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

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

BARIMORE – a daughter of Balzac’s Dudleys married Barimore. The real family of Barimore were Earls of Barrymore in Ireland. James, the fourth Earl, was in 1740 the leader of the English supporters for a restoration of Charles Edward Stuart (The Young Pretender) to the English throne. For this he had much correspondence with the French court.

BARGETON – The wife was a Nègrepelisse and she married secondly the Baron Sixte du Chatelet. There seem to have been a number of real Bargeton families, but of significance are those who served the Kings of France in the army and the administration of government. A Daniel Bargeton (1675-1750) was an avocat au parliament. The real du Chatelet had been  Ambassador in London 1770-76, reporting to Choiseul, who was French  Minister of Foreign affairs. History lays the blame for the French Revolution on Du Chatelet who was appointed Colonel of the Guards in Paris in 1788. He so offended both officers and men that when trouble erupted they defected and joined the storming of the Bastille. The Duc du Chatelet was guillotined on 13 December 1793. Choiseul’s sister Beatrix was married to the Duc de Gramont, and she was the best friend of du Chatelet’s wife, who was Choiseul’s lover. Both Beatrix and the Duchesse du Chatelet went to the guillotine in April 1794.

LANSAC – A Nègrepelisse married a Lansac. Probably of note to Balzac because Louis de Saint-Gelais, Seigneur de Lansac, was the bastard son of King Francois 1, and served Catherine de Medici in many capacities. He was a friend and correspondent of Michel de Montaigne. Louis’ wife was Lady in Waiting to Catherine. Their son Guy de Lansac was also a favourite of Catherine and he went with Monluc to Poland and subsequently paved the way for the Duc d’Anjou to become king. Their line may have continued into Balzac’s era.

RASTIGNAC – Balzac has him rising to be a minister in the government and being granted a Comté. There was a real family of Chapt de Rastignac alive in Balzac’s time. The family were active in the military and in the administration. Pierre Chapt de Rastignac built the Chateau de Rastignac, which was visited by Thomas Jefferson who was so impressed with its design that he used it as a basis for the plans for the White House in Washington.



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