Pierre Victor, baron de Besenval de Brünstatt

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Baron de Besenval in His Study by Henri Danloux, 1791,[1] shows the Baron, an avid art collector, in retirement.

Pierre Victor, baron de Besenval de Brünstatt (1722–1794) was the last commander of the Swiss Guards in France.

Born at Solothurn, he was the son of Jean Victor de Besenval, colonel of the regiment of Swiss Guards in the pay of France, who was charged in 1707 by Louis XIV with a mission to Sweden to reconcile Charles XII with the tsar Peter the Great, and to unite them in alliance with France against England. Pierre Victor served at first as aide-de-camp to Marshall Broglie during the campaign of 1748 in Bohemia, then as aide-de-camp to the duke of Orleans during the Seven Years' War. He then became commander of the Swiss Guards. When the French Revolution began de Besenval remained firmly attached to the royal court and he was given command of the troops which the king had concentrated in Paris in July 1789, a move which led to the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. Besenval showed incompetence in the crisis, and attempted to flee. He was arrested, tried by the tribunal of the Châtelet, but acquitted. He then fell into obscurity and died in Paris in 1794.

The baron de Besenval de Brünstatt is principally known as the author of his Mémoires, which were published in 1805 to 1807 by the vicomte de Ségur, who was said to be his actual son, in which are reported many scandalous tales, true or false, of the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The authenticity of these memoirs is not absolutely established.

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