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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.