A Page at Versailles

Fourteen years before the French Revolution, writes Felice Harcourt, the son of a Belgian nobleman joined the court of the Bourbons.

Comte Marie-Ferdinand-Hilarion de Liede-kerke Beaufort was born in 1762 in the sovereign principality of Liège. His first years were spent very happily at his family’s country house, Noisy, where the fields, woods and streams were the scene of much boyish mischief. By the time that Comte Hilarion was thirteen, it was clear to his father that he would have to complete his education away from home. He himself had served with distinction in the armies of France and he wished Hilarion to do likewise.

Comte Hilarion writes in his memoirs1: ‘It was decided that until my childish hand could wield the sword for which it was intended, I should concentrate on acquiring greater polish and learning. An appointment as page at Versailles seemed an ideal way of enabling me to achieve both these aims.

The pages, particularly those of the Chamber, who were few in number, were given an excellent education.’ Comte Hilarion was fortunate enough to obtain an appointment as page to Monsieur, the Comte de Provence, brother of King Louis XVI and, later, LouisXVIII of France.

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