1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mercy-Argenteau, Florimond Claude, Comte de

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 18
Mercy-Argenteau, Florimond Claude, Comte de by John Malcolm Mitchell

MERCY-ARGENTEAU, FLORIMOND CLAUDE, Comte de (1727–1794), Austrian diplomatist, son of Antoine, comte de Mercy-Argenteau, entered the diplomatic service of Austria, going to Paris in the train of Prince Kaunitz. He became Austrian minister at Turin, at St Petersburg, and in 1766 at Paris, where his first work was to strengthen the alliance between France and Austria, which was cemented in 1770 by the marriage of the dauphin, afterwards Louis XVI., with Marie Antoinette, daughter of the empress Maria Theresa. When four years later Louis and Marie Antoinette ascended the throne, Mercy-Argenteau became one of the most powerful personages at the French court. He was in Paris during the turbulent years which heralded the Revolution, and his powerful aid was given first to Loménie de Brienne, and then to Necker. In 1792 he became governor-general of the Belgian provinces, which had just been reduced to obedience by Austria, and here his ability and experience made him a very successful ruler. Although at first in favour of moderate courses, Mercy-Argenteau supported the action of Austria in making war upon his former ally after the outbreak of the Revolution, and in July 1794 he was appointed Austrian ambassador to Great Britain, but he died a few days after his arrival in London.

See T. Juste, Le Comte de Mercy-Argenteau (Brussels 1863); A. von Arneth and A. Geoffroy, Correspondances secrètes de Marie Therèse avec le comte de Mercy (Paris 1874); and A. von Arneth and J. Flammermont, Correspondance secrète de Mercy avec Joseph II. et Kaunitz (Paris 1889–1891). Mercy-Argenteau’s Correspondannes secrètes de Marie Thérèse has been condensed and translated into English by Lilian Smythe under the title of A Guardian of Marie Antoinette (2 vols., London 1902).