Jean-Benedicte by LeBrun Framed

Jean-Bénédicte de Dampierre, Prince de Carpègne by Charles LeBrun, 1771

Jean-Bénédicte de Dampierre, Prince de Carpègne (1751-1847), born to Louis-Charles de Carpègne, and Victoire-Charlotte, daughter of the Comte de Chiverny. Acquired the title Prince de Carpègne in 1770 when his father was awarded the Duchy of Dampierre by Louis XV.

Styled Monsieur le Prince de Carpègne until 1773, afterwards His Grace the Duc de Dampierre.

Early Years (1751-1769)Edit

Jean-Bénédicte was raised in the Chateau de Coligny in the Yvelines region of France, close to Versailles, the eldest of three siblings -Charlotte-Hèlène and Louis-Charles. Their positions at court necessitated his parent's absence, hence Jean-Bénédicte was raised by an indulgent Provençal Abbé until the age of twelve, when he was bundled off to Eton - an education delayed due to the Seven Years War but much desired by his father.

Following his untimely expulsion from Eton due to sexual indecency with a Prefect and misuse of a French horn, Jean-Bénédicte returned in shame to his family in 1765. The scandal surrounding his name only deepened when he began frequenting pleasure-gardens and houses of ill-repute in the French capital, and his parents lobbied to have him placed within his Majesty's court, albeit in a position of as little consequence as possible. Records prove that in 1769 the Prince de Carpègne paid 16,000 Livres to have a Lettre de Petit Cachet drawn up to imprison his eldest son in the Bastille, albeit in the most comfortable quarters with provisions for a manservant and fourteen pairs of shoes per week, but the Lettre was never executed.

Court of Versailles, the Rochefort Scandal, and Marriage (1770-1772)Edit

Jean-Bénédicte first met Louis XV in December 1769, introduced by his mother and his aunt, the Princesse d'Amblise, an intimate of Madame du Barry. The king was amused by the boy, and in 1770, his Majesty awarded the Duchy of Dampierre to Louis-Charles and conferred the title of Prince de Carpègne on Jean-Bénédicte, alongside the position of le Grand Maître de la Garde-Robe du Roi. Records show that Jean-Bénédicte made Versailles his permanent home in late 1771, following extensive and costly renovations of his living quarters.

Jean-Bénédicte, now Prince de Carpègne, was linked during his lifetime with the Duchesse de Rochefort - some insinuated a famous but lost Ducreaux pastel of the Prince was commissioned by Rochefort for her boudoir at Versailles, although no solid proof was ever provided (see below). In 1771, the Duchesse gave birth to her first child, which many claimed to be Carpègne's bastard. Propagandists in Paris seized on this liaison as proof of the debauchery of the aristocracy, and when Carpègne suddenly married in 1772 it was allegedly at the command of the king, for the good of the country. In 1773, when his father died in a hunting accident, Jean-Bénédicte was made Duc de Dampierre.

Support of the arts and fashionEdit

Without military post or real political influence, Carpègne devoted the majority of his time to art, pleasure and beauty. He composed some middling verse during his time at Versailles, which has been called 'untranslatable' by modern critics, and often concern themes culled from Ancient Greece and clumsily recast with characters from the contemporary court. He also wrote a variety of pamplets relating to contemporary dress under the nom de plume Madame Ninon de FouFou, including Neckclothitania: The Calipygous Endowment of Neckwear And Its Elevation of the Modern Male; Conspicuous Consumption in Costumery for Ladies and Gentleman of Fine Quality; and Rousseau or Ruffles? These had mild success, and reached the courts of England, Austria and Prussia.

Carpègne was also a major supporter of the artist Quentin de la Tour from 1771 until his death in 1780, although his excessive demand for portraits has been linked to the nervous breakdown of the artist in 1773. Many link this breakdown with the fact that Carpègne sent requests, demands and even preliminary sketches for no less than forty-seven potential portraits in the first four months of 1773, including him depicted as Dionysus, as Hermes, in equestrian guise, and as a Grecian youth naked except for a small pink rose. Joseph Ducreux undertook the last portrait as a pastel in 1775, but due to a quarrel over the size of the rose it was never finished. The original portrait is presumed lost - only satirical engravings remained.

Carpègne was also known for his passionate and at times excessive support of the fashion industry. He funded the publication of numerous early fashion almanacs, and even subsidised his own Marchand de Modes in the Faubourg St. Honore to ensure he stayed abreast of the latest fashions. Carpègne was one of the first proponents of Anglomania, which many attributed to his unusual English education.

Later life (1789-1847)Edit

Carpègne fathered six children between 1772 and 1789: Victoire-Charlotte, Alexandrine, Abel-François, Jean-Baptiste and Charles Henri. Their third daughter Jeanne-Charlotte died in infancy in 1780.

Upon the outbreak of the Revolution, Carpègne fled France with his family disguised as washerwomen. They settled in Richmond in 1795 where their seventh child, Adelaide Louise was born in 1800. Later, she married into the prosperous but middle-class Lyvingstones, a British merchant family, to secure her family's less than stable financial future. Jean-Bénédicte returned to Paris in 1820, where he died in 1847.

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