1902 Encyclopedia > Guillaume Dubois

Guillaume Dubois
Cardinal, archbishop and first minister of France

GUILLAUME DUBOIS, (1656-1723), cardinal, arch-bishop of Cambray, and first minister of France, was born at Brives-la-Gaillarde, in Limousin, September 6, 1656. He was the son of an apothecary, and at twelve years of age was sent to Paris to study in the college of St Michael, where he at the same time served in the household of the principal. He then engaged himself as a private tutor, and at length was appointed preceptor to the young duke of Chartres, afterwards the regent duke of Orleans. Astute, ambitious, and unrestrained by conscience, Dubois ingratiated himself with his pupil, and, while he gave him formal school lessons, at the same time pandered to his evil passions, and encouraged him in their indulgence. He gained the favour of Louis XIV. by bringing about the marriage of his pupil with Mademoiselle de Blois, a natural but legitimated daughter of the king ; and for this service he was rewarded with the gift of the abbey of St Just in Picardy. He was present with his pupil at the battle of Steinkirk, and "faced fire," says Marshal Luxembourg, "like a grenadier." Sent to join the French embassy in London, he made himself so active that by the request of the ambassador he was recalled. When the duke of Orleans became regent (1715), Dubois, who had for some years acted as his secretary, was made councillor of state, and the chief power passed gradually into his hands. His ambition grew with what it fed on. To counteract the intrigues of Cardinal Alberoni, first minister of Spain, he suggested an alliance with England, and succeeded in negotiating the Triple Alliance (1717). He was now made minister of foreign affairs. But he coveted the chief dignities of the church no less than political offices ; and he impudently prayed the regent to give him the arch-bishopric of Cambray, the richest in France. His demand was supported by George I., and the regent yielded. In one day all the usual orders were conferred on him, and even the great preacher Massillon consented to take part in the ceremonies. His next aim was the cardinalate, and, after long opposition on the part of the Pope, Clement XL, the red hat was given to him by Innocent XIII. (1721). In the following year he was named first minister of France (August). He was soon after received at the French Academy ; and, to the disgrace of the French clergy, he was named president of their assembly. While the projects of Law were bringing financial ruin upon the kingdom, Dubois was accumulating from various sources an immense private fortune. In addition to his see he possessed the revenues of seven abbeys. He was, however, a prey to the most terrible pains of body and agony of mind. His health was ruined by his debaucheries, and a surgical operation became necessary. This was almost immediately followed by his death, at Versailles, August 10, 1723. His portrait was thus drawn by the duke of St Simon :— "He was a little, pitiful, wizened, herring-gutted man, in a flaxen wig, with a weasel's face, brightened by some intellect. All the vices — perfidy, avarice, debauchery, ambition, flattery — fought within him for the mastery. He was so consummate a liar that, when taken in the fact, he could brazenly deny it. Even his wit and knowledge of the world were spoiled, and his affected gaiety was touched with sadness, by the odour of falsehood which escaped through every pore of his body." In 1789 appeared Vie privée du Cardinal Dubois, attributed to one of his secretaries, and in 1815 his Mémoires secrets et cor-respondance inédite, edited by L. de Sevelinges.

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