The Enlightenment Period

Counter-Enlightenment Figures

What are some details of the Marquis de Sade’s life?

De Sade was born in the palace of Condé. His father was a count, his mother a lady-in-waiting to the princess. He attended a Jesuit college and was captain of a cavalry regiment in the Seven Years’ War, after which he married the elder sister of the woman he loved, fathering two sons and one daughter. In 1766 he had a theater constructed at his castle in Lacoste (in the 1990s, fashion designer Pierre Cardin acquired the ruins of de Sade’s castle as a site for theater productions). He was a libertine, said to have sexually abused young people of both sexes, both servants and prostitutes. He was accused of kidnapping and abusing a woman named Rose Keller in 1768; after she escaped, he was also accused of blasphemy, which was a more serious offense at the time than the sexual crimes.

When prostitutes in Paris complained of de Sade’s abuse, he was exiled to his castle. Then he had an affair with his sister-in-law, for which his mother-in-law secured an arrest warrant from the king. A series of arrests and escapes in which his wife was his accomplice ensued. He was confined to an insane asylum at Charenton after being imprisoned in the Bastille. In the asylum, the Abbé allowed him to produce plays. When he was released in 1790, his wife divorced him.


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