François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac ( 1630-1680)
François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac born in Paris 15 September 1613 died 17 March 1680 , was the son of François, Comte de La Rochefoucauld, and his wife, Gabrielle du Plessis-Liancourt
La Rochefoucauld was given the education of a nobleman of his era, which concentrated on military exercises, hunting, court etiquette, elegance of expression and comportment, and a knowledge of the world.
He was married at the age of fifteen to Andrée de Vivonne, with whom he had four sons and three daughters. He joined the army in the year following his marriage and fought bravely in the campaigns against the Spaniards in Italy in 1629, in the Netherlands and Picardy in 1635–36, and again in Flanders in 1639 Within six years he was wounded in no fewer than three engagements. The injuries to his face and throat were such that he retired from the struggle, his health ruined and his peace of mind lost.
Throughout his life La Rochefoucauld was very susceptible to feminine charm.
Under the patronage of Madame de Chevreuse, whom he met in 1635, he aligned himself with Anne Queen of France who was a Habsburg Spanish princess . Her relationship with King Louis XIII was troubled and fractious as, led by his ambitious adviser Cardinal Richelieu, he was intent on increasing his absolute power over the French nobles and supporting Richelieu’s foreign policy against the Habsburgs, who surrounded France on two fronts. Anne remained childless for sixteen years, while Louis depended ever more on Richelieu. During that time,the Queen, aided by Mme de Chevreuse and La Rochefoucauld , let herself be embroiled into political opposition and several intrigues against Richelieu’s policies, which procured for La Rochefoucauld eight days of imprisonment in the Bastille, and two years of exile at Verteuil.
In the power vacuum following Richelieu’s death in 1642, La Rochefoucauld among others took an active role in urging the Queen and the powerful Condé, to act together, but after the death of Louis Xlll in 1643, Anne became regent for their son, Louis XIV. During her regency (1643–1651), Cardinal Mazarin became increasingly powerful as France’s chief minister.
His growing reputation impeded the ambition of the plotters, and La Rochefoucauld’s hatred for Mazarin and his 1645 liaison with Anne de Bourbon, Duchesse de Longueville, sister of the Great Condé, who was finally the leader of the Fronde nobles’ revolts, (1648–53), led to an even more disastrous outcome. The plots and campaigns of the mutinous nobles all failed and Louis XIV had an even stronger hold on France.
However ,in 1655 his literary endeavours were still before him, but thanks to the lasting and intellectually stimulating friendships with Mme de Sablé, one of the most remarkable women of her age, and Marie-Madeleine, Comtesse de La Fayette which lasted for the rest of his life , he seems to have avoided politics for a while and gradually won his way back into royal favour. His spent his time with reading and intellectual conversation with those of an elite circle of men and women who were enlivened by a new game that consisted of discussing epigrams on manners and behaviour, expressed in the briefest, most pungent manner possible. The care with which La Rochefoucauld kept notes and versions of his thoughts on the moral and intellectual subjects of the game is clear from the surviving manuscripts.
In 1665 La Rochefoucauld first published his first edition of the five hundred or so Maximes which went on to be so popular that he published five editions from 1665 to 1678. However, it is easy for modern readers to forget that at the time, his contemporaries would read recent history into statements that appear cryptic now.
His observances were concentrated on people of the time and their frailties. With a clear and aristocratically urbane view, he wrote his observances un- sentimentally neither condemning or celebrating human conduct and mores.
Among a broad range of topics, including pride, vanity, passions and emotions, love, sincerity,duty, conversation and the machinations of politics, La Rochefoucauld was concerned with conveying something more than a cynical view through his incisive commentaries on factual experience.
He had a circle of devoted friends and was recognized eventually, as a top-ranking moralist and man of letters and singled out by his contemporaries, including the king, as an exemplar of the older noblesse, the nobility that existed under Louis XIII. This reputation he has retained to the present day.
He died in Paris on 17 March 1680.