Friday, 3 May 2013

Étionne Francois, Duc de Choiseul

Étionne François was born on June 28, 1719 as the son of the Marquis de Choiseul who was one of the Duke de Lorraine's closest advisers. Upon his birth, Étionne was immediately created the Comte de Stainville.

Like most other young men of the nobility, Étionne soon participated in warfare. He was known to have conducted himself well at the battle of Coni in 1744. It was also him who was sent back to Paris with the message that France had lost the battle of Dettigen. When he married Louise Honorine Crozat, Étionne had become a lieutenant-general; through this marriage Étionne's fortune became a great deal larger.
Étionne was the cousin of Madame de Choiseul whom Louis XV had begun a short and low-key love affair with and happened to be in possession of some letters from the King. Étionne showed them to Madame de Pompadour who was so grateful that she supported Étionne's political career.

A mistress' support was important and soon Étionne was appointed the ambassador to Rome. He did well in Rome and Madame de Pompadour had him moved to Austria to conduct a peace treaty between the two countries. He succeeded and the outcome was the Franco-Austrian agreement to wage war against Prussia from 1757. By then the King had noticed his hard-working and very skilled ambassador and called him back to France to fill the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. During the Seven Years' War Choiseul tried to launch an attack on Britain but it was hindered by several French defeats at sea.

But the King still recognized Choiseul's talent and made him the Duc de Choiseul. He had great power at court until 1770; until then he held several important positions at court. Choiseul carried through several reforms to the navy and the army - a consequence of the terrible attitude he had seen during his own time in the army. By then, France had already lost their colonies of Canada and India but thanks to Choiseul their colonies in the Antilles and San Domingo. At home he allowed the Encyclopédie to be printed in France.
Choiseul was threatened by the extreme dominance of England and tried to make up for the loss of the French colonies by making Corsica and Lorraine a part of the Kingdom of France. Russia was another issue that concerned Choiseul; the vast country was becoming increasingly dominant at the Baltic Sea. But Choiseul's actions against the Jesuits would be his downfall.

Choiseul (to the left) with his mistress
Choiseul found himself suddenly without a patron when Madame de Pompadour died in 1764 which would turn out to be a dangerous situation. Madame du Barry - Louis XV's newest favourite - was clearly anti-Choiseul and never made an attempt at hiding it. At this time Choiseul was working hard on assuring the marriage between Louis Auguste and Marie Antoinette in which he succeeded. When Britain and Spain became involved in the Falkland Crisis in 1770 Choiseul quickly prepared the military to aid Spain but Louis XV wanted peace - Choiseul was dismissed from his office and ordered to retreat to his château of Chanteloup.

When Choiseul was exiled from political affairs at court he enjoyed great popularity which was only heightened by the obvious intrigues against him. Choiseul had expected to regain at least some of his former places when Louis XVI became King but that did not happen. However he was allowed to return to Paris in 1774 which meant that he was not a complete outcast any longer. Choiseul would never regain his former position and he died at his Paris estate on May 8, 1785.

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