Philibert de Gramont
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (February 2013)
|Philibert de Gramont|
Engraved portrait of Philibert de Gramont
|Died||31 January 1707|
|Father||Antoine II de Gramont|
|Mother||Claude de Montmorency|
Philibert, Count de Gramont (1621 – 31 January 1707), was a French nobleman, known as the protagonist of the Mémoires written by Antoine Hamilton (his brother-in-law). He was a younger halfbrother of Antoine III of Gramont and uncle of Catherine Charlotte de Gramont, princess of Monaco.
Philibert de Gramont came of a noble Gascon family, said to have been Basque in origin. His grandmother, Diane d'Andouins, comtesse de Gramont, was "la belle Corisande," one of the mistresses of Henry IV. The grandson assumed that his father, Antoine II de Gramont, viceroy of Navarre, was the son of Henry IV, and regretted that he had not claimed the privileges of royal paternity. Philibert de Gramont was born to Antoine II and his second wife, Claude de Montmorency, probably at the family seat of Bidache.
He was destined for the church, and was educated at the college of Pau, in Béarn. He refused the ecclesiastical life, however, and joined the army of Prince Thomas of Savoy, then besieging in Piedmont. He afterwards served under his elder half-brother, Antoine, marshal de Gramont, and the prince de Condé. He was present at Freiburg and Nordlingen, and served with distinction in Spain and Flanders in 1647.
He favoured Condé's party at the beginning of the Fronde, but changed sides before he was too severely compromised. In spite of his record in the army, he never received any important commission either military or diplomatic, perhaps the cause of an incurable levity in his outlook. He was, however, made a governor of the Pays d'Aunis and lieutenant of Bearn. During the Commonwealth he visited England, and in 1662 he was exiled from Paris for paying court to Mademoiselle de la Mothe-Houdancourt, one of the king's mistresses. He went to London, where he found at the court of Charles II an atmosphere congenial to his talents for intrigue, gallantry and pleasure.
He was married in London to Elizabeth Hamilton, under pressure from her two brothers. "La belle Hamilton" was one of the great beauties of the English court, and, according to her brother's optimistic account, was able to fix the count's affections. She was a woman of considerable wit, and held her own at the court of Louis XIV, but her husband pursued his gallant exploits to the close of a long life, being, said Ninon de l'Enclos, the only old man who could affect the follies of youth without being ridiculous. In 1664 he was allowed to return to France. He revisited England in 1670 in connection with the Sale of Dunkirk, and again in 1671 and 1676. In 1688 he was sent by Louis XIV to congratulate James II on the birth of an heir. From all these small diplomatic missions he succeeded in obtaining considerable profits, being destitute, and having no scruples whenever money was in question. At the age of 75 he had a dangerous illness, during which he became reconciled to the church. His penitence does not seem to have survived his recovery.
He was 80 years old when he supplied his brother-in-law, Antoine Hamilton, with the material for his Mémoires. Hamilton said that they had been dictated to him, but no doubt he was the real author. The account of Gramont's early career was doubtless provided by himself, but Hamilton was probably more familiar with the history of the court of Charles II, which forms the most interesting section of the book. Moreover, Gramont, though he had a reputation for wit, was no writer, and there is no reason to suppose that he was capable of producing a work which remains a masterpiece of style and of witty portraiture.
When the Mémoires were finished it is said that Gramont sold the manuscript for 1500 francs; and kept most of the money himself. Fontenelle, then censor of the press, refused to license the book from considerations of respect to the strange old man, whose gambling, cheating and meannesses were so ruthlessly exposed. But Gramont himself appealed to the chancellor and the prohibition was removed. He died on 10 January 1707, and the Mémoires appeared six years later.
His biographer Hamilton was far superior to the comte de Gramont, but he relates the story of his hero without comment, and no condemnation of the prevalent code of morals is allowed to appear, unless by an occasional touch of irony. The portrait is drawn with such skill that the count, in spite of his biographer's candour, imposes by his grand air on the reader much as he appears to have done on his contemporaries. The book is the most entertaining of contemporary memoirs, and in no other book is there a description so vivid, truthful, and graceful of the licentious court of Charles II. There are other and less flattering accounts of the count. His scandalous tongue knew no restraint, and he was a privileged person who was allowed to state even the most unpleasing truths to Louis XIV.
De Gramont had two children with his wife, Elizabeth.
- Claude Charlotte de Gramont (died 14 May 1739), who married Henry Stafford-Howard, 1st Earl of Stafford
- Marie Elizabeth de Gramont (born 27 December 1667), who became an abbess
He also had a bastard daughter, born in Piedmont, at the siege of Trino: Giacomo or Jacques, daughter of Countess Theresia de' Medici, granddaughter of don Antonio de' Medici via his son Antonfrancesco.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.; Endnotes:
- Mémoires de la, vie du comte de Grammont contenant parliculièrement l'hisiore amoureuse de la cour d'Angleterre sous le règne de Charles II was printed in Holland with the inscription Cologne, 1713. Other editions followed in 1715 and 1716. Memoirs of the Life of Count de Grammont . . . translated out of the French by Mr [Abel] Boyer (1714), was supplemented by a “Compleat key" in 1719. The Mémoires “augmentées de notes et d'éclaircissemens” was edited by Horace Walpole in 1772. In 1793 appeared in London an edition adorned with portraits engraved after originals in the royal collection. An English edition by Sir Walter Scott was published by H. G. Bohn (1846), and this with additions was reprinted in 1889, 1890, 1896, &c. Among other modern editions are an excellent one in the Bibliothégue Charpentier edited by M. Gustave Brunet (1859) Mémoires . . . (Paris, 1888) with etchings by L. Boisson after C. Delort and an introduction by H. Gausseron: Memoirs... (1889), edited by Mr H. Vizetelly; and Memoirs... (1903), edited by Mr Gordon Goodwin.