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

The Characters of Balzac's 'La Comédie Humaine': Fact or Fiction?
  • And last but not least we have Balzac (writing circa 1820-40) who used a family of Nègrepelisse that had taken the ancient name of d’Espard, for his series ‘La Comédie Humaine’.

While these stories were interesting, it was Balzac’s tales that held my attention and demanded further investigation. My initial research into his books resulted in my extracting the following passages of interest:

From his book ‘The Commission in Lunacy’:

“Our name is Nègrepelisse; d’Espard is a title acquired in the time of Henri IV by a marriage which brought us the estates and titles of the house of d’Espard, on condition of our bearing an escutcheon of pretence on our coat-of-arms, those of the house of d’Espard, an old family of Bearn, connected in the female line with that of Albret: quarterly, paly of or and sable; and azure two griffins’ claws armed, gules in saltire, with the famous motto ‘Des partem leonis’. At the time of this alliance we lost Nègrepelisse, a little town which was as famous during the religious struggles as was my ancestor who then bore the name. Captain de Nègrepelisse was ruined by the burning of all his property, for the Protestants did not spare a friend of Montluc’s.

“The Crown was unjust to M. de Nègrepelisse; he received neither a marshal’s baton, nor a post as governor, nor any indemnity; King Charles IX., who was fond of him, died without being able to reward him; Henri IV arranged his marriage with Mademoiselle d’Espard, and secured him the estates of that house, but all those of the Nègrepelisses had already passed into the hands of his creditors.

“My great-grandfather, the Marquis d’Espard, was, like me, placed early in life at the head of his family by the death of his father, who, after dissipating his wife’s fortune, left his son nothing but the entailed estates of the d’Espards, burdened with a jointure. The young Marquis was all the more straitened for money because he held a post at Court. Being in great favour with Louis XIV, the King’s goodwill brought him a fortune. But here, monsieur, a blot stained our escutcheon, an unconfessed and horrible stain of blood and disgrace which I am making it my business to wipe out. I discovered the secret among the deeds relating to the estate of Nègrepelisse and the packets of letters.”



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