Voltaire's beating up in front of Sully townhouse
December 1725. Voltaire, 30 years old, was invited to lunch by duke of Sully in his Parisian townhouse. Suddenly, a domestic turned up and gave him a note. Men were waiting for him downstairs and wanted to speak with him about a business concerning him. A plot.
Voltaire frowned. Plot?? He left his host and get down the stairs four at a time. There, he found 3 men in front of the city house. 3 domestics sent by lord of Rohan-Chabot. They beat him up, the worst beating of his life!
But what exactly happened? Few days ago, the drama took place in the dressing room of actress Adrienne Lecouvreur, in Comédie-Française. Voltaire and Rohan, two admirers, were in this room. Rohan, a Breton lord (and a real asshole) asked him who he was.
The proud Breton nobleman VS Voltaire, the little philosopher who was of common stock... but Adrienne liked Voltaire. This one answered Rohan: "I have not a famous name, but I know how to honour mine." Whoa, he had it coming!
But careful, the nobleman grudged against Voltaire: that was how the philosopher was humiliated few days later, the nose in the dirty gutter, while Rohan witnessed all the scene from his carriage parked close by.
Voltaire saw red: revenge!! He challenged Rohan to a duel, but Rohan had him lock away in La Bastille jail. Voltaire was set free one month later, but he had to exile.
The English shock
OK. He went in England and came back in France 4 years later. Completely changed. Transformed by what he saw, there, by the English’s freedom of thought. There, noblemen were totally different from French ones, conceited and keeping their archaic ideas...
Change, that was France needed! But the philosopher kept Rohan’s humiliation in mind, his whole life through. Like a brand made with a red-hot iron...