The Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, was thrown into the worst jail in Austria (Olmutz) during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror (1789-1799).
It’s what the French today celebrate on July 14, known as Bastille Day, something that always eludes me since the violence remains legendary.
Gouverneur Morris, our diplomat to France during this time, wrote to Thomas Jefferson as he stood on his balcony telling him heads stuck on pikes were going by. Jefferson, who felt the French too deserved their revolution more or less said, it’s the cost of doing business.
Lafayette, as the commander-in-chief of the National Guard whose job was to protect the King and Queen (Louis XVI and Marie Antionette) famously executed, was one of the main reasons for his arrest.
His wife Adrienne after her entire family was killed for being of noble blood, was also put in prison though not one as grim as Olmutz.
James and Dolly Madison (4th U.S. president), in France at the time, tried every possible way to get Adrienne released.
Dolly, the Hillary Clinton of her day, refusing to give up, visited Adrienne in jail daily leaving their much recognized coach parked in front embarrassing the French so much, they finally let her out.
One would think, quit while you’re ahead, but Adrienne had other ideas.
She went to the authorities asking permission to join her husband. You can imagine their reaction, and almost hear them…are you insane? Go home and be with your children.
But she persisted, and in 1795 along with their kids, went to be with her husband whose life she probably saved.
He was in such ill health, tortured, depressed after already spending three years in captivity…the mere presence of his family restored him.
After two years, thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte, the entire Lafayette family returned home.
Sadly for Adrienne, the experience left her much weakened dying in 1807.
The Marquis lived till 1834 buried beside her in Paris’s Picpus Cemetery for all eternity.
How’s that for a love story?