Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Witness to History

David de Büren was the first son of Jean de Büren (1544-1594) and Appollonia Ougspurger (1550-1620). David's father would die when he was only 11, and so he would be raised by his step-father, Jean Sager. David's step-father treated him like his own son and provided him with a first-rate education.

In their late teens, young noble men were typically sent to a royal or princely court to further their education and experience, David was no exception. He was sent to be a page in the court of the François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières, chief of the Huguenot resistance in Dauphiné. David's family were protestant, as was Bern, so the choice made sense. Bern had been protestant since the reformation. David's great-grandfather is noted in fact as the last Catholic of the family in the de Büren genealogy from 1839. This fact remained true until the 20th century when some de Büren's were raised in Catholic Argentina, but that is another story. David would serve with the Duke for a number of years and even fight with him at his battles against Savoy. He would return to Switzerland in 1607.

François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières

In the years following his return to Bern, David would become a member of the Grand Council, a Senator, Governor of Aarwangen, and Lord of Dettingen. In 1625 he was sent on a politically sensitive mission to confer with the French General François Annibal d'Estrées, Marquis de Coeuvres during the Valtellina offensive.

François Annibal d'Estrées, Marquis de Coeuvres

The following text from Yves Bercé's The Birth of Absolutism: A History of France, 1598-1661 provides context for how Lesdiguières, de Coeuvres, and Valtellina are linked. It also proves how religious affiliation takes a back seat when political ambition is involved.

"The Duke of Lesdiguières, governor of Dauphiné, a great Protestant magnate, former companion of Henri VI, and a brave military leader, kept himself informed about developments in northern Italy and the Swiss cantons. His role was, so to speak, that of the king's watchman on the Alps. Since 1605 he had been warning against what he saw as the threat posed by the strengthening of the Spanish presence in the duchy of Milan. This rich and powerful possession enabled the Spaniards to intervene effectively in the affairs of the Italian princes, to exert influence over the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, and to control the Alpine passes which gave them access to Germany and formed a vital stage of the 'Spanish Road' by which troops from the Iberian peninsula made their way to the Netherlands. One particular little valley, strategically placed to the north of Milan was to dominate the attention of politicians for about two decades.

The Affair of the Valtellina

The high valley of the Adda makes its way from the head of Lake Como south of the massif of the Grisons, linking Lombardy to the Tyrol. This route, known as the Valtellina, was negotiable from spring onwards, connecting the domains of the Spanish Habsburgs to those of their imperial cousins. Since the early sixteenth century it had been in the hands of the Grisons League, an ally of the Swiss Cantons. The conversion of the majority of the Grisons League to the Reformation had not fostered a happy relationship with their predominantly Catholic subjects in the Valtellina, In July 1620 the people of the valley had risen and expelled their Grisons rulers. The Spanish governor of Milan had supported their cause, helping them repel the Swiss punitive expedition. The French and the Venetians were uneasy at the territorial gain thus made by the Spaniards in this little corner of the Alps. But as nobody was yet prepared to go to war, an agreement was reached at Milan in 1622 by which the valley remained under the protection of papal troops who guaranteed a kind a peaceful neutrality.

When he returned to the King's Council in 1624, Cardinal Richelieu reopened the file. In summer that same year, French agents were active in the Grisons, Switzerland, Savoy and Venice – all traditionally pro-French – with a view to military action. A force of some 4,000 men, recruited in Switzerland and commanded by the Marquis de Coeuvres, expelled the papal troops and occupied the valley in November."

On his return to Bern from his mission to the Valtellina, David became very ill. He would only make it as far as Königsfelden abbey in Aarau where he would die at the age of 42. Sadly like many of his ancestors, he died in the midst of what appeared to be a very promising career. He would be buried in Königsfelden abbey, where he lies still.

Königsfelden in 1669

Königsfelden Abbey today

In 1607, David would marry Anna Güder (1592-1645) daughter of Jean Antoine Güder, Governor of Thorberg and Fraubrunnen and Marguerite Sager.

His wife would give him one daughter:

1. Anna ∞ Albert d'Erlach

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