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A memorialist at Versailles (1675-1755)

The writings of Saint-Simon provide one of the most complete accounts of the reign of Louis XIV. Installed at the Court, the writer and historian recounted the daily life of Versailles in twenty volumes. Saint-Simon also took a very keen interest in political affairs. In 1715, on the death of the King, he entered the Regency Council before withdrawing from the Court to his château de la Ferté-Vidame. He died there in 1755.

Louis de Rouvroy, Duc de Saint-Simon, was born in the shadow of the Château. The son of Claude de Saint-Simon, a former favourite of Louis XIII, he was baptised in Versailles in 1677. His godfather was no other than Louis XIV and his godmother Maria Theresa of Austria, the King’s wife.

Although trained for a career in the army, he finally chose the life of the Court and the profession of historian. Plunged in the intrigues of the Château, a friend to several courtiers and ministers including Pontchartrain and Desmarets, Saint-Simon became the best chronicler of the palace. Although not much appreciated by the King, he managed to turn around the situation in his favour after the two interviews he obtained with Louis XIV in 1710. He was then living in a luxurious apartment at Versailles with his wife Madame de Saint-Simon. An attentive witness of the life of the Court, Saint-Simon wrote his observations and criticisms of court life in his Memoirs. No protagonist of Versailles escaped his attention and he described the goings-on in the corridors of power in detail and sometimes with ferocity.

On the death of the King in 1715, the Duc d’Orléans, a friend of Saint-Simon, became Regent during the minority of Louis XV. The time had come for the writer to test his political theories. In September he joined the Regency Council, but the death of the Duc d’Orléans in 1723 banished him definitively from power. This event distanced him from the Court and he decided to retire to his château de la Ferté-Vidame, fifty kilometres from Chartres. In 1749 he completed his Memoirs which end with the death of the Regent. Saint-Simon died on 2 March 1755 in his Parisian apartment on the rue de Grenelle. His writings were not published in full until 1829, by the historian’s heirs. Marcel Proust and Stendhal were lifelong readers.

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