A general in the American Revolutionary War and a leader of the Garde Nationale during the French Revolution, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette was born an aristocrat in one of the oldest families in Haute-Loire (An ancestor fought with Joan of Arc.) and inherited fabulous personal wealth.
When the Continental Congress was unable to pay for his passage to America, he bought a ship and began fitting it out himself. The British learned of it and pressed the French to threaten arrest and imprisonment if he proceeded. Disguised as a woman, he booked a commercial passage and when the captain announced a landfall in the (British) West Indies to sell cargo, Lafayette bought the cargo rather than risk British arrest.
His leadership, heroism and invaluable liaison work make him one of the key figures in the American Revolution. Washington described his relationship to Lafayette as "a friend and a father" and Lafayette named his first-born George Washington Lafayette.
He is buried in Paris under soil from Bunker Hill. By an act of Congress, all his descendants are US citizens.