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History of Lauzun

If Lauzun were told to me

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a bright spot among the immense curtain of forests that closed the horizon. It was a hill cleared by the axe of the Gallo-Romans and cultivated by the Gauls with extreme care. The crops it bore attracted large numbers of larks every autumn, and the locals called it "the hill of larks". Losa, in Latin, was quickly transformed by the rough Celtic gullets and the law of diphthongs, into Lausa, Lausum and finally Lauzun. Which is one hypothesis among many others.

To protect the valley, which they had made rich and lively thanks to their farms (villa = large farm), the Romans installed a powerful opidum at the top of the lark hill. Ruined by the great invasions of the5th and 6th centuries, it served as the base for the first castle, at the foot of which the huts of the serfs and the vilains sought protection.

Already in the 12th century, the Caumonts were lords of Lauzun. Unfortunately, history has kept few documents from this medieval period. NomparI sided with the Crusaders and fought against the Albigensians. His son Anissant fought alongside Simon de Montfort. During the Hundred Years War, the Caumonts remained loyal to the kings of France. At that time, Jean-Adam Caumont took the title of baron de Puyguilhem. He had to fight against Rodrique de Villandrando, a Spanish adventurer who, at the head of 4,000 soldiers, claimed to be the server of Charles VII and was simply ravaging the whole of Guyenne. Rodrigue besieged and took Lauzun.

After the battle of Castillon, peace returned and the lords of Lauzun had a lot of work to do to safeguard the usurped lands claimed by the neighbours who had been harmed by their encroachments.

The Caumonts undoubtedly took part in the Italian wars and played an important role during the Wars of Religion. François de Caumont, who remained faithful to the Catholic religion, was one of Montluc's most devoted captains.

In August 1565, King Charles IX slept in Lauzun.

In 1570, the barony was made a county.

In 1576, the future Henry IV came to the door of the castle of Lauzun to have dinner and sleep.

Immediately, the bell was rung in full flight to call the vassals; they came in such numbers that Henri de Navarre was displeased; "My cousin," he said to Lauzun, "you are more powerful than I am; bring down this bell so that I don't hear it again.

The Estates General having been convened in 1614, the Count of Lauzun was one of the first to be elected as representative of the nobility. Gabriel II de Caumont, the son of the former, remained loyal to the king during a civil war that devastated Guyenne in 1621-1622.

At the siege of Tonneins-Dessus, he was wounded in the thigh. The Duke of Elboeuf took and razed the town, which belonged to the Duke of La Force, who had revolted against the King of France. La Force made his submission and in exchange received the baton of Marshal of France.

The Count de Lauzun could not stand the yoke of d'Epernon, governor of Guyenne, and even less that of Richelieu. From the beginning of the Fronde, he was a Ligueur. His wife Charlotte, daughter of the Duc de La Force, was a Protestant and an enemy of Mazarin.

The revolt broke out on 18 January 1650 as soon as the arrest of Condé, Conti and Longueville became known. The Princess de Condé sought refuge in Bordeaux and was warmly received there. The Count of Lauzun was one of her warmest supporters and became very agitated.

The release of the princes, the appointment of Condé as governor of Guyenne and his arrival in Agen did not calm tempers. The struggle between the prince and Anne of Austria intensified. Hostilities broke out. Lauzun followed Condé's army.

As a punishment, General d'Harcourt requisitioned two thousand five hundred rations of bread per day from his lands from 12 to 25 May 1652. The Count's position was critical, as the generals of the royal army wanted to raze the castle to the ground to punish the master. But at the place called Les Batailles, their troops were repulsed with such violence that, broken, they fled in disarray, leaving more than fifty dead on the ground. The province, exhausted, made its submission.

Gabriel de Caumont died in 1660. He had married Charlotte de Caumont, of the de la Force branch, and they had nine children. Antonin, the "handsome Lauzun" whose adventures were to be the talk of the town for so long, was the third.

His life was as long as it was adventurous: "Monsieur de Lauzun," wrote Saint Simon in 1705, "is a name on which one must run out of steam if one wants to make a fair volume of it and even more"; and La Bruyère, in his "Characters", added: "It is not permitted to dream as he lived". Indeed, Antonin, a simple cadet from Gascony, without title or fortune, had a strange and brilliant destiny.

At the age of 14, his father put him in the "school of the courtiers" and sent him to Paris near his cousin the Maréchal de Gramont. His life will prove that his lessons were well learned. As a young man, he was such a supple and elegant horseman that all the ladies of the Court were crazy about him. His fiery gaze made many hearts beat and many tears shed, his good fortune was countless: he was the very type of seducer.

Louis XIV noticed him and appointed him colonel of the dragoons of his guard, then in 1660 captain of the Hundred Gentlemen. He became a favourite because the king liked his wit, his biting repartee and his audacity. The esteem in which the monarch held him and the credit he enjoyed with him earned him serious jealousy. Louvois was able to prevent his appointment as Grand Master of the Artillery with great difficulty. He confided his disappointment to Madame de Montespan, then his great friend and favourite. She promised to speak to her royal lover.

To find out for sure, Lauzun, reckless as hell and devilishly indiscreet, dared to hide under the bed of the beauty and from there, "sweating profusely", overheard the conversation with Louis XIV. Instead of defending him, she blamed Lauzun, spoke of his arrogance and vanity, and persuaded the king to do nothing for him. A few hours later, Lauzun asked the marquise for news of his interview. She told him that she had served him well, and quoted her alleged words. He let her tell him, then, holding her by the hand, told her softly and lowly, word by word, all that had passed between them without missing a syllable; and from there, still softly and lowly, called her by the most infamous and insulting names and assured her that he would cut off her face and tongue. Madame de Montespan arrived at the Palace more dead than alive, having almost lost consciousness. She and the king believed that it could only be the devil who had given her such a prompt and faithful account of what had happened" (Saint Simon).

After this outburst, someone else would have gone to hide in the depths of his lands; that would have been to misunderstand Lauzun. Two days later, he had the insolence to ask the king why the promised office had not been granted to him. He broke his sword in front of him, shouting that he no longer wished to serve a prince who had failed to keep his word for a woman who was nothing. The king, pale with anger but controlling himself, opened a window and threw his cane, not wanting to beat a gentleman. Lauzun was arrested and imprisoned. He stayed only six months, because the king liked his wit and his company, so he returned to the Court more insolent, more influential than ever.

Already at that time, 1662, the Grande Demoiselle (first cousin of Louis XIV) was beginning to love him. She was 34 and he 28. He was, however, not handsome, richer in faults than in qualities, vain, fickle, ambitious, solitary, savage, chagrined, extremely brave and dangerously bold, insolent at times and capable of baseness to achieve his ends. No culture, no pleasantness of mind, but a lofty physiognomy which imposed itself; he was noble in all his ways and his mind astonishing.

He had that which cannot be analysed, the most mysterious of gifts, that of pleasing. The Grande Demoiselle however adored him. In 1662 she was not so dazzled that she did not see him as he was, with his hair mixed with grey, very bushy and often greasy, his beautiful blue eyes, but always red, his pointed and red nose. "For his mood and his manners I challenge to know them, she says, to say them or to copy them. From 1662 to 1672 Lauzun's favour grew and the love of the princess increased. At the siege of Courtrai in 1667, then at that of Lille, he distinguished himself by his valour. Decidedly infatuated, Mademoiselle resolved to marry him. But the difference between her and Lauzun was immense, the king would never consent to this union. The whole Court was amused by the passion of this romantic forty-three year old princess who was in love for the first time. She considered Lauzun the only person worthy of her choice. The intrigue dragged on, Lauzun continued to appear blind and deaf, but full of respect for the princess. He even advised her to marry and then stopped seeing her so as not to compromise her. Exasperated, Mademoiselle confessed her love to him. But the king, who at first consented to this misalliance, pulled himself together and said no at the request of all the indignant lords of the court. Mademoiselle cried, wept and despaired. Lauzun comforted her and advised her to go and dine with the King to thank him for having broken an affair which she would have repented of in four days' time. He affirmed his obedience to the king himself and the king was charmed and promised him favours that would make his envious ones jealous. He was appointed governor of Berry with 50,000 livres of gifts. Mademoiselle did not console herself. Perhaps there was then a secret marriage between her and Lauzun. But the grudge of Madame de Montespan, who hated Lauzun, brought about the catastrophe; she presented Lauzun in such a light to the king, showed him to be deceitful, perjured, saying that his very life was not safe as long as he was free, that in the end the king had him arrested and taken to the fortress of Pignerol on November 25, 1671 by d'Artagnan. He remained there for 10 years in a very harsh captivity, receiving no news. It was believed that he was going to lose his mind, no intellectual or physical distraction was allowed. For two years no one spoke to him: he was cut off from the world of the living, walled up in a dark, damp dungeon with strong gates. After a year, he was unrecognizable. Fouquet was his cellmate; it was only after six years that they could communicate. In 1676, Lauzun, after having worked for three years to pierce the wall of his gaol with old nails and knives, went into the neighbouring dungeon, untied an iron bar and, with the help of a rope made from his clothes, reached the moat; seen and arrested, he was watched more closely. She, faithful and exalted, did not forget him for a moment, showing a sorrowful face at the court parties. In 1677, his sister asked for his release and was allowed to see him. Brought out into the open, Lauzun, pale, emaciated, downcast, was dazzled. He confessed that he no longer understood anything of the words spoken by his lawyer. His sister did not recognise him and fainted. For her part, Mademoiselle acted, the king and Madame de Montespan paid for her release in a rather odious manner. The king allowed her to come and greet him, and received her icily and dismissed her. He saw Mademoiselle at the Montespan. The interview was rather cold. He was old, changed, unfashionable, "the charm was broken". Mademoiselle gave him several estates, but he complained "that she had given him so little that he had found it difficult to accept! ».

It was only then that a secret marriage took place, followed by two years of quarrels, of disputes, of an intolerable life despite reconciliations. He cheated on the princess openly with grisettes. In 1682 he bought the beautiful hotel on the Quai d'Anjou, still called the Hôtel de Lauzun, on the Ile Saint-Louis.

In 1684, he and Mademoiselle separated for good. In 1688, he got his chance again. He went to England where the Revolution was rumbling, arrived in time to save the royal family, brought back to France the queen and the prince of Wales. The king was reconquered and brought Lauzun back to the court despite the fury of Mademoiselle. James II made the Count his intimate and gave him the Order of the Garter. He was the leader of the failed expedition to Ireland to restore James II to the throne. Louis XIV, without rancour, made the county of Lauzun a duchy; the triumph of the youngest son of Gascony was complete.

As Mademoiselle died in 1693 without wanting to see him again, Lauzun remarried in 1695, at the age of 63, to Geneviève-Marie de Durford, daughter of the Maréchal de Lorges, aged 15. The little girl took him to be free, rich and a great lady, believing she would soon be a widow! Lauzun lived another 28 years. He had a magnificent old age, receiving guests sumptuously, always refined in his dress and sparkling with wit. He died at the age of 90.

Such was the life of the Duke of Lauzun, who cast ancestors and contemporaries into the shadows.