Count of St. Germain


Count of St. Germain
"Count Saint-Germain" redirects here. For other uses of St. Germain see Saint-Germain (disambiguation).
An engraving of the Count of St Germain by Nicolas Thomas made in 1783, after a painting then owned by the Marquise d'Urfe and now apparently lost.[1] Contained at the Louvre in France [2]

The Count of St. Germain (born 1712?;[3] died 27 February 1784[4]) has been variously described as a courtier, adventurer, charlatan, inventor, alchemist, pianist, violinist and an amateur composer. He achieved great prominence in European high society of the mid-1700s, and since then various scholars have linked him to mysticism, occultism, secret societies, and various conspiracy theories. Contemporaries referred to him (often ironically) as 'the Wonderman'.[5] Colin Wilson describes him as a charlatan, yet nevertheless possessed of genius.[6] His name has occasionally caused him to be confused with Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain, a noted French general, and Robert-Francois Quesnay de Saint Germain, an active occultist.[7]

Contents

Background

The scarcity of contemporary biographical detail about St. Germain (alongside his own apparent self-mythologising) has supported the construction of many versions of his origins and ancestry, but the most commonly attributed background are that he was:

  • The son of Francis II Rákóczi, the Prince of Transylvania, by Rákóczi's first wife.[8] Originally his name was Rákóczi Lipót Lajos György József Antal. In recent times this has been the most popular of the theories.
  • The illegitimate son of Maria Anna of Pfalz-Neuburg, the widow of Charles II of Spain[9]

An aristocratic background would explain why the Count was always seemingly flush with cash, his evident training as a gentleman and his extraordinary learning.

Historical figure

He apparently began to be known under the title of the Count of St Germain during the early 1740s.[10]

England

According to David Hunter, the Count contributed some of the songs to L'incostanza delusa, an opera performed at the Haymarket Theatre in London on all but one of the Saturdays from the 9th of February to the 20th of April 1745.[7] Later, in a letter of December of that same year, Horace Walpole mentions the Count St. Germain as being arrested in London on suspicion of espionage (this was during the Jacobite rebellion) but released without charge:

The other day they seized an odd man, who goes by the name of Count St. Germain. He has been here these two years, and will not tell who he is, or whence, but professes [two wonderful things, the first] that he does not go by his right name; [and the second that he never had any dealings with any woman - nay, nor with any succedaneum (this was censored by Walpole's editors until 1954)] He sings, plays on the violin wonderfully, composes, is mad, and not very sensible. He is called an Italian, a Spaniard, a Pole; a somebody that married a great fortune in Mexico, and ran away with her jewels to Constantinople; a priest, a fiddler, a vast nobleman. The Prince of Wales has had unsatiated curiosity about him, but in vain. However, nothing has been made out against him; he is released; and, what convinces me that he is not a gentleman, stays here, and talks of his being taken up for a spy.[11]

The Count gave two private musical performances in London in April and May of 1749.[7] On one such occasion, Lady Jemima Yorke described how she was 'very much entertain'd by him or at him the whole Time- I mean the Oddness of his Manner which it is impossible not to laugh at, otherwise you know he is very sensible & well-bred in conversation'.[7] She continued:

'He is an Odd Creature, and the more I see him the more curious I am to know something about him. He is everything with everybody: he talks Ingeniously with Mr Wray, Philosophy with Lord Willoughby,and is gallant with Miss Yorke, Miss Carpenter, and all the Young Ladies. But the Character and Philosopher is what he seems to pretend to, and to be a good deal conceited of: the Others are put on to comply with Les Manieres du Monde, but that you are to suppose his real characteristic; and I can't but fancy he is a great Pretender in All kinds of Science, as well as that he really has acquired an uncommon Share in some'.[7]

Walpole reports that St Germain:

'spoke Italian and French with the greatest facility, though it was evident that neither was his language; he understood Polish, and soon learnt to understand English and talk it a little [...] But Spanish or Portuguese seemed his natural language'.[12]

Walpole concludes that the Count was 'a man of Quality who had been in or designed for the Church. He was too great a musician not to have been famous if he had not been a gentleman'.[13] Walpole describes the Count as pale, with 'extremely black' hair and a beard. 'He dressed magnificently, [and] had several jewels' and was clearly receiving 'large remittances, but made no other figure'.[14]

France

A mime and English comedian known as Milord Gower impersonated St-Germain in Paris salons. His stories were wilder than the real Count's — he had advised Jesus, for example. Inevitably, hearsay of his routine got confused with the original.

Giacomo Casanova describes in his memoirs several meetings with the "celebrated and learned impostor". Of his first meeting, in Paris in 1757, he writes:

The most enjoyable dinner I had was with Madame de Robert Gergi, who came with the famous adventurer, known by the name of the Count de St. Germain. This individual, instead of eating, talked from the beginning of the meal to the end, and I followed his example in one respect as I did not eat, but listened to him with the greatest attention. It may safely be said that as a conversationalist he was unequalled.

St. Germain gave himself out for a marvel and always aimed at exciting amazement, which he often succeeded in doing. He was scholar, linguist, musician, and chemist, good-looking, and a perfect ladies' man. For awhile he gave them paints and cosmetics; he flattered them, not that he would make them young again (which he modestly confessed was beyond him) but that their beauty would be preserved by means of a wash which, he said, cost him a lot of money, but which he gave away freely.

He had contrived to gain the favour of Madame de Pompadour, who had spoken about him to the king, for whom he had made a laboratory, in which the monarch — a martyr to boredom — tried to find a little pleasure or distraction, at all events, by making dyes. The king had given him a suite of rooms at Chambord, and a hundred thousand francs for the construction of a laboratory, and according to St. Germain the dyes discovered by the king would have a materially beneficial influence on the quality of French fabrics.

This extraordinary man, intended by nature to be the king of impostors and quacks, would say in an easy, assured manner that he was three hundred years old, that he knew the secret of the Universal Medicine, that he possessed a mastery over nature, that he could melt diamonds, professing himself capable of forming, out of ten or twelve small diamonds, one large one of the finest water without any loss of weight. All this, he said, was a mere trifle to him. Notwithstanding his boastings, his bare-faced lies, and his manifold eccentricities, I cannot say I thought him offensive. In spite of my knowledge of what he was and in spite of my own feelings, I thought him an astonishing man as he was always astonishing me.[15]

Death

In 1779 St. Germain arrived in Altona in Schleswig. Here he made an acquaintance with Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, who also had an interest in mysticism and was a member of several secret societies. The Count showed the Prince several of his gems and he convinced the latter that he had invented a new method of colouring cloth. The Prince was impressed and installed the Count in an abandonded factory at Eckernförde he had acquried especially for the Count, and supplied him with the needed materials and cloths that St. Germain needed to proceed to with the project.[16] The two met frequently in the following years, and the Prince outfitted a laboratory for alchymistic experiments in his nearby summerresidence Louisenlund, where they, among other things, coorporated in creating gemstones and jewelry. The Prince later recounts in a letter that he was the only person in whom the Count truly confided in.[17] He told the Prince that he was the son of the Transylvanian Prince Francis II Rákóczi, and that he had been 88 years of age when he arrived in Schleswig.[18]

The Count died in his residence in the factory on the 27th February 1784, while the Prince was staying in Kassel, and the death was recorded in the register of the St. Nicolai Church in Eckernförde.[19] He was buried March 2 and the cost of the burial was listed in the accounting books of the church the following day.[20] On April 3 the same year, the mayor and the city council of Eckernförde issued an official proclamation about the auctioneering off of the Count's remaining effects in case no living relative would appear within a designated time period to lay claim on them.[21] Prince Charles donated the the factory to the crown and it was afterwards converted into a hospital.

Personal Factoids

  • The Count kept a miniature portrait of his mother who "was in strange dress" according to Comtesse de Genlis in 1723.[22]
  • In 1749 the Count was employed by Louis XV for diplomatic missions.[23]

Literature about St. Germain

Biographies

The best-known biography is Isabel Cooper-Oakley's The Count of St. Germain (1912), which gives a satisfactory biographical sketch. It is a compilation of letters, diaries and private records written about the Count by members of the French aristocracy who knew him in the 18th century. Another interesting biographical sketch can be found in The History of Magic, by Eliphas Levi, originally published in 1913.[24]

There have also been numerous French and German biographies, among them Der Wiedergänger: Das zeitlose Leben des Grafen von Saint-Germain by Peter Krassa, Le Comte de Saint-Germain by Marie-Raymonde Delorme and L'énigmatique Comte De Saint-Germain by Pierre Ceria and François Ethuin. In his work Sages and Seers (1959), Manly Palmer Hall refers to the biography Graf St.-Germain by E. M. Oettinger (1846).[25]

Books attributed to St. Germain

One book attributed to Saint Germain himself is La Très Sainte Trinosophi (The Most Holy Trinosophia). There are also two triangular books in the Manly Palmer Hall Collection of Alchemical Manuscripts at the Getty Research Library which are attributed to Saint Germain.[26]

In Theosophy

Myths, legends and speculations about St. Germain began to be widespread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continue today. They include beliefs that he is immortal, the Wandering Jew, an alchemist with the "Elixir of Life", a Rosicrucian, and that he prophesied the French Revolution. He is said to have met the forger Giuseppe Balsamo (alias Cagliostro) in London and the composer Rameau in Venice. Some groups honor Saint Germain as a supernatural being called an Ascended Master.

In Popular Culture

American author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has written more than 30 novels about the Count Saint-Germain, who in this work is a vampire, and added the few known facts about the historical figure.

In Fiction

In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, the count plays a role as Flamel's student and is immortal, living in Paris with his wife, Jeanne d'Arc.

References

  1. ^ THE COUNT OF ST. GERMAIN, Johan Franco, Musical Quarterly (1950) XXXVI(4): 540-550
  2. ^ Hall, Manley P. (preface) The Music of the Comte de St.Germain Los Angeles, CA: Philisophical Research Society, 1981
  3. ^ Isabel Cooper Oakley, The Comte de St. Germain: the secret of kings (1912), p.47
  4. ^ Isabel Cooper Oakley, p45
  5. ^ comte de Saint-Germain (French adventurer) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Britannica.com. Retrieved on 2011-05-07.
  6. ^ Wilson, Colin (2000). The Mammoth Encyclopaedia of Unsolved Mysteries, p484
  7. ^ a b c d e . JSTOR 3650726. 
  8. ^ The Comte de St. Germain by Isabel Cooper-Oakley. Milan, Italy: Ars Regia, 1912
  9. ^ Andrew Lang, Historical Mysteries
  10. ^ http://ichriss.ccarh.org/Germain.pdf
  11. ^ Letter to Sir Horace Mann, December 9, 1745, available on Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12073/12073.txt
  12. ^ The Yale edition of Horace Walpole correspondence (1712-1784), vol 26, pp20-21
  13. ^ The Yale edition of Horace Walpole correspondence (1712-1784), vol 26, pp20-21
  14. ^ The Yale edition of Horace Walpole correspondence (1712-1784), vol 26, pp20-21
  15. ^ The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Memoires of Casanova, Complete, by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2981/2981.txt
  16. ^ The memoirs of Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, (Mémories de mon temps. Dicté par S.A. le Landgrave Charles, Prince de Hesse. Imprimés comme Manuscrit, Copenhagen, 1861. von Lowzow, 1984, pp. 306-8.
  17. ^ Letter from Charles of Hesse-Kassel to Prince Christian of Hesse-Darmstadt, April 17 1825. von Lowzow, 1984, p. 328.
  18. ^ von Lowzow, 1984, p. 309.
  19. ^ von Lowzow, 1984, p. 323.
  20. ^ 10 thaler for renting the plot for 30 years, 2 thaler for the gravedigger, and 12 marks to the bell-ringer. von Lowzow, 1984, p. 324.
  21. ^ Schleswig-Holsteinischen Anzeigen auf da Jahr 1784, Glückstadt, 1784, pp. 404, 451. von Lowzow, 1984, pp. 324-25.
  22. ^ Isabel Cooper Oakley, The Comte de St. Germain: the secret of kings (1912), p.31-32.
  23. ^ Isabel Cooper Oakley, The Comte de St. Germain: the secret of kings (1912), p.94
  24. ^ Levi, Eliphas. The History of Magic. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1999. ISBN 0877289298.
  25. ^ Hall, Manly P. Sages and Seers. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1959. ISBN 0893143936.
  26. ^ CIFA: Search Form. Archives.getty.edu:8082. Retrieved on 2011-05-07.

Further reading

  • Marie Antoinette von Lowzow, Saint-Germain - Den mystiske greve, Dansk Historisk Håndbogsforlag, Copenhagen, 1984. ISBN 87-88742-04-90. (in Danish).
  • Melton, J. Gordon Encyclopedia of American Religions 5th Edition New York:1996 Gale Research ISBN 0-8103-7714-4 ISSN 1066–1212 Chapter 18--"The Ancient Wisdom Family of Religions" Pages 151-158; see chart on page 154 listing Masters of the Ancient Wisdom; Also see Section 18, Pages 717-757 Descriptions of various Ancient Wisdom religious organizations
  • Chrissochoidis, Ilias. "The Music of the Count of St. Germain: An Edition", Society for Eighteenth-Century Music Newsletter 16 (April 2010), [6–7].
  • Fleming, Thomas. "The Magnificent Fraud." American Heritage,no. February 2006 (2006).
  • Hausset, Madame du. "The Private Memoirs of Louis Xv: Taken from the Memoirs of Madame Du Hausset, Lady's Maid to Madame De Pompadour." ed NicholsHarvard University, 1895.
  • Hunter, David. "The Great Pretender." Musical Times,no. Winter 2003 (2003).
  • Pope-Hennessey, Una. The Comte De Saint-Germain. Reprint ed, Secret Societies and the French Revolution. Together with Some Kindred Studies by Una Birch. Lexington, KY: Forgotton Books, 1911.
  • Saint-Germain, Count de, ed. The Music of the Comte St.Germain. Edited by Manley Hall. Los Angeles, California: Philosophical Research Society, 1981.
  • Saint-Germain, Count de. The Most Holy Trinosophia. Forgotten Books, N.D. Reprint, 2008.
  • Slemen, Thomas. Strange but True. London: Robinson Publishing, 1998.
  • Walpole, Horace. "Letters of Horace Walpole." ed Charles Duke Yonge. New York: Putman's Sons, Dec. 9, 1745.
  • d'Adhemar, Madame Comtesse le. "Souvenirs Sur Marie-Antoinette." Paris: Impremerie de Bourgogne et Martinet, 1836.
  • Cooper-Oakley, Isabella. The Comte De Saint Germain, the Secret of Kings. 2nd ed. London: Whitefriars Press, 1912.

External links


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