Marquis de Lafayette

Who was known as "The Hero of the Two Worlds," for his accomplishments in both the French Revolution, and the American Revolution?

And the answer: Marquis de Lafayette.

A painting of Gilbert du Motier, also known as the Marquis de Lafayette, or simply Lafayette

Born with the name Gilbert du Motier, but known in history books as Lafayette, he was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several important battles. After helping the Americans win against the British, he returned to France, where he was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789.

Young Lafayette entered a world of war at just 16 years old. Following the death of his father and mother, Lafayette wasted no time making use of his hefty inheritance – at just 16, Lafayette further solidified his social status by marrying the 14 year old daughter of the influential duc d'Ayen. Entering the circle of young courtiers at the court of King Louis XVI, Lafayette quickly realized his desire to win glory as a soldier. Not yet 20 years old and with no combat experience, the Marquis travelled to the American colonies at his own expense.

Ultimately, the risk was paid with handsome success. Due to his social status, Lafayette was appointed a major general in the Continental Army and quickly struck up a lasting friendship with the American commander in chief, George Washington. The childless general and the orphaned aristocrat seemed an unlikely pair, but they soon developed a sort of father-son relationship. It was through these means that Lafayette distinguished himself among a large, colorful group of European soldiers and idealists. Lafayette engaged his French connections to secure funding and supplies for the American armies, and was granted control of several successful sieges.

At the end of the Revolution, Lafayette travelled back to France. With tensions on the verge of eruption, Lafayette was caught between his desire to spread liberal aristocracy and to join the cause for revolution. Ultimately, he supported measures that transferred power from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, but he feared that further democratization would encourage the lower classes to attack. Following the revolution, Lafayette remained deeply involved in both American and French politics.

Read more about "The Hero of the Two Worlds" here.

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