Guy-Armand de Gramont, Comte de Guiche
Guy-Armand de Gramont, mostly just called by his second name Armand, was born on November 25 in 1637. He achieved fame due to his bravery on the battlefield, his libertine lifestyle and his scandalous affair with Philippe de France, brother to the great Sun King.
Armand was the first-born child of Antoine III de Gramont, Peer-Duc de Gramont and Marshal of France, and Françoise-Marguerite du Plessis de Chivré, a niece of Richelieu. Armand was born into quite the illustrious family and his was father fiercely loyal to Richelieu, even saying that the Cardinal was of more importance to him than the King. (*gasp*) After the Thirty Years’ War Antoine III de Gramont was made Marshal of France and was lifted to the rows of Ducs by Louis XIV as reward for his bravery. It was the Duc de Gramont who was sent to Spain in order to ask for Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche‘s hand on behest of Louis XIV.
Armand grew up to be a rather handsome man and was for a long time regarded as the most handsome fellow of the whole court. It is not surprising that he attracted both females and males. It made him rather vain and he soon was not just the handsomest man at court, but also the most conceited one. He was not the only one of his siblings to be praised for a handsome face. His sister Catherine-Charlotte was a celebrated beauty of the court. She married the heir to the Principality of Monaco in 1660, who inherited the title Prince de Monaco two years later. In 1665, the Princesse de Monaco found her way into the bed of Louis XIV.
While his sister was a member of Henriette d’Angleterre‘s household, Armand became a member of the household of Monsieur and the young Monsieur fell head over heels for the charismatic and handsome Comte. Armand had by then already gotten himself the reputation of being a lover of both genders and loved those whenever he had a chance. He did not say no to Monsieur either. Whereas Monsieur saw him through rose-coloured glasses, Armand was far from being the loyal friend and gallant lover. La Grande Mademoiselle writes of an incident that took place in which the Comte de Guiche acted most ungentlemanly. During a masked ball, in which she and Monsieur dressed up as shepherdesses, both of them enjoyed themselves splendidly. Monsieur danced and was merry and, although most people pretended not to see though his disguise, La Grande Mademoiselle writes he was recognised by nearly everyone. The Comte de Guiche lead Monsieur in a dance, pretending not to know who he was, and proceeded to hit and kick him in the royal behind in front of everyone present. Monsieur acted as if he did not care, but the whole thing was a major scandal. A member of the royal family, the King’s own brother, being kicked in front of all nobility.
It was not the only indecent in which Armand acted with an utmost lack of respect towards Monsieur. The latter always thinking that his Armand adored him just as much as he adored him. This was not quite true and what is always said about the Chevalier de Lorraine about being only after Monsieur’s fortune, might apply better to the Comte de Guiche’s motivation to stay close to Monsieur.
Armand and Catherine-Charlotte were already companions of Henriette d’Angleterre before her marriage to Monsieur. Minette, as her brother Charles II called Madame, and her flirty nature also attracted the Comte de Guiche. According to the second Madame, Liselotte von der Pfalz, Monsieur urged Minette to get into more friendly terms with Guiche and it backfired.
“Monsieur was himself the cause of Madame’s intrigue with the Comte de Guiche. He was one of the favourites of the late Monsieur, and was said to have been handsome once. Monsieur earnestly requested Madame to shew some favour to the Comte de Guiche, and to permit him to wait upon her at all times. The Comte, who was brutal to every one else, but full of vanity, took great pains to be agreeable to Madame, and to make her love him. In fact, he succeeded, being seconded by his aunt, Madame de Chaumont, who was the gouvernante of Madame’s children. One day Madame went to this lady’s chamber, under the pretence of seeing her children, but in fact to meet de Guiche, with whom she had an assignation. She had a valet de chambre named Launois, whom I have since seen in the service of Monsieur; he had orders to stand sentinel on the staircase, to give notice in case Monsieur should approach. This Launois suddenly ran into the room, saying, “Monsieur is coming downstairs.” The lovers were terrified to death. The Count could not escape by the antechamber on account of Monsieur’s people who were there. Launois said, “I know a way, which I will put into practice immediately; hide yourself,” he said to the Comte, “behind the door.” He then ran his head against Monsieur’s nose as he was entering, and struck him so violently that he began to bleed. At the same moment he cried out, “I beg your pardon, Monsieur, I did not think you were so near, and I ran to open you the door.” Madame and Madame de Chaumont ran in great alarm to Monsieur, and covered his face with their handkerchiefs, so that the Comte de Guiche had time to get out of the room, and escape by the staircase. Monsieur saw someone run away, but he thought it was Launois, who was escaping through fear. He never learnt the truth.”
Although Monsieur might have had no idea, Louis XIV got wind of it. He himself was very close to Minette in the past and asked his current mistress Louise de La Vallière, which was lady-in-waiting to Madame, what was going on. She refused to answer, but was in the know. The Comte de Guiche was exiled from court shortly after, partly because of his affair with Madame and partly because he flirted with Louise de La Vallière. It was not the first exile for Guiche. Louis XIV exiled him three times and once, in 1660, the Comte de Guiche even landed in the Bastille.
Armand went off to Poland, where he fought bravely against the Turks and was recalled to court two years later. His time at court did not last long. He involved himself in a plot to make the Queen aware of the affair the King had with Mademoiselle de La Vallière. Armand was banished to Holland, where he won glory on the battlefield again. In 1669, he was allowed to return to France, but was not admitted to court until 1671. By then he was seen as not so handsome anymore and had lost two fingers in the siege of Dunes. He had the reputation to be a great lover and libertine, a brave soldier, a hero on the battlefield. He proved his hero-ness a year later by swimming the Rhine with a whole army following him.
Armand had no chance to enjoy is glory for too long. He died in 1673, on November 29, in Bad Kreuznach after an illness probably caused by his dip in the Rhine.
very interesting! Do we know the reason why he was thrown to Bastille in 1660?
Aurora von Goeth
I tried to find out as I wrote the article, but none of the documents at my disposal said so. I will add it when I find something.
Thank you !
It surprises me how often the nobles in 1660’s can be in jail! (and not for political reasons)I found out Rohan was in Bastilles after having some conflits with the Chevalier de Lorraine, and moreover Louis le Grand the king’s best friend. ..Maybe it was the war but those young men were just reckless.