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For liberty and fraternity

SAROJA SUNDARARAJAN

Gifted as a minion to Countess Du Barry, Zamor, a poor Bengali boy, became a French revolutionary.


Zamor was a poor Bengali boy bought by an English minion of Louis XV who ruled France from 1715 to 1774. The extravagant and self-indulgent Louis purchased the boy to be delivered to Countess Du Barry, his mistress.

The Countess, christened him Louis-Benedict and educated him. He developed a taste for literature, particularly the writings of the French political philosopher Rousseau, who had a profound impact on him. He waited for the realisation of the writer's ideal of liberty. He was continually outraged by the indignities inflicted on him by the courtiers and his fellow servants. These torments, coupled with the luxurious lethargy of the royalty and nobility, when the populace was condemned to poverty, sowed the seeds of bitter hostility for the privileged classes. In the prevailing situation, he instinctively welcomed the upsurge of revolutionary ferment.

Zamor was angry when he realised that Du Barry had extended financial aid to French aristocrats, especially those seeking refuge in London. His entreaties to her to sever connection with them went unheeded. He vowed to ruin his patroness whose livery he bore and bided his time.

In 1792, Du Barry made frequent visits to London to retrieve her jewellery and other precious articles, which were plundered from Luciennes and were rumoured to be in London. The revolutionaries construed these visits to be politically motivated. During her last visit to London, the Countess was warned by the Prime Minister, William Pitt about returning to Paris. But she returned to Paris. Zamor was already a part of the revolutionaries. In 1792, he was made the Secretary of the Committee of Public Safety in Versailles whose duty it was to keep an eye on aristocrats. Zamor revealed to his colleague Grieve, who was a close friend of the French Revolution leader Marat, the secrets of his mistress. Zamor had Grieve arrange for Du Barry's arrest on her landing in Paris but at the intercession of her beneficiaries, she was released. Thereupon Zamor got Grieve to publish a pamphlet replete with venomous insinuations against her. Shrewd Du Barry detected in it the hand of Zamor, who had knowledge of the details of her domestic life. She dismissed him instantly. This ignominy infuriated Zamor who openly abetted his confederates in renewing the attack on the Countess. Under his goading, Grieve had a warrant issued for her arrest. The Countess was jailed in the Paris prison of Saint Pelagie.

While deposing evidence against his mistress when she was brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal on December 6, 1793, Zamor accused her of advancing money lavishly to the French emigrants disregarding his pleadings to desist from it and bequeath a portion of her wealth to the country so as to preserve the rest. He also charged her with persisting in maintaining the dispossessed nobles in her house and rejoicing with her cohorts at the defeat of the Republican armies. Du Barry was duly convicted for allying with the enemies of the State and sentenced to be guillotined. Zamor was not above suspicion either, given his past association with Du Barry. He was hunted down by some of the revolutionaries and imprisoned but was released in a short time. After this, he disappeared from Paris and his whereabouts were unknown until 1815 when, after the Battle of Waterloo, the direct Bourbon line was restored in France. Deserted by all, Zamor lived alone and depressed man in an old quarter in Paris but still cherishing the republican ideals.

In the portrait drawn by Vanloo, the famous French rococo painter of the 18th Century, Zamor appears with an aquiline nose, melancholy eyes and a large ugly mouth.

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