St. Germain's first chronicled appearance was in Edinburgh in 1745 when he was apparently arrested for spying. He was released and soon acquired a reputation as a great violinist. There were many speculations about him and his origin and ancestry. He was already ascetic and apparently celibate. During this time he met Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In 1746 he disappeared.
He reappeared in Versailles in 1758. He claimed to have had recipes for dyes and acquired quarters in the Chateau de Chambord. During this time in Paris he gave diamonds as gifts and reputedly hinted that he was centuries old. The old portrait of him dates from these years. He was an acquaintance of Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour. At the time a mime, Gower, began to mimic his mannerism in salons, joking that he would have advised Jesus. In 1760 he left for England through Holland when the minister of State, Duke of Choiseul, tried to have him arrested.
After that the count passed through Holland into Russia and apparently was in St Petersburg when the Russian army put Catherine the Great on the throne. Later conspiracy theories credit him for causing it.
Next year he turned up in Belgium, bought land and took the name Surmount. He tried to offer his processes – treatments of wood, leather, oil paint – to the state. During his negotiations – that came to nothing – with Belgian minister Karl Cobenzl he hinted at a royal birth and turned iron into something resembling gold. Then he disappeared for 11 years.
In 1776 the Count was in Germany, calling himself Count Welldone, and again offered recipes – cosmetics, wines, liqueurs, treatments of bone, paper and ivory. He alienated King Frederick's emissaries by his claims of transmutation of gold and reputedly compared himself to God. To Frederick he claimed to have been a Freemason.
He settled in a house of Prince Karl of Hesse-Kassel, governor of Schleswig-Holstein and studied herbal remedies and chemistry to give to the poor. To him he claimed he was a Francis Rakoczy II, Prince of Transylvania.
In 1784 the Count caught pneumonia and died. He left very little behind.
During the centuries after his death, numerous myths, legends and speculations have surfaced. He has been attributed with occult practices like snake charming and ventriloquism. There are stories about an affair between him and Madame de Pompadour.
There were rumors of him alive in Paris in 1835, in Milan in 1867 and in Egypt during Napoleon's campaign. Napoleon II kept a dossier on him. Annie Besant said that she met the count in 1896. Theosophist C W Leadbearer claimed to have met him in Rome in 1926. Theosophist Guy Ballard claimed that the count had introduced him to visitors from Venus and published a book series about his channelings; He founded an I AM Foundation.
There are various mystical legends about him. That he was an immortal, alchemist with the elixir of life, a Rosicrucian or an ousted king, a bastard of Queen Anna Maria of Spain, that he prophesied the French Revolution. Casanova called him the violinist Catlini. Count Cagliostro was rumored to be his pupil. And the fact that the name St-Germain was not exactly uncommon confuses the matters even more.
There are several “authoritative” biographers who usually do not agree with each other. His ancestry is a matter of much speculation. Theosophists take him one of their Ascended Masters. Alesteir Crowley identified with him. Helena Blavatsky said he was one of her Masters of Wisdom and hinted at secret documents. Several books on palmistry and astrology have been published in his name.