Lafayette by Harlow Giles Unger
cover of Lafayette

by Harlow Giles Unger

published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

In this gripping biography, acclaimed author Harlow Giles Unger paints an intimate and detailed portrait of the heroic young French soldier who, at nineteen, renounced a life of luxury in Paris and Versailles to fight and bleed for liberty—at Brandywine, Valley Forge, and Yorktown. A major general in the Continental army, he quickly earned the love of his troops, his fellow commanders, and his commander in chief, George Washington, who called him his “adopted son.” To the troops, he was “the soldier’s friend”; to Americans all, he was “our Marquis.”

In a tale filled with adventure, romance, and political intrigue, Unger follows Lafayette from the battlefields of North America to the palace of Versailles, where the marquis won the most stunning diplomatic victory in world history—convincing the French court to send the huge military and naval force needed to win American independence. He then returned to America to lead the remarkable guerrilla campaign in Virginia that climaxed with British surrender at Yorktown—and earned him the title “Conqueror of Cornwallis.”

Lafayette’s triumph turned to tragedy, however, when he tried to introduce American democracy in his native land. His quest for a constitutional monarchy unwittingly set off the savage French Revolution and plunged Europe into more than a decade of slaughter and war. Declared an enemy of the state, Lafayette fled France only to be imprisoned for five years in an Austrian dungeon, while his wife, Adrienne, and her family festered in prison, awaiting the cruel blade of the guillotine.

Based on years of research in France as well as in the United States, Unger’s biography reveals how American ambassador James Monroe won Adrienne Lafayette’s freedom and helped Lafayette’s only son, George-Washington Lafayette, escape France to the safety of his godfather’s home in Mount Vernon, even as the guillotine claimed his great-grandmother, grandmother, and aunt.

Lafayette is also a compelling romance, as Lafayette and his beloved, Adrienne de Noailles, feast at their sumptuous wedding banquet, dance at Marie Antoinette’s lavish palace balls, and embrace in anguish in the ghastly Austrian dungeon that Adrienne and her daughters shared with Lafayette for two brutal years.

Inspiring and educational, Lafayette is the dramatic life story of one of the great leaders in American and European history, swept up in the cataclysmic events that spawned the longest-lasting democracy in the New World and prolonged despotism for two centuries in the Old.


Acclaim for Harlow Unger's Lafayette

... “Enlightening! The picture of Lafayette’s life is a window to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history.”

Michel Aubert La Fayette

... “I found Mr. Unger’s book exceptionally well done. It’s an admirable account of the marquis’s two revolutions—one might even say his two lives—the French and the American. It also captures the private Lafayette and his remarkable wife, Adrienne, in often moving detail.”

Thomas Fleming, author, Liberty! The American Revolution

... “Harlow Unger’s Lafayette is a remarkable and dramatic account of a life as fully lived as it is possible to imagine, that of Gilbert de Motier, marquis de Lafayette. To American readers Unger’s biography will provide a stark reminder of just how near run a thing was our War of Independence and the degree to which our forefathers’ victory hinged on the help of our French allies, marshalled for George Washington by his ‘adopted’ son, Lafayette. But even more absorbing and much less well known to the general reader will be Unger’s account of Lafayette’s idealistic but naive efforts to plant the fruits of the American democracy he so admired in the unreceptive soil of his homeland. His inspired oratory produced not the constitutional democracy he sought but the bloody Jacobin excesses of the French Revolution.”

Larry Collins, coauthor, Is Paris Burning? and O Jerusalem!

... “A lively and entertaining portrait of one of the most important supporting actors in the two revolutions that transformed the modern world.”

Susan Dunn, author, Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light

... “Harlow Unger has cornered the market on muses to emerge as America’s most readable historian. His new biography of the marquis de Lafayette combines a thoroughgoing account of the age of revolution, a probing psychological study of a complex man, and a literary style that goes down like cream. A worthy successor to his splendid biography of Noah Webster.”

Florence King, Contributing Editor, National Review


Harlow Giles Unger

A former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Harlow Giles Unger is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, and historian.

He is a best-selling the author of more than 25 books, including a dozen biographies of the Founding Fathers—among them the award winning Lafayette; John Quincy Adams, and Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation.

Cited by a critic in the National Review as “America’s most readable historian,” Mr. Unger is a graduate of Yale University and former associate professor of English and journalism. He spent many years as a foreign correspondent and American Affairs analyst for The New York Herald Tribune Overseas News Service, The Times and The Sunday Times (London), and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


Other American History Titles by Harlow Giles Unger:

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness;

John Quincy Adams;

Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation;

Mr. President: George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office;

The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life;

John Marshal: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation;

Henry Clay,  America’s Greatest Statesman; and many more.

Visit Harlow Giles Unger's Author page at Amazon »