While browsing the pages of Wikipedia, I found myself looking at the page of a bizarre historic figure called the Count of St. Germain. While reading his page, I thought that he seemed a very bizarre and enigmatic person, so I decided I’d try a biography about him. I chose the one written by Isabel Cooper-Oakley (the best known option) and I’m really glad I did, because this book was absolutely fascinating.
What makes the Count of St. Germain so interesting? Well, where should I begin? There’s the fact that nobody knows what his real name was. The fact that he claimed to have found the secrets to immortality. The fact that people who knew him claimed that he always appeared to be physically exactly the same (never aging), even after decades. The fact that he claimed to have knowledge of the future and seemingly tried to warn people about it. The fact that he appeared to be able to speak ‘every’ language fluently… I could go on.
The Count of St. Germain is an absolutely fascinating figure and Isabel Cooper-Oakley has gathered together a nice selection of historic texts that refer to him or shed light on the story of his life. You’ll find correspondence between him and government officials, personal accounts from members of royal families about his visits and more. I found the sections about his visits to the French Monarchy ahead of the revolution particularly engaging reads.
A lot of the time, I found myself feeling like I was reading a piece of sci-fi or fantasy, like all of these documents were just part of a story about a time traveller or a vampire, or something like that. I love that it’s all real and I can’t help but wonder what exactly was really going on with him.
Cooper-Oakley explains that because the Count had a bit of a reputation for being somewhat otherworldly, people began to make up exaggerated tales about him. Some people even used to go around pretending to be him in order to try and discredit him, which makes sense. Plus, some of the more outlandish accounts (for example, one where he gives somebody a description of life in the twentieth century centuries before) have at least a shadow of a doubt against their integrity.
Still, most of the strange and outlandish things about him are reported by reliable sources. A lot of very important people seemed to genuinely believe that this man didn’t age, or that he was potentially hundreds of years old. Was he a genius conman who was manipulating the leaders of the world towards his own ends? If so, what was his goal? There are so many unanswered questions.
I loved this book and am so glad to have had a chance to learn about this historic oddity. He instantly became my favourite historic mystery too. We may never have a rational explanation for all of these accounts, but it’s certainly fun to just take them all at face value and imagine that they’re all completely true.