For generations, the Lavigne family has learned to adapt. They have lived in the Liore Valley for as far back as their line could be traced, and they claim relation to Louis II, or more specifically Yolande of Aragon. From this they derive their right to the title Duc d'Anjou.
This was an important point of contention in the late eighteenth century, as the nobility enjoyed a return to power and influence. At the time, the duchy was unclaimed, and Jehan d'Anjou was lobbying for it to be created again and bestowed upon his branch of the family. His wife, Sofía Audrine, a descendant of the Bourbons of Spain, gave birth to a son on 21 February 1755, in Angers; and the expectation was that the child would be awarded the duchy. However with the birth of Louis XVIII in November 1755 in Versailles, that hope was dashed; Louis was grandson to the reigning king of France, Louis XV, and would eventually be given the duchy instead.
It became something of a theme in Olivier's life.
While his contemporaries were raised in the extravagances of Versailles, Olivier grew up among the vineyards and orchards of Anjou. By the time he could walk, Olivier had become the undisputed lord of the Valley. He knew every path, he had heard every story, he was acquainted with every face, from servant to noble - and was adored by everyone who met him.
Living apart from the grandeur and excess of Versailles gave Jehan a somewhat clearer view of where society was headed. With the French government incurring debts after two wars and attempting to pass on the burden via taxes, plus the excessive spending of the nobility in a time of poor harvests, and other inequalities and slights to the Third Estate, dissatisfaction among the common folk was high and growing.
Jehan and Sofía enjoyed their way of life, but were also careful to carve a foothold with the lower classes. Young Olivier worked in the orchards and learned the value of hard labor at the same time as he practiced swordsmanship and horseback riding and studied with the best tutors Jehan could find.
The reasons for this varied education, however, were not entirely clear to Olivier. He was only vaguely aware that nobles did not associate with the peasantry as much as he did. As he observed the grandness of the king's court, he began to resent his parents for having him mix with commoners, and turned his attention to the latest fashions and flaunting his position, particularly to impress women.
Then he paid his first visit to the court at Versailles.
The men there were so eager to please that they bent over backwards and contradicted themselves for the smallest sign of acknowledgement from the king. The women were superficial and vapid, suitable enough for physical satisfaction but hardly worth engaging in conversation. And Olivier himself, while he was well-learned and quite bookish, had developed the strong build of a field worker beneath his fine clothes, in addition to his dusky Spanish complexion. He relied on his charisma and wit to gain acceptance into the court. Fortunately, it worked.
Olivier became something of a foil for his much better known contemporary, Louis Stanislas, the grandson of the king who was born just months after Olivier. Where Olivier was social, politically savvy, and in excellent shape, Louis was overly bookish, eschewed the intrigues of court while still longing for position, and was quite obese. Louis embraced Olivier as an esteemed acquaintance, if not a friend. Olivier hated everything about Louis, whom he considered cowardly and unfit. So began Olivier's very first court intrigue.
Olivier could hardly have been called a champion of the common man, but compared to his fellow nobles, he certainly was one. He discovered that the servants to kings and nobles saw and heard much more than their lords suspected, and he used this information to his benefit. It was in small ways at first, just little ways of influencing events at court, but the skill would prove indispensable later.
It was no coincidence that Olivier left to serve in the military in early 1771, as Louis was granted the title "Duc d'Anjou" not long after Olivier's departure. Given Olivier's place in society, he was raised to lieutenant in the French Army without much fuss. He proved to be an efficient leader, inspiring others while often working alongside them. He also showed signs of tactical brilliance. This talent was not fully put to use, however, as Olivier was not involved in any major military engagements during his enlistment.
He left the Army to manage his household as his mother fell ill and his father focused on caring for her. However, his mother expressed a wish to see Olivier married. Sofía was well aware of the need for Olivier to marry someone with influence and status - she and Jehan had married for the same reason, as was expected of nobility, and it had ended well for them. She was confident that Olivier would find happiness in his marriage.
Sofía passed away a few days before Olivier was set to marry Caroline, a widow who was a decade older than Olivier. She had inherited her late husband's lands and fortune. Olivier had never met her before and she was quite unpopular at court. But he was his family's heir, so he fulfilled his mother's wish, approaching the marriage as a duty or a chore.
Life became more complicated than Olivier had yet faced. Jehan fell apart after the loss of his wife and withdrew from society, leaving Olivier to manage both households. He focused on Anjou, largely leaving his wife to her own devices.
Around him, French society was falling apart. Caroline was spending more and more on extravagances, much like the rest of the nobility. Olivier found temporary relief in the beds of other women. Then, upon returning to court, he attended the debutante ball of a young woman named Adrienne d'Apcher.
She was the daughter of the Duc d’Apcher, whose wife was friends with Olivier’s wife. Nearly two decades separated them in age, but Olivier took an interest in Adrienne instantly. The young woman was very much unlike her contemporaries - intelligent, quick-witted, observant, eager to learn. And teach her he did; he introduced her to the little pretenses of the court, showed her that she did not have to be an empty-minded, vacuous presence like the women around her. He refined her thinking, demonstrated the ease with which their peers could be manipulated, nudged and bent into doing their bidding. Adrienne took to it all with the eagerness of a natural.
Essentially, he shaped her into a feminine version of himself.
She was a beautiful young woman as well, and in time their relationship took on a physical side as well. They never went much farther than passionate kisses, to Olivier’s chagrin. He had grown tired of his wife, whom he had never loved and only shared a bed with for the purpose of siring an heir, which never came to be; and the dullness of the women at court had become grating, especially with Adrienne there to outshine them. Olivier found himself considering way to get out of his marriage without damaging his reputation or losing what he had gained from the union. As manipulative as he was and as cold as he had become, arranging her death was not beyond him, and he did in fact embark of the beginnings of such a plot several times. For various reasons - poor timing, changes of plans, those such things - he never saw those plots through, and Caroline remained alive, still spending more money than was wise at the time.
Meanwhile, Olivier’s relationship with Adrienne intensified, until on one occasion, which might have led to further intimacy than kisses, the two of them were caught together. Adrienne had grown into a first-class manipulator, one who Olivier would have credited as being nearly as good as him - but it still came as a complete blindside when Adrienne sought to save her own reputation by accusing Olivier of having attacked her. The scandal sent waves through the court and nearly collapsed the high standing Olivier had built for himself. And just as significantly, Adrienne d’Apcher had beat him at his own craft, in the worst possible way.
Olivier retreated from court for a time, returning to Anjou to manage the fallout of the scandal there. It was easier; duke or not, Olivier was beyond reproach in the Valley. Caroline made a point of avoiding him, separating from him in every sense but the literal.
At the same time, the Third Estate was claiming control, and what would soon become the Revolution was shifting into place. Those contacts Olivier had made so long ago, and kept for his own nefarious purposes, were whispering to him of danger and collapse. He watched the clergy and nobility fall with an unfamiliar sense of detachment. As the royal family prepared to flee Versailles and Louis Stanislas, by then also the Count of Provence, packed for the Netherlands, Olivier considered moving his family as well - specifically, his father and a few others in their household. Jehan refused to leave Anjou and Caroline was adamant about not abandoning their affluent lifestyle (not that Olivier had asked her). Olivier began making arrangements, sending his household ahead of him while he concluded arrangements in the Valley. In June 1791, he left France, with only a few of his staff and the last of his belongings.
The climate in Venice was quite unlike the court at Versailles in many ways. Titles meant less, carried only as much weight as the people put in them - which was precious little. As he adjusted to his new surroundings - aside from his time in the French Army, Olivier had spent hardly any time beyond Anjou and Paris - Olivier found his father’s instruction in working among the common folk returning to mind. He used his French contacts to build new ones in Venice. He learned Venetian rapidly. He gained the respect of the locals, from commoner to lord, much as he had in France.
He left the pretenses of his station behind. It would have been impossible for him to dispose of them completely - they were in his blood, had been bred into him - but he learned to tone down the sorts of ostentatious displays the court at Versailles had been known for. Some of his neighbors knew him as the displaced Duc d’Anjou, and others knew him as Olivier Lavigne Moreno, using the names that had been bestowed on his family lines as ancient nicknames. His residence was moderate and outfitted tastefully, his staff reduced to only necessary attendants.
The era of excess was drawing to an end. It was ironic in some ways that Oliver understood that better than any of his peers.
Through his contacts and the occasional letter, Olivier kept apprised of the situation in Anjou and in Paris. His father and their estate remained safe thanks to the measures Jehan d’Anjou had taken starting before Olivier’s birth. Caroline was not as fortunate. Unable to curb her spending, she was brutally attacked in a fit of rebellion by peasants during an uprising in Paris. Olivier heard multiple stories of what had happened to her. The stories conflicted sometimes, but they all agreed on two points: she had suffered, and Olivier was now a widower.
The news hit him harder than he had imagined. It was not unexpected. But - and he was fully aware of the incongruity given that he had plotted her death at times himself - Caroline had hardly deserved it. He discovered he felt genuine grief for her.
It certainly did not help that Olivier was far from home, away from all he had known for years. So he threw himself into intrigues and conspiracies, distracting himself through manipulation and logic. By the beginning of the year 1792, he had developed enough of a reputation and a following that he was in some way involved with much of Venice’s less public proceedings, sometimes delving into the criminal. Some of his work was petty, involving machinations against the former court at Versailles; and that did not change when he learned of the impending arrival of the d’Apcher family in Venice. He had hardly forgotten Adrienne or her betrayal of him.
He could add revenge to his skill set quite easily.
**Note: This character fills a wanted request. The history is adapted from an earlier version written by Nicole.