Saturday 19 October 2013

Two Wives, 19 Children and Political Exile: Victor-François, 2nd duc de Broglie

Victor François de Broglie, 2nd duc de Broglie (Paris, Kingdom of France, 19th October 1718 - Münster, Germany, 30th March 1804)

Victor-François, 2nd duc de Broglie

Well, it's been a Frenchified week all-round, it seems and we're on that side of the Channel again today to meet a royalist soldier who faced a few challenges in his career, eventually ending his days in exile.

Victor-François was born to Thérèse Gillette Locquet Grandville and François-Marie, 1st duc de Broglie and a celebrated soldier to boot. With such a pedigree, it was hardly a surprise that  Victor François should be prepared to follow into the same career. He received an exemplary education and spent some years in London, where his father served as ambassador. When the boy was 13 the family returned to the continent and after a few more years, the young man made his first forays onto the battlefield alongside his father during the War of Austrian Succession. When the 1st duc retired from service in 1743 his son went from strength to strength, rising through the ranks. During the Seven Years War he won a noted victory over Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick and in 1759 was awarded the prestigious titles of Marshal of France and Prince of the Holy Roman Empire from Louis XV and Francis I respectively, fighting at the Battle of Minden that same year.

The run of success came to an end in 1761 with a humiliating defeat at Villinghausen. The loss of this strategically important battle of the Seven Years' War was to have a catastrophic effect on Victor François' army career and for almost 20 years he was confined to the military wilderness. With no hope of returning to service for the time being, he became governor of Alsace until, in 1778, he was recalled to resume his military career under the rule of Louis XVI. In 1789 the king appointed Victor François Minister of War, charging the faithful retainer with investigating reports of disorder among troops at Versailles, who he was appointed to command.

Victor-François married twice and had a total of 19 children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. However, one of them in particular was to be the cause of heartache for his loyalist father.

Mindful of the way the winds of change were blowing, less than a week after becoming minister, Victor François fled France for the safety of Germany where he commanded the short-lived Armée des Princes. From his exile he watched as his eldest son, Charles-Louis-Victor, join the National Constituent Assembly. Horrified at the young man's political leanings, Victor François disowned him and the two men did not reconcile before Charles-Louis-Victor went to the guillotine. In fact, the royalist duc de Broglie would never see his homeland again, travelling Europe and Russia before he passed away in Münster, resolutely refusing to return to a France that he no longer recognised.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Linda Fetterly Root said...

I am again stymied by the horrors of what started as a noble idea. In my research I am aware of the damage not just to lives and property, but to the concept of what it means to be human. .

Catherine Curzon said...

That's so well put, Linda, thank you!