1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Polignac

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POLIGNAC, an ancient French family, which had its seat in the Cevennes near Puy-en-Velay (Haute Loire). Its authentic pedigree can be traced to the 9th century, but in 1421 the male line became extinct. The heiress married Guillaume, sire de Chalancon (not to be confused with the barons of Chalançon in Vivarais), who assumed the name and arms of Polignac. The first member of the family who was of any historical importance was Cardinal Melchior de Polignac (1661-1742), a younger son of Armand XVI., marquis de Polignac, who at an early age achieved distinction as a diplomatist. In 1695 he was sent as ambassador to Poland, where he contrived to bring about the election of the prince of 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. to the Congress of Utrecht. During the regency he became involved in the Cellamare plot, and was relegated to Flanders for three years. From 1725 to 1732 he acted for France at the Vatican. In 1726 he received the archbishopric of Auch, and he died at Paris in 1742. He left unfinished a metrical refutation of Lucretius which was published after his death by the abbé de Rothelin (Anti-Lucretius, 1745), and had considerable vogue in its day. Count Jules de Polignac (d. 1817), grandnephew of the preceding, was created duke by Louis XVI. in 1780, and in 1782 was made postmaster-general. His position and influence at court were largely due to his wife, Gabrielle de Polastron, the bosom friend of Marie Antoinette; the duke and duchess alike shared the unpopularity of the court, and were among the first to “emigrate” in 1789. The duchess died shortly after the queen, but her husband, who had received an estate from Catherine II. in the Ukraine, survived till 1817. Of their three sons the second, Prince Jules de Polignac (1780-1847), played a conspicuous part in the clerical and ultra-royalist reaction after the Revolution. Under the empire he was implicated in the conspiracy of Cadoudal and Pichegru (1804), and was imprisoned till 1813. After the restoration of the Bourbons he held various offices, received from the pope his title of “prince” in 1820, and in 1823 was made ambassador to the English court. On the 8th of August 1829 he was called by Charles X. to the ministry of foreign affairs, and in the following November he became president of the council. His appointment was taken as symbolical of the king's intention to overthrow the constitution, and Polignac, with the other ministers, was held responsible for the policy which culminated in the issue of the Four Ordinances which were the immediate cause of the revolution of July 1830. On the outbreak of this he fled for his life, but, after wandering for some time among the wilds of Normandy, was arrested at Granville. His trial before the chamber of peers resulted in his condemnation to perpetual imprisonment (at Ham), but he benefited by the amnesty of 1836, when the sentence was commuted to one of exile. During his captivity he wrote Considérations politiques (1832). He afterwards spent some years in England, but finally was permitted to re-enter France on condition that he did not take up his abode in Paris. He died at St Germain on the 29th of March 1847.