Few People Know This European Company Saved the American Revolution

Louis XVI of France granted permission for covert aid to the Americans through a shell corporation. Wikimedia

2. Beaumarchais received permission from Louis XVI to provide covert support to the Americans

When Beaumarchais returned to France, he lobbied Louis to openly support the American revolt, seeing it as an opportunity to weaken their traditional imperial rival. Louis demurred, unsure of the chances of the revolutionaries succeeding. Nor was he enamored of the idea of overthrowing a king. Beaumarchais found an ally in the court, the foreign minister appointed by the young king, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes. Vergennes believed Britain to be the natural enemy of France, in commerce and in competition for colonies. Through his efforts, Louis XVI was persuaded to give Beaumarchais permission to provide covert aid to the patriots in the American colonies.

Using his contacts in Spain, which like France was ruled by a Bourbon monarch, Beaumarchais created a shell corporation, under the name Roderigue Hortalez et Cie. He then traveled to Britain, dispatched by the king to retrieve or silence the Chevalier D’Eon. D’Eon was threatening to blackmail the French king over indiscretions committed by his grandfather, Louis XV. The Chevalier, who enjoyed parading about London dressed as a woman, was persuaded by Beaumarchais to accept a much smaller amount of money than the cross-dresser demanded. While in London Beaumarchais associated with the group affiliated with John Wilkes, a supporter of the American rebels.