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His friends

Louis de Kergorlay

Portrait of Louis de Kergorlay

Portrait of Louis de Kergorlay, anonymous; Département des Estampes © BNF

"Hair: brown-blond; forehead: covered; nose: straight; eyes: blue; mouth: average; chin: round; face: oval; height: one meter sixty-eight centimeters; distinguishing marks: a scar on the right eyebrow." This was a description of Louis de Kergorlay when he entered the Ecole Polytechnique in 1824, at the age of twenty. To this, posterity has added that he was the childhood friend of Alexis de Tocqueville. They were similar in many ways: they were almost the same age, since Louis was born on August 28, 1804, and they were even cousins, as they were both descended from the father of Malesherbes. Their families belonged to the world of France's upper nobility, and often visited each other. These affinities perhaps explain why they remained failthful friends, despite the extremely different paths that their lives and careers took. Although Kergorlay tried to convince him, Alexis did not follow his friend in his choice of scientific studies, which would lead him to a military career. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique on November 7, 1826, he was named second lieutenant at the École d'artillerie de Metz, before joining - thanks to the intervention of his father - the 2nd Foot Artillery Regiment. With the Second Regiment he took part in the opening offensive of the conquest of Algeria early in the summer of 1830. But it was the events of July 1830 that profoundly changed his life and dashed his dreams of a military career. Remaining faithful to the legitimist point of view expressed by his family, especially his father, Louis de Kergorlay refused, unlike Tocqueville, to swear a loyalty oath to Louis-Philippe, whom he would revile his entire life as a usurper. This action, in the eyes of the military administration, was the equivalent of resigning his commission. His participation in the colorful affair of the duchess de Berry was simply the logical extension of the legitimist position that he would defend until the end of his days.

« There is a whole part of my soul to which you alone have the key. »
(Letter to Louis de Kergorlay, September 24, 1836)

His spirit broken, Kergorlay spent a number of years under the July Monarchy doing little (which Tocqueville bitterly regretted), and nursing projects, such as a political essay on Germany, which never came to fruition.

Esplanade and palais de justice in Metz

Esplanade and palais de justice in Metz
© Bibliothèque de Metz

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But Louis seems to have made it a point of honor to remain true to the chivalrous values that he had chosen and, by his inactivity, to signal his disagreement with the current political situation. Although, with Arthur de Gobineau, he directed the Revue provinciale in 1848 and 1849, it was not until the 1850s that he was forced, for financial reasons, to reenter active life and find work in industrial affairs. Nevertheless, he never stopped supporting and advising his friend Tocqueville in every aspect of his life, from his marriage plans to married life, in his political decisions and his works, of which he was often the first reader. Their friendship was both tender and long-lasting: when Tocqueville died in Cannes, Louis de Kergorlay was at his bedside.

Archives

Description and list of grades for de Kergorlay, from 1824 to 1826

Description and list of grades for de Kergorlay, from 1824 to 1826
© École polytechnique

Appointment as second lieutenant at the Ecole d'artillerie du génie in Metz, dated November 26, 1826

Appointment as second lieutenant at the Ecole d'artillerie du génie in Metz, dated November 26, 1826 © Archives de l'Armée de terre

Certificat of services of de Kergorlay

Certificat of services of de Kergorlay, dated March 11, 1829 © Archives de l'Armée de terre

Note from the Minister of War acknowledging the request by Louis de Kergorlay to take part in the regiments involved in the expedition to Algeria

Note from the Minister of War acknowledging the request by Louis de Kergorlay to take part in the regiments involved in the expedition to Algeria, dated February 19, 1830
© Archives de l'Armée de terre

Maréchal de Bourmont requests a citation for Louis de Kergorlay

Maréchal de Bourmont requests a citation for Louis de Kergorlay, dated July 26, 1830 © Archives de l'Armée de terre

Note to the Ministry of War, petitioned for a military citation for Louis de Kergorlay

Note to the Ministry of War, petitioned for a military citation for Louis de Kergorlay, dated July 28, 1830 © Archives de l'Armée de terre

Letter of resignation from the army from Louis de Kergorlay to the colonel of the Second Artillery Regiment

Letter of resignation from the army from Louis de Kergorlay to the colonel of the Second Artillery Regiment, dated October 7, 1830 © Archives de l'Armée de terre

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