I am a great admirer of the Marquis de Lafayette as is clear by my five posts on him during the American Revolution. That is not to say he didn’t have his flaws and the one I focus most on is his philandering. This is because I am not a fan of philandering in the first place, but also because he married maybe the most supportive wife of all time.
Born Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, Adrienne was what we call “filthy rich” from the cradle. She was from the very famous (in France) Noailles and d’Aguesseau families. She would of course be wedded to someone as equally as distinguished (read: rich). Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was chosen when they were both very young. They were so young, Adrienne’s mother kept them apart for a year in order to control their courtship.
Once they were brought together, they didn’t waste any time. They were finally allowed to be together in 1775 and their first child was born in 1776. In 1777, the Marquis left for America and the first of his many great adventures. This is also the first time Adrienne got to show her unbelievable talents for holding down the fort at home.
Now, before anyone gets in a huff about me praising a woman for staying home and tending to the children, you need to hear the conditions under which Adrienne did so. Lafayette would leave multiple times and get into plenty of bad situations. Here’s what Adrienne had to deal with.
- Lafayette leaves for America. Oops, he did so in defiance of the king of France. Adrienne was left to deal with her family and the freaking king.
- Lafayette returns a hero. Adrienne is happy to have him home. He probably cheats.
- Lafayette is involved in the French Revolution. He is first in imminent danger from the rioters and then has to flee France to escape execution by the new government. Adrienne is left behind with the children. She would live to see her grandmother, mother, and sister guillotined during the Terror. She and her children would live only by a mixture of luck and American interference.
- Lafayette is imprisoned in Prussia. Adrienne did everything in her power to have him released. When she failed, SHE VOLUNTARILY JOINED HIM IN PRISON WITH HER DAUGHTERS. She wasn’t crazy, though. She knew the political fallout of a woman and children in prison would force people’s hands. They would remain in prison for two years.
- Once released, the Lafayettes were poor and political problems meant they could not return home. See, the Marquis refused to pledge allegiance to the new leader of France. His name was Napoleon or something. The Marquis felt he came to power in an unconstitutional manner. How’d he get back to France? Well, his wife politically outmaneuvered everyone in her path, including her husband. She restored their wealth through various means.
- She never cheated.
The stay in prison destroyed Adrienne’s health. She would carry on for another decade but was sickly the entire time. After her death, Lafayette would sit alone in her room once a day for the rest of his life.
We should all be lucky enough to find our own Adrienne.