Alexandre Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Éguilles

Alexandre Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Éguilles (1709–1783) was a French administrator who served as an unofficial envoy to Charles Edward Stuart during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Taken prisoner after the Battle of Culloden in April 1746, he was released in 1747 and later held a senior legal post in the Provencal Regional Parliament. He was exiled from France in 1763 for opposing the suppression of the Jesuits but allowed to return in 1768 and died at home in March 1783.

Alexandre Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Éguilles
Jacobite broadside - Portrait of Alexandre de BOYES, Marquis d'Equille.jpg
The Marquis d’Éguilles, as Président à mortier
Président à mortier
Provencal Regional Parliament
In office
Personal Envoy of Louis XV to Charles Stuart
In office
September 1745 – May 1746
Personal details
Born29 March 1709
Hôtel de Boyer d'Éguilles, Aix-en-Provence, France
Died8 October, 1783
Éguilles, France
Spouse(s)Marie-Anne Rousseau (1740)
Catherine Wannup (1748)
ChildrenPierre-Jean de Boyer (1753-1823); Paul-Luc de Boyer (1754-1820)
Alma materAcadémie de Marseille


Alexandre Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, later Seigneur or Marquis d’Éguilles, was born on 29 March, 1709, at the family home in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence, the Hôtel Boyer d'Éguilles. He was the third of five sons of Pierre-Jean de Boyer (died 1757) and Angélique de L'Enfant, daughter of Luc de L'Enfant (1656-1729), President of the Regional Parliament.[1]

An official dressed as a Noblesse de robe; d’Éguilles came from this class

Pierre-Jean was Procureur général or Attorney-General for the Regional Parliament of Provence and a member of the Noblesse de robe or Nobles of the robe. This class formed the Second Estate whose rank derived from holding judicial or administrative posts and were often hard-working professionals, unlike the aristocratic Noblesse d'épée or Nobles of the Sword.[2]

By the mid-18th century, many of these positions had become hereditary and eldest sons were expected to succeed their fathers, marry and have children. Instead, Alexandre's elder brother Jean-Baptiste, Marquis d'Argens, defied his father by choosing a military career. Unlike the rest of his family, who were devout Catholics, he became an atheist philosopher, writer and friend of Voltaire and later wrote 'I was not my father's favourite child.'[3] He was formally disinherited in 1734, an act that profoundly changed the life of his younger brother but despite their philosophical differences, the two were close friends throughout their lives.[2]

To prevent the division of family estates amongst multiple heirs, younger sons often remained unmarried; the second son Paul (1708-1785) became a priest, while Alexandre, Sextus (1710-?) and Luc (1713-1772) joined the Knights of Malta.[3] As Paul was committed to the Church, Alexandre became 'Marquis D'Éguilles' when their father died in 1757, although Jean-Baptiste retained the title 'Marquis d'Argens'.

In May 1740, he married Marie-Anne Rousseau (1714-1741), who died in childbirth; he re-married in June 1748, this time to an English lady, Catherine Stanhope (or Wannup) (1726-1761). They had two sons who survived childhood, Pierre-Jean (1753-1823) and Paul-Luc (1754-1820).[4]


Russian galley, ca 1720, similar to those D'Eguilles served on as an officer in the Maltese Navy
D'Eguilles' elder brother, philosopher and author Jean-Baptiste, Marquis d'Argens

In 1725, D'Eguilles joined the Maltese Navy, maritime arm of the Knights of Malta. Originally formed to provide security against pirates based on the Barbary Coast, by the 18th century its activities had expanded to include raiding Muslim merchants in the Eastern Mediterranean.[5]

Various members of the de Boyer family had a background in the arts, including their great-uncle, the poet and dramatist Abbe Claude de Boyer (1618-1698). Their grandfather, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer (1640-1709), owned a famous art collection containing works by Titian, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens and Corregio.[6] In 1736, these connections led to D’Éguilles' election to the Académie de Marseille, a society for the Provencal intellectual and social elite and he was appointed President in 1739.[7]

His brother had been disinherited in 1734 but it was not until 1740 that D’Éguilles gave up his naval career and married Marie-Anne Rousseau. However, he had not received the legal education required to follow his father and instead tried a number of unsuccessful business ventures, including trading olive oil with the Americas and opening a theatre.[8]

When his first wife died in childbirth in 1741, D’Éguilles was involved in the production of a two volume guide to his grandfathers' art collection, including copies of the paintings done by the French engraver Pierre-Jean Mariette.[9] With little connecting him to Provence, he took the opportunity provided by this work to spend time in Paris, where he gained access to the literary salon headed by Louis de Bachaumont. The two became friends and Bachaumont recommended him to the French foreign minister, Jean-Jacques Amelot. The 1740-1748 War of the Austrian Succession was then in progress and D’Éguilles was employed carrying messages to the French envoys in Berlin and Dresden.[8]

Amelot was dismissed in May 1743 and replaced in November 1744 by René D'Argenson, who served in the army with his brother, the Marquis d'Argens. In July 1745, Prince Charles landed in Scotland, launching the 1745 Jacobite rising and D'Argenson asked D’Éguilles to go there as an unofficial envoy; not being a professional diplomat made it easier to disown him if needed but he was hampered in his mission by the inability to speak English. He left Dunkirk on 26 September on board the French privateer l'Ésperance, with two other ships carrying weapons and money, arriving in Edinburgh on 14 October. He claimed to simply be a gentleman 'driven by adventure,' but Charles introduced him as Ambassador, using him as proof of French support for the Rising.[10]

Battle of Culloden, April 1746; D'Eguilles was taken prisoner and not released until 1747

In a letter to D'Argenson of 23 October, D'Eguilles concluded the Jacobite position was hopeless without a French invasion.[11] He was present at the meetings held in Edinburgh on 30 and 31 October to discuss the invasion of England, which revealed deep divisions between Charles and his Scots supporters. Many Scots joined the rebellion hoping to dissolve the 1707 Union with England; this now seemed achievable and although they were willing to assist an English rising or French invasion, they would not do it on their own.[12] D'Eguilles assured Charles of his support for the invasion, but told the Scots in private it was a mistake; Lord Elcho later wrote "...the majority of the Council (wanted to) remain in Scotland to watch events and defend their own land. This was also the opinion in secret of the Marquis d‘Eguilles."[13]

18th century Jesuit father; support for the Society of Jesus led to D’Éguilles exile from France between 1763-1768

After the Battle of Culloden in April 1746, he was captured and held in Carlisle for six months while the British and French governments arranged terms of exchange.[14] In June 1747, D’Éguilles wrote a report on the rising to Count Maurepas, the Naval Minister. With few exceptions, this was extremely critical of both the Scots and Jacobite exiles, while his opinion of Charles himself was so low that one option he suggested was the establishment of a Scots Republic, rather than a Stuart restoration.[15] He lobbied for another diplomatic post but D'Argenson had been replaced by de Puisieulx, while the French government now wanted to disassociate themselves from any connection with the Rising. Their support for the Stuarts had become a major obstacle in the peace negotiations that ended with the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.[16]

D’Éguilles returned to Provence where his father purchased him the office of Président à mortier in the Provencal Parliament, one of the most senior legal posts in pre-1789 France.[16] In 1748, he married Catherine Stanhope or Wannup, whom he met during his time in England; she died in 1761, which was followed two years later by an upheaval in his public career.

Like many devout Catholics, the de Boyers were supporters of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits; D’Éguilles and his brothers had been educated by Jesuit tutors.[17] However, increasing economic and political power brought them enemies, in France and elsewhere; when the Jesuit mission in Martinique went bankrupt in 1760, the Society in Paris denied responsibility for their debts, leading to calls for their suppression. In 1762, legal proceedings were filed against them in the Provencal Parliament but blocked by D’Éguilles in his capacity of Président à mortier; in May 1763, he was forced to resign and letters he published backing the Jesuits were burned by the public hangman. He was banished from France 'in perpetuity,' joining his brother at the court of Frederick the Great; as Voltaire remarked, one brother was exiled for opposing the Jesuits, the other for supporting them.[2]

After D’Éguilles returned home in 1767, he offered to reverse the 1734 legal order disinheriting his elder brother, an offer that was refused.[18] His return from exile was conditional on remaining in Provence; he spent the rest of his life living quietly in retirement at the family chateau in Éguilles, where he died on 8 October, 1783.[19]


His son and heir, Pierre-Jean de Boyer, emigrated in 1791 during the French Revolution and his estates were confiscated, divided into 50 lots, then distributed to local farmers. His attempts to reclaim these lands after the 1814 restoration of Louis XVIII led to protracted legal disputes.[20]

The Hôtel Boyer d'Éguilles was built in 1675 to a design by the Baroque artist Pierre Puget, who lived in Marseille and contains ceilings attributed to the painter and artist Sébastien Barras; it is now a protected monument.[21]


  1. ^ "Luc de L'Enfant". Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Gaspar 2013, p. 244.
  3. ^ a b Gaspar 2013, p. 17.
  4. ^ "H Alexandre-Jean-Baptiste de BOYER d'EGUILLES". Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  5. ^ Cavaliero, Roberto (8 June 2014). "The Decline of the Maltese Corso in the XVIIIth Century". Maltese History & Heritage. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  6. ^ Gaspar 2013, p. 13.
  7. ^ D'Arnaud 1955, pp. 59.
  8. ^ a b D'Arnaud 1955, p. 60.
  9. ^ Gaspar 2013, p. 27.
  10. ^ Gibson 1995, pp. 47-48.
  11. ^ Gibson, p.48
  12. ^ Riding 2016, p. 199.
  13. ^ Wemyss 1853, p. 289.
  14. ^ Riding 2016, p. 443.
  15. ^ McLynn 1980, pp. 177-181.
  16. ^ a b D'Arnaud 1955, p. 63.
  17. ^ Gaspar 2013, p. 14.
  18. ^ Sgard, Jean. "Jean Baptiste marquis de BOYER D'ARGENS (1703-1771)". Dictionnaire des journalistes (1600-1789). Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  19. ^ La Porte 1820, p. 241.
  20. ^ La Porte 1820, pp. 242-244.
  21. ^ "Hôtel Boyer d'Eguilles". Aix-en-Provence Tourism. Retrieved 19 November 2018.


  • D'Arnaud, André Bouyala (1955). "An 18th Century Provencal Gentleman; the Marquis d'Eguilles". Revue d'Histoire Moderne & Contemporaine. 2 (1).
  • Gasper, Julia (2013). The Marquis d'Argens: A Philosophical Life. Lexington. ISBN 978-0739182338.
  • Gibson, John S (1995). Edinburgh in the '45: Bonnie Prince Charlie at Holyroodhouse. Saltire Society. ISBN 978-0854110674.
  • La Porte, M (1820). Journal des Audiences de la Cour de Cassation. J Smith, Paris.
  • McLynn, Frank (October 1980). "An Eighteenth-Century Scots Republic? An Unlikely Project from Absolutist France". The Scottish Historical Review. 59 (168).
  • Riding, Jacqueline (2016). Jacobites; A New History of the 45 Rebellion. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1408819128.
  • Wemyss, Alice, Sibbold, John (ed) (1853). Elcho of the '45 (2003 ed.). Saltire Society.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

External LinksEdit

French nobility
Preceded by
Pierre-Jean de Boyer (father)
Marquis d'Éguilles
Succeeded by
Pierre-Jean de Boyer (son)
Preceded by
Jules-François-Paul Fauris de Saint-Vincens
Président à mortier
Provencal Regional Parliament

Succeeded by
Jean-Luc de Thomassin de Peynier