1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aiguillon, Emmanuel Armand de Wignerod du Plessis de Richelieu, Duc d'

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1
Aiguillon, Emmanuel Armand de Wignerod du Plessis de Richelieu, Duc d'

AIGUILLON, EMMANUEL ARMAND DE WIGNEROD DU PLESSIS DE RICHELIEU, Duc d’ (1720–1782), French statesman, nephew of the maréchal de Richelieu, was born on the 31st of July 1720. He entered the army at the age of seventeen, and at the age of nineteen was made colonel of the regiment of Brie. He served in the campaigns in Italy during the War of the Austrian Succession, was seriously wounded at the siege of Château-Dauphin (1744), was taken prisoner (1746) and was made maréchal de camp in 1748. His marriage in 1740 with Louise Félicité de Bréhan, daughter of the comte de Plélo, coupled with his connexion with the Richelieu family, gave, him an important place at court. He was a member of the so-called parti dévot, 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), but was then blamed for his inertia in the preparation of a squadron against England (1759), and 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 imposts without the consent of the estates, and refused to receive the remonstrances of the parlement against the duke. On the 11th of 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 organized 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 dévot and finally obtained the dismissal of the minister Choiseul (December 24, 1770). When Louis XV., acting on the advice of Madame Dubarry, reorganized 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 Vrillière. 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 1782. In no circumstances had he shown any special ability. He was more fitted for intrigue than for government, and his attempts to restore the status of French diplomacy met with scant success.

See Mémoires du ministère du duc d’Aiguillon (3rd ed., Paris and Lyons, 1792), probably written by J. L. Soulavie. On d’Aiguillon’s governorship of Brittany see Carré, La Chalotais et le duc d’Aiguillon (Paris, 1893); Marion, La Bretagne et le duc d’Aiguillon (Paris, 1898); and Barthélemy Pocquet, Le Duc d’Aiguillon et La Chalotais (Paris, 1901–1902). The three last have full bibliographies. See also Flammermont, Le Chancelier Maupeou et les parlements (Paris, 1883); Frederic Masson, Le Cardinal de Bernis (Paris, 1884).

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