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By all accounts the legendary Comte de Saint-Germaine was something of an enigma. He is said to have been a confidant of kings, a stunningly wealthy and gifted social figure, and the discoverer of an elixir of youth. Even Voltaire described him as the “man who knows everything and never dies.” In spite of this acclaim, no one knows for certain who Comte de Saint-Germaine was or when he died.

Parish records show that Saint-Germaine died on 27 February 1784 in Schleswig-Holstein at the court of his close friend Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, yet many people claim to have encountered him since his death. Theosophist Annie Besant said she had met him in 1896, incarnated as a spiritual leader. As recently as 1972, a Parisian called Richard Chanfray appeared on French television claiming to be Saint-Germaine.

One source surmised he was the son of Marie de Neuberg, the ex-queen of Spain, another the son of Transylvanian Prince Francis Racoczi II. The first historical evidence of Saint-Germaine’s existence is a signed letter, written from The Hague and dated 1735. When he became the talk of Paris in the mid 1750s, he appeared to be in his fifties, which would place his year of birth at about 1700. Given his level of education, culture and monied existence, he may well have been a blue-blood himself who, for whatever reasons, chose to adopt the name Saint-Germaine.

The life of the self-styled count was as shadowy as his origins. Before arriving in France as guest of Marshal de Belle-Isle, whom he had impressed by curing a lady of the court who was suffering from mushroom poisoning, and was soon “adopted” by Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s mistress.

Saint-Germaine is known to have conducted at least one secret diplomatic mission in the service of Louis XV. He may also have taken part in a conspiracy that put Catherine the Great on the Russian throne, and 15 years before the event he warned Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of the French Revolution.

It is now thought that the count was just a normal person around whom a mass of myth grew up. Indeed, Jean Overton Fuller’s deeply researched 1988 biography The Comte de Saint-Germaine gives a solid factual account of the circumstances surround the myths.

 

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