- Balzac’s d’Espards were in fact Nègrepelisse.
- The d’Espard name and titles were acquired by marriage at the time of Henri IV
- The original d’Espards were an old family from Bearn
- They were allied to the d’Albrets through the female line
- Balzac gives the arms as: quarterly, paly of or and sable; and azure two griffins’ claws armed, gules in saltire – with the motto: Des Partem Leonis
- The Nègrepelisse had been militant Catholics whose property was ruined at the time of the church wars
- Captain de Nègrepelisse had been a friend of Montluc
- King Charles IX favoured him
- There was a Nègrepelisse among the hostages of St Louis
These seemed to be solid pieces of historical information, but could they be verified. How good an historian was Balzac? I read Balzac’s book on Catherine de Medici which seemed to me to demonstrate a good level of research and attention to detail. He was clearly a great admirer of her and was able to describe her achievements at a time when France was divided by both religious and political battles. Marie de Medici, on the other hand, he despised as a wastrel who undid many of the good works of her husband Henri IV and those of Catherine.
It is clear too that Balzac had assistance from a group of informed friends and contacts. Important among these was Ferdinand de Grammont. He was both a friend and secretary to Balzac, and he created the ‘L’armorial de La Comédie Humaine’, which was refined by Balzac.
The following dedication appears in ‘La Muse du Département’:
To Monsieur le Comte Ferdinand de Gramont.