Season two of Outlander throws us from the comforts of home in the Highlands of Scotland to the bustling life of luxurious Paris, France, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of Jamie and Claire’s new life. They have gorgeous clothes, a luxurious house, and new friends and enemies with significant power in the upper echelon of Parisian society. Many of these new acquaintances are based upon or inspired by real historical figures, and in this post, I’m going to break down who some of these characters really were!
Born to parents Charles Godefroy de la Tour d’Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon and Polish princess Maria Karolina Sobieska on the 15th of August 1725, Marie Louise de La Tour d’Auvergne was born into a life of luxury. In 1743, she married Jules Hercule Mériadec de Rohan, Prince of Guéméné. After two years of marriage, on 30th of August 1745, Louise gave birth to her first son, Henri Louis.
Louise is perhaps most famous for her affair with Prince Charles Edward Stuart, and this is where history has been played with a bit in the Outlanderverse. Louise did become pregnant as a result of her affair with Charles Stuart, and she did attempt to seduce her husband in hopes of convincing him the child was his. However, Louise did not meet Charlie until 1747 — three years after Jamie and Claire were in Paris and after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.
By the time the baby was born, Charlie had already moved on to his next conquest, and Louise was heartbroken. The child, Charles Godefroi Sophie Jules Marie de Rohan, was born in 1748, and whether Jules was completely convinced of the boy’s paternity or not, he declared the child legitimate and gave it his name. Tragically, the little boy only lived to the age of 5 months old. After the loss of both Charlie and her son, Louise served as a governess for the royal children, and lived a life well beyond her means.
In 1783, Marie Louise and her husband Jules were asked to leave court when it was made public knowledge that they had amassed a debt that today would be estimated around 33 million Francs. Not much is known about Louise after her banishment from court other than her death in 1793. It is a common belief by historians that, like so many other people of royal and noble birth during the French Revolution, she met her end at the Guillotine in a similar fate to that of the famous Marie Antoinette. Louise was laid to rest in the Feuillant Convent next to her young son Charles, where they remain to this day.
King Louis XV
King Louis XV was born on 15th February 1710 to parents Louis, duc de Bourgogne and Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy. At the time of his birth, Louis’s great-grandfather, Louis XIV was king, and he was third in line for the throne. However, Louis’s grandfather, the Dauphin, passed in 1711, and Louis’s mother, father, and elder brother all perished due to illness in 1712. Louis XIV passed away in 1715 leaving our Louis as King of France at just five years old!
Until he reached his legal majority in 1723, Louis’s power was limited by his regent Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans, but even when he began to rule the country as sovereign, he often lacked motivation and self confidence which left him open to the influence of his power hungry ministers and mistresses. In 1725, Louis married Marie Leszczynska, and together they had ten children, eight daughters and two sons. Seven of his children survived to adulthood, but unfortunately all but four of his children perished prior to Louis, including his two sons.
Louis XV was not known for bold political gestures. In reality, he much preferred the use of intrigue to affect political change abroad, and founded le secret du roi–an international spy ring, to this purpose. The first mission of le secret was to manipulate the election of the Polish crown for a favorable outcome to the French, but the mission was unsuccessful. From there, le secret‘s network expanded to multiple countries throughout Europe in a bid to create an anti-Austrian alliance between Sweden, Prussia, Turkey, and Poland. However, because of the secret nature of the organization, Louis’s government had no idea of le secret’s existence or purpose which ended any alliance attempts. In the end, France allied with Austria and went to war against Prussia and Britain in what would later be known as the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).
The alliance with Austria was a disastrous political move on Louis’s part. France’s obligation to the much weaker and smaller Austria was a drain on French resources that they could not afford, and because of it, France lost nearly all of their North American and Indian colonies to Britain. On the home front, Louis XV’s reign marked the beginning of a downward slide toward revolution. At the time, Parlement’s power was virtually limitless, and Louis was able to earn respect with the French people by withdrawing the privilege of obstructing royal legislation, which had been put in place during the regency prior to Louis meeting his legal majority. With Parlement’s power restricted to judicial function, financial and judicial reform were finally able to be pushed through.
Despite these reforms, Louis XV, who had once been Louis, The Well-Beloved, died despised as a monarch for his many, many mistakes in 1774. And when his judicial and financial reforms were repealed by his successor, France erupted into chaos that would form the basis of The French Revolution.
Joseph Pâris Duverney
The Pâris brothers, known for their skills as financiers in 18th century Paris, were called to France during the Regency of the Duc d’Orléans’s to liquidate the John Law system. While in France, the brothers gradually gained power in several influential spheres. This was done first through army supply chains, and then through building projects. The Pâris brothers eventually became major players in the game of political intrigue, and were most famous for exploiting the influence of women over their powerful male counterparts.
It is because of his acquaintanceship with the royal mistresses that the third of four Pâris brothers, Joseph Duverney, became director and general administrator of food supplies for the French Army. This role allowed him to distinguish himself in the area of strategic management, and he took an active role in the development of new economic and financial policies during the reign of King Louis XV.
Within the Outlanderverse, the character of Joseph Duverney actually blends three different men into one convenient character. The first is Joseph Pâris Duverney, a very influential financier within the bounds of the French court, especially with Queen Consort Marie Leszczynska. The second man is Joseph’s brother, Jean Pâris de Monmartel, who served as the banker of the French court from 1740 – 1755. Monmartel, would have had the ear of King Louis and other influential nobles, making him a very powerful man. Finally, the title “Minister of Finance” did not exist in France until 1791, so the man closest to this position would have been the Controller-General of Finances, Philibert Orry, who served France in this office from 1730 – 1745.
The Comte St. Germain
The Comte St. Germain is a relatively cryptic figure over the course of history, and little is known about his origins. Known as der Wundermann (The Wonderman), it is the popular belief of historians that St. Germain was a Portuguese Jew, although his parentage is a mystery. Born in 1710, he led a life of adventure and popped up in several locations across Europe throughout his life. St. Germain was an accomplished violinist and informed historian, but his claim to fame was his accomplishments in the field of chemistry.
Something of interest to note in the context of Outlander, Horace Walpole reported in one of his letters, St. Germain was arrested in London on the grounds of being a Jacobite spy in 1743. Although he was later released, I find this interesting indeed! In the 1740s, The Comte had significant influence in France, and was employed by Louis XV on various secret missions. Could this be our first hint at the French’s involvement in the Stuart restoration attempt?
After the Comte left France, he pops up again in the annals of history with his involvement in the Tsar Peter III Conspiracy which resulted in the assassination of the Tsar and the installation of his widow, Catherine The Great, on the throne of Russia in 1762. From Russia, it is reported by Count Alessandro di Cagliostro in his book Mémoires Authentiques that St. Germain resided in Germany for a while where he formed the freemasonry and initiated Cagliostro as one of its first members! The Comte lived in Paris again in the early 1770s, and at some point at 1774 moved back to Germany where he resided at several German courts before settling down to live out the rest of his days researching the “Secret Sciences” with landgrave Charles of Hesse at his home in Schleswig-Holstein.
Of course, if you’re an avid Outlander fan, you may have noticed that I left one very significant character out of this analysis, and that is Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Prince Charlie is an extremely complex historical figure with a lot of research and works to sift through as one of Scotland’s most prominent historical figures. However, I promise, sometime in the relatively near future, I will answer all your pressing questions about The Bonnie Prince Across The Water!!
Until next time, Cheers!!