Marquis de Lafayette,born Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette, was ahighly esteemed French aristocrat and officer who greatly contributed to theAmerican and French Revolutions alike. Lafayette is best noted for his immensebravery during the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and his incredible leadership inthe Battle of Brandywine in 1777.
However, even after the end of the AmericanRevolution, he continued to be an active politician in his homeland of France.Lafayette continued to support both countries throughout his life. Lafayette’s childhood, however, was not necessarily ahappy one.
Both of his parents had died before he was 14. His mother andgrandfather died earlier on in his life, and his father died from a severebattle wound. He quickly decided to marry rich, marrying Adrienne de Francoisede Noailles, who was a descendant of Louis XVI, the King of France. Aftergetting married in 1773, he became inspired by the stories of the colonists inthe United States.
In 1777, he made a trip to America that would change hislife forever. After arriving in America, Lafayette decided to join thecolonists’ uprising. His passion and willingness to serve somehow got him aposition as a major-general in the Continental Army, despite having no combator military experience whatsoever.
His first time to truly shine was during theBattle of Brandywine, where he was shot in the leg while trying to organize aretreat. George Washington himself took note of Lafayette’s bravery, and sooncreated a strong bond between them that would last eternally. Lafayette provedhimself an intelligent and strategic leader during the winter in Valley Forge,convincing the French to send resources to the colonists.
In 1781, hecontributed to the Battle of Yorktown, buying time for General Washington andComte de Rochambeau to surround the British, which led to the Britishsurrender. In late 1781, Lafayette returned to France, organizingtrade agreements with America and France. However, soon after his return, herealized that France was on the verge of a serious political and socialupheaval.
He became the leader of a group of liberal aristocrats, speakingoutwardly about the abolishment of slavery and advocating religious tolerance.He began to draft the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’with the help of Thomas Jefferson. He continually supported Marie Antoinetteand Louis XVI, and even protected them from the angry civilians which stormedthe Versailles. He was then appointed to protect the royal family afterwards, aposition that left him incredibly vulnerable to the factions of people whowanted power.
He ended up fleeing the country in 1792, but was capturedby Austrians and thrown into prison. Lafayette returned to France 7 yearslater, quickly finding out that the King and Queen had been killed. He had noother option but to maintain a low profile during Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule,but ended up being elected to the Chamber of Deputies instead. He argued forNapoleon’s throne to be renounced in 1815, and after the death of both Napoleonand Charles X, he was presented with the opportunity to become dictator, whichhe politely declined. In 1824, he made a final, emotional visit to America,visiting the grave of George Washington, his lifelong friend. He was alsopresented with the option of becoming governor of Louisiana during his visit,but declined the offer as well. Lafayette became the first foreign U.S.
citizento address the U.S. House of Representatives, which caused several towns andcities to be named after him. At the time of his death, he had been extremelyill with pneumonia, and as a dying wish, requested that he could be buried withdirt from Bunker Hill. Surely enough, on May 20, 1834, he was buried in Paris,France underneath dirt from Bunker Hill, which was renamed Lafayette Hill inhis honor. Marquis de Lafayette is rememberedas the “Hero of Two Worlds” for his tremendous efforts during the French andAmerican Revolutions.
Had he not decided to take a trip to America in 1777, hewould have never influenced the world as much as he did.