Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection



The Characters of Balzac's 'La Comédie Humaine': Fact or Fiction?

The closest that I came to a Foix/Despard name association was in the English State Papers which referred to arrangements for the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’ when King Henry VIII of England met King Francois 1 of France. Here André de Foix was referred to as ‘Desparcoix’. This referred to Esparros, a village in Bigorre 20km east of Lourdes of which he was the Seigneur.

I quote from an explanatory note from ‘Enquete de l’Annee 1300 – Comté de Bigorre’ – ‘Desparros, De Sparros, ou par d’Esparros? Autrefois les articles emportant la particule (du, des) etaient tourjours reunis au mot suivant; la particule simple ‘de’ l’etait souvent quand le mot commencait par une consonne, et tourjours quand il commencait par une voyelle, l’elision se faisant sans apostrophe. Tous ceux qui ont garde la particule ainsi jointe a leur nom ont donc le droit de l’en separer, et ils n’en seront ni plus ni moins nobles pour cela.’

All very good – but apart from André de Foix, there was no d’Espard name evident in earlier historical records that linked them to the de Foix family. So one has to ask the question – Why did Balzac and Ferdinand de Grammont make the transposition from the Grailly/Foix family to d’Espard, a name that name seems to have been unique to our family? Why did Balzac not call d’Espards de Foix in his books? There had to have been a good reason, and this I will return to.

Having explored the family of Nègrepelisse, I took a brief look at some of the other characters used by Balzac:

LADY DUDLEY was a friend of Mme d’Espard in Paris. The real Dudley family had a tumultuous existence in the Tudor courts. Some lost their heads in support of Lady Jane Grey’s pursuit of the throne of England. Robert Dudley was a lover and confident of Queen Elizabeth 1, and he and his brothers had fought in France. The French hostages were hospitably treated in London and dined with the Dudley family. On 6 August 1559 Henri de Foix-Candalle, Frederic’s eldest son, sent Robert Dudley ‘des garnitures doyseaulx’ and a glove with ‘des coleurs de mamye lequel je vous prie porter pour lamour delle’. Robert’s mother was Jane Guildford and a brass on her tomb in Chelsea Old Church bears the arms of the ancient Grelley (Grailly) family (by virtue of a descent from the English Grailly via the West, De La Warr family).

 
 

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