Arthur Richard Dillon

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Portrait of Arthur Richard Dillon
Dillon's coat of arms
Burial of Arthur Richard Dillon in Narbonne Cathedral

Arthur Richard Dillon (14 September 1721 – 5 July 1806), French archbishop, was the son of Arthur Dillon (1670-1733), one of the Irish Wild Geese who became a general in the French service.[1]


He was born at St Germain, entered the priesthood and was successively curé of Elan near Mézières, vicar-general of Pontoise (1747), bishop of Evreux (1753) and archbishop of Toulouse (1758), archbishop of Narbonne in 1763, and in that capacity, president of the estates of Languedoc.

He devoted himself much less to the spiritual direction of his diocese than to its temporal welfare, carrying out many works of public utility, bridges, canals, roads, harbours, etc.; he had chairs of chemistry and of physics created at Montpellier and at Toulouse, and tried to reduce poverty, especially in Narbonne.

From about the age of fifty, until she died shortly before Dillon, he lived with his wealthy, widowed niece, Mme. de Rothe. The pair were considered to be lovers, an arrangement considered scandalous even by the jaded standards of the day. They maintained a household primarily at the chateau Hautefontaine, where Dillon kept an extravagant hunt.

In 1787 and in 1788 he was a member of the Assembly of Notables called together by Louis XVI, and in 1788 presided over the assembly of the clergy. Having refused to accept the civil constitution of the clergy, Dillon had to leave Narbonne in 1790, then to emigrate (accompanied by de Rothe) to Coblenz in 1791. Soon afterwards he and de Rothe fled to London, where they lived until his death in 1806, never accepting the Concordat of 1801, which had suppressed his archiepiscopal see. He died at his mansion in George Street, Portman Square, and was buried in St Pancras churchyard, which, with no official Catholic cemetery available, was the favoured burial place for the dead émigré community.[2][3]

Between March 2002 and June 2003, part of the St Pancras Old Church graveyard was excavated[4] in preparation for the London terminus of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. During archaeological investigation, Dillon's body was found to have been buried wearing a set of porcelain dentures. It is believed that he purchased them from a Parisian dentist named Nicholas De Chemant.[5]

The body of Archbishop Dillon was returned to France in March 2007 and now lies in Narbonne Cathedral.[6] On 19 May 2008, the porcelain dentures were accessioned into the Cobbe Museum (currently housed at Hatchlands, East Clandon).

Dillon's name remains listed as one of the important missing graves on the Burdett-Coutts memorial in Old St. Pancras Churchyard.


  1. ^ Burke's Peerage (2003) p.1148.
  2. ^ Geer, Walter, ed. (1920). Recollections of the revolution and the empire, from the French of the "Journal d'une femme de cinquante ans" (txt). New York: Walter Geer. p. 283. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Bingham, David (30 April 2014). "The Archbishop of Narbonne's Teeth; Arthur Richard Dillon, 1721 - 1806, St Pancras burial ground". The London Dead. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Emery, P.A., and Wooldridge, K., 2011, St Pancras burial ground: excavations for St Pancras International, the London terminus of High Speed 1, 2002-3, Gifford (now Ramboll) Monograph
  5. ^ Powers, N.I., 2006 ‘Archaeological evidence for dental innovation: an 18th-century porcelain dental prosthesis belonging to Archbishop Arthur Richard Dillon’, Brit Dental J 201, 459-63
  6. ^ Commission Archéologique et Littéraire de Narbonne, 2008, Arthur-Richard Dillon, dernier Président-Né des Etats de Languedoc, de 1763 à 1790, Bulletin de la Commission Archéologique et Littéraire de Narbonne 51, 27-36

Further reading[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dillon, Arthur Richard". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 273.