Melchior de Polignac

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Melchior de Polignac

Melchior de Polignac (October 11, 1661 – November 20, 1742) was a French diplomat, Roman Catholic cardinal and neo-Latin poet.

A younger son of Armand XVI, marquis de Polignac, he was born at Lavoûte-sur-Loire, Haute-Loire, Auvergne. At an early age he achieved distinction as a diplomat. In 1695 he was sent as ambassador to Poland, where he succeeded in bringing about the election of François-Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conti as successor to John Sobieski (1697). The subsequent failure of this intrigue led to his temporary disgrace, but in 1702 he was restored to favour, and in 1712 he was sent as the plenipotentiary of Louis XIV of France to the Congress of Utrecht.

During the regency he became involved in the Cellamare Conspiracy, and was relegated to Flanders for three years. From 1725 to 1732 he acted as a French emissary at the Holy See. In 1726, he received the Archbishopric of Auch, and he died at Paris in 1742 at his home at 88 rue Bonaparte (also known as the Hôtel Polignac). After his death Frederick the Great bought his acclaimed collection of marble statues.

He left unfinished a refutation of Lucretius, written in Latin verse and published after his death by the abbé de Rothelin (Anti-Lucretius, 1745). The poem was very popular in the eighteenth century and translated several times: for example, Jean-Pierre de Bougainville translated it into French prose in 1749, and François-Joseph Bérardier de Bataut translated it in French verse in 1786.


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  The article is available here.

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