Biography of François de la. Duque de y Príncipe de Marcillac Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

Writer, aristocrat and French moralist, born in Paris December 15, 1613 and died in his hometown on March 17, 1680. Live worldly concerns man, intervened actively in political time intrigue, until its failures in this field prompted him to take refuge in the social and intellectual life French mid-17TH century, in which triumphed for his bright and fruitful participation in the literary salons and, above all for the sharpness and penetration of its maxims and sentencesconsidered as the highest expression of the aphoristic genre of the time.


Despite his high rank - he was the son of François, Duke of La Rochefoucauld, and held the title of Prince de Marcillac - until the death of his father, received an education quite irregular, due in large measure to the imbicion of their parent. This, eager to take full advantage of the favours granted by the King - who had him then appointed Duke and pair de France-, forced the small François to consecrate herself to the military life since his early childhood, with the hope that soon achieved great honors in front of the Royal armies. Thus things, to six years of age the future writer already had the rank of master of the Auvergne Regiment Camp.

Fortunately for the world of letters, own political silliness of his father turned him sharply this forced military target. Indeed, the father of the future moralist joined conspiracies that Gaston of Orléans (1608-1660) unleashed against his own brother, King Luis XIII (1601-1643), so the La Rochefoucauld family was forced to accompany the intriguing Gaston until his exile in Blois. There began to be highly interested in politics the young François, who soon fell into disgrace as had happened to his father, due to their public manifestations against the all-powerful Cardinal Richelieu (1582-1642).

Simultaneous to the flourishing of these political concerns were the first manifestations of its marked inclination towards love seduction, one of the passions that would govern his life. In Blois, still Prince de Marcillac engaged relationships with Mademoiselle d'Hautefort and Mademoiselle de Chamerault, both friends of the Queen. Soon after, he contracted nuptials in this city on the banks of the Loire with Mademoiselle de Vivonne, who, throughout a discreet conjugal relationship in which always remained in the shadow, father of eight creatures (five males and three females) did. But his eventful love life were not allowed to constrain to the tight corset of marriage, in 1637, at the age of twenty-four, was lover of the Duchess of Chevreuse, who remained secluded in their possessions of Tours, where he conspired against the French Crown with the support of the Spanish Government.

Alternating, therefore his loving skirmishes with its political actions, the young Prince de Marcillac intervened at the time in all the intrigues and uprisings against Richelieu, his great enemy, but also in other many "conspiracies" - more or less secret - which occupied the leisures of the high French aristocracy of the time. Thus, he moved to Paris and soon occupied a privileged place next to the Queen, who was influenced by his seductive personality, which gave wings to the rumor - unleashed from the public were its relations with the Duchess of Chevreuse-dangerously linking the future writer with the secret of the Spanish espionage services - remember that the wife of Luis XIIIIt Anna of Austria (1602-1666), was the daughter of the Spanish King Felipe III (1578-1621), and watched in France over the interests of their homeland-. The Queen, always competing with Richelieu (to which also the Parisian writer hated), it sought to stifle these intimacies and availed themselves of La Rochefoucauld to entrust her delicate private missions, including the of kidnapping his friend Mademoiselle d'Hautefort, which the King was clearly in love. This loving abduction did not occur because, becoming public schemes, Queen wisely distanced himself of the impulsive Prince de Marcillac, who was sentenced to spend eight days in La Bastille and, without solution of continuity, to leave the Court and remain exiled in their domains of Verteuil; Meanwhile, they had come to light the confusing intrigues he shared with the Duchess of Chevreuse, who had to hastily seek asylum in Spain.

Reduced to banishment in Verteuil, he agreed to remain there for a long period only please the express wishes of Ana of Austria, who should have the certainty that the presence of Marcillac in the Court undertook it in excess. Since this retirement, did not cease to take active part in all the schemes hatched by the enemies of Cardinal Richelieu, as serious conspiracy directed by the Duke of Cinq-Mars (followers of King Luis XIII and secret accomplice - at the same time - of the aforementioned Gaston of Orleáns, so it was found guilty of treason and executed in 1642)as well as the organized soon after by Thou; and, meanwhile, is distracted in his provincial exile with a modest export trade which he himself had founded, with the aim of bringing horses and dogs from England in Exchange for rich wines that produced the French vineyards.

The timely death of Richelieu in 1642 December allowed him to leave his exile in Verteuil and return to the Court, where from may of 1643, following the death of Luis XIII, Queen and old his protective had taken charge of the Regency, with Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) as Prime Minister. Indignant because Ana of Austria did not show any intention to reward you for services they had extended to him or the long period of time who had sacrificed for their good name, joined other disgruntled nobles led by the Duke of Beaufort, which included the Duchess of Chevreuse (also very offended by the contempt of the sovereignthat he seemed to have forgotten the numerous intrigues that had hatched in his favor). But this hint of protest was quickly silenced with the arrest of Beaufort, which caused the rapid departure from the Court of the Duchess of Chevreuse. Very upset by this behavior of his former lover, the Prince de Marcillac began courting in 1646 the Duchess of Longueville, sister of the powerful Duke of Enghien - later known as Luis II of Bourbon (1621-1686), or simply "le Grand Condé"-, which was followed in his brilliant military campaigns, which contributed to the end of the so-called war of thirty years (1619-1648) - as stated years later own La RochefoucauldIt was his friend Miossens, at the time of the Duchess of Longueville, who willingly gave up his position in the bed of the Lady - loving. In the course of one of these military actions (specifically, during site of Mardick), the future writer fell seriously wounded by a gunshot, forcing him to spend a prolonged period of convalescence in vast holdings which had acquired in Poitou; While recovering from these injuries, in Paris they wove one of the biggest revolts erupted against the Government during the 17TH century, which gave rise to the bloody wars of the Fronde (1648-1652).

The death of Richelieu was interpreted by the nobility as an opportunity to regain part of that to the late Cardinal had subtracted for the benefit of the monarchical centralization. However, Mazarin suddenly showed signs of increasing that centralism and acted very harshly against the aristocrats levantiscos, which ended up causing a genuine civil war between the noble owners of large tracts of land in provinces (which encouraged secret autonomist whims) and the monarchical (staunch supporter of the absolutist centralism). La Rochefoucauld - still known as Prince de Marcillac - ran to put next to the nobility, that it had the support of the popular kinds of Paris, very dissatisfied with the fiscal policy of Mazarin. The writer became one of the main leaders of the first Fronde (or "Parliamentary Fronde"), which forced Anne of Austria, and his Prime Minister hastily out of Paris, protected by troops of the Prince of Condé, and ended with the peace of March 1649, signed after the blockade that the aforesaid count punishment on the rebel capital's population. In the following fronds, Marcillac could have obtained many benefits from the power that granted their influence over the Duchess of Longueville; but the ambitions of count - which aspired to replace Mazarin - caused that this and other two princes (Conti and Longueville) were arrested by order of Ana de Austria in 1650, which in turn originated the early flight of the Duchess of Longueville, who sought refuge in Normandy and Paris of the Prince de Marcillac. It was at that time when, after the death of his father (which took place in February 1650), writer inherited the title of Duke of La Rochefoucauld, which would be known thereafter.

Soon after, he joined the Duke of Bouillon to take active part in the taking of Bordeaux, which fell the unruly part nobility to the 31 of may of 1650. The speedy recovery of this city by the troops of Mazarin led to the return of La Rochefoucauld to Paris, where continued engaging fully in numerous political intrigues, designed to promote disorder against the central power (notably the attempt of assassination against Cardinal de Retz, carried out the August 21, 1651(, in the same premises of the Parliament), by which again was forced to leave the Court - now in the company of count-, while the Duchess of Longueville broke relationships that had been keeping him from doing five years, to now fall into the arms of the Duke of Nemours. La Rochefoucauld, who ultimately felt liberated with the rupture of this commitment, suffered the humiliation of being abandoned and, in retaliation, contributed to the reconciliation of the Duke of Nemours with his former lover, Madame de Châtillon, at the time that sought to promote the discrepancies between the Prince of Condé and his sister, the Duchess of Longueville. Meanwhile, the lifting of la Fronda had given rise to a genuine Civil War, which reached its climax July 1, 1652, when the royalist side and that of the followers of the rebellious aristocracy were found on the outskirts of Paris, in the suburb known as Saint-Antoine. The general Touraine (1611-1675), in front of the troops of the Crown, inflicted a severe defeat on the army that Conde had formed with the help of the Spanish Government, in the course of a fierce battle in which La Rochefoucauld was again hit by ammunition for a firearm, causing him serious injuries on the face. While topped up from these wounds (in a long convalescence in which became blind for several days), the new King Luis XIV (1638-1715) was able to return to Paris, Conde went on to serve in the Spanish army and the Fronde revolt ended with the amnesty granted to its leaders.

From then on, the life of La Rochefoucauld already spare underwent a sudden twist that made him a virtually new man on which it had been up to that time. Covered by the Sun King, who had always shown great affection towards his family, he resigned from all his political ambitions and their active participation in the courtly intrigues, and surrendered fully to moral reflection and philosophical speculation, in the midst of a courtly society that applauded with enthusiasm his brilliance and his vitriol. He not repressed, certainly that accused natural tendency towards the female sex; but began to find lovers less bustling and intriguing and more given to this calm and that tranquility which own La Rochefoucauld had begun to crave; and so it began relationships with Madame de Sablé, which, in addition to a girlfriend, was for the Parisian writer an affable and delivered literary collaborator, because I read gladly his writings and gave him useful advice that he used to take advantage of; It then passed into the arms of the Marquise de Sévigné (1626-1696), writer of merit which soon became one of the main broadcasters of the work of La Rochefoucauld; and fell in love finally with one of the great authors of his time, Countess of La Fayette (1634-1693), which remained closely linked to the end of his days.

In the latter stage of his life, contact with these three women - especially with Madame de La Fayette - sweetened significantly the nature of La Rochefoucauld, whose earlier acrimony had become patent in his early writings, marked by a pessimistic vision of the human condition. Transformed in a kind, sensitive man, a very pleasant conversation, she weathered with admirable fortitude the blows that you had reserved the destination already in his old age, such as loss in 1672 from her son, Knight of the order of Malta, in an unfortunate action of the French army on the banks of the Rhine, where also fell seriously wounded the first-born of the writer. Madame de Sévigné left also noted the extreme pain that gripped his lover to learn the news of the death of the young Duke of Longueville, who, despite the rupture between her mother and La Rochefoucauld, writer continued giving the title of father.


The first writing that gave to the printing house of La Rochefoucauld, appeared a year before the Parisian author fulfill the fifty years of age, included an entertaining collection - more or less reliable, in relation to the authorized version by the history of the events which had taken part during its eventful existence. Posted under the title Mémoires (memories, 1663), this vision of the recent past was intended to be accurate and objective, not preventing, on numerous occasions, let show through personal assessment of a too committed to the most significant facts author who lived in France during the first half of the 17TH century. It is, in any case, a document of historical and literary of priceless value, insofar as it represents the point of view of one of the most privileged intelligences of the moment, and the testimony of knows to perfection - by having lived on-site, sometimes as a protagonist - the narrated events. Despite this, this opera prima of La Rochefoucauld aroused great controversy among the members of the high French society, and seriously angered those who had participated in political and ideological sides opposite to which counted with the participation of the author, so, to the outcry and outrage of some powerful, the Parisian writer was forced to disallow these memoriesalso stating that the text was not his sole responsibility (and seems to be that, in effect, collaborated in the other authors).

Two years after the appearance of his famous memoirs began circulating, in the lands of Holland, the manuscript containing his masterpiece, which was called to become a writer of universal screening. It's Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales (thoughts or sentences and moral maxims, 1665), work La Rochefoucauld was quick to give to the printer the following year, due to the success and diffusion reached by such handwritten copy. Preceded by an interesting "Avis au lecteur" ("warning to the reader"), under this title appear several hundred aphorisms that, at the time, they were enjoying great success in the French court, where this way of expressing a meditation had become a mundane pastime. Thanks to this splendid collection of La Rochefoucauld, the maximum sentence he acquired letter of nature as literary genre and vehicle of philosophical expression, to the point that one of the major writers and thinkers of the next century, the brilliant Voltaire (1694-1778), praised them by the formal elegance of his language, by an effort of synthesis and precision when formulating an idea with clarity and forcefulness, and its ability to contribute to the forging of the literary and philosophical tastes of French society.

Given the success of these maxims since began to circulate widely in manuscript copies, La Rochefoucauld came to give to the printing press, on, up to five editions, each larger than the previous one, to join in the last one (dated 1678) a total of five hundred four aphorisms (mid-19th century were published more than two hundred and fifty maxims of the Parisian author supposedly "unpublished"(, were not but the known variants). In General, the thought of La Rochefoucauld appears always travel by a marked pessimistic streak, fueled by the raw hardness of Jansenism (confession for which man had no remedy in its imperfection, and could only redeem itself thanks to the intervention of divine grace), enthroned above all self-esteem and utilitarianism; or, put another way, the most notable thinker of the Court of the Sun King considered that man is guided only by the satisfaction of his vanity and the tireless pursuit of the self-dealing, purposes tends to which any human action, and non-evil calls virtues but disguised as vices. Entertaining in the exploration of the central thesis of his thought, La Rochefoucauld studies a remarkable variety of motivations and behaviours, and delves into the psychological analysis of the society of his time, so just by offering the reader not only a sharp, ironic and scathing catalog of moral reflections that can learn to navigate through life (mainly(, by the highest rungs of the social pyramid), but also a splendid portrait of the typical courtier in the reign of Luis XIV: a man educated and proud of their status of Knight, moderate manifestation of his passions, fond of frequent female and prominent company always in maintaining a conversation with intelligence and brilliance. Portrait, in short, too similar to your own profile, or at least to the profile that the writer in the last stage of his life, acquired when he resigned to his political ambitions and, thanks to the decisive influence of her last lovers, sweetened that bitter character that had left patent in their first and most bitter sentences.