Marquis de Lafayette
The Marquis de Lafayette is best remembered for the part he played in the American War of Independence. He contributed in helping the Americans gain free control over the colonies by breaking away from British home rule. For sixty years he fought with consistency and insight for political ideals and social reforms that have dominated the history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hence, Lafayette can be attributed to the spreading of liberty and freedom throughout America and France. Therefore, he is viewed as a symbol of liberalism in a once absolutist world.
Born on September 6, 1757, Gilbert Montier de Lafayette lived in the Chateau de Chavaniac. This beautiful palace is located in the thick forests of France. Lafayette lived there with his aunt and grandmother until the age of ten. During those years, he rummaged through the woods in search of the legendary werewolf who endangered local peasants. Accordingly, even as a child, the marquis had an “ambition to free his native place from the fabulous monster” (Latzko 4,5).
At the age of eleven, the marquis was sent to school in Paris at the College du Plessis. He resided there for four years, learning various subject matter and proper etiquette that would enable him in change to become an educated and well-mannered noble. The curriculum included Latin, the study most emphasized in France at the time; and French rhetoric, which he greatly favored (Gottschalk 18, 19).
At the early age of fifteen, the marquis was quite established in his community. While engaged to be married to Adrienne d' Ayen, Lafayette became a lieutenant in the Noailles cavalry (Gottschalk 32). This phenomenon marked the beginning of his career in the military and gained him more power as a noble. Eventually, Lafayette became interested in sailing to America for two reasons. First, he wanted to distinguish himself as a soldier. Second, he detested England and the English. As victors in the Seven Year’s War, the English humiliated France and took away the French territory in Canada. Being a very proud Frenchman, “He wanted to see England get a beating; he wanted her to lose her American colonies and he had come to help the Americans win, gain their independence, and lower the pride of the insolent English nation” (Woodward 4). Thus, he sailed in his new boat Victoire onto the shore of South Carolina, along with fourteen other French army members, with plans in becoming a volunteer officer for the American revolutionary army.
The marquis pursued his ambitions and left his home in secrecy even after his father-in-law, the Duc de Noailles, forbid him to leave France. Lafayette’s strong will and excitement to be in charge of an army was too much to hold back. He left his young, pregnant wife with nothing but a letter saying good-bye. Unfortunately, it would be years before he would make his way back to his homeland again.