Emmanuel-Armand de Richelieu, duc d'Aiguillon

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The duc d'Aiguillon

Emmanuel-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis de Richelieu, duc d'Aiguillon (31 July 1720 – 1788) was a French soldier and statesman and a nephew of Louis François Armand du Plessis, duc de Richelieu. He served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs under Louis XV.

Biography[edit]

Early life and intrigue[edit]

Before the death of his father, he was known at court as the duc d'Agénois. He entered the army at the age of seventeen, and at the age of nineteen was made colonel of the regiment of Brie. His marriage in 1740 with Louise Félicité de Brehan, daughter of the Comte de Plélo, coupled with his connection with the Richelieu family, gave him an important place at court.

Upon the death of King Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Vintimille, in childbirth in 1741, the king's best friend, the duc d'Agénois' uncle, the manipulative duc de Richelieu, began to cast about for another candidate to fulfil his royal friend's desires as he did not want Madame de Ventimille's older sister Madame de Mailly, to regain the king's affections. He eventually decided upon the younger sister of both Madame de Mailly and Madame de Ventimille, Marie Anne, the widow of the marquis de La Tournelle.

At a masked ball on Shrove Tuesday, 1742, Richelieu led Marie Anne up to the king and introduced them. The beautiful marquise, however, at first rejected the royal advances. She already had a lover, the young Emmanuel-Armand, and was not inclined to give him up even for the king's sake. As a result, Louis conspired with Richelieu, who was d'Agénois's uncle, to rid himself of the young suitor. Richelieu was quite anxious to do anything to bring about a liaison between the king and Madame de la Tournelle because he knew Madame de Mailly did not view him in kindly light. The result of their deliberations was that Louis, in imitation of the biblical David, sent his rival to fight the Austrians in Italy during War of the Austrian Succession. The young duke was seriously wounded at the siege of Château-Dauphin (1744). Unlike the husband of Bathsheba, however, the duc d'Agénois recovered from his injuries, and returned to the court in glory.

Louis was in despair, but Richelieu, who was a resourceful man, was not one to lightly accept defeat. He sent his nephew to Languedoc, where a beautiful young lady had been instructed to seduce him. This she did most effectively; letters of a very passionate nature were exchanged; the lady despatched those which she received to Richelieu, and in due course they were brought to the notice of Madame de La Tournelle, who, furious at her young duke's deceitfullness, turned her attentions to the king.

The duke was later taken prisoner in (1746) and was made a maréchal de camp in 1748. He was a member of the so-called parti devot, the faction opposed to Madame de Pompadour, to the Jansenists and to the parlement, and his hostility to the new ideas drew upon him the anger of the pamphleteers.

In 1753 he was appointed commandant (governor) of Brittany and soon became unpopular in that province, which had retained a large number of privileges called "liberties." He first came into collision with the provincial estates on the question of the royal imposts (1758).

Invasion of Britain[edit]

In 1759 d'Aiguilion was hand-picked by the French foreign minister Choiseul to take part in a large-scale invasion of Great Britain. He was to command a force that would land in Scotland to support a Jacobite rising against the crown. He would then lead his troops southwards trapping the British defenders in a pincer between themselves and another French force that would land in southern England. The plan was eventually abandoned following the French naval defeat at Quiberon Bay.

d'Aiguilion finally alienated the parlement of Brittany by violating the privileges of the province (1762). In June 1764 the king, at the instance of d'Aiguillon, quashed a decree of the parlement forbidding the levying of new taxes without the consent of the estates, and refused to receive the remonstrances of the parlement against the duke.

On 11 November 1765 La Chalotais, the procureur of the parlement, was arrested, but whether at the instigation of d'Aiguillon is not certain. The conflict between d'Aiguillon and the Bretons lasted two years. In the place of the parlement, which had resigned, d'Aiguillon organised a tribunal of more or less competent judges, who were ridiculed by the pamphleteers and ironically termed the bailliage d'Aiguillon. In 1768 the duke was forced to suppress this tribunal, and returned to court, where he resumed his intrigue with the parti devot and finally obtained the dismissal of the minister Choiseul (24 December 1770).

Foreign Minister[edit]

When Louis XV, acting on the advice of Madame du Barry, reorganised the government with a view to suppressing the resistance of the parlements, d'Aiguillon was made minister of foreign affairs, Maupeou and the Abbé Terray (1715–1778) also obtaining places in the ministry. The new ministry, albeit one of reform, was very unpopular, and was styled the "triumvirate." All the failures of the government were attributed to the mistakes of the ministers. Thus d'Aiguillon was blamed for having provoked the coup d'état of Gustavus III, king of Sweden, in 1772, although the instructions of the comte de Vergennes, the French ambassador in Sweden, had been written by the minister, the Duc de la Vrillère.

D'Aiguillon, however, could do nothing to rehabilitate French diplomacy; he acquiesced in the first division of Poland, renewed the Family Compact, and, although a supporter of the Jesuits, sanctioned the suppression of the society. After the death of Louis XV he quarrelled with Maupeou and with the young queen, Marie Antoinette, who demanded his dismissal from the ministry (1774).

He died, forgotten, in 1788.

The announcement of his death was worded as follows in Annonces Affiches Avis Bibliothèque nationale Arsenal 8 H 26195 n° 64 septembre-décembre 1788: 4 septembre 1788 ( probably date of the burial, other sources mention a date of death of 1 September) Emmanuel-Armand Duplessis-Richelieu, duc d'Aiguillon, pair de France, noble génois, chevalier des ordres du roi, lieutenant général de ses armées, ancien lieutenant de la compagnie des chevau-légers de la garde ordinaire de Sa Majesté, gouverneur général de la haute et basse Alsace, gouverneur particulier des ville, citadelle, parc et château de La Fère, ancien lieutenant général de la province de Bretagne, ancien commandant pour Sa Majesté de ladite province, ancien ministre et secrétaire d'État des affaires étrangères et de la guerre.Décédé rue de l’Université, présenté à Saint-Sulpice et transporté à la Sorbonne.

He was the father of Armand, duc d'Aiguillon, who succeeded him as duc d'Aiguillon.

References[edit]

  • Mémoires du ministere du duc d'Aiguillon (2nd ed., Paris and Lyons, 1792), probably written by J. L. Soulavie

On d'Aiguillon's governorship of Brittany:

  • Henri Carré, La Chalotais et le duc d'Aiguillon (Paris, 1893)
  • Marcel Marion, La Bretagne et le duc d'Aiguillon (Paris, 1898)
  • Barthèlemy Pocquet, Le Duc d'Aiguillon et La Chalotais (Paris, 1901–1902) (These have bibliographies.)
  • John Rothney, "The Brittany Affair and the Crisis of the Ancien Regime" (London, 1969)

See also

French nobility
Preceded by
Armand I
Duc d'Aiguillon
1750–1782
Succeeded by
Armand II
Political offices
Preceded by
Louis François, marquis de Monteynard
Secretary of State for War
27 January 1774 – 2 June 1774
Succeeded by
Louis Nicolas Victor de Félix d'Ollières, comte du Muy
Preceded by
Louis Phélypeaux, duc de La Vrillère
Minister of Foreign Affairs
6 June 1771 – 2 June 1774
Succeeded by
Henri Léonard Jean Baptiste Bertin