French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon created this bust of Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. (AP)

French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon created this bust of Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. (AP)

In this engraving made in 1874, Major General Marquis de Lafayette and General George Washington are shown at Valley Forge. (AP/T.F. Healy Collection)

In this engraving made in 1874, Major General Marquis de Lafayette and General George Washington are shown at Valley Forge. (AP/T.F. Healy Collection)

The French tall ship Hermione on the left is a replica of the one that brought Lafayette to America in 1780. (Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Sandberg/U.S. Navy via AP)

The French tall ship Hermione on the left is a replica of the one that brought Lafayette to America in 1780. (Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Sandberg/U.S. Navy via AP)

Lafayette was born here in 1757. The house is called the Château de Chavaniac.

Lafayette was born here in 1757. The house is called the Château de Chavaniac.

Who Was the Marquis de Lafayette?

Posted: September 1, 2021

General Lafayette was born in France with a big name: Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. (Marquis—pronounced mar-KEE—means “nobleman.”) We’ll call him Gilbert for short. His father died in battle when Gilbert was almost two. When his mother died 10 years later, Gilbert became an orphan—but not a poor one. He came from one of the oldest families in France. His parents left him a huge fortune.

Though he lived across the ocean, Gilbert liked the ideas coming from America. He believed people should live freely and be treated with fairness. He also wanted to become a soldier and win fame. He crossed the ocean to fight in the American Revolution. He was still a teenager then. He barely spoke any English. He didn’t even have any fighting experience. But he was rich and he knew a lot of powerful people. He quickly became a general.

In America, Gilbert made a very good friend: George Washington. He showed humility, which is the beginning of all good leadership. He told General Washington, “I am here to learn, not to teach.” General Washington became much more than a teacher to Gilbert. Gilbert stayed with General Washington during the horrible winter at Valley Forge in 1777 when hundreds of soldiers died of disease. General Washington didn’t have children. Gilbert didn’t have a dad. The two became like father and son.

After helping lead the Continental Army to victory, Gilbert returned to France.  When he came back to the United States for his tour many years later, he made a tearful visit to George Washington’s grave.

Gilbert—the marquis de Lafayette—died in 1834. He was buried in Paris, France . . . with dirt from the location of the U.S. Battle of Bunker Hill.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” — 1 Peter 5:5