The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered
The Marquis de Lafayette’s arrival in an America gripped by the trials of the Revolutionary War electrified a people desperate for international support against their former King.
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“. . . explores Lafayette’s life in great detail . . .”
Unsparing in his optimism and enthusiasm, Lafayette’s exploits on the battlefield and the equally embattled courts of politics won the knight-errant Frenchman great acclaim from his adopted country. In the centuries that followed American schools, counties, cities and people have all been named for the great Marquis – yet in his homeland of France he is little known.
This dichotomy is down to the complex nature of French politics and the personality of Lafayette himself. Returning to his native country following the peace, Lafayette’s career in the turbulent years prior to and during the French Revolution was one of triumph and disaster. Well-meaning and eternally optimistic, Lafayette pursued the moderate objective of establishing a constitutional monarchy in France. However, he was soon swept up in a tide of events that saw his King executed and he and his family exiled for several years. Napoleon allowed Lafayette to return to France, but he did not become involved in politics again until the restoration of the French monarchy. In this sense Lafayette straddled two milieu as well as the Old and New Worlds. As a young man he took part in the Baroque court ceremonies that epitomized royal life in pre-Revolutionary France. In later life during his triumphant farewell American tour of 1824 he saw his adopted country emerge onto the world stage as a modern nation.
In The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered, Laura Auricchio’s work explores Lafayette’s life in great detail, throwing light on his personality and motives in the context of the world he lived in. It shows clearly why he is so revered in America, yet all but ignored and reviled in his homeland. This is a great read for anyone interested in American and French history and the links between the two worlds.
Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews