Crillon, a French family, derived from the Piedmontese Balbes who emigrated to France in the 15th century. I. Louis des Balbes de Berton de Crillon, born at Murs in Provence in 1541, died Dec. 2, 1615. He was the first to assume the name of Orillon, from a small estate of that name situated in the present department of Vaucluse. Having become famous by his exploits, the name was adopted by the whole family. As the youngest of six brothers, he was destined for the order of the knights of Malta, studied with zeal and diligence at the school of Avignon, and eagerly pursued bodily and chivalric exercises. Under Francis de Lorraine, duke of Guise, he completed his education as a warrior and cavalier in his 16th year. Under the command of the duke he was the first to scale the walls of Calais, which had been for two centuries in the hands of the English, and was taken in 1558 after a siege of eight days. He equally distinguished himself at the capture of Guines. He was presented by his commander to Henry II. as the chief instrument of his victories, and richly rewarded by numerous clerical estates, it being at that period customary in France to bestow benefices on laymen, to be managed for their benefit by members of the clergy.
In the ensuing civil wars of France he served against the Huguenots, defeating the conspiracy of Amboise formed against the Guises (1560), and fighting in the battles of Rouen, Dreux, St. Denis, Jarnac, Moncontour, and St. Jean d'An-ge1y. As a knight of Malta he fought under Don John of Austria off Lepanto against the Turks (1571), was wounded, and sent with the news of the victory to Charles IX. of France and Pope Pius V. Already called "the brave " by the court of France, and "the man without fear " by the army, he became the object of general admiration. He took no part in the massacre of St. Bartholomew's, though he continued to serve against the Huguenots. The duke of Anjou, brother of the king, having been elected king of Poland (1573) after the extinction of the house of Jagiello, Crillon followed him to that country through Germany, where he defended him against the insults of the Protestants, and accompanied him on his flight thence when he succeeded as Henry III. to the throne of France. On his return he was distinguished with new honors by the cities of Venice and Lyons. When, after the battle of Coutras (1587), Henry III. openly commenced hostilities against the league, and the states assembled at Blois decreed the assassination of the duke of Guise, who had succeeded his father in the leadership of the Catholics, the monarch offered Crillon the honor of killing the duke, which he refused.
He afterward fought for the king against the league, and after the assassination of Henry III. served with equal fidelity Henry IV. The battle of Ivry (1590) ended his services in the civil wars. In the war against Spain Crillon was active again. The peace of Savoy ended his military career, and he retired to Avignon. The chivalric bravery of Crillon was equalled by his generosity, which prompted him even to pardon an attempt at his own assassination. The estates of the family were inherited by Thomas, the third of the brothers, and made in the fourth generation a duchy by Benedict XIII. II. Louis, second duke de, born in 1718, died in Madrid in 1796. Having entered the French army at the age of 13, he fought under Villars in the campaign of 1733 in Italy, and distinguished himself in Germany. Entering the Spanish service in 1762, he conquered Minorca (1782), and was rewarded by the title of duke of Mahon. He commanded at the unsuccessful siege of Gibraltar, and afterward became captain general of the provinces of Valencia and Murcia. His Memoires mili-taires (Paris, 1791) contain many particulars valued by men of military science.