L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The comte and comtesse de Vergennes, portraits in Turkish dress by Antoine de Favray, 1766

Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes (20 December 1717, Dijon – 13 February 1787, Versailles), French statesman and diplomat.

Vergennes rose through the ranks of the diplomatic service, including positions in Portugal and Germany, before receiving the important post of French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1755. During his time there - which included the period of the Seven Year's War - he oversaw complex negotiations between the two countries, but was recalled in 1768. The reason for his dismissal was most likely because of the tensions between himself and the duc de Choiseul, Foreign Minister to Louis XV, and also because he had contracted a marriage without the King's permission. But later, after assisting a pro-French faction in Sweden to take power, he returned home to France and was promoted to Foreign Minister by the new king.

He served in that capacity from the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, most notably during the American War of Independence. Vergennes hoped that by giving French aid to the American rebels, he would be able to weaken Great Britain's dominance on the international stage. (In spite of helping to secure American independence, France achieved little material gain from the war, while the huge costs incurred nearly bankrupted the French treasury. And both philosophically and financially, the American Revolution was a direct cause of what occurred in France in 1789 and beyond.) When told of the death of Vergennes, two years before the Revolution, Louis XVI broke down in tears, describing Vergennes as "the only friend I could count on, the one minister who never deceived me."

Anne "Annette" Viviers, comtesse de Vergennes (28 January 1730, Constantinople – 1798), widow of a doctor, François Testa, who had died in 1754.  When she quietly married Vergennes in 1767, they had been living together for some time and already had two sons born out of wedlock, the elder six years old.  The comte had not asked the King's permission - something his position required - which no doubt the King would have refused, all things considered, not least the fact that the bride was a commoner and of unequal rank to her husband.

The irregular circumstances of their union would cause much future difficulty in his diplomatic career.  The unapproved marriage was used as an excuse for his recall from Turkey, she was not allowed to accompany her husband on his subsequent post to Stockholm, and she was snubbed and rejected at Versailles.  Still, it was a love match, and he was ever after devoted to his wife and their children.


Chevalier Antoine de Favray (8 September 1706, Bagnolet – 9 February 1798, Malta), French painter. In the 1730s, he was a private student of Jean-François de Troy II, then director of the Académie de France in Rome, but by 1744, de Favray had left Rome for Malta, where he remained for much of the rest of his career. He is best known for his genre scenes and portraits of personalities prominent in Malta and in the Ottoman Empire.

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