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

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

1521 found André de Foix leading French troops into Navarre to dislodge the Spanish from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Menaud d’Aure was left as Governor of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. De Foix had as an adviser Antoine de Gramont. At that time Charles de Gramont was Archbishop of Bordeaux and his brother Gabriel de Gramont was a diplomat active for King Francis 1, and arranged the marriage between his son Henry and Catherine de Medici. He was eventually appointed Archbishop of Toulouse. These de Gramonts had no male issue and their niece Claire inherited and married Menaud d’Aure, and their son changed the family name d’Aure, to de Gramont (Tree 1).

Philibert was active in 1692-3 filing documents relating to his inherited properties before the Chambre des Finances de Navarre. It is likely that this will have exposed him to elements of local history, which may have included the foregoing. While I grant that it could just be co-incidence that the first proven use of the Despard name was in 1692, the fact that John Despard’s business partner was married to Philibert’s niece, and the fact that they were actively trading with France, almost certainly the south-west, makes this relevant.

If Balzac knew about this I have little doubt that for him, and those others with the knowledge of our history, this use of our d’Espard name imposed on the de Foix background would have been an amusing twist of history.

I recall his words ‘Aujourd’hui des noms aussi illustres que celui des maisons souveraines, comme les Foix-Grailly, faute d’argent, la seule puissance de ce temps, sont dans une obscurité qui équivaut à l’extinction’.

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