1902 Encyclopedia > André Hercule de Fleury

André Hercule de Fleury
French statesman

ANDRE HERCULE DE FLEURY, (1653-1743), cardinal, the celebrated minister of Louis XV. of France, was born in 1653 at Lodeve, in Languedoc. He was educated by the Jesuits at Paris, and became successively almoner to Marie Therese, queen of Louis XIV., in 1698 bishop of Frejus, and in 1715 preceptor to the young prince, who after-wards succeeded to the throne as Louis XV. On the death of the regent Orleans in 1723, Fleury advised his royal pupil to choose the duke of Bourbon as minister, and was himself made a member of the council. In 1726, being then in his seventy-third year, he received a cardinal's hat, and was called to the office of prime minister, which he held till his death in 1743. At the time when Fleury was entrusted with the direction of affairs, the condition of France was truly deplorable. The nation was impoverished and worn out, and the exchequer emptied by the long wars of the Grand Monarque and the extravagances of the regent. Commerce was annihilated, public credit ruined, the Government held in contempt, and the church distracted by internal dissensions. Fleury immediately set himself to the task, and effected important reforms. Though he was a confirmed friend to peaceful measures, he was twice driven by court intrigues to take part in foreign wars,—first in the case of Stanislaus Leczinsky, the dethroned king of Poland, whose daughter Louis XV. had married ; and afterwards in that of the Austrian Succession, of which he did not live to see the end. In these wars, his economy, which bordered on avarice, was fatal to the cause espoused by France. The navy, neglected for fear of the expense, was no longer equal to any emergency. The Polish war he had energy neither to avert nor to carry on effectively. The meanly equipped expedition which he sent to the coasts of Pomerania could not but fail, notwith-standing the heroism displayed at Dantzic by the count of Plélo and his 1500 soldiers. One of the most useful acts of Fleury's administration was the completion of the Royal (now the National) Librar}', which he enriched with many valuable manuscripts, chiefly in the Oriental languages. He was a scholar of considerable attainments. The French Academy elected him as a member in 1717, the Academy of Sciences followed this example in 1721, and the Academy of the Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1725. He was also provisor of Sorbonne, and superior of the college of Navarre.

Bibliography. — F. J. Bataille, Éloge historique de M. le Cardinal A. H. de Fleury, Strasburg, 1737, 8vo ; Ch. Frey de Neuville, Oraison funèbre de S. E. Mgr. le Cardinal A. H. Fleiiry, Paris, 1743, 4to ; Ph. Vicaire, Oraison funèbre du Cardinal A. H. de Fleury, Caen, 1743, 4to ; M. van Hoey, Lettres et negotiations pour servir à l'histoire de la rie du Cardinal de Fleury, Londres, 1743, 8vo ; Leben des Cardinals A. H. Fleury, Freiburg, 1743, 8vo ; Fr. Morénas, Parallèle du ministère du Cardinal Richelieu et du Cardinal de Fleury, Avignon, 1743, 12mo ; Nachrichten von dem Leben undder Verwaltung des Cardinals Fleury, Hamburg, 1744, 8vo.

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