National Geographic : 1957 Sep
center for sickly children from all corners of France. Today several hundred boys and girls are regaining their health where Lafayette spent his first 11 years. His father, a colonel in the French Grenadiers, died in battle when his son was two. The boy grew up quickly. He seemed to leap from childhood to manhood, not pausing long for adolescence. Before 13, La fayette inherited his grandfather's fortune and became one of the rich est youths in France. His own military career began at 14, when he entered the King's Musketeers. Lafayette married when he was only 16; his wife, the 14-year-old Marie Adrienne Francoise d'Ayen de Noailles, belonged to one of the most powerful families in France. The young couple lived amid the court of Louis XVI and Marie An toinette at Versailles. But Gilbert, as his family called him, was ill suited to court life: his dancing was so awkward the Queen herself laughed at him. Lafayette was interested in more serious matters than dancing. He had been exposed to the revolu tionary ideas of Rousseau and other freethinking French writers. Then, at a dinner party, he met the Duke of Gloucester, an Englishman sym pathetic to the rebellious North American colonists. Lafayette was fascinated by stories of their struggle for independence; he resolved to join the fight. (Continued on page 426) 420 Lofty Chapel and Statue Crown the Plugs of a Dead Volcano, a Sight Known to Lafayette The town of Le Puy (The Peak) lies in a bowl-like crater some 20 miles from the chateau where the Marquis de La Fayette was born. On a lava pyramid rising 280 feet above the town stands the 11th-century Chapel of St. Michel d'Aiguilhe. Stairs cut from solid rock lead weary visitors to the clois ter. Another volcanic peak supports the 50 foot-high Notre Dame de France, a hollow statue cast from 213 Russian cannon seized at Sevastopol in the Crimean War. Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of Notre Dame soars at right.