Gilbert Motier, marquis de La Fayette

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La Fayette was born on September 6, 1757 to Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert Paulette du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, colonel of grenadiers, and Marie Louise Jolie de La Rivière, at the château de Chavaniac, in Chavaniac, near Le Puy-en-Velay, in the modern department of Haute-Loire. His full name is rarely used; instead he is often referred to as the marquis de La Fayette or Lafayette.

Image illustrative de l'article Chavaniac-Lafayette

Château de Chavaniac, Chavaniac-Lafayette

Crédit :

La Fayette’s lineage appears to be one of the oldest in Auvergne. Members of the family were noted for their contempt for danger.
La Fayette’s father, struck by a cannonball at the Battle of Minden in Westphalia, died on 1 August 1759. La Fayette became Lord of Chavaniac, but the estate went to his mother. La Fayette’s mother and his maternal grandfather, the Marquis de La Rivière, died, on 3 and 24 April 1770 respectively, leaving La Fayette an income of 25,000 livres. Upon the death of an uncle, the 12-year-old Lafayette inherited a handsome yearly income of 120,000 livres. La Fayette was raised by his paternal grandmother, Mme de Chavaniac, who had brought the château into the family with her dowry. Also in the household were Mme de Chavaniac’s daughters Madeleine du Motier, and Charlotte de Guérin, the Baronne de Chavaniac.

Blason fam fr Motier de La Fayette.svg

Armes des Motier de La Fayette : De gueules à la bande d’or et à la bordure de vair.
Devise : Cur Non (Pourquoi pas)

Crédit :

April 11, 1774, he married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles (1759-1807) daughter of the Duke d’Ayen, with a dowry of 200 000 pounds which at the time was a very large sum.

His marriage allows it to be presented to the Court because his wife’s family, one of the oldest of the Court of France is related to Madame de Maintenon, his wife Marie Adrienne being her niece.

Marie adrienne  de Noailles

Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles / Madame de La Fayette



Until 1771 La Fayette studied at the Collège du Plessis (Lycée Louis-le-Grand), while being a trainee to become an officer at the Musketeers of military Household of King of France.

In 1775, La Fayette (Captain of Cavalery) took part in his unit’s annual training in Metz, where he met Charles-François de Broglie, marquis de Ruffec, the Army of the East’s commander. When he first learned of that quarrel, he wrote, “My heart was enlisted and I thought only of joining the colors.” La Fayette returned to Paris in the fall and participated in “sociétés de pensée” (our modern think tanks) that discussed French involvement in the American Revolution. At these meetings, a frequent speaker, Abbé Guillaume Raynal, criticised the nobility, the clergy and the practice of slavery. The monarchy banned Raynal from speaking, and he expressed his views secretly in the Grand Orient de France masonic lodges of which La Fayette was a member “My heart was dedicated.” La Fayette said.

Louis XVI Roi de France (1754-1793) par Duplessis

Thumbnail for version as of 20:33, 18 September 2005

Portrait de Victor-François de Broglie  / Spiritual Brother of Lafayette

Crédit :çooris_de_Broglie_(1718-1804)


Abbé Guillaume Raynal / Spritual Father of Lafayette

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Marquis_de_Lafayette -armée continental

Young Marquis de Lafayette in a uniform of major general of the Continental Army.

On December 7, 1776, La Fayette arranged through Silas Deane, an American agent in Paris, to enter the American service as a major general. Lafayette visited his uncle Marquis de Noailles, the Ambassador to Britain. During a ball at Lord George Germain’s, he met Lord Rawdon, met Sir Henry Clinton at the Opera, and met Lord Shelburne at breakfast. Lafayette refused to toast King George, and left after three weeks. In 1777, the French government granted the American military one million livres in supplies after Minister Charles Gravier pressed for French involvement. De Broglie intrigued with his old subordinate, German Johann de Kalb, (who had previously done a reconnaissance of America), to send French officers to fight alongside the Americans, (and perhaps set up a French generalissimo). De Broglie approached Gravier, suggesting assistance to the American revolutionaries. De Broglie then presented La Fayette, who had been placed on the reserve list, to de Kalb.

Departure for America

Returning to Paris, La Fayette found that the Continental Congress did not have the money for his voyage; hence he acquired the sailing ship La Victoire himself in Bordeaux. The king officially forbade him to leave after British spies discovered his plan, and issued an order for La Fayette to join his father-in-law’s regiment in Marseille, disobedience of which would be punishable by imprisonment. The British ambassador ordered the seizure of the ship La Fayette was fitting out at Bordeaux, and La Fayette was threatened with arrest.
-On April 17, 1777, he travelled to Spain (Pasajes de San Juan) for support in the American cause.
-On April 26 1777, he sailed for West Indies but change his route for America.
-On June 13, he landed on North Island near Georgetown, South Carolina.

Sources :Texts and pictures are extracted from