François-Emmanuel Guignard, comte de Saint-Priest

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François-Emmanuel Guignard, comte de Saint-Priest (12 March 1735 – 1821), was a French politician and diplomat during the Ancien Régime and French Revolution.

Biography[edit]

Early career[edit]

Born in Grenoble, he was admitted as a chevalier to the Order of Malta at five years of age, and at fifteen entered the army. He left active service in 1763 with the rank of colonel, and for the next four years represented the court of France in Portugal.

Reception ceremony of the Comte de Saint Priest at the Ottoman Porte, by Antoine de Favray, 1767.
M. de Saint-Priest with the Grand Vizier at the camp of Daud Pasha in 1769, by Antoine de Favray.

Saint-Priest was sent as an ambassador in 1768 to the Ottoman Empire, where he remained (with the exception of one short interval) until 1785. There, he married Wilhelmina von Ludolf, the daughter of the ambassador of the Kingdom of Naples to the Sublime Porte. His Mémoires sur l'ambassade de France en Turquie et le commerce des Français dans le Levant, prepared during a return visit to France, were only published in 1877, when they were edited by Charles Schefer. Besides these, he wrote an Examen des assemblés provinciales (1787).

Revolution[edit]

In 1788, after a few months spent at the court of The Hague, he joined the ministry of Jacques Necker as a minister without portfolio. He was one of three liberals dismissed from their posts when the conservative intrigues of the comte d'Artois (the king's youngest brother) and the duchesse de Polignac reached a climax during the second week of July 1789. That success, however, ended with the storming of the Bastille. In Necker's subsequent second cabinet, St.-Priest was reinstated as the secrétaire d'état of the royal household, the Maison du Roi. Later, in August 1790, he was also named by King Louis XVI as the Ministre de l'Intérieur.

As the French Revolution progressed, he became alarmed at the increase of the National Constituent Assembly's power at the expense of the King's royal authority. He became a special object of popular hatred when he was alleged to have replied to women begging for bread: "You had enough while you had only one king; demand bread of your twelve hundred sovereigns". Nevertheless, he held office until January 1791.

Exile[edit]

Shortly after his resignation he went to Stockholm, where his brother-in-law was the ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II, to the Swedish court.

In 1795 he joined King Louis XVI's middle brother, the comte de Provence, at Verona as an émigré minister of the House of Bourbon. After the death of Louis XVI's son, the comte de Provence declared himself King Louis XVIII of France. Later, Saint-Priest accompanied Louis XVIII's exiled court to Blankenburg and Mittau. In 1808, in disagreement with the policies of Louis XVIII, he retired to Switzerland. After vainly seeking permission from Napoleon to return to France, he was expelled from Switzerland, and wandered about Europe until the Bourbon Restoration.

Return to France and death[edit]

Despite his years of service to Louis XVIII, his early liberalism in the late 1780s, his resignation from the émigré government in 1808 and his attempts to seek a rapprochement with Bonaparte meant that he was not allowed by the restored king to participate in the new Ultra-royalist government. As a result, he lived quietly at his country estates until his death in 1821.

Family[edit]

His eldest son, Guillaume Emmanuel (1776–1814) became a major-general in the Russian army, and served in the Napoleonic campaigns of Alexander I. He died during the Allied invasion of France in Laon.

The second son, Armand Emmanuel Charles (1782–1863), became the Governor of Podolia and Odessa in Russia, and married a Russian noblewoman, Princess Sophie Galitzine; their son Alexis Guignard, comte de Saint Priest later returned to Paris and was noted in literary circles.

The third son of François, Emmanuel Louis Marie (1789–1881), was a godson of Marie Antoinette. Like his older brother, Guilliame Emmanual, he took part in the invasion of France in 1814. Upon the completion of his military service years later, he became a diplomat and a leader of Legitimist society in Paris.

François' nephew, Louis-Alexandre de Launay, comte d'Antraigues (1753–1812), was a famous pamphleteer, diplomat, spy and political adventurer during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Initially a supporter of the liberal ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, both with whom he had studied, he turned against the Revolution after the arrest of the Marquis de Favras in 1789. When Favras was executed in February, 1790, d'Antraigues fled France and became an émigré. Later, he became a secret agent for both Louis XVIII and Alexander I. He was murdered in Great Britain in 1812 under mysterious circumstances.

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Charles Gravier de Vergennes
Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
1768–1784
Succeeded by
Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste de Choiseul-Gouffier

References[edit]