The Marquise de Lafayette was one of the wealthiest women in France who came from a noble family, the Noailles. She was fourteen at the time of their marriage to one of the wealthiest men in France. He was sixteen.
Adrienne de Noailles de Lafayette, a remarkable woman, shared in the same liberal causes as her husband. She supported him wholeheartedly until her death in 1807. Especially interested in emancipating black slaves, they bought two South American slave plantations in Cayenne for the purpose of liberating the king's slaves and distributing the land among them.
Lafayette left the entire experiment in her hands when he prepared for the French Revolution. She immediately banned the cruel punishment of flogging and selling slaves and planned to instruct them in morality and religion to include reading, writing, and arithmetic for practical needs in the operation of a plantation. Adrienne succeeded until the Revolution fell into the hands and control of the terrorists like Robespierre and Marat who threw the rebellion into a Reign of Terror. Because the nobility was persecuted, she was put into prison and condemned to the guillotine. Her mother, sister, and grandmother were beheaded but Adrienne was saved at the last moment thanks mainly to American intervention. After the revolution, she fought tenaciously to restore her property rights and was an enormous help to her husband who had spent five years in an Austrian prison.
After his release, he joined his children George Washington Lafayette , Virginie, Anastasie and a loving wife at her chateau at LaGrange near Paris. Adrienne's extraordinary courage had made all this possible. Neither the French nor Austrian jails lessened her ability to forgive her enemies or her willingness to fight for the freedoms and dignity of others. Moreover, she relied on her financial, legal, and diplomatic skills to salvage most of her fortune and her children's lives without compromising her principles.
But the years of hardships had broken her health. This left her in constant physical pain. Her suffering came to an end when she rejoined her mother in death, one who had chosen two beggars instead of aristocrats as godparents to one of her daughters. The spirit of this beautiful lesson of faith and humility was never lost thanks to Adrienne as the Marquise de Lafayette and as Citoyenne Lafayette.
Copyright The American Friends of Lafayette 2016.
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