English Version

The Carefree Maximilien

Translated from French to English by Keith Hewlett

Maximilien des Ligneris was 19 years old when a global cholera pandemic struck France in 1832. It originated in India in 1826, reached Moscow in 1830, where it provoked riots, then crossed Poland and Finland, hit Berlin in 1831 and London in February 1832, then Paris a month later before subsequently taking hold of most of France. Irish immigrants carried it to Quebec. It then struck Ontario and Nova Scotia, and before long it had entered the United States via Detroit and New York. The pandemic reached South America in 1833, where it persisted until 1848.

Maximilien and his sister Charlotte were undoubtedly confined by their mother to Château Brocourt in the Somme. Within six months, the cholera outbreak had claimed around 100,000 lives in France, including 20,000 in Paris alone. The streets were deserted, no one dared go out of doors and people were wary of their neighbours. Some of the leading scientific minds of the era succumbed to the disease, including Sadi Carnot, the father of thermodynamics, as well as leading political figures such as Casimir Périer, president of the Council of Ministers. The pandemic constituted one of the greatest traumas of the 19th century.

During the following decade, the Kingdom of France experienced deep-seated social, economic and political transformations. King Louis-Philippe was anxious to reunite the French people, who had been profoundly divided in the wake of the revolution of 1830, around the principles of moderation. After adopting the tricolore, suppressing censorship and acknowledging that Catholicism was no longer the state religion, he abolished formal court etiquette and began to take walks in the streets of Paris. This closeness to the people made him a popular figure.

Louis-Philippe governed from the centre, combining a royalist orleanist and a liberal tendency. He was not recognised by the ultra royalists, who in turn were split into two concurrent factions, nor by the bonapartists, who supported Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I.

The establishment of a parliamentary system and the accession of the bourgeoisie to manufacturing and financial activities gave rise to a major economic boom. Steam engines and trains made their appearance in France and their development was as rapid as that of large industrial companies. (1)

Maximilien des Ligneris was a young recipient of annuity, as was typical of the nobility of the Ancien Régime. Rather than joining the armed forces like his father and grandfather, he chose to hunt with his friends and visit the fashionable salons. He probably led a lavish lifestyle in Paris for around a decade and did little to hide his enjoyment of it.

La marquise de Béthisy se rendant à une soirée, 1835, tableau de Ch. Steuben, Musée des Beaux Arts de Lille. Maximilien des Ligneris doit beaucoup fréquenter ces salons mondains où se retrouvent les clans aristocratiques.

Marquise de Béthisy, 1835, by Ch. Steuben, Musée des Beaux Arts in Lille.

He was 32 years of age when he decided to get married, perhaps at the urging of his mother, Antoinette. His marriage to 17-year-old Marie-Augusta Thourou de Bertinval took place on 27 October 1845 at 1 p.m. at the town hall in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Her mother, Anne-Laurence d’Origny, attended the ceremony. However, her father, Charles, Baron of Bressolles, had died four years earlier. (2) Given the discrepancy in their ages, Maximilien could not have met Marie-Augusta during his time in Paris. This was most likely an arranged marriage rather than a love match – a beneficial alliance for both families.

Maximilien was accompanied by his mother, his step-father and his cousin and witness, Jean-Marie Leroy, Earl of Vallanglart. However, his sister Charlotte was conspicuous by her absence. Perhaps she had quarrelled with him, or she disapproved of his carefree behaviour. Unlike Maximilien, she remained in Brocourt (Somme) and engaged in the local life there, for example by establishing a boarding school for young girls. She never married.

Pensionnat de jeunes filles de Brocourt

The boarding school for young girls in Brocourt

The couple stayed briefly in Paris where their first child, Jacques Joseph Maximilien Charles, was born on 11 September 1846. Perhaps their stay in Paris was to allow sufficient time for the refurbishment of Château de Méréglise (Eure-et-Loir), which had probably remained unoccupied since the death of Maximilien’s grandfather in 1827. They moved in there a few months after the birth of Jacques, and their second son, Charles Marie Anne Théodore, was born there on 2 November 1847.

It is quite possible that, basking in the delights of fresh parenthood, the couple did not notice the deterioration of the general situation in the country. King Louis-Philippe’s popularity began to wane as his government grew increasingly conservative and monarchical. The living conditions of the general population worsened considerably and income disparities increased. From 1846, an agricultural and economic crisis led to a further deterioration of the situation brought about by the Republican Party, and this would give rise to a major political upheaval.

From 22 to 24 February 1848, France found itself in the throes of revolution for a third time. For the majority of players, however, this came as quite a surprise: “It was completely unexpected and struck like a bolt of lightning,” exclaimed orleanist Albert de Broglie, while at the other end of the political spectrum socialist Etienne Cabet recalls, “The revolution hit like a bomb or a thunderbolt”. (3)

Lamartine, chef du gouvernement provisoire, 25 février 1848 (tableau de F. Philippoteaux, 1848, Musée Carnavalet ou Hôtel des Ligneris)

Lamartine, 25 février 1848 (by F. Philippoteaux, 1848, Musée Carnavalet or Hôtel des Ligneris)

At the end of three days of barricades and fighting in the streets of Paris, King Louis-Philippe, now aged 75, abdicated on 24 February 1848. Since his son and heir had died in an accident six years earlier, he named his grandson as his successor. The Chamber of Deputies hesitated, but then proclaimed the Second Republic. The royal family immediately fled to England, while crowds invaded the Tuileries and devastated the palace for several hours, starting with the throne hall, which was completely ransacked.

Louis-Philippe en mars 1848 à Claremont House en Angleterre

Former King Louis-Philippe in March 1848, in exile at Claremont House, England

This was just the start of a highly tumultuous period which would shake the whole of Europe: a “Spring of Nations”, comprising a succession of almost concurrent insurrections and uprisings; an emotional idealism that elevated the concepts of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in France.

But how would Maximilien and Marie-Augusta get through this period which threatened their social status and their way of life? What would become of their two offspring?

(1) Sources of this and the preceding paragraph: Histoire de France. Larousse, 1998; Wikipedia, article on Louis-Philippe I.

(2) Source: Deed of marriage dated 27 October 1845, copy dated 25 August 1970, certified as authentic by the Paris archives service. Marie-Augusta lost her father at the same age as Maximilien was when he had lost his. The relatives of Maximilien who accompanied him were his mother, Antoinette (aged 57), his step-father, Jean-Baptiste, Viscount of Hervilly (55) and his cousin and witness, Jean-Marie Leroy, Earl of Vallanglart (37). Marie-Augusta’s witnesses were her relatives, Antoine, Earl of Nanteuil (68) and Napoléon, Marquis of Bréhan (40). Anne-Laurence d’Origny was 45 years old at the time of her daughter’s marriage.

(3) Source: L’Histoire magazine, no. 444, February 2018, page 30, article by Quentin Deluermos.

Anne-Louis and Maximilien, from the tumultuous Napoleonic times until the July Revolution

Translated from French to English by Keith Hewlett

In November 1813, Maximilien des Ligneris was an infant less than a year old. At that time, Napoleon’s troops were withdrawing from the German states towards France in the face of the coalition formed by England, Austria and Russia. The troops were also rapidly retreating from Spain. A popular uprising against the French took place in Amsterdam. In January 1814 the coalition invaded France. Joachim Murat, a general under Napoleon I, betrayed him by offering his services and men to Austria to fight against the French. In February, the French Emperor planned the evacuation of the French government from Paris.

Maximilien and Charlotte, his older sister by three years, undoubtedly sensed the anguish of their parents, Anne-Louis and Antoinette, who hesitated to flee from their residence in Paris to Chartres to try and protect their young offspring. The battle for Paris commenced at 6 a.m. on 30 March and was already over a day later when Paris capitulated. The Senate declared that Napoleon I had been removed from the throne and replaced with Louis Stanislas Xavier (Louis XVIII). On 30 May 1814, France was reduced to its 1792 borders.

If those times were troubled, the same has to be said for the private life of Anne-Louis des Ligneris. His relationship with his wife was strained. They could have divorced, which would have been permitted by the Napoleonic Civil Code of 1804 but was prohibited again by Louis XVIII in 1815.

In 1823, Jean-Baptiste-Claude des Ligneris sold the residence in Chartres that had been acquired by his own father in the 1760s. The private mansion was transferred to the newly appointed General Council (1), which placed it at the disposal of the Prefect of Eure-et-Loir. (2) Thus Anne-Louis was living in Paris, while 77-year-old Jean-Baptiste-Claude was no longer able to move far beyond Méréglise.

That same year, Anne-Louis – about whose activities between 1800 and 1810 nothing is known – joined the King’s Guards (Gardes du corps du Roi, Compagnie de Rivière) as a sub-lieutenant. (3) Is it a coincidence that this was the same military household to which his father belonged, which was dissolved by the revolutionary government, then reinstated at the beginning of the Restoration through the Ordinances of 1814 and 1815?

From this posting it has to be assumed that Anne-Louis had already served in the armed forces: after all, you do not decide to join the military at the age of 43. Some sources refer to him as a Lieutenant-Colonel and holder of the War Cross. (4) But under which banner did he serve? The counter-revolutionary forces from the age of 20 until the end of the 1790s? Napoleon’s armed forces? The latter would be highly surprising, since he had undoubtedly always been a monarchist. If he had betrayed that cause, he would not have been able to join the military elite of the King’s Guards.

The trajectory of his de Courtavel cousins (the offspring of his aunt Marie-Thérèse-Françoise des Ligneris, wife of René-César de Courtavel) can shed a light on his political loyalties. A painting in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres that depicts them attending the reunion on 1 December 1823 of Louis-Antoine de Bourbon, Duc d’Angoulême (the son of the future King Charles X) and his cousin Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette), whom he married in 1799, provides us with a clear indication. The Duchesse d’Angoulême had come to Chartres from Paris to join her husband, who had returned from the expedition that had been sent to Spain to help Ferdinand VII restore his absolute monarchy.

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres, tableau d’Etienne-Barthélémy Garnier (1759-1849) : « Entrevue du duc et de la duchesse d’Angoulême », 1823

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres,  painting by Etienne-Barthélémy Garnier (1759-1849) : « Entrevue du duc et de la duchesse d’Angoulême », 1823


Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres, détail du tableau d’Etienne-Barthélémy Garnier (1759-1849) : « Entrevue du duc et de la duchesse d’Angoulême », 1827. Le comte et le vicomte de Courtavel se trouvent au dernier plan, à gauche et à droite.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres: detail from the painting by Etienne-Barthélémy Garnier (1759-1849), “Entrevue du duc et de la duchesse d’Angoulême” (1827). Count and Viscount de Courtavel are in the back row on the left and on the right.

This occasion was only attended by the leading local authorities, notable figures from the Department and some members of the court of the spouses. (5) It is moving to find these images of the faces of Viscount de Courtavel (Deputy), and Count de Courtavel (Peer of France). They both enjoyed a successful political career despite the turmoil of the revolution and empire. (6) As already mentioned, they attended the wedding of their close cousin, Anne-Louis des Ligneris, in 1807. Nothing tells us that they maintained close ties until 1823, but the admittance of the latter to the King’s Guard points to a parallelism of their political tendencies, i.e. a strong monarchist commitment.

During this period, Louis XVIII succeeded in securing the transition from the collapsed Napoleonic Empire towards a nation at peace. After his death in 1824, his brother succeeded him as Charles X. He organised an elaborate ceremony in Reims for his consecration in the style of the Ancien Régime.

Whether it is thanks to the support of the King of Bavaria, his godfather, or of Count de Courtavel (Peer of France), Maximilien des Ligneris was chosen to participate in the grandiose consecration ceremonies as a page boy for Charles X. In other words, this 12-year-old boy dressed in magnificent ceremonial robes marched in the prestigious procession together with several other boys of his age, behind the four Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit, carrying offerings (wine, gold and silver bread, coins), and in front of the Marshall of France. (7) There is little doubt that 29 May 1825 was a day that would remain firmly embedded in his memory for the rest of his life.

In that same year, his cousin Eudoxie des Ligneris married Aimé de Vauguyon, a member of the King’s Guard. (8) Later on, Eudoxie’s sister, Claire-Armande, married Jean-Marie Le Roy, Count of Valanglart.

But in the following year, Count Anne-Louis des Ligneris died on 2 August. He was only 48 years old.

His father was still alive: Jean-Baptiste-Claude was 82, a very advanced age for that epoch. Because it was only possible to have one living Marquis (the royal deed of 1773 specified this clearly, and it was also customary law), Anne-Louis never became Marquis des Ligneris.

At the time of their father’s death, Maximilien was only 13 and Charlotte 15. They lived in Paris with their mother, Antoinette, who subsequently married Viscount d’Hervilly in 1827, i.e. precisely at the end of the accepted “suitable” period of mourning of one year following the decease of her husband. Antoinette had no longer been living with Anne-Louis, and had probably been living together with Joseph d’Hervilly for several years. The newly formed family moved to Château de Brocourt in the Somme (130 km north of Paris).

When his grandfather died in 1829 in his castle in Méréglise, Maximilien inherited the title of third Marquis des Ligneris at the age of 16. Unless his uncle Augustin was still alive, Maximilien was now the sole male representative of the family.

Then the year 1830 marked a turning point in his life.

This was the year of the July Revolution in Paris. Charles X, who had been pursuing ultra-monarchist and strict policies with a dictatorial tendency, alienating him from both the liberal bourgeoisie and the lower classes, was forced to abdicate following the insurrection that took place at the end of July. His son was also forced to abdicate. On 9 August, his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, was proclaimed “King of the French” as Louis-Philippe I and the tricolour flag replaced the white Restoration flag.

For Maximilien, this was also the year in which he inherited the estate and château of Méréglise, near Chartres. (9)

Maximilien was just 17 years old, very rich and titled, and the world around him was changing rapidly. What would he do with his life?

The cultural heritage of Maximilien des Ligneris

Did Maximilien know his father well? Once again the hand-down from father to son was unclear. It is possible that his grandfather played the role of constructing the identity of Maximilien’s immediate family, but this is by no means certain. One of them was living in Paris and the other in Eure-et-Loir and was too elderly to travel often.

In reality, Maximilien des Ligneris grew up in the period from 1810 to 1830 in a mixed French and Germanic culture. His grandmother, Elisabeth de Deux-Ponts (or rather, von Zweibrücken: “Deux-Ponts” is merely the literal French translation) was in fact brought up by her German father, Duke Christian IV, until the latter’s death when Elisabeth was nine years old. She also had to converse fluently in French, which was the language of all European elites, and this facilitated her integration and life at the court of Louis XVI during the next fifteen years. She married a Frenchman, but was only together with him for five years before he died prematurely at the beginning of the revolutionary period. Their only daughter, Antoinette, who was born in 1789, was also brought up by her mother and grandmother in exile in the Duchy of Bavaria – in other words, immersed in a distinctly Germanic culture.

Maximilien Ier von Wittelsbach, roi de Bavière

Maximilien I von Wittelsbach, King of Bavaria

Antoinette was already twelve years old when her family returned to France in 1801. She only knew the German side of her family, in particular Maximilien I, the reigning duke and future king. She had grown up playing with her cousins, the offspring of the duke: Louis (her elder by three years, the future king Louis I of Bavaria), Augusta-Amélie (one year older than her, a duchess who would marry the Frenchman Eugène de Beauharnais) and Charlotte (three years younger than her, who would marry Emperor François II of Austria).

It is therefore not surprising that at the age of 24 she named her son Maximilien in honour of her uncle and protector, who in the meantime had become King of Bavaria and also willingly agreed to be the child’s godfather. We should also note a sign of kind affection towards her young cousin in naming her daughter Charlotte.

Without a doubt, Antoinette’s cultural references were more German than French, and German was the language she was immersed in throughout her childhood. Perhaps she felt a certain amount of nostalgia for the childhood years spent in Bavaria. Here the hand-down functioned completely between grandmother, daughter and granddaughter. There is little doubt that it was this distinctly Germanic identity that was absorbed by Maximilien des Ligneris during his childhood.

(1) The General Councils were established in 1790 by the revolutionary government and the Prefects by Bonaparte in 1800 as intermediary executive offices between the state and the departments, to control the General Council.

(2) Hôtel des Ligneris is still the residence of the Prefect of Eure-et-Loir today. It was joined with the neighbouring houses and Hôtel de Mézières in 1823 and housed the offices of the prefecture until 1970. Due to a lack of space, a new building was constructed in the town in order to retain the Hôtel as a residence, with several offices for the office of the prefect. The building is known for having housed Jean Moulin, Prefect of Eure-et-Loir in 1939. It was here that the great man carried out his first acts of resistance against the Nazi occupiers before going underground and becoming the national unifying force behind French resistance movements until his tragic death as a martyr in 1943. The desk on which he worked still exists in the Hôtel des Ligneris and is used by the current prefect.

(3) Charles-François Riffardeau de Rivière was captain of the Fifth Company of the King’s Guards from 1821 until 1828.

(4) Source: Annuaire de la noblesse de France (directory of the nobility of France), 1906 edition, page 239.

(5) Source: Explanatory note regarding the painting, “Entrevue du duc et de la duchesse d’Angoulême” by Etienne-Barthélémy Garnier (1759-1849) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres.

(6) Count de Courtavel had just been appointed Peer of France that same year (1823), and his brother, Viscount de Courtavel, would follow suit in 1827.

(7) Source: “Relation complète du Sacre de Charles X” (full report on the consecration of Charles X). Jean Jérôme Achille Darmaing, Editions Baudouin Frères (Paris), 1825.

(8) Eudoxie was the oldest daughter of Augustin, brother of Anne-Louis des Ligneris, and Claire-Armande was the youngest.

(9) Source: Archives Départementales d’Eure-et-Loir, document 2E4 762, “Succession de Monsieur le Marquis des Ligneris, janvier 1830” (19 pièces). (Archives of the Department of Eure-et-Loir, document 2E4, 762, Succession of Marquis des Ligneris, January 1830 [19 items]).

Marianne’s splendid destiny

Translated from French to English by Keith Hewlett

Whether they stayed in France during the revolution or fled into exile, Jean-Baptiste-Claude and Anne des Ligneris saw their two sons grow up in the midst of severely troubled times: Anne-Louis Jean-Baptiste Théodore was born in 1778 and Augustin Louis François was born in Paris in 1784. (1)

Augustin was admitted to the Knights of the Order of Malta (2), probably at the age of sixteen in 1800 or thereabouts. In 1805 or 1806 (i.e. still at a very young age) he married Agathe du Roux de Reveillon, with whom he had two daughters: Eudoxie and Claire-Armande (3). It is possible that a minor scandal occurred which precipitated the marriage and rattled the nerves of Jean-Baptiste-Claude’s family, because as a rule men did not marry before the age of thirty, and especially not men who were Knights of the Order of Malta.

The elder brother, Anne-Louis, waited until he reached the age of twenty-nine before marrying eighteen-year-old Antoinette Chastellier du Mesnil on 27 April 1807 in Paris. I cannot resist the temptation to list all her first names: her full name was Antoinette Marie-Anne Françoise Eléonore Elisabeth Esprit Christian Guillaume Chastellier du Mesnil.

But there is a history behind all these first names, which were not given to her by chance. Why “Christian”, for example? To find the answer we have to go back to 6 September 1722, the date of birth of Christian IV of Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria, Reigning Duke of Zweibrücken, Prince of Birkenfeld and Bischweiler, Prince Palatine of the Rhine, Count of Weldentz and Count of Sponheim. The elder son of Christian III and Caroline of Nassau-Saarbrücken, he succeeded his father at the age of thirteen and remained under the guardianship of his mother until he was eighteen.

Christian IV had a “weakness”: he was passionately in love with, and remained faithful to, one woman, the dancer Marianne Camasse, whom he met in 1751. She was just seventeen, he was twenty-nine. She was well below his social rank, but they lived together and quickly had three children without being married (Christian, Guillaume and Caroline). Christian IV took the bold step of marrying her in 1757, causing a scandal that shook all the princely houses of Germany. The marriage was attended by a small group of celebrants at the church in Zweibrücken.

Christian IV von Wittelsbach

Christian IV von Wittelsbach

Due to the fact that they did not come from the same social background, their marriage was regarded as morganatic. Christian was aware that their offspring would not be able to succeed to their father’s duchy (4). However, he conceived the notion of acquiring the county of Forbach (in Lorraine), a project he patiently pursued from 1756 until 1767. With the support of Louis XV and the latter’s father-in-law, King Stanislas of Poland and Duke of Lorraine, Christian IV was thus able to make his wife Countess of Forbach in 1757. The couple had two more sons (Charles-Louis and Julius) and another daughter (Elisabeth, born on 6 February 1766) after they had married.

Marianne Camasse et ses deux fils Christian et Guillaume en 1764

Marianne Camasse et ses deux fils Christian et Guillaume en 1764

His Serene Highness Christian IV of Bavaria officially acknowledged his six children in a deed dated 21 September. Sadly, he passed away on 5 November 1775 at Château de Potersheim (near Zweibrücken), while his offspring were still young.

His various titles and domains were inherited by his nephew, Charles II (1746-1795), who became the new Duke of Bavaria and reigning Duke of Zweibrücken. Then the latter was succeeded by his brother, Maximilien (1756-1825), who obtained from Napoleon in 1805 that the Duchy of Bavaria was elevated to Kingdom of Bavaria. It is interesting to note that the famous eccentric King Louis II of Bavaria, who ordered the construction of numerous extravagant chateaus and palaces, including Neuschwanstein, was none other than the great-grandson of Maximilien.

Following the accession of the new Duke of Bavaria, Charles II, Marianne (“whose charm and intelligence were widely recognised”) returned to Paris with her offspring where she frequented the salons and surrounded herself with artists and intellectuals. “In 1772, Denis Diderot, who was said to be devoted to her, received from her an Essay on Education that she had written by hand. After reading this document, Diderot replied in a letter of academic importance that was published in 1799”. She was reported to be close to Louis XVI, and later on to Marie-Antoinette. She also periodically stayed at her chateau in Forbach. (5)

But let us now return to the offspring of Christian IV and Marianne. The elder namesake, Christian, marquis of Zweibrücken and Count of Forbach, won acclaim together with his younger brother, Guillaume, in the American War of Independence. He was also a general in the armed forces of the King of France, commander of the Royal Zweibrücken Regiment and Knight of Saint-Louis, and subsequently Major General in the Infantry of the King of Bavaria, his first cousin. He married a French woman in Versailles in 1783.

In his turn, his brother Guillaume, Viscount of Zweibrücken and Count of Forbach, became a colonel in command of a Dragons Regiment for the King of France and colonel of the Regiment of the Chasseurs de Flandres. He was also made Knight of Saint-Louis in France, as well as of the Order of Cincinnati in America. Like his brother, he married a woman from a French aristocratic family.

Their sister, Elisabeth Auguste Frédérique de Deux Ponts, who is of interest to us, became a naturalised French citizen by royal deed dated 2 April 1783. In April 1786, at the age of twenty she married marquis François-Esprit Chastellier du Mesnil “in a contractual arrangement signed by Their Majesties and the Royal Family” (Gazette dated 28 April 1786).

Elisabeth’s husband, who was fourteen years older than her, was a cavalry colonel, commander and inspector of the Hussards Regiment, and was made Knight of Saint-Louis in 1784. (6) He was admitted to the Honours of the Court in January 1786 (Gazette dated 27 January). It would not be surprising that their marriage had been arranged at that time. Elisabeth was also presented to the Court in the following year, namely on 4 February 1787 (Gazette dated 9 February).

They only had one child before François-Esprit prematurely died in 1790: Antoinette, who was born in 1789, was heiress of the elder Chastellier du Mesnil branch and granddaughter of the Duke of Bavaria. She would become the wife of Anne-Louis des Ligneris in 1807.

So now we can understand where all these first names came from – they are a clear reflection of her complex family history: Antoinette (her paternal grandmother), Marie-Anne (her maternal grandmother), Françoise (the feminine version of her father’s first name), Eléonore (?), Elisabeth (her mother), Esprit (her father again), Christian and Guillaume (her grandfather and maternal uncles).

Antoinette’s cousin, who was born in 1785 and was the daughter of Guillaume von Zweibrücken, was named on the same basis: Marie-Anne Jeanne Françoise Antoinette Maximilien Joseph de Deux Ponts. The last two first names refer to her father’s cousin: Maximilien Joseph, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria (later, King), who was the baby’s godfather. This indicates that the ties remained very strong between the Duke of Bavaria and his cousins and nephews domiciled in France, and this would prove to be of importance for the continuation of the history of the des Ligneris family.

The French Revolution forced Marianne and her sons to emigrate to Bavaria. The county of Forbach was occupied by the revolutionary forces in 1793 and confiscated, together with the emigrants’ assets. All the properties of her children were also seized.

In the wake of the coup by Napoleon in 1799 and the establishment of the Consulate, a law that entered into effect in 1800 allowed the emigrants to repatriate. They were also able to recover a portion of the assets that had been confiscated. Marianne returned to Paris in 1801, where she did not hesitate to make use of her connections and befriend Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, “who valued her charm and her remembrances of times past” (5).

Then on 27 April 1807, Anne-Louis des Ligneris and Antoinette Chastellier du Mesnil were married in grand style – the notarised deed contained no less than 28 signatures (7). Touchingly, the widow of Christian IV, the famous Marianne, attended the event in order to be by the side of her granddaughter Antoinette. Aged 73, she signed her name in small and tight handwriting as “marianne douairière [dowager] de Deux Ponts Ctesse [Countess] de Forbach”. This was all the more touching in that she passed away during the following winter on 28 December.

The bride’s mother was the first to sign the deed in large and firm handwriting: “E.A.F. Chastellier Dumesnil née Deuxponts”. Jean-Baptiste-Claude des Ligneris, who was visibly beginning to age, signed in shaky handwriting as “Desligneris Père”. Two other members of the family were in attendance, probably Augustin and his wife. Their Courtavel cousins (offspring of the sister of Jean-Baptiste-Claude) were present, as well as the Pinons (on his wife’s side) and of course the Chastellier du Mesnils.

On 6 May 1811, Anne-Louis and Antoinette des Ligneris announced the birth of a daughter, Charlotte Elisabeth Claude Esprit, then of a son named Maximilien Joseph Auguste Théodore Emile Marie Esprit Antoine, who was born on 15 January 1813. As can be deduced merely from the list of first names, the newborn was named after Maximilien I, King of Bavaria, who was his godfather. This tie would have a major influence on the long life of this infant…

(1) In these first names it is surprising, but also touching, to see this reference to Théodore des Ligneris, who was born 225 years earlier.

(2) Inventory of the archives of the genealogists of the Order of Malta, compiled in 1909 on the basis of the “Archives de la Noblesse et du Collège héraldique de France” (Archives of the nobility and the heraldic college of France); extract from the 1909 “Annuaire du Conseil héraldique de France” (yearbook of the heraldic council of France), pp 61-173.

(3)  On 8 March 1825, Eudoxie des Ligneris, who was probably born some time between 1805 and 1809, married Aimé Daniel de Vauguyon, a King’s bodyguard; Claire-Armande des Ligneris would marry Jean-Marie Louis Ernest Le Roy, Count of Valenglart, and after a long life she died in Paris on 20 March 1889.

(4) Unlike in France, where nobility was handed down from male to male, regardless of the social background of the spouse, in Germany both parents had to be members of the aristocracy in order for this “quality” to be inherited. This explains why French families of aristocratic origin received women who were not from the nobility but came from the upper classes and were generously endowed, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is also the reason why the marriage of Christian IV, which was regarded as morganatic in Germany, did not pose a problem in France, where his offspring were received with all the honours and dignity of the nobility.

(5) Source of quotes: Wikipedia article on Marianne Camasse, https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Camasse

(6) Source: Notices généalogiques, volume 1, Baron H. de Woelmont, p. 131

(7) The marriage deed can be viewed on the “Documents and Sources” page.

Jean-Baptiste-Claude in the turmoil of the revolution

Translated from French to English by Keith Hewlett

1788. Concealed in the shade of the forest, Jean-Baptiste-Claude des Ligneris parts the foliage to view the entrance to his chateau in the distance. His wife stands in front of the elegant brick building, together with their two young sons, Anne-Louis and Augustin. He savours this moment of charm and tranquillity, whilst all around them he is aware of the brewing revolution.

Château de Méréglise (Eure-et-Loir)

Château de Méréglise (Eure-et-Loir)

France had for several decades been experiencing a severe structural economic and social crisis, while the monarchy “pursued a desperate financial policy that had reached breaking point” (1). The convening of the Etats Généraux in 1789 gave rise to major hopes of reform: “This disruption, reading the registers of grievances shows that no one wanted it, at least not openly. The formulated demands [in February 1789] merely called for comprehensive reforms, but never for a revolution” (1).

At the beginning of 1789, the king ordered the provincial assemblies to convene in order to prepare “a register of grievances and reprimands […] for the attention of His Majesty and to set out ways of providing assistance and support for the state” (2). These assemblies were also instructed to elect their representatives of the Etats Généraux. They convened without delay in March, despite the various practical and administrative obstacles. The chosen elective framework was the bailiwick, a judicial district with relatively imprecise boundaries (3).

After compiling the registers in each parish, the 600 delegates from the villages in the bailiwick convened a preliminary assembly on 2 March in Chartres in order to designate 200 of them to represent the common people at the official assembly. The members of the clergy and the nobility were in their turn summoned by the bailiff to appear at the assembly in Charters on 16 March. And Jean-Baptiste-Claude was among them.

After the oaths had been sworn, the activities of the representatives of each of the three orders (clergy, nobility, common people) took place in separate rooms in the Eglise des Cordeliers (4). The idea of a common register of grievances was put forward by the nobility, which even proposed to “renounce all tax distinctions to separate the orders”. But this proposal initially met with ill will, then with fierce opposition by the clergy, which was well-known for adopting very conservative stances. In addition, other topics relating to seigniorial property and rights strained relations between the representatives of the nobility and the common people. Thus each order compiled its list of proposals separately. Work was concluded on 20 March and the next step was to elect the four deputies who would sit in Paris. The contents of the list drawn up by the representatives of the common people (who represented around 98 percent of the population) showed that there was a very strong desire for profound change in society at all levels.

On 23 July 1789, following the events in Paris several hundred men and women gathered in the centre of Chartres and ransacked the tax office. The national guard, which had recently been constituted, restored order by firing into the crowd. Eight people were killed.

In February 1790, Jean-Baptiste-Claude was still residing in Méréglise (5). He had decided to stay, whereas on the day after the storming of the Bastille, the Count of Artois (who would later become Charles X) and senior lords of the court fled to Turin. The officers of the army and navy, together with priests who opposed the civil constitution of the clergy, started leaving in July 1790. The Count of Provence (who would later become Louis XVIII) only left France on the evening of 20 June 1791 – the same night as his brother, Louis XVI, who was arrested in Varennes – but he took a more direct route to the Austrian Lowlands.

On 4 July 1792, Jean-Baptiste-Claude des Ligneris had himself substituted in order to avoid participating in the war as a “requisitioned volunteer” (5).

On 29 July he left Méréglise for Paris. Undoubtedly he had become concerned about the increasing threat to his family’s safety in the countryside. It is also possible that his wife, Catherine, who had been brought up in Paris, insisted on rejoining her family. The couple and their offspring took up residence at Place Royale 17 (today, Place des Vosges).

But this move was not entirely prudent. Paris was in turmoil and was characterised by a climate of insurrection. On 10 August the Tuileries Palace, which was the residence of the king, was attacked and the Swiss Guards were massacred. This was the end of the constitutional monarchy.

This attack was soon followed by the September Massacres: as the result of rumours and panic, 1,300 people were arrested in Paris and killed in the prisons by mobs.

On 8 July 1792, Jean-Baptiste-Claude was still listed in the parish registers as “marquis des Ligneris, ci-devant seigneur”, but on 11 October that same year he had to have a “certificate of presence” drawn up in Paris and thus became a “citizen without a profession” (6).

But this certificate offered the advantage of providing us with a physical description of Jean-Baptiste-Claude: “height, five feet one inch (approximately 1 metre 65), chestnut hair and eyebrows, blue eyes, long nose, average mouth, rounded chin, high forehead, oval face”.

Jean-Baptiste-Claude was now 50 years old and had to make a drastic choice: stay in France with the constant threat of losing his life as well as that of his wife and adolescent sons, or leave the country for an unknown destination and without any money.

We do not have any trace of the choice he made, nor any family record from these turbulent times – as if it had been subsequently necessary to deny the existence of the turmoil. We can imagine, however, that he would not have survived if he had stayed in Paris under a regime of terror during which thousands of people were subject to arbitrary arrests and summary executions.

It is possible that he fled to England, Switzerland, Germany or Italy. We do not know what became of his sister, marquise de Courtavel, but Jean-Baptiste-Claude, Catherine, Anne-Louis and Augustin des Ligneris nonetheless made it through this difficult period … and would resurface.

(1) Eure-et-Loir, Préparation des Etats Généraux de 1789, by Roger Joly, 1989, published by Société Archéologique d’Eure-et-Loir, p. 19.

(2) Extract from “Ordonnance du Lieutenant-Général aux baillage et siège présidial de Chartres pour l’exécution des lettres de convocation des Etats-Généraux et réglement y annexe”, 13 February 1789.

(3) Cartographie du baillage de ChartresEure-et-Loir, Préparation des Etats Généraux de 1789, by Roger Joly, 1989, published by Société Archéologique d’Eure-et-Loir.

(4) This church no longer exists today.

(5) Source: parish register of Méréglise, pages for 7 February 1790 and 4 July 1792.

(6) Parish registers of Méréglise, which I consulted personally at the beginning of the 1990s in the town hall, and which include the certificate of presence of which I have a photocopy.

Louis-François, or the apogee in extremis (part 2)

Translated from French to English by Keith Hewlett

The marriage of Louis-François des Ligneris in 1740 was typical of the alliance between the rural military nobility and the urban bourgeoisie, a phenomenon that was particularly widespread in the 18th century. His father-in-law, royal prosecutor Claude Davignon, belonged to an old family of administrators from the town of Chartres, who were probably originally merchants who became wealthy traders, then went on to become lawyers.

When Louis-François ran for the office of mayor of Chartres in 1766, his in-laws had held this post almost without interruption for forty years. (1)

Elections were carried out in April 1766 for dignitaries, and in June and July for the office of mayor […]; M. des Ligneris, a nobleman and one of the candidates proposed for the office of mayor, was chosen by the Duke of Orléans and took office on 23 June 1776. […] His rivals were Messrs Nicole, Lieutenant-General of the bailiwick, and Parent, First President of the Presidium. They each received 13 votes.” (2)

As the register of aldermen at the time reported, “Following the inaugural session, the mayor was ceremoniously escorted to his hotel to the accompaniment of drums and violins; deputy mayor de Villererau addressed him and offered him a dozen bottles of wine on behalf of the town. (2) The hotel in question here was probably what is now the residence of the Prefect of Eure-et-Loir: on its gate there is a plaque with the wording, “Hôtel des Ligneris”. The building is located in Place Jean Moulin in Chartres.

Préfecture d'Eure-et-Loir, Hôtel des Ligneris (1795), Chartres (France)

Prefect headquarters, Hôtel des Ligneris (1795), Chartres (France)

Louis-François was the highest municipal official until 1770, when he handed over to Monsieur Parent, then resumed office in 1776:  “The votes and consent of the Duke of Orléans resulted in the adoption of presidency of the municipal body by M. Louis-François, Marquis des Ligneris, Lord of Méréglise, who assumed the office of mayor at the inaugural session on 3 June 1776. (3) In 1779, Monsieur de Pâris was elected mayor, but when he refused to accept this office, the Duke of Orléans retained Louis-François as mayor. (4) He remained in office until his death on 1 March 1780 at the age of 64, and was buried in Sainte-Foy church, directly opposite his own hotel.

But since such offices were very costly (cf. text box below), both for the municipality and for those who wished to hold them, but apparently only afforded the incumbents very little power, what was it that made them attractive? Were there privileges and financial rewards? In point of fact, Louis-François des Ligneris’ financial situation remains a mystery in that, without having performed duties for royalty or in the army, in April 1773 he was able to purchase large amounts of land from Viscountess de Montboissier and in the municipality of Méréglise, and went on to establish the des Ligneris Marquisate by letters of patent dated September 1776, which were registered by Parliament in Paris that year (5). In 1769 he sold the land and chateau of Fontaine-la-Guyon, but this was probably not enough and he must have found other ways to earn a great deal of money.

It is clear, however, that Louis-François was someone who knew how to form relationships and develop them. Once he had obtained the title of Marquis he aspired to arrange for his son to marry into a noble family. And he succeeded: on 8 April 1777, Jean-Baptiste-Claude married Catherine Geneviève Pinon, who was the daughter of the President of the Parliament in Paris, at the Royal and Parish Church of Saint-Paul in Paris: “a very prominent and powerful lord, Monseigneur Anne-Louis Pinon, Viscount de Quincy, Lord of Batelière, Rebsechin and other manors, adviser to the King in all his councils, and President of Parliament.” Catherine was aged 23, and had previously resided in rue Saint Antoine, Paris. (6)

Louis-François also commissioned Quentin de la Tour to draw portraits of his wife and daughter. The two pastel portraits were sold in 1920 by Marquise Jacques des Ligneris (née Taillandier du Plaix). Sadly, the whereabouts of these works is not known. (7)

The 1770s were a highly rewarding decade for Louis-François. He had achieved all the goals he had set himself, and had attained the pinnacle of social recognition. He had put his family on the path to success which he undoubtedly felt would be long-lived – like the monarchy. Yet less than ten years after the end of that decade, the revolution would shake the country to the core. What would become of his son, Marquis des Ligneris, member of the royal guard, and his daughter, Marquise de Courtavel?

How did someone become mayor of Chartres in the 18th century?

Back then, the office of mayor was very different to what it is in France today. As the result of a series of reforms imposed by the central powers in 1677, the Chambre de Ville was stripped of some of its prerogatives. With effect from 1689, functions such as town clerk were sold by auction and the proceeds went to the royal treasury. Three years later the offices of mayor and assessor were created. Then in 1704, the need for more revenue prompted the royal authority to create three hereditary aldermen’s offices, followed by the office of mayor’s lieutenant in 1708. As the result of political disputes, all these offices were abolished in 1717, reinstated in 1722, abolished again in 1724 and reinstated yet again in 1733.

But it was not enough to simply “buy” such an office – in addition, the Duke of Chartres also had to give his consent. Thus in 1735 the town had to find 90,000 livres to elect three candidates from whom to choose a mayor for three years, plus six aldermen. The municipal body was completed by two canons, as well as a procurator and a town clerk appointed by the Duke. (8)

In 1765, the deputies of the town’s districts elected a council of fourteen dignitaries, who proposed candidates to the Duke from whom to choose a mayor, four aldermen and six councillors. In 1771, the royal authority again changed the rules and created a new series of moderately financed offices. The town had to pay and take steps to obtain a ruling by the Council of State in 1773 in order to consolidate the structure of its municipal body.

But it was not the mayor who embodied the real local authority. The Duchy of Chartres had returned to the royal crown in 1660 and was assigned to the Orléans lineage. No duke or duchess ever resided in the town, in which the old comtal chateau was a long way from matching those in the Loire Valley. It was in fact the representative of the Duke, the lieutenant-general of the bailiwick, who actually exercised power (9).

(1) Two generations earlier, the father and father-in-law of Claude Davignon (Michel Davignon and Jean-Robert Bouvart) were jointly elected to the administrative benches of the municipal body as lieutenants of the mayor. The son of the former married the daughter of the latter. Following the decease of the president of the municipal body in 1726, Bouvart succeeded him before being officially appointed mayor in 1736. Then in 1742 he was succeeded by Michel Davignon and in 1749 by his son, Claude Davignon. After an interlude with another mayor between 1758 and 1766, Claude’s son-in-law Louis-François des Ligneris was appointed mayor.

Source : Histoire de Chartres, volume II, by E. de Lépinois, published by Garnier in Chartres in 1854 and reissued by Editions Culture et Civilisation in Brussels in 1976 (p. 620).

(2) Idem, p. 492.

(3) Idem, pp 494-95. The source cited by the author is the aldermen’s register of the period.

(4) Idem, p. 621 and p. 495. The author notes that the nomination was confirmed by the general assembly of 31 March at its session on 12 May 1779.

(5) The original patent letters are in the National Archives under shelf mark X1a 8817, folio 43. Copies can also be seen in the “Registre des Causes et Audiences du Marquisat Desligneris”, a manuscript dating from 1778 in the Archives of the Department of Eure et Loir, shelf mark B3135.

(6) The witnesses at the wedding are just as interesting to note because we find the following on the groom’s side: “Joachim Dedreux marquis de Brézé, lieutenant-general of the king’s army, Grand Master of Ceremonies, Governor in Loudun” and “Messire Jean-Louis marquis de Courtavel, knight and Lord of Lierville”. And on the bride’s side the witnesses were a cousin, “Messire Anne-Louis Pinon, marquis de Saint-Georges, field marshal in the king’s army, knight of the royal and military order of Saint-Louis” and “Messire Armand Degourgues, king’s counsellor and president of Parliament”. Joachim, marquis de Dreux-Brézé (1722-1781), a former musketeer and general, married Demoiselle de Courtavel in 1755. As already noted, it was the sister of Jean-Baptiste-Claude des Ligneris who married the marquis de Courtavel.

Source: Register of Marriages, 8 April 1777, according to a document dated 8 February 1872 that formed a part of the reconstitution of the Paris civil status records following the fire in the town hall.

(7) Source: handwritten note by Pierre des Ligneris in the second half of the 20th century on the back of a postcard depicting the chateau of Méréglise.

(8) Histoire de Chartres, by R. Joly, éditions Horvath, Roanne, 1982, pp 78-79.

(9) A bailiwick was a relatively extensive administrative district. At the end of the 19th century, the Chartres bailiwick covered around a third of the Department of Eure-et-Loir.


« Louis XIV killed me »

Before discovering what happens to Louis Francis, who seeks to obtain the title of marquis, let us dive into nobility titles meanings throughout western European history. What real functions and powers did these titles represent in the course of history? Have the words « baron, » « count, » or « marquis », as one understands them today, always had the same meaning? To know it, we must explore the political and social organizations, starting from the Early Middle Ages premises.

The Roman empire formed a highly centralized state, which did not know local lords. The central power representatives were appointed, while the political elite consisted of patrician families, members of the Senate. When the Germanic peoples began to migrate from Eastern to Western Europe in the ‘300s, they settled on the empire borders, and even on its internal margins. Tolerated if they paid a tribute, they gradually imbued themselves with the rights and customs of Rome, and provided contingents to the imperial army – some « Barbarians » even becoming Roman generals.

But in the ‘400s the Huns invasion, combined with the weakening of the central power, led to the political collapse of the Western Roman empire. At the end of the century, the Visigoths occupied the center and south-west of present-day France, the Ostrogoths Provence, the Burgundians occupied the area now known as Burgundy, while … the Bretons did not leave Brittany.

The Franks had originally settled around the river Scheldt mouth, in a territory now divided between Belgium, Holland and French Flanders. Conducted by their chief Clovis, they embarked on a vast conquest at the end of which they expelled the Visigoths towards the Iberian peninsula, the Ostrogoths towards Italy, took possession of what remained of the Roman empire in Gaul, and settled the Merovingian dynasty on a great kingdom. Clovis’ successors will take precedence over the Burgundians and push back their kingdom’s frontiers to encompass the present territories of France, Switzerland, Belgium and South Germany.

The then Merovingian society was highly hierarchical, endowed with a corpus of elaborate laws, skilfully combining Frankish customs with Roman law. It is almost totally rural; serfdom remains widespread. The Merovingian aristocracy proceeds from both the former Gallo-Roman senatorial nobility and a Frankish elite of military origin. The position of the first comes from its wealth of lands, as well as its positions held in the military organization and civil service, later from occupying episcopal seats. These Gallo-Roman families, for example the Salvii and the Syagrii in the south-west, thus maintained their rank for several centuries in the Merovingian kingdom. The Frankish military chiefs, companions of the king, received land properties as a reward for their services, as well as the military campaigns booty. The two elites gradually mixed.

Bréviaire d'Alaric (Wisigoth) de 506, copie du IXe siècle, où l'on voit le roi, un évêque, un duc et un comte

Bréviaire d’Alaric (Wisigoth) de 506, copie du IXe siècle, où l’on voit le roi, un évêque, un duc et un comte

Breviary of Alaric (Visigoth), year 506, copy from the ninth century, where we see the king, a bishop, a duke and a count.

Political power belonged only to the royal clan (which of course is continually torn by disputes). To enforce his authority far from his palace, the king delegates some of his prerogatives (comitatus) to a count (comites) which he appoints among the local aristocratic groups. The count’s work consists in exercising justice, assembling the army, and collecting tax revenues. It is the king’s skill in exploiting the competition between the family groups, by arbitrating the redistribution of properties and positions, that enables him to maintain himself at the head of his kingdom. In certain areas, particularly the frontier zones, the sovereign would create provisional commands consisting essentially of military prerogatives, the duchies (ducates).

Two hundred years later (in the mid-700s), the real power was in fact assumed by the hereditary « prime minister » (his real title being “palace mayor”), Pepin small-sized alias Le Bref (“the short one”). His father, Charles Martel, had already tried a putsch but he had not succeeded. This time Pepin did better than his father, he deposed the Merovingian dynasty sovereign and created the political consensus which enabled him to proclaim himself king of the Franks. His own son will do even better: Charlemagne will become Emperor of Western Europe in the year 800.

The centralized Carolingian power rests on a network of governors who represent the emperor, still called counts. A county is by then a very large territory, the size of a current French region. The count is a civil servant, in the sense that he is appointed by the government, revocable at all times, regularly audited by emissaries (the missi dominici), and his position is not hereditary. The incumbents are nevertheless chosen by the king within the same extended family clan. The count has considerable power. To help him manage this vast territory, he has a deputy, the viscount.

The frontier zones of the empire are called « marches ». They are in contact with other peoples, sometimes turbulent, which necessitates granting extraordinary powers to the one who governs them, in particular to act autonomously without delay in order to wage war if necessary. This is why the governor of the marches is a marquis (marchio), that is to say, a count with extended powers. Progressively, there are groups of counties, far from the boundaries, whose leader bears the title of marchio, superior to that of count.

The bishops are the other holders of local and regional power. The few towns, which are little more than large villages, had survived the Roman Empire fall only because they were the seat of a bishopric, which gave them a certain renown and some economic activity. The bishop is a temporal lord (as a sovereign of the city and its territory, head of his army, he levies the tax and renders justice), and a spiritual master who even decides the cult organization and its content (which is unthinkable today). Since the Pope was merely the bishop of Rome, the bishops enjoyed a very wide autonomy – the Church was not by then an ultra-centralized monolithic organization.

Finally, the numerous monasteries belonging to various rapidly expanding religious orders gradually became landowners of considerable economic power. Finding themselves increasingly in competition with the bishops, “[the monks] embark on new paths in matters of lordship, control of space and ideological framework”. (1). Being the only ones mastering writing skills, brilliant administrators, the monks are the jurists of the princes.

Through marriages, the prince families possess immense territories scattered throughout the empire. They share the same cultural codes and form a homogeneous elite that truly has a political vision on the scale of Western Europe. The organization of power set up by Charlemagne and pursued by his son ensures inner peace, but the grandsons break up the empire into several kingdoms. In the course of the following century, the Carolingian centralizing model is gradually nibbling. The counties and marquisates gradually become hereditary. They remain in the hands of powerful families who make them quasi-autonomous territories over which they have almost all power, with the financial means to exercise it.

There are no fortresses in the countryside, nor villages as we see them today. The habitat consists of dispersed small groups of two to three homes. These units depend on vast estates of several thousand hectares from the ancient large Roman properties, the villa. The domains belong to the king, the great laity (the aristocracy) or the Church (monasteries or bishoprics). The legal status of peasants is either that of free men (but the poorest are very dependent on the domain master), or that of servile dependents attached to the land and their master. « The upper fringe of free men forms the nobility, which corresponds to no legal status, but constitutes the ruling fraction of society. (2) The qualifier « noble » applies to the person alone, therfore within the same clan the conditions of each can be very diverse.

In the mid-900s, the Carolingian dynasty was also depleted, discredited by its inability to contain the invasions of the Vikings to the north and west, Hungarians to the east and Saracen pirates to the south. The princes of the kingdom of Francia, the bishops and heads of lineage of the few families who hold power over the great regions, meet in 987 to elect among them a king to unify their action. It will be Hugh with a coat (« Capet ») (3). This king possesses only a relative, symbolic power, each prince remaining master at home.

In reality, from the ninth century until the twelfth century, power was gradually redistributed, disparately in time and geographical areas. The local aristocracy families have long participated in the exercise of power alongside the Counts, as military officers and members of the plaids, the assemblies. The count control over his territory relies entirely on the relations he maintains with his faithful, to whom he cedes part of his prerogatives.

To ensure security, but also physically mark the power center, fortresses emerge from earth everywhere, initially in the form of simple wooden towers surrounded by a palisade. The number of castles explodes between 1060 and 1110, which leads to an unprecedented densification of their network in the Western countryside. Some are far from places of power, on colonization fronts (forests, wasteland), or on rivers and roads to control or tax trade flows. Adulterine fortresses also appear, that is to say without prior authorization, on private lands or in zones of peasant colonization. It is a period of intense agricultural growth, which sees the foundation of many villages, generally around castles, abbeys and monasteries, as well as the construction of parochial churches.

The aristocracy families leave the county cities, which were the centers of regional (or sub-regional) power, in order to guard the strongholds entrusted to them by their master, then acquire relative autonomy by receiving delegations of justice, and the monopoly of so-called banal installations (the mill, the oven, etc.) which give rise to a tax for their use by the peasants. The model of the banal lordship spreads, and with it coercively reinforces the seigniorial levy on the peasants work. More generally, « possession of land is not only economic dominance, but implies a form of social discipline and legal and religious protection. « (4)

In order not to be swept away by neighbors, everyone seeks alliances, even a network of alliances. Feudalism was born. It organizes a hierarchy of reciprocal duties and mutual help which stabilizes the social edifice and regulates violence. The success of the fief model (which is a possession granted by a lord in exchange for a service) is due to the voluntary action of princes, bishops, and some great secular or monastic lords. Warlike ideology has long been shared by the aristocracy, but the feudo-vassalic relations pervasion, such as the structuring of the chatelains paternal lineages, constitute new forms of the exercise of power which are generalized and stabilized only after 1100.

There is no longer any mention of the role or title of marquis. The princes, who can bear the titles of duke or count, according to the regional history, form the high nobility, with, from the twelfth century onwards, the barons who hold their fief directly from the king. The old counts and viscounts having patrimonialised their domains and positions constitute the medium nobility. Finally, the knights who became local lords (domini, or sires) formed the small nobility, to which they aggregate by rituals (like the knighting) and the sharing of the so-called courteous values. Those of them who can not finance the knighting ceremony and the expensive military equipment, but who are recognized by their peers as being of noble status, bear the title of Esquire.

Un chevalier des XIIIe-XIVe siècle (vue d'artiste)

Un chevalier des XIIIe-XIVe siècle (vue d’artiste)

A thirteenth-fourteenth century knight (artist’s view)

From the eleventh to the fourteenth century, the cavalry constituted solely of nobles, was the spearhead of the French army, its absolute weapon, capable of breaking the infantry ranks and winning the victory. The nobility then merged with the aristocracy, for it exercised power.

But it pays a heavy price to the Franco-English conflict and the early 15th century civil war. Destruction, plundering, wartime inflation, desertion of fields and villages, wasteland, nobles ransoming, and impoverishment of fiscal resources provoke the clans dislocation and their collapse.

Moreover, if the cavalry had been the armies trump card for three hundred years, it operates in a system of feudal ost, that is to say of two months a year compulsory military service to its suzerain, which does not work during long wars. The cavalry will be supplanted by the more flexible and disciplined regular troops.

Thus, at the end of the Hundred Years War, in 1453, “in a bloodless and ruined country, the medieval nobility had drastically diminished in number, if it did not entirely disappear. It was at least singularly amputated, leaving the social edifice vacillating. » (5) It is estimated that 80 to 90 per cent of the medieval nobility fell into the Hundred Years War abyss (6).

At the same time, two phenomena had transformed nobility social content: firearms multiplication – which renders personal courage unnecessary, since the first comer can overcome the most trained knights; and the transformation of landowners into annuitants. (7)

Places are to be taken: « the total renewal of the French nobility in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, at first very rapid, gradually slowed down during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.” (8) This is why today’s families, which really date back beyond 1400, are only a handful (less than 300), and for others we must not be fooled by the eighteenth century mythologies one can find in books – vain attempts to distinguish in the royalty twilight race for honors. They should be given constructive historical criticism.

The French kingdom was unified in the sixteenth century, thus leading to the disappearance of independent duchies and counties. The barons lose their specificity as first vassals to become mere lords in a system that becomes more complex. The king gradually withdraws from the lords their right of regalian justice by entrusting them to the bailiffs (who are lords possessing a charge of justice, but appointed by the king). The titles become favors granted by the king, without historical or geographical reality. « In the Renaissance, the nobility is a group (and a status) that is both open, accessible and very attractive ». (9) But the monarchical control over the group is still very limited.

« In the sixteenth and into the middle of the seventeenth century, entry into the nobility was more the result of notoriety and general acceptance: to be recognized by his peers as noble, and to be accepted as such by popular fame as by the financial supervisory bodies.” Wealth becomes the predominant criterion. « It sounds like a tax leak, similar to our tax havens, … with the growth of a pervasive royal taxation.” (10) For the nobles are exempt from taxes, it is their privilege. From 1550 to 1650, half of the state’s extraordinary resources came from the sale of ennobled offices. On the other hand, a transfer of heavier fiscal burdens takes place towards the third order (bourgeois, artisans, peasants), and brings about a feeling of overflow characterized by an anti-nobiliary literature.

The religion wars provoked a challenge to the royal dynasty and monarchical absolutism, first from the Protestant nobles, then from the Catholic League. The great problem for the seventeenth century French nobility was the absolute monarchy rise, which took place in three stages: from 1594 to 1610 by Henry IV, from 1624 to 1642 by Louis XIII with Richelieu, then 1652 to 1715 by Mazarin and especially by Louis XIV. During the lifetime of Henri IV and Richelieu, plots happened, with assassination attempts, which culminated in 1610. While the reign of Louis XIII was riddled with noble rebellions and attempts to overthrow the Cardinal. Only Louis XIV was able to impose his power, not without concessions. (12)

This is why author Jean Meyer asks: « Can we claim that every nobility is in itself anarchy, perpetually unsatisfied and demanding? It is true that if we examine in the long run the political attitude of more than one family, we see that they have always been in more or less marked political opposition.” In my opinion, this teaching of history would do well to be assimilated and understood today by some of our contemporaries who confuse noble names and royalism. It is a great mistake to believe that nobility and royal power have formed a coherent or inseparable system. On the contrary, they constitute two parallel social realities, which have merely clashed.

Louis XIV was the king who truly buried nobility, “the purpose was to have an eye on those who could form a party, who recluded in a distant province, escaped direct surveillance. […] it was necessary to amuse the Great, to entertain them, in a word, to annihilate them in the « servitude » of gifts and amusements. Wild beasts are too dangerous.” This is how the lords of superb estates, who could live in their magnificent castles, found themselves living in tiny apartments, in a wing of Versailles castle, and got ruined for sumptuous clothes demanded by an etiquette designed to enslave them.

Le marquis de Marigny et sa jeune épouse, en 1769. Peinture de Louis-Michel van Loo.

Le marquis de Marigny et sa jeune épouse, en 1769. Peinture de Louis-Michel van Loo.

The Marquis de Marigny and his young wife, in 1769. Painting by Louis-Michel van Loo.

The title of marquis had resurfaced from limbo in the middle of the sixteenth century, with a number of baronies having been erected to the honorary rank of marquisate. Given this new prestige, Louis XIII and Louis XIV transformed the lands of their principal ministers into marquisats. The kings also adorn their mistresses with the title of Marquise! Then in the eighteenth century the use of a courtesy title of marquis develops, often carried with impunity.

In the eighteenth century, the nobility no longer had a military foundation based on individual courage, nor a role of social supervision or of legal and religious protection, and even less of economic domination. It no longer had a political role in the face of royal absolutism. Through the offices it occupies, that is to say, positions in the administration, it is no longer anything other than a fiscally privileged mechanism of a State which has asserted itself.

How then can we understand Louis-Francis des Ligneris’ will to obtain a title of marquis? Probably a strong social ambition; perhaps a willingness to adapt to the times and to be recognized in the midst of the artificial honors inflation; or even simply to continue to exist in an elite condemned to the worldliness of fashionable salons. But with hindsight, it will be a costly expense, which will materialize in 1776, just before the whole system collapses. A rearguard combat in reality, since Louis XIV had already annihilated the nobility by emptying it of its ideological and political content.

1. « 888-1180: Féodalités », by Florian Mareil, at Belin, 2010, p645.

2. « France before France 481-888 », by Geneviève Bührer-Thierry and Charles Mériaux, at Belin, p517.

3. Founder of the Capetian dynasty, Hugues belonged to the clan of the Robertians (born of Count Robert the Fort, who died in 866). Heir of a dozen counties and several abbeys, Hugues seems to be nicknamed because of his status of owner and leader of the Abbey of Saint-Martin-de-Tours, one of the largest and most famous of his time, where the pilgrims came to worship the famous cloak (capa) of Saint Martin, a precious relic preserved by the abbey and which made its richness. But this nickname was attested in the written sources only from the twelfth century.

4. « 888-1180: Féodalités », by Florian Mareil, at Belin, 2010, p647.

5. « The French nobility in the modern period (XVIe-XVIIIth centuries) », Jean MEYER, 1991, Collection Que sais-je?, Presses Universitaires de France, pp. 5-6.

6. Idem, p 18.

7. Economically, after the devastation of the Hundred Years War, inflation decreases fixed annuities. The old medieval nobility, but above all the new, adapt themselves: « the lords regroup the old tenures scattered and deserted by their occupants, in farms. These are made up of parcels that are grouped together so that they are easier to work with. They are no longer seigneurial tenures (giving rise to a rent) but have been attached to the lord proper domain. The latter keeps the meadows and the land nearest to the manor, but leases the majority of these lands in new farmhouses from six to nine years. The soil rentier has partially turned into an owner adapting himself to the course of things. Because the leases follow the rise in prices, in successive stages. In “The French nobility in the modern period (XVI-XVIIIth centuries)”, Jean MEYER, 1991, Collection Que sais-je?, Presses Universitaires de France, p 20.

8. It is a French specificity. The equivalent for the Netherlands, the German Empire and Eastern Europe will be the Thirty Years War in 1618-1648.

9. « 1453-1559: the Renaissances », by Philippe Hamon, at Belin, 2009, p155.

10. « The French nobility in the modern period (XVIe-XVIIIth centuries) », Jean MEYER, 1991, Collection Que sais-je?, Presses Universitaires de France, p.

11. This dispute was particularly acute in the years 1560-1570. See the Franco-Gallia treaty of Francis Villiers de Saint Paul in 1572; The pamphlet of the years 1570 « Of the voluntary servitude or Against One »; Or La Boetie advocating civil disobedience in 1561. A current of parliamentary pseudo-liberalism developed within the nobility, which refered to the Roman Senate and the contemporary Venetian model.

12. “The French nobility in the modern period (XVIe-XVIIIth centuries) « , Jean MEYER, 1991, Collection Que sais-je?, Presses Universitaires de France, p37.

13. Idem, p51. It is true that the comment applies fairly well to the family des Ligneris, especially through the long life of Theodore sprinkled with rebellions against the royal authority (see the corresponding articles of this blog).

14. Idem, p46.

Louis-Francis, or the associated elites

When Louis-Francis des Ligneris was born on September 1715, Louis XIV expired. The reign of the old king « ends in sadness, fatigue, disillusionment and misery » (1). France had been exhausted by fighting against the whole of Europe for twelve years, from 1701 to 1713 so that the grandson of Louis XIV, Philip V, could seize the crown of Spain. The royal princes likely to reign have disappeared one after the other, so that it is the great-grandson of Louis XIV who succeeds him, a five years old child. The exercise of absolute power left a bitter taste, everyone wants Louis XV to be different.

The regency was assured by Philip of Orleans, Louis XIV’s nephew. In 1722, to put an end to any attempt at rebellion, he had Louis XV crowned, his majority being set at thirteen years. When the Regent died in 1723, he left a mixed memory among the population, not to say sulphurous, but it is necessary to acknowledge that his diplomacy was oriented towards peace, as concretized by the alliance with England and Holland in 1717.

During the years 1720-1730, Louis-François des Ligneris grew up in a period of economic growth: currency remained stable, agricultural and craft production increased strongly, part of the population got richer and stimulated demand, the national market began to unite. The population grows for the first time in a long period, while peace is preserved within the borders of France.

On February 19, 1740, Louis-François was only 24 years old when he married Marie-Françoise, daughter of the King prosecutor in Chartres, Claude Davignon, who later became mayor of the city from 1748 to 1757.

Probably ambitious, Louis-Francois would like his name to regain the prestige it had a hundred years ago. He notes that support and money go hand in hand. Without well-placed connections or the support of personalities, there is no access to the responsibilities that make it possible to get rich. And without money, no relationships or support. Some rules never change, whatever the revolutions that pass …

The history of the Ligneris family is quite representative and even emblematic of what most ordinary noble families have to go through in their relationship to power.

Let us go back two centuries to understand this dynamic. In the middle of the sixteenth century, Theodore had bathed very early in a politicized world: orphan, it is first thanks to the relations of his late father that he was raised at the royal court of Navarre; then with the help of a family support(2) he was placed with Queen Catherine de Medici’s son, Prince Francis of Alencon. Having become a baron by marriage, close to Prince Francis for more than twenty years, he knew all the powerful men. Theodore, despite his likely difficult but determined character, sharpened his political sense. Indeed, every action of a prince being analyzed with a political scope, nothing could be done at random. It is doubtless how he rebounds after the death of its master, at a time when France was divided between rival factions and by the religion wars. In spite of some back and forth hesitations between the League party and the royal power, he survived the end of Henri III reign and Henri IV installation eddies. He even found a prestigious position with the Prince of Conde, which was not possible without strong alliances. At the same time, he acquired new fiefs and greatly increased the family estate around Chartres, and thus his wealth.

Louis, Theodore’s eldest son, enjoyed the same relations, and the position of baron. He was a senior military officer. He also became a chamberlain with the new Prince of Conde. But this perfectly maintained mechanism was stopped in the 1620s when it became clear that neither Louis nor even his younger brother would have a male heir. The heart of the family estate was sold, the rest scattered among the dowries, and the title of baron, attached to the land, was lost.

The youngest brother, Albert, a simple knight, was the only one to have a son. But he had married belatedly, possessed only secondary lands as a base of income, and had not been brought up to take over from his father. He therefore had neither prestigious relations nor wealth. The family social position suddenly deteriorated.

His son Louis was still a teenager when he lost his father, but no support allowed him to be placed with a prince or duke on a responsibility that would secure him stable incomes. It is probable that he became an army officer, one of the rare employment possibilities permitted to noble families (no commerce and even less craftsmanship without derogating from the state of nobility).

But fate is fierce, he died young without having been able to develop a career, and left behind him a wife with three young children. The economic conditions of the family were precarious, the supports nonexistent. Not being able to purchase an officer’s license, the mother placed her elder in the religious branch. Fortunately, Philippe was brilliant and soon became able to financially support the installation of his two young brothers Louis-François and Jean-Baptiste as military officers in an elite corps. As a result, the latter made a correct marriage that consolidated his social and financial position.

Thus we find Louis-Francois, Jean-Baptiste’son, who grew up in a military officers environment without fortune, but with an uncle well positioned with the bishop.

It is possible that he began a military officer career, but only one source mentions him as « lieutenant of the King’s regiment » (3). In any case, the fact that he was only a lieutenant indicates that he quickly left the army anyway.

Early on, he set out to reconnect with the personalities who matter. He was probably the author of the 1739 (4) greeting card addressed to the Duke of Sully, grandson of the man who had bought the barony of Courville from Louis des Ligneris in 1629.

Sceau de la lettre de 1739 adressée au duc de Sully

Sceau de la lettre de 1739 adressée au duc de Sully

At the age of 24, he married much sooner than his father, grandfather or great-grandfather. Louis-Francois enters into a family-in-law who is one of the most notable of Chartres: nobility from the judicial branch, influential and fortunate.

After Jean-Robert Bouvart, who was mayor of Chartres from 1735 to 1741, Michel Davignon succeeded him from 1741 to 1748. Jean-Robert’s daughter, Marie-Thérèse Bouvart, had married Michel’s son, Claude Davignon. Then the latter succeeded his father as mayor in 1748, until 1757. As can be seen, these Chartres notables formed a hermetically locked clan; a typical case of local elites endogamy. Louis Francis came from a different world, that of military officers; I imagine him rather intelligent, good speaker and charmer, in order to succeed in entering this clan. Honoring and perpetuating this brotherhood, he also will become mayor, as we shall see later.

A first child was born on March 26, 1742, a daughter named Marie-Thérèse-Françoise (or Françoise-Thérèse according to different sources). We find here the mixed names of her grandmothers.

A second child was born on December 24, 1743. The boy was named Jean-Baptiste-Claude, as his two grandfathers, who are still alive and had to appreciate such an homage. This happy event perhaps consoled Jean-Baptiste the elder, who had just lost his brother Louis-François on previous June, who was 73 years old at the time, his long-time comrade-in-arms.

Schéma Jean Baptiste Louis Francois Jean Baptiste-page001

Louis-Francois’s sister, Catherine-Therese, became the highest official in the Chartres Carmelites convent in 1759.

At that moment, after almost thirty years of peace, foreign conflicts resumed in 1744, for France was engaged in the Austrian Succession war. Louis XV, who personally participated in the operations, distinguished himself and gained a great popularity. But from 1747, the mediocre crops caused trouble, while the p Aachen eace treaty translated into a disappointing status quo. The costly court parties, and above all the exorbitant favors of the king towards his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, transformed the king « Bien-Aimé » (Beloved) into « Mal-Aimé » (Ill-loved). From the 1750s, the French monarchy was attacked on all sides. Criticism fused and undermined the king’s authority, and parliaments practiced a systematic obstruction on the registration of laws. Enlightened authors set reason as a goal in order to remove prejudice and positively transform the world, which led to a challenge against political, religious and social authorities.

It is in this context that Louis-Francois married his daughter Marie-Thérèse-Françoise des Ligneris on March 5, 1759, (she was barely 17 years old) with René-César de Courtavel, infantry lieutenant, aged 30 years. (5) They will have several children.

In the early 1760s, Jean-Baptiste-Claude des Ligneris became a King’s Musketeer, Second Company.

His father Louis-Francis des Ligneris became mayor of Chartres, first in 1766, until 1769. During a visit in Chartres recently, with the Tourist Office, the guide mentioned that he was rather appreciated, and that at the end of his first term Louis-Francois was accompanied by a marching band and a procession to his private mansion.

Around age 55, in 1770, he began to negotiate for the purchase of land that would form a single domain, in the villages of Voves and Méréglise (near Chartres). What was he trying to do?

(1) History of France, Larousse-Bordas, 1998, page 271.

(2) René Babou of La Bourdaisière, father-in-law of his close cousin René des Ligneris.

(3) This source is the article Historical notice on the House of Ligneris, published in the Yearbook of the Nobility of France of 1906, page 239.

(4) This letter is presented in the « Documents » page. At that time, only four men could sign « Desligneris »: the three brothers Philippe, Louis-Francis and Jean-Baptiste, and their nephew / son Louis-Francis. The first three were between 65 and 72, the last 23 years. Given the writing and the statement, it does not seem that it was an elderly person who wrote it. The only plausible author is therefore Louis-Francois the younger.

(5) The marriage contract was passed before Mr Marie, a notary in Chartres. René-Caesar is the younger son of Caesar de Courtavel, known as the Marquis de Saint-Remy, a knight, Lord of Lierville, Verde, and Boursay-en-Dunois. He had died a year and a half before the marriage, on September 18, 1757. René-César had lost his mother early: Marie-Jeanne de Prunelé-Saint Germain had disappeared on May 28, 1733, when René-César was only five years old . It will be noted that we again cross the family Prunelé, which we had already met at the very beginning of the XVIth century.


Jean-Baptiste, Louis XIV’s European wars military officer 

Jean-Baptiste, Louis’s youngest son, grew up without knowing his father, who died a few months before his birth. The material and moral situation of his mother Louise had to be difficult. The young widow (who is not thirty years old) has to take care of her three sons, whose eldest is only seven, and make sure to generate income with the three small estates of her missing husband. The children grew up in the castle of Beauvais (in the current commune of Champrond-en-Gâtine, west of Chartres, at the entrance of the Perche area) during the years 1670-1680.

Jean-Baptiste sees his brother Philippe entering a religious career, then the cadet Louis-François engaging in the army. He followed him a few years later, probably about age fifteen, around 1690, and also became an officer of the king’s bodyguards.


At that time, severe climatic disturbances (a very cold year in 1692, very humid in 1693) caused famine and scarcity – especially in the plains of the Paris basin specialized in the monoculture of wheat, which is the case of the Beauce area. This terrible crisis of subsistence of 1693-1694 makes two million victims in France (at equivalent proportion, that would represent 6 million dead people within a few months in today’s France).

Yet, after Louis XIV’s decision in 1661 to govern alone, had followed an unprecedented twelve years period of institutional, economic and social organizational in-depth reforms. The Colbert ministry two decades, from 1661 to 1683, thus created a favorable conjuncture throughout the country. But the period that followed saw the accumulation of difficulties of all kinds.

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 was accompanied by violence and humiliation against the Protestants, who were more than 200,000 to exile. Their departure increased economic difficulties and tarnished the image of the self-proclaimed « Sun King » abroad. This event came after the Reunions policy (the annexation by Louis XIV of territories on the kingdom borders from 1679 to 1684), the French aggression against the Spanish Netherlands in 1683-84, and the interference in the Palatine Elector succession in 1685, so that the worried Protestant European powers hardened their opposition to Louis XIV and engaged in 1688 in the League of Augsburg war.

Thus during the 1690s the young officers Louis-François and Jean-Baptiste des Ligneris probably actively participated in the conflict with their elite military unit. The main fighting took place near the French borders in the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, Catalonia, and Piedmont-Savoie. The conflict ended in 1697, when the exhausted belligerents agreed on the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick.

Carte de l'Europe au traité de Ryswick, 1697

Carte de l’Europe au traité de Ryswick, 1697

But barely three years have passed when King of Spain Charles II dies without descendants. The War of the Spanish Succession then began, in 1701, and lasted until 1714.

As an interlude in the midst of these conflicts, Jean-Baptiste des Ligneris married Marie-Anne Beurier, daughter of Michel lord of Hauville, officer of the House of the Duke of Vendome, and of Barbe Cottereau, dame de Chevillon (1). Jean-Baptiste is already thirty-three years old. For reasons we do not know, his brother Louis-Francois did not get married until very late, in 1720.

Their mother Louise died in 1708 at the Beauvais castle, where she was buried.

The terrible 1708-1709 winter was marked by cold, hunger and fear throughout much of France, for the wolves came out of the woods. « In many towns and villages, it is said that bands of wolves ravage the countryside and even prowl to the doors of the houses » (2).

The two brothers who meet almost everyday within the King’s bodyguards units, probably have two different career orientations: Jean-Baptiste after many military campaigns will no doubt try to stay more often with his family; While Louis-Francois, covered with glory since the battle of Malplaquet of 1709, follows a strict military career.

Indeed, Marie-Anne and Jean-Baptiste go through a difficult period, during which several of their children die in the cradle. There will be 6 babies to be buried in Saint Lazare-les-Chartres. They will also have two young dead sons, buried in the church of Saint André de Chartres.

This situation is not extraordinary. « Nursing, a common practice in the city, aggravates the urban demographic deficit. Carried most often in conditions of hygiene and comfort quite deplorable, poorly cared for, malnourished, these newborns die in great number. » Famous author Montaigne, who no longer knew exactly how many of his children had died, recalled this: « And I have lost some children, two or three, if not without regret, at least with annoyance « .

Indeed, the 17th century, which historians usually end in 1715 with the death of Louis XIV, was marked by a stagnation of the population, throughout Europe. « In France, the threshold of 20 to 22 million inhabitants had been reached in the middle of the sixteenth century and had not been exceeded. » The explanation lies in the absence of an agricultural revolution or a technological change: the average yield of wheat remains stable and weak … Thus, the fragile agrarian economy, everywhere dominant, is subjected to the slightest climatic disruption; A rainy spring or too severe a winter … are enough to provoke a sudden surge in prices that inexorably condemn the poorest to scarcity. And hunger, which weakens bodies, is often combined with epidemics that kill hundreds of thousands of lives.  » (4)

Thus, only four of the twelve children of Jean-Baptiste and Marie-Anne survive: Marie-Barbe (born August 15, 1710), Marie-Anne-Thérèse (born May 7, 1712), Louis-François (born September 4, 1715), and Catherine-Therese (born January 16, 1718).

Jean-Baptiste gave his son the name of his brother. One can not help but seeing in this choice the mark of a strong affective bond between the two brothers, who are as much brothers of blood as brothers in arms.

Jean-Baptiste will marry only one of his daughters, the eldest, perhaps because he could not economically do otherwise? Marie-Barbe married in Chartres on July 30, 1737 with Pierre-René de Thieslin, lord of Lorriere and Boisginaut (or Bois-Hinoust) in Maine (5). They will have a daughter, Marie-Anne, who will marry on January 11, 1754, with François-Victor de Feugerets, count of Feugerets (near Bellême in Perche).

Marie-Anne-Thérèse was placed in Saint-Cyr (a religious establishment), while Catherine-Thèrèse became a nun at the Carmelites of Chartres, where she became the Prioress in 1759.

Jean-Baptiste had to be concerned with the management of his lands. In 1728, he was on trial about lands located in Bouglainval (6). Moreover, some of his fiefs, like that of the « Four », depended on the Chapter of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres (of which his brother Philippe is one of the administrators); He must carry out « acts of faith and enumeration » (7), ie confirm his vassalage commitments – and probably above all taxation – for these lands.

The son of Jean-Baptiste, Louis-Francois, married on February 19, 1740 with Marie-Françoise Davignon, daughter of Claude, Prosecutor and mayor of Chartres.

Jean-Baptiste lost his brother Louis-François in 1743, and Philippe in 1751. He himself died on June 16, 1754, the very day of his 80th birthday.

His son Louis-François is now the only male representative of the family …


(1) Marriage contract passed before Gabriel Chantier, notary in Chartres. The fief of Hauville is located in the current commune of Bailleau-le-Pin (Eure-et-Loir).

(2) Source: « Histoire de France », Larousse, 1998, page 241.

(3) Source: idem, page 243.

(4) Source: idem, page 238-239. This is really an interesting book.

(5) Contract of marriage passed before Evrard, notary in Chartres.

(6) Departmental Archives of Chartres, Document B 995.

(7) Departmental Archives of Chartres, document G 915.

After Louis, the canon and the brigadier

Louis des Ligneris was only 16 years old when his father died in 1652, but his older brother François watched after him. Alas, he also died, aged only 24, in 1656. Nobody’s left but Louis, his sister Angelique, and their mother Genevieve.

Louis inherited the lands of Beauvais-en-Gâtine, Saint-Jean-de-la-Foret and Fontaine-la-Guyon. It seems that he became a military officer in the king’s bodyguards troops, but it is not certain (1).

It was only at the age of 31 that Louis got married: on February 22nd 1667, he married Louise de Gravelle (2). She was the daughter of the lord of Arpentigny, Jean de Gravelle, and of Madeleine de Coutances de la Fressonniere. It is a long-time allied family, for the land of Arpentigny was formerly possessed by Louis’ grandfather, Theodore, before being sold. The links between families are thus perpetuated from one generation to the next.

On November 18th the same year, a first son was born. This was Philippe, who was followed two and a half years later by Louis-François (Louis-Francis) on March 15th, 1670, and then by Jean-Baptiste (John the Baptist) on June 16th, 1674.

The latter was a posthumous son: his father died a few months earlier, on January 6th at Tarouvilliers near Chartres. He was only 38 years old, and his wife was three months pregnant. Once again transmission is impossible between two successive generations. In spite of three sons, only one will engender a posterity, in this case Jean-Baptiste who will not have known his father at all. Once again, the family line almost disappeared.

Louise, who was between 18 and 22 years old at her marriage, is not even thirty when she finds herself a widow with three young children. The situation is certainly difficult: how to manage three small domains far from each other and obtain regular and sufficient income? Possibly living in Beauvais-en-Gâtine (where she will be buried), she can count on her sister-in-law Angelique whose mansion is less than two kilometers away. Her parents live quite far away, more than forty kilometers from her home. Having succeeded in raising her children, she will live until age 60, in 1708.

Let us return to Louis and notice that he bore his uncle’s first name, which seems to reflect an affective connection from his father Albert to his own elder brother. In the same way, a generation later, Louis-François carries the mixed names of his father and his uncle. The first names of Philippe and Jean-Baptiste are on the other hand real innovations in the family.

Unusual for an eldest son, Philippe follows a religious career. Perhaps a true vocation, or is it the symptom of a lack of financial means to start a military career? He becomes canon of the cathedral of Chartres, and later archdeacon of Blois. He will have a long life – 83 years, thus crossing the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, until July 1751.

In the cathedral churches there is always a Chapter of canons, which plays an important role in the government of the diocese. Considered as the senate and council of the bishop, its opinion or consent is necessary for most acts of administration. The chapters are endowed with legal personality in canon law. As such, they may own temporal, movable and immovable property.

The secular canons are clerics, but remain owners of their possessions. The revenues of the canons are called the prebends, that is to say annuities derived from a part of the property belonging to the chapter as a juridical person, which are attributed to them. There are only two common law dignities: the archdeacon and the archpriest (3). Philippe rose to the first of these dignities, often regarded as the footstool for being appointed bishop.

Established since the 9th century, the Chapter of Chartres that Philippe des Ligneris integrated stands as very powerful. It had accumulated numerous properties and lordships over the centuries, and possessed « considerable authority (…) in the city and country of Chartres, at the cost of incessant quarrels with the lords, and often also, at the risk of social peace ». (4) Indeed, it should be remembered that Philippe’s own great-grandfather, Theodore des Ligneris, had made numerous lawsuits against the Chapter.

The second son, Louis-François, inherited the lands of Saint-Jean-de-la-Forêt. Probably early enough, aged fifteen or twenty, that is to say in the 1680s, he started a military career, which led him to serve in the King’s bodyguards, an elite troop belonging to the Military House of the King of France.

Established gradually since at least the sixteenth century (the Scottish Troops, the Hundred Swiss, …), the Military House had just been just organized by Louis XIV in 1671. Led by both the Secretary of State, Head of the House of the King, and the War Secretary of State, it fulfills several functions: it protects the person of the King and the security of the Court. But also as a permanent army, it is an elite troop which serves during the wars.

The troops composing the Military House are distributed according to the dominant color of their uniforms, between the Blue House: they are the bodyguards; and the Red House, composed of infantry (« gendarmerie »), light cavalry, musketeers and grenadiers.

Louis-Francois des Ligneris fought at the battles of Osterht, Neerwinden (1693), and Malplaquet (1703) « where he distinguished himself by his great bravery and good behaviour, especially at Malplaquet, where the greater part of the Company was destroyed, which did not prevent him from putting himself at the head of his comrades, where he held firm for a long time against the enemy, and then made a retreat which did him honor, and deserved the cross of St. Louis as brigadier. » (5) (6) (7) Though the French army retreated, it inflicted on its enemies losses four times greater than its own, and the invasion of France was prevented.

An infantry brigadier, in battle, was on horseback in order to be able to move faster to the various battalions of the brigade, whose movements he was to order. There were brigadiers not only in the light cavalry and in the infantry, but also in the dragoons and the gendarmerie. In order to attain the title of brigadier, it was necessary to be a captain of the bodyguards, an officer of the gendarmes, light-cavalry, or musketeers. (8) This rank precedes those of maréchal-de-camp and lieutenant-général, that correspond roughly to the nowadays ranks of colonel and brigade general.

It was only at age 49 that Louis-Francois got married, on October 15th, 1720, with Marie Garnier de Sainville. At 72 years old, he died in Chartres, on June 29th, 1743, without posterity.

What happened to Jean-Baptiste, the last of the three brothers?

Reconstitution de la bataille de Malplaquet, tricentenaire de 2009

Reconstitution de la bataille de Malplaquet, tricentenaire de 2009

Bataille de Malplaquet, 1709

Bataille de Malplaquet, 1709


(1) A single source mentions for Louis this rank of officer in the King’s bodyguards troops : the « Historical record on the House of Ligneris, Marquis of Ligneris, Baron of Courville, & c. » published in the Yearbook of the Nobility of France in 1906. Other classical works, such as the Dictionnaire de la Noblesse by La Chenaye-Desbois, published at the end of the 18th century, do not mention this quality for Louis, whereas it mentions it e for two of his sons, his grandson and his great-grandson. Moreover, the title of Brigadier, who at first was only a commission and not an office or a rank, was officially instituted in the cavalry only in 1667 and in the infantry in 1668. That is to say, after the wedding of Louis, who was already 31 years old and supposedly had his career largely behind him.

(2) marriage contract passed before M. Bourgeois, notary at Ferté-Arnaud.

(3) It was up to the dignitaries:

  • To substitute the bishop in cas he was prevented from celebrating sacred ceremonies at the most solemn festivals of the year;
  • When the bishop celebrated pontifically, to offer him holy water at the entrance of the church and to hold the office of assistant priest;
  • To administer the sacraments to the sick bishop and, after his death, to celebrate his funeral;
  • To convene the chapter, to preside over it, and to order what concerns the direction of the choir, provided that the dignitary belongs to the chapter.

(4) Article « The Advocates of the Cathedral Chapter in the Middle Ages », by Louis Amiet, in the Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France, pp297-329, published in 1924.

(5) Cited in the Letters of creation of the marquisate des Ligneris, November 1776. The originals are in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, but a handwritten copy of it stands in the « Register of causes and hearings of the Marquisat Desligneris, Year 1778 « in the Archives Départementales d’Eure and Loir, document B3135.

(6) The battle of Malplaquet took place on 11th September 1709 during the Spanish Succession War, at the south of the city of Mons in what was then the Spanish Netherlands. The forces commanded by General John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy, essentially Austrian and Dutch, confronted the French commanded by Marshal de Villars. (Source Wikipedia, for more details see the page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Malplaquet).

(7) The Battle of Neerwinden or Landen took place in the context of the Augsburg League War on 29th July 1693 between the French Army under the command of the Marshal of Luxembourg and the Allied Forces under the command of Guillaume d’Orange. 75,000 men (some 190 squadrons of cavalry, 90 battalions of infantry and 2 regiments of artillery) make up the French army. 50,000 men (142 cavalry squadrons and 64 infantry battalions where there were at least two Spanish battalions) for the allies. Guillaume is installed on a good defensive position and decides to wait for the French attack that first affects the center. The Military House of the King is decisive: it is the French Guards who open a breach in the Anglo-Dutch system, and it is the cavalry of the House of the King which is sent urgently to resist the counter-attack of The cavalry of the Anglo-Dutch wings. The resistance of this elite cavalry allows the rest of the slower French riders to arrive and exploit this breach, and to overfly the wings, putting their opponents in rout but they do not pursue them because their losses are heavy with 9,000 deaths. The allies lost 18,000 men. It was during this battle that Guillaume III, furious that the French did not retreat before the fire of the Allied forces, exclaimed: « Oh! The insolent nation! « . (Source Wikipedia, for more details see the page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_of_Neerwinden_(1693)).

(8) according to the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the nobility of France, by Nicolas Viton of Saint-Allais, Paris, 1816

Mysterious Albert

After their son François who was born in 1632 or 1633, Albert and Geneviève des Ligneris had a daughter, Angélique, two other daughters whose first names we do not know, and a second son Louis born on 6th January 1636.

Whereas the 1620s saw the religion wars ending, completed by the victorious siege of La Rochelle in 1628, the thirties were marked by numerous and violent aristocratic revolts.

They were also the years of central power strengthening, the political authority embodied by the king being hardened. The absolutism process was led by Richelieu. The same phenomenon occured, with a striking parallelism, in England and Spain. (1)

But there was a strong resistance. Thus Gaston of Orleans, king brother and potential heir as long as Louis XIII had no descendants (until 1638), tried to provoke a revolt in his province in 1630. After having failed, he found refuge in Lorraine, whose duke supported the Habsburgs, France traditional enemies. He published a manifesto against Richelieu, then participated in the revolt of the Duke of Montmorency in Languedoc. The latter was finally defeated by the royal troops, and decapitated in 1632, which for a time assuaged the aristocracy pretensions. As for Gaston of Orleans, as presumptive heir, he could not be worried …

Then in 1635, after five years of indirect struggle at the kingdom edges against the Habsburgs, war was declared. This has made it possible to impose a high tax burden, and extended powers to the provinces king representatives, which reinforced the state omnipresence in local affairs.

Louis XIV was born in 1638. His father died in 1643 just after Richelieu. Queen Anne became regent, with Mazarin as prime minister. Disorders increased, either from aristocracy or peasants confronted with crop failures and heavy taxes. They were to provoke the Fronde uprising : from 1648 to 1652, small Louis XIV wandered in the provinces with his mother and Mazarin, surrounded by royal troops, while the gates of Paris were closed to him.

Here we find Prince Henri II of Bourbon-Condé sequels, whose epic life we had already followed, and whom Louis des Ligneris was chamberlain. Indeed, his children were the leaders of the Fronde uprising : the Duchess of Longueville (who was born in prison as we remember), the Prince of Conti and the Prince of Condé.

The civil war devastated the South-West, the Île-de-France (Paris area), Champagne and Picardy. Some villages lost a quarter of their population due to military violence and epidemics. At the siege of Paris, La Grande Mademoiselle, Gaston of Orleans’ daughter, meaning Louis XIV close cousin, ordered to cannon fire on the royal troops. Louis XIV will never forget the lessons of the Fronde revolt ; he will distrust the powerful aristocrats as well as the people of Paris.

At the heart of this dramatic situation, which did not spare Chartres surroundings, it was probably around 1650 or 1651 that Angelique des Ligneris married René d’Ecauville, Lord of Lignerolle.

Her two sisters became nuns in Courville. This may be seen as a means of limiting the dispersion of family property, which was reduced to the congruous portion since Albert des Ligneris only inherited two small pieces of land.

It was a classic method which had been used for centuries by noble families. Precisely since the thirteenth century, when the number of knights had exploded: many of them had returned after a few generations towards nothing by lack of sufficient income, or had been condemned to sell military services. Indeed, in the thirteenth century, « as all sons inherit according to the old Frankish estate law, paternal patrimony risks breaking up into several units at each generation, to the point of becoming totally inadequate for the ultimate beneficiaries when precautionary measures were not taken in time. The most radical is to prohibit marriage to the cadets; The most common one prescribes that the elder of a sibling group will receive the best share, leaving only a congruous portion to his brothers, even if he has to nourish them for the rest of his life, as he is bound to his uncles who have remained unmarried. Daughters are generally endowed with the goods brought by their mother on the occasion of their own marriage, or sent to Church in order to serve God under the veil. « (2) These “precautionary measures” remain valid in the seventeenth century.

We do not know the activity of Albert des Ligneris. He had to have one, for it is unlikely that his lands brought him enough income, especially in these difficult times of poor harvests. He married late (at approximately 35), does that mean he first pursued a military career? Did he engage as a noble rebel? Did he remain quietly in his domains after his marriage? His life remains a mystery to us. We can only guess that he was surrounded by the family clan, made up of his brothers, sisters and nieces, all residents of domains close to his own.

Albert died on January 12th, 1652, at the age of 56. His remains were taken to the church of Fontaine-la-Guyon the very next day.

His son Francois survived him only a few years – he died at age 24, around 1656, without being married. Again, there is only one male representative of the Ligneris family: Louis, who was only 20 years old in 1656. What will become of him?

signature d'Albert des Ligneris (Archives départementales d'Eure-et-Loir)

signature d’Albert des Ligneris (Archives départementales d’Eure-et-Loir)


(1) This and the following three paragraphs are documented in « Histoire de France », 1998, Larousse-Bordas, pp 228-235.

(2) In «1180 – 1328 The Capetian golden age», by Jean-Christophe Cassard, 2011, éditions Belin, p394.


Louis and the loss of Courville

Here is Theodore’s « clan » on early 1620. His eldest son Louis des Ligneris becomes chamberlain of Henry II de Condé in 1623.

Henri II de Bourbon-Condé, par François Clouet en 1618

Henri II de Bourbon-Condé, par François Clouet en 1618

It is now necessary to introduce this prince, as his destiny was eventful from birth: he was indeed born in prison, posthumous son of Henry I de Condé, for his mother was accused of poisoning her husband, who died suddenly and without apparent cause in 1588. Due to his mother’s favours towards a page, the parentage of Henry II was not recognized as legitimate. His status remained uncertain for some years, while he was in theory « premier prince du sang » (« prince of first blood »), meaning heir to the throne after his close cousin Henry IV if the latter died without a male child. In 1596, under the pressure of several high nobles, and under the condition of converting to Catholicism, his mother was released by Henry IV, her son legitimized, so that young Henry II incorporated the Court with the status of presumptive heir.

After the birth of Henry IV’s son in 1601 (Louis XIII), Henri II grew up amid general indifference. Deemed as homosexual, he is summoned by the king in 1609 to marry Charlotte de Montmorency, whom the king fell in love with, to become a complaisant husband. But his wife does not yield to the king’s wishes, and these eventually make the prince so jealous that he abducts his own wife in early 1610 and flees to Brussels, in the Spanish Netherlands!

Henry IV is furious. Fearing a French invasion, the government of the « Iberian »province only allows his wife to stay. Henri II must journey further, to Cologne (Köln). The situation, that is compared to that of Helen of Troy, escalates between France and Spain, to the point that Henry IV is planning a war. But the king’s death in May stops the confrontation.

The Prince of Condé then returned to France, where the Regent Queen offered him a privileged position. But jealous against the Queen’s favorite Concini, Henri II became in 1613 the main political opponent of the Queen mother. After a treaty in 1616, the prince became Head of the Regency Council. Nevertheless, counselor Richelieu distrusted him, and had him arrested during a Council meeting that same year. Imprisoned in the Bastille Castle, then in Vincennes, he was joined by his wife. There she gave birth to two stillborn children and to a daughter in 1619, the future Duchess of Longueville who will play an important role in the Fronde uprising of 1648. A curious coincidence for that prince who was himself born in prison …

Released in late 1619 by young Louis XIII who had come into power in 1617, Prince Henry II becomes a faithful servant of the king.

It is in this context that Louis des Ligneris becomes his chamberlain in 1623. A good position with one of the most prominent princes. But far from being anecdotal, this situation will cause for Louis the loss of his Courville baronny.

The news broke in 1629 after several years of lobbying and negotiations : Louis sold his Courville property to Maximilien de Bethune, better known by his title of Duke of Sully. 

Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully

Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully

Sully, a military officer and former companion of Henry IV, became one of the king’s closest advisers. He held several ministery positions, including minister of finance, during which he has greatly enhanced the kingdom’s situation. After Henry IV’s assassination in 1610 (who actually was on his way to visit Sully, sick in his Parisian home, when he was stabbed by Ravaillac), Sully became a member of the Regency Council. But since he totally disagreed with the Queen Mother Marie de Medici, he resigned from almost all its positions.

Sully had already bought the castle of Villebon in 1607, located near Courville, but he actually resided there only after 1621. That’s when he sought to become a powerful landlord through successive land purchases in the Perche area. Prince Henry II de Bourbon-Condé sold him the nearby town of Nogent-le-Rotrou in 1624 (1). And this prince was Louis des Ligneris‘ boss. Therefore it is very reasonable to think that Louis had no choice. His Courville barony became a collateral victim of the agreement between the Prince of Condé and the Duke of Sully. Probably under very high pressure, the Baron weighed nothing against these two powerful national figures.

Exploring a little further this interlacing case, it is interesting to note that Prince Henry II held Nogent-le-Rotrou as a legacy of his father Henri I, Prince of Condé, who by then shared it with his half-brother Charles, Count (Earl) of Soissons, whose chamberlain was none other than Théodore des Ligneris until 1607 … When Charles died in 1612, Henry II gained full suzerainty over Nogent.

It seems that Louis has nevertheless retained the title of Baron during his lifetime through some form of co-lordship with Maximilien de Bethune. Indeed, the Chapter (that is to say, the assembly of monks of the Chartres Cathedral) swore fealty (2) to « the Barons of Courville: Louis des Ligneris, François and Maximilian de Bethune and Catherine de la Porte, widow of M. de Bethune.  »

Similarly, Jacques de Renty with other lords and ladies within the fief of La Henrière (parish of Chuisnes) swore fealty (3) to « Louise de Vieuxpont, widow of Perceval (Parseval) de Billy, to Louis des Ligneris and François de Bethune, lords and ladies of Courville.  »

As a matter of fact, it is with Louis des Ligneris that the barony of Courville leaves the family fold. He loses this land, which had been transmitted from one generation to the next, and by successive alliances without ever being sold for six centuries at least.

It is also by this time that Louis and his wife got separated. His brother Geoffrey, knight of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, died in Malta.

The remaining youngest son, Albert, marries on May 31, 1631 with Genevieve du Laurent (Lorent) (4). It’s a late marriage since he is about 35 years old. His in-laws are Geneviève Langlois and Jacques du Laurent, Lord of Douceré, Viscount of Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais. Albert owns the small castellanies of Saint-Jean-de-la-Forêt and Beauvais-en-Gâtine.

His father Theodore des Ligneris dies at age 81 on June 4, 1634 at his castle of Fontaine-la-Guyon. He had time to see Albert’s first male child, named François (Francis). His only grand-son during his lifetime, – but not even the one who will continue the tradition …

After Theodore’s generation, the family possessions are scattered. All the efforts that have been made since 1460 to acquire land, by marriage or purchase, are nullified. Each generation had managed to increase the family estate, despite a first rupture, marked by the end of the elder branch formed by Michel and his son René, who died without heir. Michel had taken with him most of his ancestors’ land, nothing being wagered on other sons. But the younger Jacques having proved a brilliant man of law, famous administrator and renowned diplomat, made it possible to gain land again. His son Theodore experienced another discontinuity since he did not know his father, but he inherited his lands, to which he added those obtained by marriage and, thanks to its position in the princes´ shadow by many acquisitions.

 Yet with eleven children, he had to separate the property for his five daughters’weddings, and provide his sons with means of social and material existance. He preserved for the elder son the main land, Courville and the title of baron associated with it, but without any male grandson and a forced sale of this jewel, the family land disappeared . His other son Jacques did not have any son, leaving his property in the dowries of his daughters. Albert being one of the youngest son received only secondary lands. He nevertheless acquired, perhaps through his brother’s legacy, the castle of Fontaine-la-Guyon much favored by his father.

After their son Francis, Albert and Genevieve had a daughter they nammed Angelica, two other daughters whom we ignore the names, and a son nammed Louis born on January 6, 1636.

Angelica married René d’Ecauville, Lord of Lignerolle, while her two sisters became nuns in Courville.

We do not know anything about Albert’s activities during his lifetime. He died on January 12th, 1652, at the age of 56 years ; he was burried the next day in the church of Fontaine-la-Guyon.

His son François follows just a few years later (1655) – he dies at the age of 24, without being married. Again, there is only one male representative of the Ligneris family : Louis, who was only 19 years old in 1655. What will he become?


(1) For more details about Henri II’s life, go to https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_II_de_Bourbon-Cond%C3%A9

(2) Archives Départementales de Chartres, document G1631.

(3) Archives Départementales de Chartres, document E1429.

(4) The marriage official document was written by Germain Nasse, legal officer in Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais.

Many sons, few heirs

Theodore and Françoise des Ligneris had eleven children whose birth dates are not known, but probably range from 1578 (one year after their marriage) to the late 90s.

In the 70s, Theodore’s only family was his sister Jeanne. Married to Claude du Puy, lord of Coudray and Baron of Bellefaye, she took with her as dowry the lands of Crosnes and Etioles that came from their mother. Jeanne early became a widow, in 1576. Like her older brother she probably never met, whose name was also Claude, Jeanne’s husband died in Rome – and like her brother, was buried in the church of St. Louis des Français in Rome. Deadly coincidences.

Her namesake daughter Jeanne (for centuries most of the girls in the family were prenamed Anne or Jeanne) will be Theodore’s children only close cousin. She married to Mr. de Saint-Gelais Lusignan; then, after becoming a widow, to Prejean de la Fin, Viscount of Chartres.

Theodore and Françoise’s first son was named Jean-Baptiste, soon followed by Louis, Jacques (Jack), Jeanne (Jane) and Marie (Mary) in the 1580s. Then, Albert, Geoffroy (Geoffrey), Angélique (Angelica) Jacqueline, Lucrèce (Lucretius) and Charles in the 1590s. The birth order is not certain.

In the early 1600s, Theodore and Françoise lost both their eldest son Jean-Baptiste who died at the age of 20, and their latest Charles, a two years old baby.

Their daughters Marie and Jeanne got married (1) in 1601 and 1602 with landlords from local families – they must have been young, probably between sixteen and eighteen years old.

Geoffrey was sent to Malta, despite his young age, to become a warrior-monk. He was received as page of Grand Master of Malta Alof de Wignacourt on July 11th, 1603 ; and will become a few years later Knight of the Order of Malta ( « Order of St. John of Jerusalem »).

Portait d'Alof de Wignacourt Grand Maître de l'Ordre de Malte avec l'un de ses pages, en 1607, peint par Le Caravage

Portait d’Alof de Wignacourt Grand Maître de l’Ordre de Malte avec l’un de ses pages, en 1607, peint par Le Caravage

A native of Flanders, Wignacourt was elected Grand Master in 1601 and remained so until his death in 1622. He welcomed Caravaggio in Malta in 1607 until his arrest and expulsion of the Order in 1608 (2), which gives us an outstanding portrait of the Grand Master painted by Caravaggio, where he appears with one of his pages. The latter could even be Geoffroy in all likelihood because the dates match (3) – but we have no proof; it nevertheless allows us to get a good idea of the appearance and life of Geoffrey des Ligneris.

Geoffroy witnessed in 1614 the Ottomans last attempt to conquer Malta. Six thousand Turkish troops landed in the Bay of Marsaskala and attacked the village of Żejtun. The troops of the Order of Malta helped by civilians managed to contain the Turks who had to withdraw.

Alof de Wignacourt’s parade armor is now one of the Grand Masters Palace treasures in Valletta.

Let’s come back to Theodore des Ligneris who receives at his castle of Courville on September 11th, 1614 the young King Louis XIII and the Queen-Mother Marie de Medici. Back from a trip to Brittany, the monarch and his entourage spend the night at the castle.

At that time, the young king was thirteen years old. He was nine when his beloved father was murdered. Since then, he’s been constantly humiliated by his mother, who doesn’t want him to assume his crown. His very Catholic confessors require him to disclose the least of his inner thoughts, and warn him against « flesh sins » and women, in what we would today call a real brainwashing. He became taciturn.

His mother’s Regency is a disaster. She dismissed her husband’s former ministers, and is now surrounded by intriguing people. She deals only with jewelry and astrology. She has squandered the treasure Henri IV had patiently amassed to prepare the future of the kingdom. Marie de Medici has delegated all the business to one of the lady of her suite, educated with her in Italy, Leonora Dori called La Galigaï ; and to her husband Concino Concini. Ennoblement and positions are traded at the Louvre (the royal castle in Paris) in the very apartment of La Galigaï, which she never leaves, and where heaps of gold lie. Meanwhile, Concini neutralizes the powerful ancient families, thanks to his legitimacy as General and Admiral (though he never fought nor commanded a ship be it a canoe) and to his wife’s influence over the queen mother.

In 1615, Theodore and Françoise des Ligneris grieve again one of their children: Angelica dies at the castle of Sours, her husband’s domain. Nicolas Dangeul is the lord of Sours and Arboulin, gentleman of the Chamber of the King (4). The young couple had no children yet.

Then, on 3rd November that same year, Theodore’s wife Francoise dies in Courville. At age 63, it’s probably a turning point in the life of Theodore, who will therefore leave his sons take over their share of family estates. Please note that legally speaking his wife’s lands (especially the barony of Courville) do not belong to him. Despite the distinct roles of men and women in this society, there is no « guardianship » from the first one over the second one regarding their properties. Even after marriage, wives remain the sole owners of the property they have brought with them, which then directly pass as inheritance to their children. The society of that time very firmly guaranteed these rights to women.

In that same month of November 1615 Louis XIII married Anne of Austria, although they both were only fourteen years old. Anne is the eldest daughter of Spanish King Philip III of Habsburg and Margaret of Austria. She is Spanish, although her name refers to Austria, where her family originated from. The wedding night is a catastrophe. After years of mental conditioning by his confessors, Louis XIII is reluctant to get closer to his wife, he feels only disgust toward her. It will take four years before he accepts to share his bed with her. Despite this, the wedding will long remain sterile.

In 1616, Louis des Ligneris married Anne de Fromentières ; and his brother Jacques: Lucretia de Fromentières, Anne’s sister. Their father Joachimis the lord of Montigny-en-Dunois (5). Theodore and Joachim had to get along well, because this dual alliance means that a significant share of the latter’s lands will go to Theodore’s sons as dowry.

On 1st February 1617, following the death of their mother the first division of lands was pronounced between the three sons Louis, Jacques and Albert. Louis receives most of the barony of Courville. His father Theodore has indeed moved to the castle of Fontaine-la-Guyon (6). But in order not to prejudice his other sons, he separated from the barony the castellanies of Chuisnes and Fontaine-la-Guyon so that they are attributed to Jacques. Albert will receive the castellanies of Saint-Jean-de-la-Forêt and Beauvais-en-Gâtine. Geoffroy is not part of sharing, because in his state of warrior-monk he can not own land (nor get married). As a compensation he receives a pension (7).

Soon after, in April 1617, a thunderclap bursts at the head of the kingdom: Louis XIII just made his own coup. Aged only sixteen, he organized Concini’s assassination in an ambush, with a small group of a dozen loyal people. By taking the avantage, he has La Galigaï executed and sends his mother in exile. He finally takes his place as a king.

Closer to us, Theodore des Ligneris’ youngest daughters, Jacqueline and Lucretius, get married (8), probably at the turn of the 1620s, again with lords from the surroundings lands. The alliances between families are locally arranged.

In 1623 was born Renée (9), daughter of Louis, soon followed by Anne (10). A few years earlier he had a son, but he died at the age of two years. Jacques (11) also has two daughters: Marie (12) and Anne. Albert is unmarried.

At this stage, Theodore has no grand-son. Once again, despite six sons, the survival of the family line is at stake …

(1) Marie des Ligneris married in 1601 with Lancelot de Kaerbout, lord of Gémassé; she took as dowry the land of Ormoy. Jeanne married in 1602 to François de Fontenay, lord of Fresnaye and Saint-Germain-de-la-Coudre, a military officer. Her dowry consisted of the castle and lands of Saint-Hilaire-des-Noyers. Albert was during a short time co-lord of Saint Hilaire-des-Noyers with his brother Jacques and his brother-in-law Lancelot de Kaerbout who had inherited, but then abandoned it to Jeanne and her husband (archive receipts from November 17th, 1622 and January 7th, 1623 given by Jeanne des Ligneris to her brother and brother-in-law). Jeanne became a widow in 1620 and then sold St Hilaire to Louis Petigars-de-la-Guériniere in October 31st, 1622 for 21,000 tournament pounds. Source: http://www.saint-hilaire-des-noyers.org/id11.html

(2) Information on Wignacourt come from Wikipedia.

(3) Geoffroy arrived in 1603, probably before he was 10 years old. On the picture painted in 1607 or 1608 we see a young man aged between 12 and 14 years. The Grand Master had probably several pages, but the hypothesis is plausible.

(4) See Archaeological Society of Eure-et-Loir, Chartres, Memoirs (Volume 7-8)

(5) Incidentally, note that the Fromentières family from Brittany and Maine, was allied to the families « du Bellay, Ronsard, de Maille, Ligneris, Le Theil Samoy. » Here is another link with the Ronsard Brigade of Poetry, which we had previously met with the Claude des Ligneris, who was one of the very first members in 1551.

(6) He negotiated Fontaine-la-Guyon with Charlotte de Saint-Simon, Adrien Gallot’s widow.

(7) Departmental Archives of Chartres document E2430: Geoffroy gave a receipt for the 400 pounds pension due to him (1620).

(8) Jacqueline des Ligneris married to Jacques Charpin, Lord of Gineprès, while Lucretia des Ligneris married to Joachim de Cigoigne, Lord of Bois-du-Maine.

(9) Renée des Ligneris married to Charles de Fresnois.

(10) Anne des Ligneris will be the wife of René de Douhaut, Lord du Bois-du-Maine.

(11) Jacques des Ligneris was quoted in a 1628 lease for the right to collect the tawes and rents on houses and dependent lands of the lordship of Luy, parish of Villebon. Departmental Archives of Chartres E2651 document, signed by Jacques.

(12) Marie des Ligneris married Charles de Molitard, Lord of Durbois, in 1637. The marriage contract is held at the Departmental Archives of Chartres document E3396.

Theodore (part 5)

1591: Henry IV conquered the city of Chartres after a several months siege. The League was defeated locally, and its leaders were exiled. Theodore des Ligneris was actually not exiled because he had opted in time for the party of the king – even if that choice may have come from his personal opposition to the lord of Réclainville, who led the League in Chartres. We also remember that Theodore had raised the population against him.

At the national scale, the League still opposes fierce resistance. Although defeated at the battle of Ivry (1) on March 14th, 1590, and weakened by two successive sieges of the capital, it does not disarm. The most extreme members of the League spread terror in Paris. While organizing spectacular armed religious processions with thousands of children, they imprison men considered as royalists. Under the authority of the Sixteen, the terror of the Paris League will culminate in 1591 with the execution of the President of the Parliament, Brisson, however leaguer. King Henry IV and his troops fail in the attempt of conquering Paris. (2)

Procession armée de la Ligue en 1590 (Musée Carnavalet)

Procession armée de la Ligue en 1590 (Musée Carnavalet)

The League experiences a fracture when the Duke of Mayenne returns to Paris to punish the extremists who decided the death of Brisson. Finally, the exactions of the League, its attraction for a foreign prince, its Spanish financing, and its questioning of the monarchy gradually detach from it, starting 1591, first the royalists then the cities one after the other. However, it really disarms when Henry IV abjures his Protestant faith in favor of Catholicism. Henry is crowned in Chartres on February 27th, 1594 and enters into Paris a few months later.

The fall of Paris marks for the League the beginning of the end. The victory of French-Fontaine on June 5th, 1595 over the last Leaguers (led by the Duke of Mayenne, and supported by the Spanish), disbands it. Upon the peace of Vervins, the Spaniards abandoned the last positions they held in France. The final end of the League takes place after the submission of the Duke of Mercoeur, governor of Britanny.

Henry ends the wars of religion by the Edict of Nantes and the Treaty of Vervins in 1598. Great king among those that France counted, he managed to ease tensions, maintain the central authority, and end civil war. However one should not misunderstand : when he will be assassinated in 1610, half of the French population supported him, but the other half hated him.

Let’s go back to Chartres, where from 1591 the situation began to gradually stabilize. On that year, the Baron of Courville is nammed Knight of the Order of Saint Michael.

Theodore des Ligneris already has several children from his wife Françoise de Billy. First Jean-Baptiste, whom we do not know the date of birth, but who was born probably in the first years after the marriage, that is to say towards 1578-1580. We must realize that until 1584 Theodore was not often with his wife ; he left for months or even over a year to follow Prince François de Valois, particularly in Flanders and in the Provinces of the Netherlands. The births of Theodore’s numerous children spread over the years 80 and 90 : after Jean-Baptiste came Louis, Jacques, Geoffroy, Albert, Jeanne, Marie, Angélique, Jacqueline, Lucrèce, and finally Charles. That is, 11 children.

We do not know the dates of births, but a son was born in 1582 : « on May 22nd at St Nicolas de Courville, a son of the high and mighty lord Sir Theodore Desligneries, married to Lady N … Baroness de Courville, is baptized. « (3)

When she was besieged in her castle of Courville in the late 80s, Françoise was a young mother who had not reached the age of thirty, surrounded by several children under ten years old, some very young. She would quickly capitulate, and only be released on payment of a ransom (like her husband who suffered the same fate defending Verneuil). One can imagine that the episode was a trauma for the whole family.

At a date which is not precisely known, but probably around years 90-95, Theodore des Ligneris becomes chamberlain of the Count of Soissons, a position he held until 1607. This is a prestigious position which corresponds to Secretary General in managing the affairs of one of the most important princes of the reign of Henry IV.

Charles de Bourbon, comte de Soissons

Charles de Bourbon, comte de Soissons

Indeed, Charles de Bourbon Count of Soissons and Dreux, born in 1566 in Nogent-le-Rotrou near Chartres (thus 13 years younger than Theodore), is a son of Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé ; and the half-brother of the Prince of Condé, leader of the Protestants. As a Catholic prince raised at the court of France, he first joined the League during the Religion Wars. Disenchanted, he was convinced by Henri de Navarre to join the anti-Guise cause and left the court to fight for him. Theodore may have met him in 1588 at the General Assembly of Blois, which they both attended.

Captured during a battle, Charles de Bourbon was held in the castle of Nantes, from where he escaped to join the king’s army in Dieppe. After the battle of Ivry, he took command of the king’s cavalry at the siege of Paris in 1590, and proved its military value to the sieges of Chartres (1591) and Rouen (1592). Charles de Bourbon attended the coronation of Henry in 1594. He was a trustful collaborator of Henri IV during the siege of Laon (1594). Once the peace had been concluded with Spain, he took command of the royal troops during the Savoy wars in 1600. In 1602 he became governor of Dauphiné, in 1610 and governor of Normandy.

Charles de Bourbon was the great love of his cousin Catherine de Navarre, sister of Henry IV. The king would not hear of a marriage that brought no diplomatic advantage. For several years, Charles and Catherine vainly tried to convince Henry IV, while Catherine refused all other pretender. Eventually, she had to yield to the orders of his brother and marry the eldest son of the Duke of Lorraine, Duke Henry of Bar.

Let’s go back to Theodore, who in the very end of the sixteenth century, was hard hit by the successive deaths of his eldest son Jean-Baptiste, which occurred at the age of 20, and his youngest son Charles, who has not even 2 years old.

When Theodore leaves his position as chamberlain of the Count of Soissons, he is 54. For the time, he already is an old man. But he continues to manage his family (all his children are not yet adults), his lands, and … his trials. Indeed, throughout his life, he engages into countless litigation against individuals or institutions.

So to say, Theodore must have had a difficult character. Orphaned early, he had to learn to fend for himself. Has he found any maternal affection from women who cared for him at the Court of Navarre, when he arrived at the age of five ? Abused at age nine when he was arrested in Loches (tortured?), then entrusted to the House of François de Valois, he had to become independent early, and build character. From the age of fifteen he was in a position which gave him an income, but he had to face his responsibilities alone. And soon he found himself on the battlefield, faced fear and death, and still only counted on himself to get by.

So he does not hesitate to use the judiciary tools as soon as he believes his interests are affected (or perhaps to force things ?). He had thus filed in 1594 a lawsuit (4) against N. Nicolai, about the lands of Varrie (5).

In 1602 a land dispute opposes him to the Holy Father abbey of Chartres. We often forget that the religious orders were indeed very large landowners and temporal lords as well as the nobility ; in the years 700 to 1000 bishops were often warriors, who fought at the head of their armies, as well as administrators of cities and lands. In short, Theodore denies to the Holy Father abbaye the use of some lands. Well aware of the legal intricacies, he records against them letters of committimus. These were an exceptional privilege in court proceedings, which was accessible only to princes and great officers of the kingdom (the President of Parliament, for example) and to the Knights of the Order of Saint Michael. It is for this reason that Theodore benefits from this privilege. Obtained only from the King’s chamberlain, these letters meant that his criminal case could not be heard by the ordinary court but before a special tribunal constituted in Paris.

Theodore des Ligneris initiates another trial, in 1611, against Lancelot de Barrat, Lord of Brunelles, for the estates of the manors of Courville and Brunelles. (6)

For reasons we do not know, he will even disinherit his three sons Louis, Jacques and Albert, between 1616 and 1621. (7)

When his son Louis and his stepdaughter Anne initiate in 1630 a process of separation he challenges the appointment of a guardian for their children, through a legal document signed by him that the Departmental Archives still has. (8)

Moreover, beyond the quarrels, Theodore manages its lands and above all the rights that are associated to them. These actually generate revenue, whether for logging of forests or the right to use the mills. He also realized many property movements with the family lands.

Together with Jeanne de Billy, Theodore sold the lordship of the Morancez lands to Rene Le Beau, Lord of Sauzelles.

Before 1594, he sold to Jacques de Mondreville the Lordship of Villette. The lands still depend on Theodore, as Jacques de Mondreville acknowedged fealty in 1594. (9)

He makes a deal (10) with Charlotte de Saint-Simon, Adrien de Gallot’s widow, for the lordship of Fontaine-la-Guyon (before 1602); as well as with the Chapter of Chartres « for the split and separation of their censives and lordships » (11), between 1610 and 1620.

He sells (12) another farm, around 1621; and makes a transaction (13) with the Chapter for the right of using the mill on his land of Fontaine-la-Guyon.

Theodore realized with his second son Louis a mediatic event by receiving in Courville on September 11th, 1614 the young King Louis XIII and his mother Marie de Medici. Back from a trip to Brittany, the monarch and his entourage will spend the night at the castle.

Theodore makes his will on April 23rd, 1626. He died in Fontaine-la-Guyon on June 4,th 1631, at the respectable age of 78 years. He who, as a teenager, became the only male representative of the family, has given hope for continuity by having six son. But as we will see later, only one of them continued the family.

The death of Theodore coincides with the end of an era, that of the feudal lords, and marks the beginning of a new era for the family. What will happen to his children in this new society, that of the « Great Century » of Louis XIII and Louis XIV?

Finally, I can not resist the urge to show you this signature traced by Theodore himself in 1630, a moving and somewhat clumsy signature from a 77 years old man at the end of a long and adventurous life.

Signature de Théodore des Ligneris en 1630

Signature de Théodore des Ligneris en 1630

(1) The village is called nowadays Ivry-la-Bataille, in remembrance of this decisive confrontation in 1590. It is located near Dreux, in Eure-et-Loir, north of Chartres which appears as the epicenter of the struggles of the time.

(2) This paragraph and the next two are taken from the Wikipedia article on the League.

(3) « Historical records and statistics on the Courville area, » Volume I, by Edward Lefevre, published in 1870, republished by The Book of History, collection directed by M-G Micberth 2005.

(4) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper B2524.

(5) Land situated in the parish of Vichères.

(6) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper B2554.

(7) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper G251.

(8) Departmental Archives of Chartres, E2432 paper, signed by the hand of Theodore.

(9) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper e3936.

(10) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper E2428.

(11) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper E2429.

(12) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper E2430.

(13) Departmental Archives of Chartres paper G253.

Theodore (part 4) : Courville vs Réclainville

August 1st, 1589. King Henry III de Valois has been murdered by a Catholic League fanatic, this party opposed to the pro-Protestant royal policy. French author Robert Merle brilliantly recounted the scene in his book Fortune de France. He described the arrival of the monk Jacques Clément, pretending to reveal confidential information to the king. The nervous bodyguards want to prevent Clement from approaching the king. But Henry III had always admired monks, he even made several retreats in monasteries. He ordered the guards to let him come close. Clement bent towards Henry, as if he was going to speak near his ear, suddenly held a large knife out of his coat, and stabbed the king in the stomach. Screaming, the guards rushed, grabbed the monk, pierced him with their swords and threw him through the window. He crashed several floors below, dead. But the damage was done, Henry agonized overnight before dying.

Assassinat d'Henri III par le moine Jacques Clément

Assassinat d’Henri III par le moine Jacques Clément

In August 1589, the Protestant Henry III of Navarre became Henry IV of France, legitimate king according to the French dynastic laws. But neither the predominantly Catholic population nor the powerful families constituting the League recognized him as such. They prefered his uncle, Cardinal Charles de Bourbon, once called « Charles X ». However, very old, and already held in jail by Henry IV, he will eventually die in prison in 1590.

Charles duc de Mayenne, vers 1580

Charles duc de Mayenne, vers 1580

Some cities then uprised with the help of Spain; the countryside (including the Perche area, near Chartres) held for the party of King Henry IV. In Chartres on the contrary, the interim governor Jean d’Allonville (Lord of Réclainville) had taken advantage of the murder of the Duke of Guise in December 1588 to replace the titular governor François de Sourdis who was loyal to the king. Having rallied the people of Chartres to the League, he had closed the doors of the city to the troops of King Henry III on January 17th, 1589, and had hosted his opponent Charles de Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne. The latter had indeed become the head of the League after the death of his brother the Duke of Guise. However, he did not have the same charisma. His overweight and stinginess reputation deserved him. With no great political sense, nor decisiveness he showed defiance and cunning.

« The first act of Jean d’Allonville was nevertheless to save François de Sourdis the Duke of Mayenne wanted to behead; then he forced the rest of the inhabitants to swear the Union [to the League]. Réclainville [(that’s another way of calling Jean d’Allonville)] also drove the Huguenots out of the city and imprisoned some of them. (1)

« The only people the king could trust were the Bishop Nicolas de Thou, and the governor, François de Sourdis, but they had little influence on the people of Chartres. The king sent the General Attorney de la Guesle to try to negotiate with the people. They replied by crying: The holy union! One did not even respected the laws of nations. […] Theodore des Ligneris arrested the Attorney General, and released him only after having drawn a large ransom. « (2)

Nicolas de Thou évêque de Chartres

Nicolas de Thou évêque de Chartres

But meanwhile « Theodore des Ligneris, who for several reasons was a close friend of M. de Thou « (3), sent word that he was in danger, which allowed the bishop to leave immediately and seek refuge with the king.

So when Henry III was assassinated, Jean d’Allonville refused to recognize Henry de Navarre as the new king of France. However, Chartres leaguers accused him of mildness and even of treason. They said he negligently left a lieutenant sent by Mayenne being captured. He was accused of having released François de Sourdis; and the Baron of Courville [(meaning Théodore des Ligneris)] whom he had refused full authority had the people of Chartres uprise (4). There were riots against him, he was even imprisoned by the League extremists on September 15th, 1589.  »

Released some time later, Jean d’Allonville refused to take the governorship back and let it to Georges Babou de La Bourdaisière. (5)

« The position of Réclainville requires clarification. […] His behavior is that of a gentleman as we could meet many in the sixteenth century. Thus the solidarity he has shown towards royalists and the governor de Sourdis is a typical attitude of the time, and inclines to think that he did not act with the faith of a crusader but according to the classic nobility morality, rather enemy of religious fanaticism. It also seems that he acted by loyalty to the Guise family and particularly to the Duke of Mayenne. […]

Personal ambition was not a factor to be overlooked, especially as Réclainville had a competitor among the League nobility, as Chancellor of Cheverny relates in his memoirs : Theodore des Ligneris, who Henry III had refused as a deputy of the nobility party representing the bailiwick of Chartres in 1588. Local chroniclers recall that the Baron of Ligneris intrigued against Réclainville and was at the origin of the sedition which caused his dismissal, because  » he was « disappointed » of not having been elected or chosen as governor by Mayenne.  »

In early 1590 Theodore des Ligneris reconciled with Henri IV. « On March 8th, assured of his sincerity, the new king names him commander of a troop of 50 spears for being », he said, « worthy and capable by his virtues and merits to be honored « .

« Theodore des Ligneris who had pushed Chartres to support the Catholic League, suddenly changed sides: he gave to Henry IV the stronghold of Verneuil, much to the displeasure of the citizens of Chartres who sold his furniture to purchase the artillery necessary for the defense of the city. « (6)

« But Theodore surrendered the place on April to François de Rouxel, one of the League leaders. He said he had not a numerous garrison to defend themselves. « According to another version, » Taken by surprise in Verneuil, Théodore was taken prisoner, while his wife, besieged in her castle of Courville, was forced to capitulate. A ransom allowed them to regain freedom. « 

It seems that Theodore was an opportunist with no major political or religious beliefs. He had turned away from Henri III after the episode of the General Assembly of Blois. No doubt he already had bad feelings against him even before this event, since he had been raised from age 9 – and shared his life, with prince François de Valois who was extremely jealous from his brother Henry and systematically spoke ill of him. As for Henry IV, Theodore had played as a child with him at the castle of Pau during the 50’s, from the age of 5 to the age of 9. More than politics, what lead Theodore was the ability of taking advantage of the immediate situation.

« In 1590, the Leaguers in Chartres lived in fear of conspiracy, a common attitude to all cities that justified repression. The people of Chartres were right to worry, because their city was an important strategic point in the Paris suburbs and one of the capital main supplier for wheat. Moreover, apart from Britanny and the city of Rouen, Henry IV controlled most of the West. It was therefore necessary for him to blow the leaguer lock at the door of these regions. (7)

The siege began on February 11th, 1591 (8). Infantry, commanded by François de Sourdis, occupied the suburbs. On the 16th, the King tried one last approach by summing the Chartrains to surrender. The mayor and residents answered that they were ready there if Henry IV became Catholic. The pastor of Saint Aignan Church organized a procession in true Parisian style, barefoot in the cold and snow, to ask God to protect the city against the cannonade. It nevertheless began on February 27th at six in the morning, and created great damage. La Bourdaisière, the new Leaguer governor, who knew he did not have the military means to resist such an attack, proposed to return the city to the king, but the people of Chartres refused, unwilling at any price to undergo a « heretic ». From March 17th to April 10th, negotiations alternated with attacks and cannon fire. Gradually the morale of the population decreased, and the governor managed to convince the people, despite the absolute hostility of the clergy, to accept the proposals of the besiegers.

The example of Chartres illustrates the case of a city without real municipal tradition that rallies to the League thanks to a successful conspiracy. The role of the nobles is more central than that of the notables. Active minorities have served as relays, and pushed to radicalization after the assassination of Henry III and when it appeared to all that Chartres was to be besieged by the new king, who was regarded by many Leaguers as the devil. The sidelining of notables, including the Governor, […] to make way for street leaders, neighborhood or ward, symbolizes the evolution to a more popular league. »

The people of the city of Chartres surrendered in April 1591. Henry IV granted them the guarantee of the exercise of the Catholic religion, the prohibition of Reformed worship in the city and suburbs, the confirmation of their privileges, and permission for Leaguers who wanted to go into exile to reach another city. We know most of them went to Orleans, like Jean d’Allonville. The chancellor and the king entered the city, and reconstituted the municipality according to ancient custom. The Chartres League had lived.


(1) This paragraph is from the Wikipedia article entitled « Jehan II d’Allonville de Réclainville ».

(2) Memoirs de Thou, book XCIV.

(3) « Universal History of Jacques Auguste de Thou: from 1543 until 1607 »

(4) The Baron de Courville is Theodore des Ligneris. We remember that people were either nominated by their surname or the name of their land with or without title. Thus Theodore crossing an acquaintance could be talked to using the following manner: « Ah! Courville precisely I had to see you.  »

(5) we find here the in-laws of the René des Ligneris (cousin of Theodore, he was killed in 1562 at the Battle of Dreux, where he commanded the light cavalry of the Prince of Condé). The father of Georges cited here, was Jean Babou de La Bourdaisière, who saved Theodore in 1562 when just aged 9 years he was arrested, mistreated and imprisoned at Loches. See also: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famille_Babou_de_La_Bourdaisi%C3%A8re

(6) The League, Jean-Marie Constant, Fayard, 1996. http://www.fayard.fr/la-ligue-9782213594880

(7) This paragraph and the next three are from the book The League, by Jean-Marie Constant, Fayard, 1996. http://www.fayard.fr/la-ligue-9782213594880

(8) Inside the fortifications of Chartres, « the regular troops and six companies of the bourgeois militia formed a workforce of 3,500 infantry and 300 horses. But the entire population, increased by a large number of peasant refugees, worked on the fortifications and breaches. « (from Wikipedia, article » Jehan II d’Allonville de Réclainville « ).


Theodore (Part 3)

We are in 1582. Theodore controls almost all the roads coming north, south and west of Chartres: he was lord of Ormoy, Morancez, Fontaine-la-Guyon and Courville, but also Bailly, Chauvigny, Aumane La Mothe. Taking advantage of religious wars disorders, it prohibits merchants to cross his lands, or, at least, makes them pay. carte 1582

The Governor of Chartres Francois de Sourdis, having been sent to Italy in September 1582, King Henry III commissioned the office to John d’Allonville, Lord of Réclainville. The captain arrived January 23, 1583, to the great satisfaction of the aldermen, who relied on his firmness to quell looting of the soldiers and the harassment of some nobles of the neighborhood. Indeed, it puts troublemakers to reason, including Theodore, who must lift its roadblocks. (1)

In 1584, on the death of his master and protector the Duke of Alencon, Theodore is 31 years old. Taking advantage of his many contacts at the Court, he became governor of Verneuil, that is to say military chief of the stronghold that blocks access between the Ile de France and Normandy in the valley of the Avre, north of Chartres.

Collier_Saint-Michel_avers actuAccording to the letters of 1776 which briefly tell the story of the family, « [after the death of Prince] Theodore made war in Italy and Germany, where he fought at several sieges and battles as captain of fifty men of arms of the king’s orders, and was later honored by the collar of the order of Saint Michael.  »

But at the national level, a new crisis opens. Henry III having no children, his younger brother François d’Alençon was the natural heir to the crown. With his death, the next in the male line – according to the Salic law that governs succession to the throne of France – is King Henry III of Navarre, House of Bourbon, a Protestant prince (later Henry IV of France). (2)

The Prince of the House of Lorraine, Henri de Guise, then became head of a new Catholic League. Since 1582, King Philip II of Spain had provided financial support to Catholics, as a means of promoting Catholicism and of weakening the king of France, his rival on the European stage. He confirms this support by signing the Treaty of Joinville December 31, 1584, where he recognizes as successor to the throne of France Cardinal de Bourbon, uncle of the King of Navarre, second in line of succession but Catholic.

The League publishes a proclamation on March 31, 1585, to restore the unique religion, subtract the king from the clutches of his favorites, and force him to call regularly to the General Assembly (« Etats Généraux »). Many military leaders join the League.

By the Treaty of Nemours, Henry III of France must yield to the demands of the League, which became too powerful. The eighth religious war ended with a military status quo, the Protestant victory at Coutras being balanced by Henri de Guise victories at Auneau and Vimory (1587), which further enhances the prestige of the prince and the House of Lorraine.

However Henry III forbade Henri de Guise to enter Paris, where rumors of uprising were spreading. But he enters into the capital town on May 9, 1588. Seeing the movements of the royal army, the population of Paris who supported Guise, builds barricades. Having lost control of his capital, Henry III fled to Chartres.

Henry III pretends to reconcile with the Leaguers: he signs in Rouen on July 15, 1588 the Union Edict against the Protestants, and let the port city of Boulogne-sur-Mer for the Leaguers so that they can receive the Spanish fleet. Moreover, Henri de Guise is made Lieutenant General for the kingdom (that is to say, chief of the army). Popular, powerful, he prepares to take over.

« In 1588, King Henry III who has not managed to regain control of his kingdom by force will attempt to achieve its goals through political game, where he excelled. He decided to call the meeting of the General Assembly, stating that the meeting of the three Orders was necessary to reform the kingdom and restore the authority of the king. (3)

Guise and the Leaguers were not in the least impressed by this maneuver and threw themselves into a formidable election campaign from which Protestants were virtually excluded, but that opposed Leaguers and supporters of the king.

Henry III sought by all means to promote the election of his faithful […]. In many bailiwicks, the electoral assemblies were real political confrontations. Sometimes, without being too direct, pressure was exerted on elected members or local authorities.

Thus in Chartres, Henry III summoned the governor Jean d’Allonville, lord of Réclainville, to discuss the future representative of the nobility of the bailiwick: belonging to an ancient lineage of honorable gentlemen from Beauce, he was able to know the mindset that prevailed in the country. The king first asked if they had made « the appointment of a deputy. » Prudently, the governor replied that « nothing was done » but that « Sieur de Mémulon, gentleman of Dunois, a qualified and worthy person, or the lord of Ligneris, Baron de Courville, might have a good hand. « The king did not like the candidacy of these two men, he wanted someone more secure: he called Mémulon of » old dreamer and opiniastre « and reproached Ligneris an obscure military defeat in Verneuil.

He concludes by proposing one of his men, Louis d’Angennes Lord of Maintenon. The King got angry because of the reluctance of his interlocutor. The latter, who was a stutterer, and more and more excited, would not dare say to the sovereign that the nobility did not like Maintenon, whom she accused of secretly lean toward the Reformation and especially not to be independent since he belonged to the King’s Council.

Henry III was angry, yelling « we insist he must be elected, having no more loyal or better servant in that house. « He even threatened to cut the head to the Baron of Courville if he dared to go to the Assembly in Blois. Finally Maintenon was elected and the King’s Council, called to arbitrate, decided in his favor.  »

Although his head was threatened, Theodore went on August 15, 1588 to Blois as elected member representing the nobility of the country of Chartres, and sat with the other representative throughout the duration of the session. (4) « From that moment, the Ligneris embraced League party.  »

« Overall, despite these conflicts and pressures, both parties balanced in the assembly of the order of the nobility. It was not the same for the clergy and the third estate, which gave the majority to the League. « (5)

A few months later, in December 1588 Henry III had Henry de Guise murdered by his personal guard, as well as the Cardinal of Lorraine, brother of the Duke of Guise. He arrested the archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal de Bourbon, the Prince de Joinville, son of the Duke of Guise, his mother the Duchess de Nemours and his cousin, the Duke of Elbeuf. Several deputies of the General Assembly were also arrested. Charles Duke of Mayenne, brother of Henri de Guise, became head of the League.

The coup caused a general uprising. All provinces held by the League (essentially Champagne, Midi, Burgundy, Brittany, Normandy and the Paris region) rebelled against the « tyrant » Henry III, who allied with the King of Navarre ; and their army laid siege to Paris.

It was then that Henri III was assassinated on August 1, 1589 by Jacques Clement, a Dominican League member.

Catholic families arereluctant to accept a new king who is Protestant, Henri IV, who then began to regain his kingdom. What will happen to Theodore, who sided with the League?

(1) This paragraph and the next are inspired by the excellent website of Mr. Pierre Braquet (http://www.saint-hilaire-des-noyers.org/) owner of the castle of Saint Hilaire des Noyers, located in the village Colonard Corubert, in Perche. Mr Braquet has written the history of all the successive owners of the castle, Theodore of Ligneris being part of them.

(2) This paragraph and the next five are derived from Wikipedia, article on the Catholic League, https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligue_catholique_(France), I have used and adapted.

(3) These six paragraphs are taken from the book The League, Jean-Marie Constant, Fayard, 1996, pp158-160. http://www.fayard.fr/la-ligue-9782213594880

(4) A 1588 manuscript preserved in the departmental archives of Chartres says Theodore des Ligneris was among the deputies of the General Assembly.

(5) The League, Jean-Marie Constant, Fayard, 1996. http://www.fayard.fr/la-ligue-9782213594880


Theodore (Part 2)

Theodore is 9 years old, he is in prison in Loches after being interrogated, while the French divided between Catholics and Protestants are killing each other in the surrounding towns.

He certainly is an orphan, but belongs to a clan composed of allied and united families. The stepfather of his cousin René, Jean Babou lord of Bourdaisière, was informed of the arrest of Theodore. He has him immediately rescued.

Jean Babou was not anyone : Captain of the Town and Castle of Amboise, he held the position of nationwide Master General of Artillery, and was entrusted by Catherine de Medici  » the government of the person and of the house « of his son François, Duke of Alençon – that is to say, he was his tutor.

Thanks to him, Theodore is placed in 1562 as a child of honor of Prince François (yet two years younger than him). He will then serve as a « gentleman of the chamber » from the age of fifteen (in 1568) to the death of François (1584). This office corresponds to an officer position in the administration of the prince house. It gives him an income, and allows him to gravitate in the immediate entourage of the prince.

François de Valois is the latest son of the royal family. It is a cantankerous prince, taciturn and ambitious. He is extremely jealous of his older brother, the Duke of Anjou (later Henry III), in whose shadow he grew up. Physically, his contemporaries describe him as « very ugly. » It must be said that the smallpox he contracted as a child does not help (1).

In 1571, negotiations failed to marry the Duke of Anjou with the Queen of England Elizabeth, which pushed Catherine de Medici to offer his son François, although the latter, aged 16 was 22 years younger than the British sovereign. It was at this time that began the political career of François.

After the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, Francis became the center of discontent that rose against the strengthening of the royal authority. He gradually becomes aware of the role he can play in the realm of politics. During the siege of La Rochelle in 1573, François, 18, marks his opposition to the Duc d’Anjou, 22, who led the siege; and he befriended his stepbrother, King Henry III of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France), husband of his sister Margaret, 21 (Queen Margot).

After the departure of the Duke of Anjou to Poland where he had been elected king, Francois hopes to succeed as king of France after Charles IX, 23, whose health is deteriorating day by day and has only a daughter from his marriage to Elizabeth of Austria. With Henri of Navarre, he sets up a plot said, to emerge as successor instead of his brother Henry. Catherine de Médicis manages to foil the conspiracy and has François arrested. Henry who returned from Poland and became King of France, forgave him, but his younger brother will remain at the court under surveillance.

In 1575, François continues to act as the opposition party chief at the court. He suffers bullying and teasing from the followers of his brother. Catherine de Medici tries to calm things down, but one night, François is directly insulted and resolves to run away. He escapes through a hole in the walls of Paris.

His flight creates stupor. He unites behind him the opposition against the king. In September, he is joined by the King of Navarre who also managed to escape.

The war that opens is promising for Franços. Henry III must compromise. On May 6th, 1576, he proclaimed the Edict of Beaulieu. This edict allows freedom of worship for Protestants in the kingdom of France, eight cities are assigned to Protestants, and it rehabilitates victims of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. François receives Anjou prerogative and extraordinary compensation. He is reconciled with the king and triumphantly takes back its place at the Court.

Théodore marries on February 16th, 1577 (2) to Françoise de Billy, who gives him the barony of Courville. Probably encouraged by his social environment, Theodore thus establishes his social position, as it is customary for a member of the Second Order. He can not continue an adventurous lives all over Europe as an officer or advisor of Prince François. He had to marry and ensure the posterity of his name; but also to gain land, both for the revenues it will bring him, but also because the domain ownership is the foundation of the feudal system. He inherits through its alliance the title of baron. Recall that a title was attached to a land, not to a family (3).

The village of Courville has a castle; it is not far from Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais where his grandfather was captain and grand bailiff; and near Champrond where the land bearing the name des Ligneris was established in 1517. It is a sort of homecoming, Theodore having never lived in the area during his life, although he has fiefs. His father Jacques mainly lived in Paris when he was not traveling in Italy.

The alliance was interesting for both parties. For the Billy family, it was necessary to perpetuate the land without splitting it up, a field that had be owned by only two families during four hundred years. They wanted a worthy successor. Theodore indeed possessed a prestigious aura while being a « child of the country », he was part of the immediate entourage of a prince ; at the age of 24 he had already proved his courage in many battles, which was an important value of the aristocratic model. What better heir for the domain of Courville ?

The following year, in 1578, Theodore and his sister Jeanne sell the mansion built by their father in the Marais district in Paris, to Madame de Kernevenoy, born Françoise de la Baume (4). We are not certain of the circumstances of the sale, more or less forced, because according to some sources Theodore sued to have the mansion back. He would have also won, but the sentence would be without effect.

The new owner is a widow (for the second time) from a Breton lord, François de Kernevenoy called, for convenience, Carnavalet to the Court and this nickname remained attached to the property for posterity. Governor of Forez and Bourbonnais, he was an outstanding rider celebrated by Ronsard and Montaigne, and highly regarded by Henry II who made him tutor of the Duke of Anjou, the future Henry III. Kernevenoy died in 1570 for having too much celebrated, as it was said, the arrival of King Charles IX and Queen Elizabeth of Austria.

It is said that « his widow was more faithful to his horses than to his memory »: this « beautiful and lovely widow », as author Brantôme stated, belonged to Queen Margot flying squadron

Meanwhile, after breaking up with Philip II of Spain, the Netherlands were seeking a new prince. They became interested in François. In 1579 he was invited by William of Orange to become the ruler of the Dutch provinces. On September 29th, 1580, the provinces (with the exception of Zeeland and Holland) signed the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours with François who took the title of protector of freedom of the Netherlands. Theodore accompanied the prince on all trips.

In 1581, negotiations continued for the marriage of François with Elizabeth I of England. He was twenty-six and she is forty seven. Elizabeth nicknamed him her frog. The omen were good, but no one knew what the queen actually thought. The English people was particularly opposed to this marriage, because François was a French prince, moreover Catholic.

François then returned to the Netherlands, where he was formally enthroned. He received the title of Duke of Brabant in 1582, but he made the mistake of deciding on a whim to take Antwerp by force. On January 18th, 1583 his troops were repulsed. It was named the French fury of Antwerp. Theodore participated to the battle of Antwerp, where he was captured. He will be released on the payment of a ransom, as was customary at the time.

The failure of the Duke of Anjou did not prevent him to resume negotiations with the provinces of the Netherlands. But he died of tuberculosis in June 1584. Theodore all of a sudden very exposed, will have to find a new master and protector.

(1) All paragraphs relating to François d’Alençon are from Wikipedia.

(2) The marriage contract of Theodore was passed in Nogent-le-Rotrou before Me Julien du Pin. The signatories to the agreement are Félice Rosny, mother of the bride; Lancelot de Rosny, Lord of Brunelles and ordinary gentleman of the king, grandfather of the bride; Jean de Rosny his uncle.

(3) The titles are then attached to a domain, clearly defined, established either as a châtellenie (for knights) or a barony. The counties form very large entities, usually owned by members of the royal family or their descendants (as the County of Chartres) as elements of their private domains. Marquisates initially designated (in the High Middle Ages) counties on the marches of a kingdom, that is to say exposed to invasions, and requiring enhanced military capability; Marquis title lost its military specificity to become part of the usual range of titles from the seventeenth century. The duchies designated very large independent domains (especially during the Middle Ages) or fiefs involving several counties, awarded to princes.

(4) Source: « The Hotel Carnavalet » by Michel Gallet and Bernard de Montgolfier (Carnavalet Museum Newsletter)


Jacques (part 2) and Théodore (part 1)

Jacques had a shock when he learned the death of his unique son at the age of 18 that occurred in Rome in the last months of 1552 or in early 1553.

At this point of the history of France, the family des Ligneris is about to disappear. Jacques’s older brother died young leaving a unique son René : it is not yet known in 1552 but René will eventually die ten years later without heirs. Jacques’ half-brothers are a priest, and a man who died young. As for his only uncle Jean (John), who had married Louise de Balu, he had two daughters. His grandfather Pierre had no brother. There will be no one to bear the name.

By a twist of fate, when Claude dies, his mother is pregnant. Eighteen years after her first child. It is this unborn son who will avoid the family disappearing. A kind of miracle child, but so far a miracle that will not have an easy life.

Theodore, second son of Jacques des Ligneris, was baptized on April 18th, 1553 in Chauvigny, near Chartres, just months after his brother’s death.

Jacques has finally returned from Italy, no more Council of Trent. He stays with his wife and son. Another child will be born, his daughter Jeanne.

« On his return, His Majesty showed him how the services he had rendered to it were pleasant, as on this occasion that in several others where he had employed. » The king who by his edict of May 1554 created four new presidents of the parliament, honored Jacques with the first of these by letters in Compiègne on the 18th of the same month. Jacques was sworn in on May 29th.

He held that post of Chairman of the Parliament of Paris for two years. In June 27th 1556, the Court designated him, « according to the entrustment of the King, » to welcome Cardinal Carasse, papal legate in France, and accompany him in Paris. On August 11th, Jacques died. He was buried in the church of St. Catherine du Val des Ecoliers, near his mansion. « The whole Court attended his funeral. « 

Theodore was only three years old when his father died, five on the death of his mother, who closely followed her husband into the grave.

With his sister they now need to be placed under the protection of another family. Thanks to the position of his father, but also to the continuity of links between the family des Ligneris and the Court of Navarre for several generations, Theodore is sent to the city of Pau to be educated as a child of honor of Henri de Bourbon, son of the Queen of Navarre. The two children are the same age. Until the age of nine years, Theodore played with the future King of France Henri IV.

Meanwhile in Paris, on the 6th August 1559, the mansion was visited by François II, young and ephemeral king, and the princes of his suite who « came and took at the Ligneris mansion their coats, their chaperones mourning to go to commemorate King Henry II, who passed away nearby at the palace of Tournelles following the fatal tournament in the rue Saint Antoine « . One may wonder who occupies the mansion: Jacques died three years earlier, his wife last year, his eldest son six years ago, and his second son aged just six years is in the kingdom of Navarre.

In early 1562 Theodore was brought to the castle of Azay (1) belonging to his cousin René des Ligneris, who is much older since they have a generation gap (26 years exactly). We remember that he had also been brought up at the Court of Navarre. He became Huguenot ; René had participated in « the conspiracy of Amboise » and had to retire in Germany for some time, where he served in the armies of Protestant princes. In 1561 the castle of Azay was besieged, but could not be taken.

The Amboise conspiracy was instigated in 1560 by the princes of Bourbon, Protestants. It was designed to capture and imprison the Guise brothers to remove the young king François II from their influence judged as negative and from their intransigent Catholic politics. But indiscretions had allowed the Guise to organize their defense by taking refuge in the castle of Amboise. A terrible repression started the beginning of the eight religious wars between Catholics and Protestants that marked the second half of the 16th century.

Theodore was immediately sent to the Baudiment family, to whom he was related. One may also wonder, positively, about persistent relationship between clans because to find a blood link we must go back to his great-grandfather Pierre (Peter), whose wife was the daughter of Isabelle de Baudiment, precisely a century ago.

But Theodore was arrested in the town of Loches. Although he was only nine years old, at the request of the royal prosecutor, he was questioned about the conspiracy of Amboise. One can imagine that the conditions were severe and that he was brutalized.

The situation in France was indeed at that time particularly disturbed, everyone was very nervous. Protestants had been murdered on March 1st. Louis de Condé, leader of the Protestants, called for revenge. He takes the city of Tours on the 30th March, then Sens, Rouen, Blois and Angers during the spring. All around Loches where Theodore is retained, in the cities of Tours, Orleans and Angers bloody clashes happen between Catholics and Protestants.

It is in this context that his cousin René des Ligneris will fight at the battle of Dreux on December 19th, 1562, where he commanded the light cavalry of the Prince of Condé. Critically wounded, he will die on the battlefield. His name will be called as a damaging loss to Huguenot camp; he had to be a talented senior officer.

This victory of the Catholic party marked the end of the Protestant force converging on Paris. But that was only the beginning of the religious wars in France, that Theodore will have to go through, and in which he will have to take sides.

For now, he has to get out of his cell in Loches…


Claude, the fifth Beatles

Claude des Ligneris (almost) entered in history, becoming a companion of French poetry’s father.

At the time, a small group of students formed around a teenager named Pierre de Ronsard. Calling themselves « The Brigade », the members will revolutionize French poetry. « It was then formed of students from the College of Coqueret: du Bellay, Baif, Urvoy, Peccate, Denisot, Harteloyre, Latan, of Mireurs, Ligneri and Capel. « (1) Their master was named Jean Dorat; I imagine him very charismatic, much like Professor John Keating in the movie The Dead Poets Society.

A young man aged 14 or 15, Claude must have been alert, cheerful and carefree, as one could expect from the elite parisian educated youth: « It is at the Bacchanalia in 1549, which marked the  » crazy journey to Arcueil  » that Lignery was noticed from his lyre talents. « (2)

He never quits this group of friends: one mentions « Lignery, one of the most ardent Brigade lute players. » He is close friend with Pierre de Ronsard and Antoine Chasteigner:

« [Antoine] had probably writtten these words at Ternay on the banks of the river Loir, walking with Ronsard and their  » sweet friend  » Claude de Lignery, in the meadows and woods that Lignery owned nearby this village, which was under Jeanne de Ronsard lordship, Pierre’s aunt. « 

Claude’s father, who was president of the Chamber of Investigation, was then ambassador to the Council of Trent, in Italy.

Claude is called to serve a mission in Rome, shortly before his 18th birthday.

« Ronsard wrote Ode No. 10 for him, before the month of January 1552; we read that after having assured its deep and constant friendship, he regrets not being able to accompany him to Italy, given the troubles he faces (passion of love or lack of money?) and because of the harsh winter. On his return they would exchange confidences ! Ligneri would tell Ronsard this impressions; Ronsard will read Ligneri the beginning of the Franciade and sacrifice a little bull from the high meadows of the river Loir … The Ode was published in September 1552 ».

« We know on the other hand they never saw each other again because Ligneri died at the age of eighteen, towards the end of 1552 or the first months of 1553 in Rome where he had gone for King Henry II ‘s business. » We do not know what happened to Claude, no document mentions it. It could be an illness during the winter, an assassination in the dark streets, a duel?

Their mutual friend, Antoine Chasteigner, « wrote for Ronsard an ode to Ligneris’ death. »(3) But he himself was killed a few months later at the battle of Thérouane in June 1553.

Ronsard then wrote an elegy on the death of Antoine Chasteigner. « In his memory and affection, Ronsard does not separate Lignery and Antoine Chasteigner:

« In the Champs Elysees

Remember me and, in the meadows,

Walking with my Lignery

Always speaks about me « (4)

(1) « My poetry library, part two: Ronsard » by Jean-Paul Barbier.

(2) « Pierre de Ronsard: his justices and his imitators, » by William Colletet.

(3) « General History of Chasteigner » by A. du Chesne.

(4) « Pierre de Ronsard: his judges and imitators, » by William Colletet.


The Golden Age : Jacques (part 1)

The eldest son of René des Ligneris, Michel, holds the title of Knight. He became captain and grand bailiff of Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais, squire of the Duke of Alencon, and Ordinary Gentleman of the King’s Chamber (1). Michel marries Claude de Cardonne, daughter of Jean-François de Cardonne, the king’s chamberlain; and niece of Don Federigo de Cardonne, Viceroy of Naples to the King of Spain. The alliance is prestigious. How did it happen? Does it indicate a degree of influence that René, Michel‘s father, would have gained ?

Michel and Claude have a son they name René, like his grandfather, maybe as a deliberate will of family continuity, tradition, or admiration for the grandfather.

René (the second), lord of Azay, is educated at the Court of Navarre. He becomes Protestant, works in the service of the King of Navarre, and takes an active part in the uprising against the Catholic power in the 1560s. René will have no child with his wife Antoinette Babou de la Bourdaisière.

Before talking about Jacques, second son of René (the first) and brother of Michel, note that everything we know about the third brother Etienne, is that he owns in 1563 the fief of Ormoy (2). We learn that through the register of tributes (3) made to Renée de France, Duchess of Ferrara and Chartres. It appears that Etienne had no child.


Jacques, the second son of René, was born in 1502. He was destined for a career as a magistrate, and studied at the universities of Paris, Leuven (4) and Padua (5), an international career which suggests that his father owned very large financial resources. Back in Paris, he appeared in the Bar, among the most famous lawyers of his time. From his marriage with Jeanne de Chaligault, Lady of Crosnes en Brie, was born a son Claude in 1535. King Francois Ist called Jacques to the office of Lieutenant General of the Bailiwick of Amiens, then quickly to the post of adviser at the Parliament of Paris. « It is in this capacity that the Parliament elected him as one of the commissioners who were to organize the great days in Poitiers, in August 1541. » He was appointed President of the Third Chamber of Investigation in 1544. « In all these jobs he acquired much reputation. « 

Jacques buys on 18 March 1544 in Paris « five pieces of arable land next to the palace of Tournelles and the St. Catherine priory of Val-des-Ecoliers » (6). It is on this terrain that rises the hotel which was later to be called the Hotel Carnavalet. « The president des Ligneris hired the best artists of his time to build his house. « He chose the architect Nicolas Dupuis and calls for decoration works to the famous sculptor Jean Goujon. « These two masters set to work without delay and before leaving Paris, it is likely that the president could see the beautiful doorway on the street. « 

Hôtel Carnavalet à Paris (ex-hôtel des Ligneris)

Hôtel Carnavalet à Paris (ex-hôtel des Ligneris)

Hôtel Carnavalet, gravures de Marot, XVIIè siècle. En haut façade sur la cour et coupe de l'escalier, en bas état ancien de l'aile gauche de la cour et coupe des façades sur la rue et sur le jardin

Hôtel Carnavalet, gravures de Marot, XVIIè siècle. En haut façade sur la cour et coupe de l’escalier, en bas état ancien de l’aile gauche de la cour et coupe des façades sur la rue et sur le jardin

Hôtel Carnavalet, façade sur la cour, vue du portail d'entrée

Hôtel Carnavalet, façade sur la cour, vue du portail d’entrée

It is interesting to note that the neighboring hotel Lepeletier de Saint Fargeau, was built on a piece of land originally purchased by Michel de Champrond on 23rd May 1545. Knight and Lord of Bourdinière, captain of Chartres, he belongs to the family of Jacques des Ligneris (on his mother’s side), perhaps a cousin. Jacques seems to have convinced him to take advantage of the subdivision of the land of St. Catherine du Val-des-Ecoliers priory. Michel de Champrond presumably had a hotel built, together with Jacques. When he dies in 1571, the property will be sold.

For nearly ten years that Jacques held the office of President of the Third Chamber of Investigation, the court (i.e. « the Parliament ») often confided to Jacques important affairs. During the trip to Germany undertaken by Henry II in 1552, Jacques was sent as an emissary to the Queen and the Privy Council established at Chalons, to expose that the edicts the king wanted to enact were prejudicial to the state. The following year, he was sent to the king to explain the reasons that prevented to enact another edict. In general, « the court committed him very often the most important cases, and especially when it came to remonstrate to Her Majesty » ! (7)

Noting his wit and eloquence, King Henry II designated him as one of its ambassadors to the Council of Trent, Italy, « where he defended with great courage the freedom of the Gallican Church and the reputation of the monarch in the Parliament of Paris. « 

Meanwhile, his son Claude becomes a bright and cheerful boy, we will soon hear about him

(1) Laisne Scrolls, Volume 5, P287
(2) Ormoy is a small village located halfway between Chartres and Dreux
(3) Laisne Scrolls, Volume 5, P560
(4) Located in Belgium today.
(5) In Italy, near Venice.
(6) This paragraph and the two others that follow are taken from the book « Le Marais », Editions Henri Veyrier, 1974.
(7) Louis Morery Historical Dictionary, 9th edition (1702), Volume 1, Section « of Ligneris, Jacques. »



Jean des Ligneris (John), younger brother of René whom we have already spoken, lived a beautiful love affair with Louise de Balu.

She was the daughter of Jean de Balu, Esquire, and Catherine des Ormes, who married June 12th 1469. Louise first married January 22nd 1486 with Etienne de Prunelé (she must have been fifteen or sixteen years old), with whom she had several children. But after fourteen years together, Etienne died in 1500.

Louise, in her early thirties, met Jean des Ligneris. Or perhaps they have long known. They fall in love. But Jean was a knight of the Knights Hospitaller, which forbade him to marry. He decided to dismiss his vows, and left the Order, which probably represented a social suicide, and as such a particularly strong act of love.

Louise inherited the estate of Saint-Germain-Désiré at the death of her uncle, in 1505. On May 26th of this year, Jean des Ligneris pays tribute to the lord of Meslay on behalf of his wife for this estate (1).

Note here that women kept their property after the marriage, since it is only as a representative of his wife that Jean comes to renew the bonds of fealty.

Jean is also cited in 1505 (2) in an act of « fealty » to Francois de Montgomery (Francis), Lord of Cormainville, for the fief of La Porte. On Saturday, May 23rd 1506, he pays taxes for that piece of land (3).

Louise’s children with her first husband were very young by then. Jean assumes property management for the lands, but they will then return to Etienne de Prunelé’s children at their majority. It is likely that the Prunelé clan is paying attention; there was no question that the family property passed into the patrimony of Jean des Ligneris’ children.

Jean was meanwhile owner, under his own name, of the land of Lachet that his grandfather had received from Charles VII.

After sharing over fifteen years together with Louise, Jean died on 7th June 1520. Louise was then fifty years old. She lived until 1537, at the castle of St Germain.

Louise and Jean have had several children, including a daughter Jeanne des Ligneris who married on July 31th 1525 her cousin Urbain de Prunelé, Lord of Guillerval. Ironically, the Ligneris and Prunelé families had been in a trial in 1266, meaning 259 years earlier.

Before collecting the legacy of her uncle, Louise had with her first husband Etienne de Prunelé written her will, according to which they elected their burial place in the parish church of Autruy, near the Castle of La Porte, where they then lived. On the death of her first husband, her son Gilles de Prunelé became lord of La Porte, and she retired to Saint Germain. Which explains why she was finally buried in the chapel of Saint Germain and not Autruy.  Terres de La Porte et Autruy : carte

Louise has been buried in the chapel of her castle next to Jean. But she wanted to be represented surrounded by her two husbands, Etienne and Jean, on the tombstone of the chapel of Saint Germain-le Desire. We see Louise de Balu placed between her two husbands dressed in their armor, which are reproduced with their coats of arms.


Besides their coat of arms, repeated in the corners of the stone, one sees badges half of their coat of arms, mid-portion of hers, and the following text on the edge of the stone: « Here lies and rests noblewoman Louise de Balu Lady of Saint Germain who first married nobleman Etienne de Prunelé Lord of La Porte and Gaudreville and secondly married Sir Jehan des Ligneris Lord of Coer and was a knight of Saint John of Jerusalem who here lies and rests and passed away the day of June 7th one thousand five hundred and twenty: pray God for them.  »


(1) After the death of her second husband, Louise Balu paid herself a tribute to the lord of Bezou, for « the fief without a domain » of the same name, as evidenced by the act of September 5th, 1525 . On the same date, she pays another tribute for the manorial place of Saint Germain, to Louis de Vendôme chamberlain of the king, Viscount of Chartres.

(2) Departmental Archives of Chartres, document E2830.

(3) Manuscript Laisné, Volume 5, p237.


THE RISE 1468 – 1517

René des Ligneris, son of Pierre, was born in 1468. He spent his childhood as a cupbearer of the Queen of Navarre (a kingdom sitting on both sides of the Pyrenean mountains, between France et Spain). This honorific position attests his father’s high connections. How did he do that? Was the link made via the Count of Foix, who owns the county of Etampes? This is the second time we hear about Navarre, after Olivier des Ligneris in the thirteenth century. René perhaps accompanied by his father had to go through long epic journeys through the fragmented Kingdom of France, in ordre to reach Navarre.

After his father’s death, by provision of the king, in 1494 René becomes captain and bailiff of Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais, as well as First Squire of the Duke of Alençon.

He has a younger brother, Jean (John), and a sister named Jeanne. She marries Gille d’Adonville, lord of Auvilliers (probably the stronghold of Auvilliers, near Meslay-le-Vidame, 20 km south of Chartres) ; they will have two children.

The brothers and sister share the estate of their father by a notarial deed on 22nd June, 1499.

René ‘s marital situation seems somewhat complex, since he appears to have married two sisters, both named Jeanne, daughters of Jean de Champrond lord of La Motte d’Ormoy and Jeanne Chevalier:

First Jeanne de Champrond he married around 1496, with whom he will have two sons and two daughters: Michel (born in 1500), Jacques (born in 1502), Anne, and Jeanne (born in 1506). She died before 1511, leaving young children.

2nd Jeanne de Champrond, who survived René, and from whom Etienne (Stephen) was born, future abbot at La Prée, who lives until 1567; and John, deceased young in 1527.

René obtains the establishment of a noble fief in the parish of Champrond-en-Gâtine, a land that will bear the name « des Ligneris », erected by royal letters on September 13th, 1517. This event probably had a very strong meaning, and consecrated the local influence of the family. The fief depends on the barony of Chateauneuf at least from 1517 to 1567. Champrond en Gâtine et Chartes carte

René acquires land with his wife and his father-in-law Jean de Champrond in the fief of La Salle de Morancez (very near the city of Chartres). All three are called « lords and lady of Morancez » (3).La Salle de Morancez et Chartres carte

After having established a fief in his name, René invests a great deal in the education of his children (meaning the sons in any case). Each of them will follow the classical ways of these times, according to their birth order: the first will be cradled in the military arts, will become a lord, and will make a prestigious marriage; the second will study law at the best international universities; the third will follow a religious carreer; and the fourth will at best obtain only a small land somewhere.

René died in 1527 at the age of 59 years (4). He has made his children benefit from the ties he had created and maintained with the Kingdom of Navarre’s Court. Michel, and especially Jacques, will rise within the spheres of power.



(1) Source: Laisné manuscripts.

(2) Source: Archives Départementales de Chartres, document E1813.

(3) There is now a street called « rue de la Salle » in the village of Morancez, which is situated just south of Chartres.

(4) We know even the names of the notaries of Chartres who established the act of partition on March 11th, 1527: they are Joachim David and Pierre Crable.


The English Beauce during the Hundred Years War

1333: Knight Jean des Ligneris pays tribute to his suzerain the Count of Foix for the land of Méreinville. This strong act of feudal life is recorded in an official document of the time, a reliable and precious source for us. If we start from the hypothetical Estienne, the family has been owning this fief near Etampes for 150 years, which would be its true origin before the Beauce area.

It is the reconquest of Normandy over the English that will take these knights to the strategic locks located north of Chartres …

We know a son of Jean, named Godemart, who is also a knight and lord of Méreinville. He married Agnès Trousselle, with whom he had three daughters: Jeanne des Ligneris, who married Jacques de Brizay; Marguerite des Ligneris, wife of Jean d’Argenton; and Françoise des Ligneris, wife of Jean de Gamaches.

There is another mention of the family at that time: in Aigrefin, which is a hamlet in the village of Saint Antoine du Rocher (located next to Tours), « around 1340, tithes returned to Godefroy de Ligneris, priest ».

The plague strikes in 1348. It causes a lack of manpower and the rise of the wages. Lords and big farmers are disillusioned. The countryside then settled into a lasting slump. Besides 1348-1349, the plague will re-emerge in 1360-61, 1369 and 1375. The region will suffer periods of scarcity in 1348, 1361 and 1375.

We find ourselves in the Hundred Years War. In October and November 1370, the English troops of Knolles ravaged the Beauce area. Coming from Paris, they joined Vendôme and Le Mans.

François des Ligneris (Francis), knight, marries in 1389 Anne de Tournemine daughter of Raoül de Tournemine. Francis is perhaps a grandson of John, but we have no certainty of it.

In 1411, the militia of the butchers of Paris confronted the Armagnac army in the plain of Beauce, on behalf of the Duke of Burgundy Jean Sans Peur.

A general renewal of the bailiffs and governors took place after 1418. That same year, a battle against the English took place before the gates of Verneuil-sur-Avre, which marks the boundary between Normandy and Beauce. The French lose this battle. In the years 1420, the country around Chartres is under English domination.

Pierre des Ligneris, said to be Francis’s son, lives in the second half of the 15th century, by the end of the Hundred Years War. Attached to the house of Vendome, he serves Charles VII, during the reconquest of Normandy, or its stabilization.

A captain of Henry VI King of England, Francis de Surienne, known as the Aragonese, held Verneuil-sur-Avre in 1449. But King Charles VII of France launched a great offensive for the reconquest of Normandy. On July 20th, 1449, Brézé took Verneuil, thanks to an accomplice who opened the doors to him.

Pierre des Ligneris received in 1460 as a reward for his services the land of Lachet as well as the position of captain and grand bailif of Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais, a stronghold and a town located halfway between Verneuil-sur-Avre and Chartres. Carte générale fin XVeme

Quoted in 1478 as knight and lord of Lachet (near Saulnières), he had married in 1467 Jeanne de Thornes, daughter of Jean de Thornes and Isabeau de Baudiment.

The lands of Thornes, which were then called Thorus, are situated far from Chartres, near Chateau-Larcher, 20 km south of Poitiers. Today it is a farm, in a pretty little valley of the river « La Douce ».

The village of Saulnières is located in Eure-et-Loir in the valley of Blaise, halfway between Dreux and Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais. The locality of Lachet still exists; it is neither a village nor a castle, but as for Thorus the fief consisted of a fortified farm and some surrounding lands. La terre de Laché hier (Cassini) et aujourd’hui (IGN)

Pierre dies in 1494. He leaves three children: Jean, René and Jeanne. The family has now definitively left the lands of Etampes, to settle in the Beauce area. A new era opens, in which generations to come will propel themselves towards the top of the social order of the time.




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