The Comte de Saint Germain, born circa. 1691/1712 – died 27 February 1784) was an European adventurer, with an interest in science and the arts. He achieved prominence in European high society of the mid-1700s. Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel considered him to be “one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived”. St. Germain used a variety of names and titles, an accepted practice amongst royalty and nobility at the time. These include the Marquis de Montferrat, Comte Bellamarre, Chevalier Schoening, Count Weldon, Comte Soltikoff, Graf Tzarogy and Prinz Ragoczy. In order to deflect inquiries as to his origins, he would invent fantasies, such as his being 500 years old, leading Voltaire to sarcastically dub him “The Wonderman”.
His birth and background are obscure, but towards the end of his life he claimed that he was a son of Prince Francis II Rákóczi of Transylvania.
St. Germain was supposedly educated in Italy by the last of Medicis, Gian Gastone, his alleged mother’s brother-in-law. It is believed that he was a student at the University of Siena. Throughout his adult life he deliberately span a confusing web to conceal his actual name and origins, using different pseudonyms in the different places of Europe that he visited.
He appears to have begun to be known under the title of the Count of St Germain during the early 1740s.
St. Germain appeared in the French court in around 1748. In 1749, he was employed by Louis XV for diplomatic missions.
St. Germain gave himself out for a marvel and always aimed at exciting amazement, which he often succeeded in doing. He was scholar, linguist, musician, and chemist, good-looking, and a perfect ladies’ man.
In 1760, at the height of the Seven Years’ War, St. Germain travelled to Holland where he tried to open peace negotiations between Britain and France. British diplomats concluded that St. Germain had the backing of the Duc de Belle-Isle and possibly of Madame de Pompadour, who were trying to outmanoeuvre the French Foreign Minister, the pro-Austrian Duc de Choiseul. However Britain would not treat with St. Germain unless his credentials came directly from the French king. The Duc de Choiseul convinced Louis XV to disavow St. Germain and demand his arrest. Count Bentinck de Rhoon, a Dutch diplomat, regarded the arrest warrant as internal French politicking which Holland should not involve itself in. However, a direct refusal to extradite St. Germain was also considered impolitic. De Rhoon therefore facilitated the departure of St. Germain to England with a passport issued by the British Ambassador, General Joseph Yorke. This passport was made out “in blank”, allowing St. Germain to travel under an assumed name, showing that this practice was officially accepted at the time. Peace between Britain and France was later concluded at the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
In 1779, St. Germain arrived in Altona in Schleswig. Here he made an acquaintance with Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, who also had an interest in mysticism and was a member of several secret societies. The Count showed the Prince several of his gems and he convinced the latter that he had invented a new method of colouring cloth. The Prince was impressed and installed the Count in an abandoned factory at Eckernförde he had acquired especially for the Count, and supplied him with the materials and cloths that St. Germain needed to proceed with the project. The two met frequently in the following years, and the Prince outfitted a laboratory for alchemical experiments in his nearby summer residence Louisenlund, where they, among other things, cooperated in creating gemstones and jewelry. The Prince later recounts in a letter that he was the only person in whom the Count truly confided. He told the Prince that he was the son of the Transylvanian Prince Francis II Rákóczi, and that he had been 88 years of age when he arrived in Schleswig.
The Count died in his residence in the factory on 27 February 1784, while the Prince was staying in Kassel, and the death was recorded in the register of the St. Nicolai Church in Eckernförde. He was buried 2 March and the cost of the burial was listed in the accounting books of the church the following day. The official burial site for the Count is at Nicolai Church (German St. Nicolaikirche) in Eckernförde. He was buried in a private grave. On April 3 the same year, the mayor and the city council of Eckernförde issued an official proclamation about the auctioning off of the Count’s remaining effects in case no living relative would appear within a designated time period to lay claim on them. Prince Charles donated the factory to the crown and it was afterward converted into a hospital.