As far as driving the plot is concerned, Abbé de Bernis is the most important character across both parts 1 and 2 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’. He is a genuine, historical figure who was indeed a friend and patron to Casanova as well as being a fellow bon viveur. He was born 22nd May, 1715 in the south of France, the younger son of a noble family that had fallen on hard times. Educated in Paris, intelligent and witty, he caught the attention of Madame de Pompadour and was quickly propelled into a position of some influence, being appointed French ambassador to Venice in 1751, where he came across Casanova. The two hit it off straight-away, de Bernis embroiling a not too unwilling Casanova in a ménage-a-trois and the seduction of a young convent educanda who had recently been one of Casanova’s lovers:
The ambassador, whose profession it was to carry on intrigues skilfully, had succeeded well, and I had taken the bait as he wished. There was nothing left for me but to put a good face on the matter, not only so as not to shew myself a very silly being, but also in order not to prove myself shamefully ungrateful towards a man who had granted me unheard-of privileges.
(Memoirs of Casanova, To Paris and Prison, Chapter XXI)
When Casanova escaped from ‘Il Piombi’ in 1756 it was to de Bernis, now Louis XV’s chief minister, that he went for protection when he arrived in Paris.
A shrewd and ambitious churchman, cynical and amoral and at the centre of the court politics of Louis XV. What more could a writer ask for?
‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 to 3 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ are now freely available here.
6 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
#bernis #characterisation #character #pompadour