decorative bar


corner Last update of this page: March 28th 2004 corner
Baron Georges Charles d'Anthes de Heeckeren
(February 5, 1812 - November 2, 1896) France

Georges Charles d'Anthes



On the afternoon of that day, he left his St. Petersburg home to fight a duel with his new brother-in-law Georges Charles D'Anthes, a dashing exile Frenchman, Dutch citizen, and officer of the Tsar's Horse Guard.

The chevalier was slightly wounded. The poet, before he died, suffered horribly from his abdominal wound for about 48 hours. Pushkin's life ended on January 27, 1837.

The immediate grounds for the duel were Pushkin's suspicions about the relationship between his famously beautiful wife Natalia and Baron D'Anthes, as well as his rage over a set of anonymous letters (or "certificates"), mailed to Pushkin and several of his best friends, welcoming the poet to a fictitious exclusive club for eminent cuckolds.

In retaliation, Pushkin wrote to D'Anthes' adoptive father, Baron Jacob (a.k.a. Louis) van Heeckeren, the Dutch Ambassador to St. Petersburg, accusing him of pimping his son to Natalia.

Add to that brew the suspicions, current then and now, that D'Anthes and his adoptive father were lovers and that D'Anthes' hasty marriage to Natalia's sister Ekaterina was a ploy to avoid the duel, and you have still only plumbed the surface of the maelstrom of scandals, rumors and intrigues that Pushkin swam in during the last year of his life.

Georges D'Anthes, after the fall of Napoleon, went back to his castle in France, where he entered politics, and became a Senator, a charge he held until his death, aged 84.


The Darling of Fortune. Love story of Baron Louis van Heeckeren and Georges Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès

Georges-Charles d'Anthès was born to a French royalist emigre family. First boy among six children, he was sent to Saint-Cyr, the prime French military academy. His father, Baron d'Anthès supported Charles X's party during the July Revolution, but in 1830 was forced to leave politics. Shortly soon after graduation from the military academy Georges got the letter of introduction from Prince Wilhelm of Prussia and set off for Russia in search of fortune.

Georges Charles d'AnthesOn the way, in Germany he caught cold and took to his bed at an inn of a small German town. His money was nearly up; the illness proved to be lingering. By chance (because of breakage of a carriage) the string of carriages of the Dutch Ambassador Baron Heeckeren turned to the inn. At dinner the innkeeper told Heeckeren about the illness of the lonely French man; out of curiosity Heeckeren came to Georges's room and was stricken with the young man's beauty. He kept vigil over the sick young man till Georges got better, and then he offered the young man to join his train. As some evidential facts testify, the relationship between d'Anthès and Heeckeren was distinguished by uncommon care of each other and tenderness.

In St. Petersburg Heeckeren engaged best teachers for Georges, and soon the young man succeeded in entering the Knights Guards of the Empress as cornet. Two years later, in 1836, he became lieutenant. Jacob (a.k.a. Louis) Burchard van Heeckeren belonged to the ancient Dutch family; coming from an old noble Protestant family, he had begun his career in the Dutch navy, then had served under Napoleon I for many years; from that period, he had got a great attachment to France, a title of Empire baron and a conversion to Catholicism. On his return to Netherlands he became a diplomat, and in 1826 the Dutch Ambassador to St. Petersburg.

Heeckeren was a highly educated man, "...his apartment was full of antiques, and there was no a replica among the works of art. He was clever; of truth he had his own view; he took a broad view of things, but he did not let others get away with their sins. They at the diplomatic set were afraid of his tongue", this most objective characteristic of his temper belongs to Baron Thornau--all the rest ones are malevolence tinted. Meanwhile the relationship between d'Anthès and Heeckeren got stronger from day to day; Baron doted upon the young, blond, perfectly beautiful officer. No wonder. According to Memoirs of A. Zlotnitskie, d'Anthès was "a stately, very beautiful, well-educated, clever man of fashion, highly appreciated". The comrades in the regiment loved, as Prince A. Trubetskoy wrote, "the stately, beautiful, more educated than we, witty French man".

After a lengthy correspondence and a journey to Alsace, Heeckeren proposed to d'Anthes's father to adopt his son as his heir. And he got the permission, which, in my view, tells about his outstanding capacity to convince, or about his wealth. D'Anthès's father "renounced the rights to Georges-Charles d'Anthès" and permitted Baron to adopt the young man. After the agreement of the King of the Netherlands by letters patent dated May 5 1836, Georges-Charles d'Anthès took the name of Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès. Thus, the "forbidden love" (which is truism at the present day) was registered and consecrated by the Law. Here are several mentions of the homosexual love affair of Heeckeren and d'Anthès in the works by some authors who wrote about the life of Pushkin. In the book "The Duel and Death of Pushkin" P. Shchegolev claims: "...The ambassador was intimate to the young French man in a special way, by the perverse intimacy of a man to man". More distinct mention of the friendship of Heeckeren and d'Anthès we can find in the booklet by Prince A. Trubetskoy: "...some pranks was usual to him [d'Anthès], however all the pranks were quite inoffensive and usual to the youths but one, of which we learnt much later. I don't know what to say: whether he took Heeckeren or Heeckeren took him... Judging by all, ... in the intercourse with Heeckeren he was a passive partner".

By P. Annenkov's account, "Heeckeren was a homosexual, he was jealous of d'Anthès and he wanted to quarrel d'Anthès with the Pushkins". In Letters A. Karamsin says: "Being a clever man and the most refined debauchee in the world Heeckeren possessed d'Anthès's body as well as soul easily and entirely". Pushkin in his dairies writes: "I was the first in society who has learnt that d'Anthès gives himself to Sodomite sin, and I gave publicity to the news with pleasure. I've learnt of that from the whores in the brothel, which he frequented. The girls said confidentially to me as their old friend, that d'Anthès paid them a lot of money so that they in turn licked his arse that was busted, and it bled like my whores' after they were buggered mercilessly. As Heeckeren adopted him there's no doubt about that". This would be most interesting evidence, if we were entitled to believe in words of the man who was d'Anthes's arch-enemy, who hated d'Anthès with all ardour of his African temper, and whose judgment may well be unfair, to put it mildly. However, there were several prostitutes as the witnesses who could confirm the bleeding alleged to be.

But who did ask them? Pushkin again, that is the man who could pay money for inventing evidence like that. In reply, theoretically, d'Anthès could give publicity to the fact that Pushkin had venereal diseases more than once when he was a young student. Heeckeren introduced d'Anthès to high society of St. Petersburg where Georges met Natalie Pushkin, a beautiful flirtatious young woman, who had many admirers - including the Tsar himself - and he fell in love with her. Needless to say, Heeckeren was against his foster-son's passion for the woman; being jealous of Georges he sought to separate the lovers; after d'Anthès was deported he wrote in his letter from St. Petersburg: "...what a nice business you've left to me! It's because you are lacking of trust to me. It upset me so much, my dear. I was unable to suppose that I've earned such a treatment".

The way out for the first conflict between d'Anthès and Pushkin in autumn 1836 had become the marriage to Natalie Pushkin's own sister, Ekaterina Goncharova, who loved him to distraction. D'Anthes's engagement and marriage to Natalie's sister was devised to contradict society gossip that he was in pursuit of Natalie. Baron Heeckeren had to agree to this marriage, because it saved his beloved from the duel. But this was not enough to soothe the conflict between the two new brothers-in-law, especially since an anonymous letter went round, nominating Pushkin Deputy Grand Master and Historiograph of the Order of Cuckolds. Pushkin's furious jealousy made him write an insulting letter to d'Anthès' adoptive father. Pushkin having refused to withdraw these abuses, a duel became inevitable. On the evening of 8 February 1837, d'Anthès, as the offended, shot first, mortally wounding Pushkin in the stomach. Pushkin, who had fought several duels, managed to rise and shoot at d'Anthès, however, only lightly wounding him in the right arm.

After Pushkin's death, d'Anthès was imprisoned at Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. Dueling was illegal in Russia, and d'Anthès came to court, but he was pardoned by the Emperor, considering the gravity of the abuses written by Pushkin. Stripped of his rank, he was escorted back to the frontier. In Berlin, he was joined by his wife, who never doubted him. Both returned to France, in his father's region. In France he began a successful political career: at first president of the local assembly, then member of the National Constituent Assembly from 1848 to 1852, and, at last, irremovable senator from 1852 to 1870. In 1852, he was assigned a secret mission by Napoleon III: he had to go to St. Petersburg and approach the Emperor of Russia to know his feeling in case Napoleon III proclaimed himself emperor. This mission was doubtless successful, because he was appointed senator on his return.

His wife died on October 15, 1843, giving birth to their fourth child. He had daughter and son. His daughter went mad. While living in Paris, being raised without her mother she learnt Russian language unexpectedly quickly and to perfection, "she turned her room into a shrine. There was a large portrait of Pushkin in front of the altar; there were other Pushkin's portraits on the walls. D'Anthès' daughter said her prayers kneeling at the portraits of her uncle, with who she was in love. She had not mixed with her father after the family scene when she called him the murderer of Pushkin". After Goncharova's death Heeckeren and d'Anthès conjoined again and never parted. Their male union was long-term and surprisingly constant. Both of them lived till venerable age.


Source: http://ohlala007.blog.co.uk/2007/06/26/love story~2520121

Click on the letter D to go back to the list of names

corner © Matt & Andrej Koymasky, 1997 - 2008 corner