One of the grand families of the court of Versailles in the 17th century, and possessors of some of finest châteaux in France still today, the dukes of Luynes are not in fact by origin French. The surname Albert was originally Alberti, from Florence.
At least this is the traditionally accepted story—some historians and genealogists have their doubts (see below). The Alberti were a family of Florentine bankers, who, from the 13th century, controlled a flourishing trade company with branches all across Europe and the Mediterranean world, from London to Damascus. They originated from a town in the heights of the upper Arno Valley, Catenaia, from which they took their coat of arms, two crossed chains (catena = chains). The Alberti clan allied with the Medici as rivals of the Albizzi, and rose with them to great power in the Republic of Florence in the 15th century.
One of the most famous members of this family was Leon Battista Alberti (d. 1472), the poet and philosopher, and one of the major architects of the Florentine Renaissance. Like many powerful Italian families, the Alberti had a tower into which they could retreat when things got dangerous, but also a palace, the Palazzo Alberti, renamed the Palazzo Malenchini in the 19th century. Although they faded from prominence over the centuries, the Florentine Alberti family continued to live in that city until they died out in the mid 19th century.
And dangers there were in the early Florentine republic. In one period of unrest, 1397, the Alberti were temporarily exiled from Florence. It is thought that at this time, one of them, Tomasso, travelled to the Papal court in Avignon and acquired a position there. In 1415, he was appointed a viguier, or magistrate, in Pont-Saint-Esprit, one of the key crossing points of the Rhône River, north of Avignon. A few years later, in 1420, he was appointed by the King of France as viguier-royal of the town of Bagnols, across the Rhône in Languedoc. He acquired the lordship of Boussargues, a castle near Sabran, across the river from Orange, in 1434, and in 1447, was named Royal Bailiff of the surrounding provinces of the Vivarais and the Valentinois. He kept these two important districts on either side of the Rhône loyal to the French Crown in this time of turmoil (the end of the 100 Years War) until he died in 1455.
There is an alternative story about Thomas Albert (as he was known in French), that was published in the major royal genealogical texts of the 17th century: that he was in fact descended from the brother of one of the Avignon popes, Innocent VI, born Etienne Aubert, from a family of nobles in the Limousin (west-central France), pope in 1352-62. There is also the idea that Tomasso Alberti did come from Florence, but returned, and that the Thomas Albert in the previous paragraph is in fact a relation from another noble family in Nice (then still known as Nizza in Italian)—the Alberti della Briga. Indeed, the later arms of the Albert family in France, the red lion on gold, was the same as the family in Nice.
Whatever the truth, the sons of Thomas Albert quickly married into the French nobility of the Rhône Valley, and acquired the barony of Montclus, in Languedoc near Sabran, but also several castles and estates in Provence. They also moved out of papal service and obtained posts as servants of the royal household (legal officers and equerries), so split their time between the king’s court and the far southeast. In 1535, Léon Albert married the heiress of the lordship of Luynes, in Provence (Loina in the local spelling), the name of a local stream that flows into the town of Aix, the capital of Provence.
Their son, Honoré Albert, Seigneur de Luynes, became one of the favourites of the Duke of Alençon, the younger brother of King Henry III, in the 1570s, and was appointed his chamberlain. This was a period when many nobles from provincial families suddenly gained footing at court and rose to great heights through princely favour. Honoré was named governor of their old family stomping grounds at Pont-Saint-Esprit, but also of the important royal fortress downriver at Beaucaire. In 1575 he was appointed Master of Artillery of Languedoc and Provence, and was crucial in keeping the area loyal to the Crown during the Wars of Religion. Loyal to the monarchy rather than either faction in these wars, he soon recognised Henry IV as the new king after the assassination of Henry III in 1589, and thus set his sons up well as close allies to the new Bourbon dynasty and the future king, Louis XIII.
The generation that followed was the golden generation for the Albert de Luynes family. All three sons became dukes by the 1620s—Luynes, Chaulnes and Luxembourg—and the daughters married well too: one became Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen, another the Duchess of Bouillon, while the third was married to the Master of the Household of the King’s younger brother, Gaston d’Orléans.
The older two brothers have more significant stories, and left many descendants, so it is simpler to start with the youngest, Léon. The third son was given the seigneurie of Brantes, a tiny hamlet south of Orange in Papal territory of northern Provence (the area known as the Comtat Venaissin). As his brothers rose in royal favour in the reign of Louis XIII, Léon was given the post of governor of the Bastille in Paris. In 1620, he married an important heiress, Marguerite-Charlotte de Luxembourg, 3rd Duchess of Piney. This dukedom was known either as Piney or Luxembourg (and by genealogists today as Luxembourg-Piney, to make it clear that it does not refer to the actual Duchy of Luxembourg in the Low Countries).
Piney, a medieval castle in southwest Champagne, was the centre of a barony that had been held by the powerful Brienne family from the 10th century, and passed by marriage to a cadet branch of the House of Luxembourg in 1397. This line, Luxembourg-Brienne, rose to great power at court in the 16th century, and their estate at Piney (it’s castle having long crumbled into dust) was elevated to a dukedom, at first promised by the King in 1576, but officially in 1581. The second duke, Henri de Luxembourg, died in 1616 and his dukedom passed to his daughter, Marguerite-Charlotte. She was also Princess of Tingry, a small lordship in Artois that had been elevated into a principality (though without any connotations of sovereignty) for the Luxembourgs in 1587.
Léon Albert, 3rd Duke of Luxembourg-Piney, Prince of Tingry, died in 1630, and his wife ceded her duchy and principality to their son, Henri-Léon (born that same year). Legally the 4th Duke of Piney, he was reputed to be mentally disabled and lived under his mother’s care until in 1661, when he renounced his dukedom in favour of his half-sister and took religious orders (he died in 1697). The half-sister, Madeleine-Charlotte de Clermont-Tonnerre, the product of Marguerite-Charlotte de Luxembourg’s second marriage, was thus the 5th Duchess of Luxembourg-Piney, and immediately shared this title with her husband, François-Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville, a favoured commander of the armies of Louis XIV and later Marshal of France. The dukedom of Luxembourg-Piney thus passes out of the story of the Albert de Luynes family.
The second brother, Honoré d’Albert (they started using a ‘de’ to sound more aristocratic), came to court bearing the name of another of the family’s Provençal lordships, Cadenet, and was given appointments in the army. Through the extreme favour of his older brother (which we will come to), he was appointed Lieutenant-General of Picardy and a Marshal of France in 1619. Like his younger brother, Léon, he married a major heiress, in 1620, this time from the province over which he was establishing his presence as a powerful lord: Picardy, the important frontier province to the north of Paris. Claire-Charlotte d’Ailly de Picquigny, Countess of Chaulnes, was the heiress of one of the oldest families in the region.
The barony of Picquigny was a major estate and one of the oldest baronies in France, circa 1000, though with roots and evidence of fortification back as far as the 6th century. The impressive castle was no longer lived in by the late 17th century, and was dismantled in the 18th century—today preserved as ruins.
The Picquigny family had merged with the local Ailly family in the 1370s. These were also powerful nobles, as the secular lords responsible for the ecclesiastical landholdings of the bishops of Amiens—this position, known elsewhere as an avoué (or ‘advocate’) was known in a few places in France as a ‘vidame’, and the vidamé of Amiens was linked with the Ailly de Picquigny family for centuries. In 1604, Claire-Charlotte inherited from her brother-in-law (Louis II d’Oignies), the nearby county of Chaulnes. The important town and lordship of Chaulnes, east of Amiens in the Somme valley, was a major crossroads of north and south, east and west (and may take its name from calceia or chaussée, a road). The original line died out when its lord was killed at Agincourt in 1415, and the estates and castle passed through several families before ending up with the Oignies by the 1460s. The château was destroyed in 1471 and not rebuilt until 1555, on a much grander scale, and was elevated to the status of a county for Louis I d’Oignies in 1563.
When her own family became extinct in the male line in 1619, Claire-Charlotte d’Ailly de Picquigny thus inherited the barony of Picquigny, the vidamé of Amiens and the county of Chaulnes. She married Honoré d’Albert, who from this point took the surname Albert d’Ailly, and was created Duke of Chaulnes in 1621. The château of Chaulnes was enlarged in the 17th century; after 1792 the title of duke passed to the main line of Luynes, but not the castle and the lands—sold to pay off the family’s great debts. It was mostly destroyed in World War I.
Honoré, 1st Duke of Chaulnes continued to serve the crown, particularly as an army commander defending his province of Picardy. He kept the Spanish invasion at bay in the 1630s, and retired from service in the 1640s (d. 1649). Honoré and Claire-Charlotte had three sons, Henri, Charles and Armand. Henri, the 2nd Duke of Chaulnes (briefly, 1649 to 1653) was a soldier in the 1640s, and son-in-law of the Marshal de Villeroy. He lived in the Hôtel de Chaulnes, on the very fashionable new Place Royale (today’s Place des Vosges), which had been purchased by his father in 1644 (it was later sold in 1698).
The second son, Charles d’Albert d’Ailly, was the 3rd Duke of Chaulnes from 1653. He was an important member of the court of Louis XIV, first serving as Ambassador to Rome (three times in the 1660s-80s), then as Governor of Brittany, 1670-95, then Governor of Guyenne, from 1695. His time in Brittany is often examined by historians as a classic example of how Louis XIV’s absolutism functioned in the provinces. Chaulnes died in 1698. He never married, and as early as 1667, a family pact arranged that his estates and titles (and the Ailly surname) would pass to a younger son of his cousin the Duke of Luynes, so it is finally to the senior line that we should now turn to.
The eldest of the three d’Albert brothers who did so well at the court of Louis XIII, Charles, had been placed by his father as a page in the royal stables in 1592, when he was about 12 or 13. By 1606, he was promoted into a position within the royal falconry, and by 1611 was a favourite guide and companion to the new boy-king, Louis XIII, due to their shared love for birds and hunting. By 1616, he was named head of the King’s falconry, and was soon recognised as the King’s favourite. At this time, the King was still under the thumb of his mother, Marie de Medici, and her Italian favourites. In Spring 1617, Luynes was part of the plot (perhaps its mastermind?) that brought down the Queen Mother’s chief favourite, Concini, and led to the end of the regency and the King’s independence. Luynes was rewarded with much of the wealth of Concini and his wife (houses, furnishings) as well as the marquisate of Ancre (or Encre), based on the town of that name in Picardy, which soon changed its name to Albert (which it still bears today). The efforts to distance himself from the Queen Mother and her Italian favourites may in fact be the origins of some of the genealogical attempts to make his lineage ‘more French’, ie the Aubert story cited above.
As chief favourite of the King, Luynes was given many other posts at court, and the important position of governor of Picardy, where his marquisate was based. He was given a dukedom in 1619, but unlike other favourites with provincial origins, he didn’t have his humble Provençal lordship elevated to this title; instead he purchased the ancient and wealthy county of Maillé, next to the city of Tours in the Loire Valley, and had it, and its castle, renamed Luynes. From here on, the family would maintain twin power bases in Picardy and Touraine.
The Lords of Maillé had been one of the most powerful noble families of the province of Touraine since the 11th century. Extinct in 1501, their lands passed to the Laval family, in whose favour the lordship became a county in 1572. The 12th-century fortress built on a rock overlooking the Loire was transformed into a Late Gothic residence in the 15th century, with round towers and larger windows, and was sold to Charles d’Albert in 1619, and became his family seat. He destroyed the central and donjon and constructed in its place a new pavilion to make the château a more comfortable and fashionable residence, and the family maintain the property still today.
The 1st Duke of Luynes was now expected to act not just as the King’s favourite for hunting and leisure time, but to have a hand in government. He proved to be fairly ill-equipped for the job, though he did leave behind a fairly good legacy as the ‘dove’ on the King’s Privy Council, usually counselling peace with France’s neighbours and with the Protestant faction within the Kingdom. He pushed the King to reconcile with his mother, and arranged the marriage of the King’s sister to the Duke of Savoy in 1619 (and pushed for an English match for his other sister too, though that did not come about until later). But in the Spring of 1621, the ‘hawks’ on the Council won out and the King was determined to march against rebellious Protestants in the southwest. Luynes, despite having almost no military experience, was appointed Constable of France, the supreme head of the military. His failure to successfully take the city of Montauban in August was sharply criticised, and while still on campaign, he caught a fever and died in December.
The 1st Duke of Luynes’ short time at the top served as an important case study for future minister-favourites. While he himself did not enjoy a long and fruitful reign at the top, the favours he secured for his brothers and sisters set up the family as a whole extremely well, as did his marriage. Marie de Rohan, who came from one of the grandest court families of all, was one of the most interesting, infuriating and dangerous women of the period (her story will be told in a Rohan blog post), and her enterprising skill led to a significant addition of property later on for the Albert de Luynes family, notably the Duchy of Chevreuse.
After the 1st Duke of Luynes died in 1621, Marie de Rohan re-married a much older man, Claude de Lorraine, whose rank was second to none in France, making Marie a princess of the House of Lorraine and thus an unassailable political force in France and indeed in Europe. Claude was the younger son of the Duke of Guise, and had been given the Duchy of Chevreuse as his part of the patrimony when he came of age. Chevreuse was a lordship in a wooded valley southwest of Paris, with its massive fortress of La Madeleine built in the 12th century, then reinforced by French kings in the Hundred Years War. The lordship was sold to King François I’s mistress, Anne de Pisseleu, for whom it was erected as a duchy in 1546. Charles, Cardinal de Lorraine, one of the most powerful members of the French court in the mid-16th century then purchased it for use as his own country house in 1551. When he died it passed to his Guise nephews, and eventually to Claude, who held the dukedom and its castle until his death in 1657. It then passed to his widow, Marie de Rohan, due to a complex financial arrangement between the spouses. In 1663, she gave it to her son from her first marriage, the 2nd Duke of Luynes, with the idea that it would be used to establish a secondary line. In another complex financial arrangement, in 1667 it was exchanged with Louis XIV for the county of Montfort-l’Amaury (see next). The King gave the estate of Chevreuse to the Dames of St-Cyr (where the school was later established by Madame de Maintenon), but two centuries later, in 1853, the Duke of Luynes repurchased the ruins of the Château de la Madeleine. In the 1970s, his efforts to sell the estate led to much (but not all) of it being purchased by the regional council and opened as a natural park.
The 2nd Duke of Luynes, Louis-Charles, was only a year old when his father died, but when he came of age, he was given his father’s old job of Grand Falconer, in 1643. Less sporty than his father, and less of a political intriguer than his mother, he nonetheless espoused some more dangerous views in the religious and intellectual climate of the mid-17th century: he became quite close to the nuns of Port Royal and the Jansenist (ie, reformist) circles that congregated there. He participated in some of their intellectual endeavours, notably in the translation of the New Testament into French, and a translation of the works of Descartes (from Latin). Luynes built a château nearby at Vaumurier in 1651 (destroyed in 1680, with very little remaining), which sometimes served as a place of refuge for the nuns and the Jansenists when the much more orthodox Louis XIV turned up the heat in their persecution, and he himself retired from court to live a life of quiet piety before he died in 1690. In 1663, Luynes became proprietor of the nearby Duchy of Chevreuse, from his mother, which was, as we’ve seen, soon exchanged for Montfort (though the name Chevreuse was retained).
The Castle of Montfort-l’Amaury, only a few miles to the west of Chevreuse, was the seat of one of the most powerful lordships of the Middle Ages, with a powerful line of lords from the 11th century, who rose to become counts of Evreux in 1118, and earls of Leicester in the early 13th century—this includes the famous Simon de Montfort, leader of the baronial revolt against Henry III of England. The lordship of Montfort itself was elevated to a county in 1218, then passed to the House of Brittany (Dreux) in 1249; a junior line, Brittany-Montfort, succeeded as dukes of Brittany themselves from the 1340s but had to wage a long bloody civil war to secure their title. Meanwhile, the castle at Montfort was destroyed in the Hundred Years War, and mostly forgotten. The lands passed with Brittany to the Crown in 1524, then were possessed by various members of the royal family until given to one of the great royal favourites, the Duke of Epernon, in 1587. In 1658, Marie de Rohan purchased the estate from Epernon’s heirs (it was still considered an ‘alienated’ Crown land), and in 1663, as above, gave it to her son Luynes. Full title to Montfort is then given by Louis XIV in 1667 (in exchange for the Chevreuse lands), and renamed ‘Chevreuse’. This was confirmed in 1692, when the King issued new letters patent saying that the son of the Duke of Luynes, Honoré-Charles, could be called ‘Duke of Chevreuse-Montfort’. The ruins of the castle (a single tower known as the ‘Anne of Brittany Tower’) today belong to the local commune.
The 2nd Duke of Luynes had also acquired a townhouse in Paris, the Hôtel de Luynes, on the rue Saint-Dominique on the western edge of the fashionable Saint-Germain neighbourhood. His mother, Marie de Rohan, Dowager Duchess of Chevreuse, had built the house in 1660 (and it was originally called the Hôtel de Chevreuse), and it passed to Luynes on her death in 1679. It was destroyed in the 19th century, when many of this area’s grand boulevards were being constructed, though much of the house’s interiors were preserved, notably a grand staircase in the Musée Carnavalet, and a bedchamber in the Louvre.
Already by 1688, the eldest son of the 2nd Duke had been ceded his father’s peerage enabling him to take a seat in Parlement. While the older man lived, the younger was known as the Duke of Chevreuse, and this established the tradition that persists to this day. This son, Charles-Honoré, would be the most political of all the Albert de Luynes family, and the builder of one of its most spectacular residences at Dampierre. But before we look at him, we should look at his half-siblings. These half siblings were born of the 2nd Duke’s second marriage to his aunt, Princess Anne de Rohan. Of the many daughters from this union, one stands out: Jeanne-Baptiste, the Comtesse de Verrue. She was the wife of the Savoyard diplomat, the Count of Verrua, and long-term mistress of Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, a powerful member of his court in Turin in the 1690s. Afterwards, she returned to Paris and was an influential member of salon circles for many decades.
Of the sons of this second marriage, Louis-Joseph served as a soldier in the French armies in the 1690s, then moved into the service of the then French ally, the Elector of Bavaria. He served as envoy of Bavaria to France and to Spain at the period of the end of the War of Spanish Succession, then in 1715 was named to two high posts in the Wittelsbach court: Chamberlain and Grand Equerry of the Elector of Bavaria; and Grand Bailiff of Liège for the Elector-Archbishop of Cologne (the brother of the Elector, who was also Prince-Bishop of Liège). It was hoped that Bavaria might be given the Southern Netherlands as part of the treaties ending the war, so these ‘Belgian’ connections made sense: indeed, that same year Louis-Joseph (known as the ‘Comte d’Albert’) married a major Belgian heiress, Madeleine-Marie de Berghes, daughter of the first Prince of Grimberghe and heiress of her brother the 2nd Prince (who would die in 1721).
Grimbergen (or Grimberghe) is a town just north of the city of Brussels, and had been a lordship, then county, held by the House of Glimes (also known as Berghes) for generations. This family was one of the most prominent in the Southern Netherlands, in fact descended from one of the many illegitimate sons of the dukes of Burgundy in the 15th century. Philippe–François de Berghes was created 1st Prince of Grimberghe in 1686 by the King of Spain. His daughter’s inheritance also included the Château of Feluy, romantically situated on a lake in northern Hainault.
With Bavarian ambitions in the Southern Netherlands dashed after 1715, the Comte d’Albert followed the Elector back to the court of Munich, and was rewarded with lands in Bavaria, the Counties of Wertingen and Hochenreichen (northwest of Augsburg). But his career was crowned in 1742 when his master, now the Elector Charles Albert, was elected Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles VII), and elevated his loyal servant to the rank of 3rd Prince of Grimberghe and Prince of the Empire. His wife died two years later, and the Prince in 1758, with no immediate heirs; their only daughter, Thérèse-Pélagie, had married her cousin the Duke of Chevreuse in 1735 (always a good strategy to keep wealth and titles within the family), but died only a year later, childless. The vast estates in the Austrian Netherlands and Bavaria passed to other families.
So, returning to the 3rd Duke of Luynes, Charles-Honoré, you might say his political links were forged early, since his mother was a close relative of the Chancellor of France, Pierre Séguier, and when he himself married, in 1667, it was to a daughter of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the most powerful man in the ministry of Louis XIV. The famous ‘Sun King’ is traditionally known as the man who kept the old nobility far from government, trapped in their ‘gilded cage’ of Versailles. But Luynes (or Chevreuse as he was known for most of his career) is a good example of how some of the old nobility did continue to influence the King and his government, through more informal channels, as part of the triumvirate that included the Duke of Beauvilliers and Archbishop Fénelon. They were reformers, and hoped especially to influence the education and character of the King’s grandson, the Duke of Burgundy. Charles-Honoré took over his father’s duchy of Luynes in 1688, received the transfer of the new duchy of Chevreuse-Montfort in 1692 (immediately transferred to his son), and succeeded his cousin as Duke of Chaulnes in 1698 (as well as his cousin’s office of Governor of Guyenne).
But the 3rd Duke’s longest-lasting contribution was the construction of Dampierre. Returning once more to the Chevreuse valley southwest of Paris, the château de Dampierre is one of the nicest in the Ile de France. Dampierre too had been a lordship since the 12th century, with a castle built in the 13th, rebuilt in the 15th, and purchased by the Cardinal de Lorraine in 1551 to add to his Duchy of Chevreuse. Along with the rest of the Duchy, it passed from the Cardinal to Claude de Lorraine, and then from Marie to Rohan to the 2nd Duke of Luynes and to his son, Charles-Honoré. The new Duke of Chevreuse built the château anew in the late 1670s, with the master architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and an extensive park by André Le Nôtre. The château of Dampierre remained the residence of the dukes of Luynes for the next three hundred years. It has served as a substitute ‘Versailles’ in films such as Ridicule in 1996, and (in parts) Marie-Antoinette in 2006. But revenue from the film productions was not sufficient to keep the tax man at bay, and in 2013, the Duke of Luynes had a huge sale of books (about 10,000) at Sothebys. Then in 2018, he sold the château entirely to the Mulliez family, owners of Auchan chain of supermarkets, who have since undertaken major renovations and created a museum dedicated to the history of carriages.
The 3rd Duke of Luynes, who was also the Duke of Chaulnes due to the mutual succession pact, had two sons, and thus divided the patrimony once more between them. The eldest, Honoré-Charles, was known mostly as the Duke of Chevreuse (or sometimes the Duke of Montfort), and rose through the ranks to become a Field Marshal before he was killed in battle in 1704, predeceasing his father. The 4th Duke of Luynes was thus the 3rd Duke’s grandson. The younger son, Louis-August, became Duke of Chaulnes in 1710, and began a new junior branch of the family (next).
The 4th Duke of Luynes, Charles-Philippe, was not really known for very much except for being an excellent court insider, a part of the inner circle of Queen Marie Leszczynska, which put him in the excellent position to record lengthy and detailed memoirs, published in 17 volumes in the 19th century. He also made an important marriage in 1710 to the heiress of one of the royal cadet lines, Bourbon-Soissons, who brought to the marriage the counties of Dunois (a good augmentation to the nearby dukedom of Luynes) and Noyers, once a major Bourbon-Condé fortress in northern Burgundy (dismantled after the Wars of Religion). Louise-Léontine de Bourbon was also the titular ‘Princess of Neuchâtel’ a sovereign territory between the Swiss cities of Geneva and Basel. By 1710, these claims were completely empty, Neuchâtel being governed by the King of Prussia, and the family would never make good their claims to its sovereign territory; nevertheless, the title remained in use for the next several generations. Their descendants would add both Bourbon-Soissons and Neuchâtel arms to the Albert de Luynes arms. Very young heirs (ie sons, not sons) were now sometimes titled by courtesy ‘Count of Dunois’ rather than ‘Count of Montfort’, which gave the family an air of historical grandeur, as ‘Dunois’ was always remembered as one of the great French heroes of the Hundred Years War.
The 4th Duke’s younger brother, Paul, as Bishop of Bayeux, was also a prominent member of the dévot faction at court, the Queen’s faction, and became close to the similarly minded Dauphin and Dauphine and thus hoped to influence the education of their children (that is, the future Louis XVI and his siblings). The Bishop was a passionate supporter not just of piety in daily life, but also of the new learning of the Enlightenment: he was given a place in the Académie française in 1743, and made significant discoveries himself in the world of astronomy. He was promoted to be Archbishop of Sens in 1753, and a Cardinal in 1756, but his royal connections died one by one just as their children (born in the 1750s) were at the prime age of development: the Dauphin in 1765, the Dauphine in 1767 and the Queen in 1768, so Sens was much less relevant in the upbringing of the next royal generation than he would have liked.
The 5th Duke of Luynes, known as was tradition as Duke of Chevreuse until his father died, led a military career, fighting in the wars of the middle of the 18th century and rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General in 1748, then taking up a court position as Colonel-General of the Royal Dragoons, one of the key regiments of the Royal Guard, in 1754, and being awarded the important post of Governor of Paris in 1758.
There were interesting dynastic aspirational strategies being displayed in the family in the early decades of the 18th century. Not only would the 5th Duke of Luynes have claimed (fairly weakly) the sovereign principalities of Neuchâtel and Valangin in Switzerland, but this claim was also linked to the principality of Orange, in the south of France (interestingly, next to where the Albert family had its origins, three centuries before). The 5th Duke as we’ve seen, married his Grimberghe cousin with great aspirations to lands and titles in the Southern Netherlands, but after her death he almost immediately married another ‘Belgian’, the Princess Pignatelli d’Egmont. Not only did her family have claims to extensive lands in southern Italy, but through the Egmont name, were (again quite weakly) claimants to the semi-sovereign duchies of Guelders and Jülich in the area of the Middle Rhine.
These were all quite fantastical claims, and didn’t come to anything. The 6th Duke in particular seemed to be quite down to earth, and embraced the cause of the French Revolution in its very earliest days. Louis-Joseph-Charles, who had taken over his father’s court post of Colonel-General of the Dragoons in 1783, was elected to the Estates General in 1789 as a delegate from the Second Estate of Touraine, and was one of those nobles who swiftly joined the Third Estate in forming the National Assembly in June of 1789. When things got too hot for the court aristocracy by 1792, Luynes did not emigrate like most, but quietly retreated to Dampierre to wait it out. He rallied to the cause of Bonaparte and was given posts in the new administration: Mayor of the 9th Arrondissement of Paris in 1800, and Senator of the Republic in 1803—and died peaceably in 1807. As had happened once before, the cadet branch of Chaulnes had died out in 1792, so he was technically a duke twice over. So before moving into the 19th century, we should look at the cadet line.
Chaulnes was re-created as a duchy-peerage in 1711, for the second (surviving) son of the Duke of Luynes—who also added the surname of d’Ailly like his predecessors. This 4th Duke of Chaulnes, Louis-Auguste, was a career soldier, who took up one of his family’s traditional commands as Lieutenant-General of Picardy from 1692, and rose through the ranks to become Marshal of France in 1741. He died in 1744, but before he did, he signed a mutual succession pact in 1732 with the senior line of Luynes, like the one from 1667.
The 4th Duke’s elder son Charles-François was called ‘Duke of Picquigny’, as merely a courtesy title (ie not a peerage) from 1719, but was ceded his father’s peerage in 1729 so that he could sit in the Parlement of Paris. But he died in 1731, and these titles and honours were given instead to his younger brother, Michel-Ferdinand, who then became the 5th Duke of Chaulnes in 1744. Like his father, he was a soldier, serving in the wars of the 1740s, then appointed as Governor of Picardy and Artois in 1752. Like his cousin the Cardinal-Archbishop of Sens, he was a passionate astronomer, and built his own observatory at Chaulnes. He invented a new type of microscope and helped found the Academy of Science in Amiens in Picardy in 1750.
As before, the heir of the 5th Duke, Louis-Joseph, while at first using the traditional title for this branch’s heir, ‘Vidame d’Amiens’, was given an ‘advance’ on the ducal title, with a brevet d’honneur in 1762, making him ‘Duke of Picquigny’. He then succeeded as the 6th Duke of Chaulnes in 1769. He was less interested in a military career, but more interested in his father’s passion for science. He became a chemist and worked on various projects, including a means to purify the brewing process and a way to identify poisonous gases in mines. He also travelled extensively, including a tour of the royal tombs in Egypt. Despite the great fortunes he inherited from his parents, he was soon heavily in debt and sold nearly all this branch of the family’s properties.
The 6th Duke of Chaulnes married his cousin, daughter of the 5th Duke of Luynes, but they had no children. In 1792, the dukedom of Chaulnes (and associated names and titles) thus went back to the main line. In 1869, it was given to a younger grandson of the 8th Duke of Luynes (Paul-Marie, who already bore the title ‘Duke of Picquigny’), who established a new line. This branch was extinct in 1980, and Chaulnes passed to Jacques, second son of the 11th Duke of Luynes (b. 1946), who himself has a son who uses the courtesy title of Duke of Picquigny (Charles, b. 1978).
The 6th Duke of Luynes survived the Revolution mostly intact and left his estates and titles to his son, Charles-Marie-Paul, the 7th Duke of Luynes, who mostly lived out of the spotlight and died in 1839. His son, the 8th Duke, was a much more celebrated figure of mid-century Parisian society. Honoré-Théodoric had liberal political interests, and served in the National Assembly of the Second Republic from 1843, but withdrew from politics once the Second Empire was proclaimed. Instead, he turned to his great passion, archaeology. He had helped found an academic journal for archaeology in 1835. Now in the 1850s, he renovated the Château of Dampierre with classical elements and antique artworks, and in 1858 built the Villa Alberti above the Mediterranean at Hyères (next to Toulon), where he opened a museum of Greek and Egyptian antiquities (today this is known as the Villa Tholozan, after a later owner). In 1862, he made a huge bequest of his collections (mostly coins) to the Louvre; and he died in 1867 in Rome.
The 8th Duke’s son, Honoré-Louis, Duke of Chevreuse, pre-deceased him (1854), so the Luynes title passed to his grandson Charles-Honoré, while Chaulnes was ‘re-created’ once again as we’ve seen for the second grandson, Paul-Marie. The 9th Duke only survived his grandfather by three years (killed in battle in the Franco-Prussian War), so the 10th Duke, another Honoré, was duke from the age of two until he died in 1924. The 10th Duke’s eldest son, a pilot, was killed in World War I, so the title passed to the second son, Philippe, 11th Duke of Luynes.
Philippe d’Albert, 11th Duke of Luynes, was one of the most aristocratic of aristocrats in 20th-century France, closely related to the dukes of Noailles, Uzès, Brissac and Doudeauville, and the princes of Polignac. His marriage to a great Argentinian heiress in 1934 was a celebrated media event (as was the marriage in the 1960s of their daughter Inès to Prince Napoléon Murat).
Philippe’s son and heir, Jean, was known as the Duke of Chevreuse, and after 1980, as we’ve seen, the two lines came together once more and the second son, Jacques, was named Duke of Chaulnes. After 1993, the elder son became the 12th Duke of Luynes, and he died in 2008, making the current Duke another Philippe. As noted above, Philippe, 13th Duke, sold Dampierre, but the other family jewel, the Château of Luynes, remains.
For an enjoyable and informative book about the 1st Duke of Luynes, check out Sharon Kettering’s Power and Reputation at the Court of Louis XIII. The Career of Charles d’Albert, Duc de Luynes (1578-1621) (Manchester University Press, 2014): https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719089985/
(images Wikimedia Commons)