The Marquis de Lafayette is an icon of American—and French—history. Lafayette's life story is the stuff of legend. Born into an aristocratic French family of warriors, made lieutenant in the French Royal Guard at age 14, and married into the royal family at 16, he traveled to the colonies at his own expense to fight in the American Revolution. By age 20, he was embraced by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who became his life-long friends. Here, historian Marc Leepson delivers an insightful account of the great general, whose love of liberty and passionate devotion to American and French independence shines in the pages of history.
The marquis de Lafayette, who came from a long line of French military men dating to the Crusades, wanted honor and glory from a young age. But he had to leave the comforts of his native France and sail to America in order to find them. Leepson's (Saving Monticello) concise biography concentrates on Lafayette's military and diplomatic accomplishments during the American and French Revolutions, starting with a young Lafayette, so "bleeding in the cause" of American independence that he took it upon himself to join the fight. Once in America, he found favor with General Washington, who made him a division, then army commander. Lafayette proved extremely able, loyal, and brave, and his connection to Versailles helped secure aid that eventually turned the tide of the war. He returned to France and put himself at the center of its struggles, commanding the National Guard, protecting the royal court, and spending years in exile or imprisonment. At the age of 58, as a member of the Chamber of Deputies, he led the call for Napoleon's abdication. Drawing from a number of historical sources, including Lafayette's own memoirs, Leepson gives this most restless man an affectionate and engrossing portrait.