâché
" (appearance of a disgruntled cat). In short, the interest of the Memoirs is in the novel and adroit use of word and phrase.
He had a decisive influence on writers like Tolstoy
Tolstoy, or Tolstoi is a prominent family of Russian nobility, descending from Andrey Kharitonovich Tolstoy who served under Vasily II of Moscow...
, Barbey d' Aurevilly, Flaubert, Valle-Inclán, Proust, Mujica Láinez
Manuel Mujica Láinez was an Argentine novelist, essayist and art critic.-Biography:...
, and many others.
Saint-Simon married Marie Gabrielle de Durfort on 8 April 1695 at the Hôtel de Lorges in Paris. they had three children;
- Charlotte de Rouvroy (8 September 1696 – 29 September 1763) married Charles Louis de Henin-Liétard d'Alsace, Prince of Chimay, no issue;
- Jacques Louis de Rouvroy (29 July 1698 – 15 July 1746) married Catherine Charlotte Therese de Gramont, and had issue;
- Armand Jean de Rouvroy (12 April 1699 – 20 May 1754) married Marie Jeanne Louise Bauyn d'Angervilliers, no issue.
English-language translations of the Memoirs
There are a number of English-language translations of selections
of the Memoirs
- Memoirs on the Reign of Louis XIV, and the Regency. Abridged by Bayle St. John. London: Chapman, 1857.
- The Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon on the reign of Louis XIV, and the Regency. 2nd edition. 3 volumes. Translated by Bayle St. John. London: Swan, Sonnenschein, Lowrey, 1888.
- Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon on the Times of Louis XIV and the Regency. Translated and abridged by Katharine Prescott Wormeley. Boston: Hardy, Pratt, 1902.
- Louis XIV at Versailles: A Selection from the Memoirs of the duc de Saint-Simon. Translated and edited by Desmond Flower. London: Cassell, 1954.
- The Age of Magnificence: The Memoirs of the Duke de Saint-Simon. Edited and translated by Sanche de Gramont (Ted Morgan). New York: Putnam, 1963.
- Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon. Edited by W.H. Lewis. Translated by Bayle St. John. London: B.T. Batsford, 1964.
- Historical Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, volume 1 1691-1709. Edited and translated by Lucy Norton. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1967.
- Historical Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, volume 2 1710-1715. Edited and translated by Lucy Norton. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1968.
- Historical Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, volume 3 1715-1723. Edited and translated by Lucy Norton. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1972.
- Saint-Simon at Versailles. Edited and translated by Lucy Norton. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1980. Includes selections which are omitted from the three longer volumes, which together include about 40% of the whole work.
Studies of the Memoirs (in English)
- Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953. (Chapter 16, "The Interrupted Supper")
- Cioran, Emil Michel. "Drawn and Quartered". New York: Arcade Publishing, 1998. (Section II)
- Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. Saint-Simon and the Court of Louis XIV. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN 0-226-47320-1
- De Ley, Herbert. Saint-Simon Memorialist. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975.