Duverney is central to the main plot of part 1 of ‘Casanova in Paris’ and was an actual historical figure. He was a financier under Louis XV and from 1736 to 1758 was the Administrator General of Provisions. He was heavily involved in the founding in 1750 of the École Militaire, an academic college for cadet officers from poor noble families and it was the funding of this institution which brought him into contact with Casanova. By 1757, France was immersed in the ruinously expensive Seven Years War and cash was sparse. At the same time the academy had hit financial problems and Paris Duverney and Madame de Pompadour were searching around for ways to raise funds. This is when Casanova appeared on the scene and promoted the idea of a Genoese style lottery. It is on to this event that we have grafted our own storyline, i.e., that Paris Duverney agrees to give Casanova a large slice of the action on the condition that he uncovers who it is who has been trying to destroy his business
Our Duverney helps to give us an insight into the nature and psychology of the French court. All authority ultimately resided with the king and his favour was essential if any man or woman were to be successful. The king’s rule was absolute and the loss of his favour would be catastrophic. Careers could be made or destroyed in a moment without appeal. Beneath masks of civility and urbane sophistication, members of court manoeuvred to advance their careers and undermine those of their enemies, creating an all-pervasive atmosphere of paranoia. Duverney is acutely aware of the sudden fall from grace of Louis XIV’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet and in a meeting with Casanova he comments, ‘Success and royal favour breeds resentment and many who proclaim themselves your closest friends are in reality your bitterest enemies’. Men and women were prepared to go to great lengths to hang on to the king’s favour. In Duverney’s case, even so far as to allow his granddaughter to become one of Louis’ concubines.
‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 to 8 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.
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