1902 Encyclopedia > Duc du Choiseul (Etienne François Choiseul)

Duc du Choiseul
(Etienne François Choiseul)
French diplomat

ETIENNE FRANCOIS, DUC DE CHOISEUL, (1719-1785), a French statesman, was born on the 28th June 1719. Under the name of Count de Stainville, he entered the army, and rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. Having contracted a wealthy marriage, and gained the friendship of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV., he entered political life as envoy, first to Rome, and then to Vienna ; and in November 1758 he was created Due de Choiseul and peer of France, and appointed minister of foreign affairs. His first act was to sign a secret treaty of alliance with Maria Theresa of Austria, who had the sympathy and support of Madame de Pompadour. An invasion of Great Britain was Choiseul's next project; and so eager was he to carry out this ill-fated scheme, that the French interests in America and the West Indies were miserably neglected. Choiseul is also responsible for allowing the possessions of France in India to be lost with-out adequate resistance, and for not interfering in time to prevent the dismemberment of Poland.

The principal achievement of Choiseul's policy is known as the " Family Compact," by which all the sovereigns of the house of Bourbon, viz., the kings of France, Spain, and the two Sicilies, were united in an offensive and defensive alliance (1761). Portugal also was afterwards persuaded to join the confederation in war against England. Great enthusiasm was awakened in France; and Choiseul, having handed over to his cousin, Choiseul-Praslin, the department of foreign affairs, devoted himself to the reor-ganization of the army and navy. But the plans of Pitt proved successful, and, in November 1762, France was obliged to cede to England, by the treaty of Fontainebleau, Acadia, Canada, Cape Breton, and all the islands of the Saint Lawrence, all Louisiana to the left of the Mississippi, Ohio, the isles of Grenada and Minorca, and a large part of her possessions in India.
Much more fortunate was his policy against the Jesuits. It was partly due to his influence that they were driven out of Spain; in 1764 he effected their banishment from France ; and ten years later he prevailed on Pope Clement XIV. to declare their order abolished.

Until the end of 1770 Choiseul continued to be foremost among the directors of French policy. But after the death of Madame de Pompadour, the intrigues of the Due d'Aiguillon, the Abbe' Terray, and Chancellor Maupeou, backed by the influence of Madame du Barri, whose friendship Choiseul had scornfully rejected, created an estrangement between him and the king, who banished him to his estate at Chanteloup. His fall, however, only increased his popularity, and on his departure the most distinguished of the courtiers crowded round him to bid him farewell. The four years of his retirement were spent chiefly in writing his autobiography, which was pub-lished at Paris in 1790. He was recalled to Paris by Louis XVI. in 1774, and died there in May 1785. Choiseul appears to have been a man of considerable, but not first-rate ability; his disposition was haughty but courteous; and such was the magnificence of his habits that, notwithstanding his vast wealth, he died leaving enormous debts. See his Autobiography and the Me-moires by Besenval and Duclos.

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