The Movie 'Chevalier' Is Set During Marie Antoinette's Troubled Reign — Is It a True Story?


Apr. 20 2023, Published 4:50 p.m. ET

Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Joseph Bologne in 'Chevalier'
Source: Searchlight Pictures

In the movie Chevalier, Kelvin Harrison Jr.'s Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, must navigate racism and the whims of infamously picky Marie-Antoinette. Like many historical fiction predecessors, the compelling plot and stylized production have instantly drawn the attention of fans of shows like The Great and Bridgerton.

Article continues below advertisement

With a star-studded cast including Samara Weaving, Minnie Driver, and Lucy Boynton, fans are curious if the movie Chevalier is based on a true story. Read on for what you need to know about the real life of Joseph Bologne and how it compares to the fictionalized version.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges,  playing the violin.
Source: Searchlight Pictures
Article continues below advertisement

So, is the movie 'Chevalier' based on a true story?

Yes, the movie Chevalier is based on a true story! French-Caribbean musician Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was a free man of color, champion fencer, violinist, and composer. He was born in Guadeloupe to the son of Georges de Bologne Saint-Georges and an enslaved woman named Nanon.

By the age of thirteen, however, he had moved to France and began schooling at a private boarding school, where he learned horse riding, fencing, and dancing. After enrolling in fencing school at thirteen, Joseph quickly climbed the ranks and began beating accomplished swordsmen at fifteen.

Article continues below advertisement
Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) reaches chevalier status due to his unparalleled swordsmanship.
Source: Searchlight Pictures

One of Joseph's most famous fencing matches took place in 1761 against fencing master Alexandre Picard, who reportedly referred to Joseph with racist and derogatory terms. According to the Los Angeles Opera, upon winning, Joseph was named a member of the King's bodyguard and an official chevalier (a knight). Joseph then adopted the title of his father, de Saint-Georges.

Article continues below advertisement

Despite his fencing talents, Joseph's passion lay in music. In 1969 he joined a symphony of amateur performers, and two years later, he was appointed concertmaster and began composing. Per The Guardian, Joseph even developed a fierce rivalry with none other than Mozart.

Chevalier Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) shares a moment with Marquise Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving).
Source: Searchlight Pictures
Article continues below advertisement

As an admired figure in court for his sportsmanship and musical talents, sadly, Joseph got into trouble later in life for his paramour. Joseph allegedly had an affair with the Marquise Marie-Josephine de Montalembert, the wife of an older general and another court staple. In the film, Marie-Josephine is played by Samara Weaving.

During the French Revolution, he served as a colonel for the Legion de Saint Georges, which was a regiment comprised entirely of people of color. Joseph was ultimately a victim of the Reign of Terror and stripped of his social and military titles when he died in 1799.

If you're curious to know more details about Joseph's exciting life, don't forget to check out the movie Chevalier.

More from Distractify

Latest Movies News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.