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youth: 1740 - 1762
marriage: 1763 - 1771
prison: 1772 - 1790
the works: 1791 - 1803
asylum: 1804 - 1814
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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

The definitive biography by Neil Schaeffer

Home : Life & Times : Youth (1740 - 1762)

June 2, birth of Sade at the Condé palace in Paris, where his mother, a lady-in-waiting to the Princess, intended her son to become the playmate of the young Prince de Condé, nearly four years his senior.

Young Sade, showing neither respect for nor fear of his older playmate, picked a fight with him and was sent away from the Palace to live with relatives in Provence.
the sade family crest
August 16, Sade, living in Avignon with his paternal grandmother, receives the elders of one of his father's estates, who prostrate themselves at the boy's feet.



Sade is sent to live with his uncle, the abbé de Sade, at one of the Sade estates at nearby Saumane, a walled and moated chateau, complete with a deep dungeon--the very sort of place Sade's imagination would return to throughout his life. The abbé was assisted in raising the boy by Mme de Saint-Germain, a family friend who would be a mother-figure, and by Jacques-François Amblet, an abbé who would serve as his tutor and who would be attached to the Sade household for the rest of his life.

Sade, accompanied by his tutor, Amblet, returns to Paris to begin an undistinguished career as a day-student at the famous Jesuit school, Louis-le-Grand. He probably lived in Amblet's apartment. Sade's mother may have already effectively separated from her husband, taking up residence in the Carmelite convent on the rue d'Enfer in Paris, where she would die in 1777.

May, Sade was enrolled in the training academy for the Chevau-légers at Versailles, the King's Light Cavalry, an elite corps that admitted sons from only the best families.

December 14, Sade is commissioned second lieutenant in the King's Foot Guard.

Beginning of the Seven Years' War.

cistern at LaCoste1757
January 14, Sade is commissioned a "cornette," or standard bearer, in the Carabiniers.

March 28, Damiens, who had stabbed King Louis XV, was slowly put to death in the Place de Grève, his tortures more hideous than any Sade would ever imagine, because Damiens' torments were real and were witnessed by thousands.

June 23, Sade sees heavy fighting at Krefeld, keeping a journal of his experiences.

April 21, Sade is commissioned captain of the Burgundy Cavalry.

August 12, Sade writes to his father from an encampment, explaining that he is incapable of "paying court" to his superior officers, and adding that he has no friends among his equals because he cannot trust them.

May 25, Sade's uncle, the abbé, is arrested in a Paris bordello.

Summer, Sade in garrison, falls in love with a woman ten years his senior, but is persuaded not to marry her.

next: marriage!

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