Friday, 23 October 2015

Emmanuel-Armand de Richelieu, Duc d'Aiguillon

Born on 31 July 1720 with the impressive full name of Emmanuel-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis de Richelieu. As the nephew of the Duc de Richelieu it was only natural that Emmanuel-Armand should make his debut at court - here he was known as the Duc d'Agénois until his father's death.

Following the traditional path of young noblemen he entered the army at seventeen. Here he apparently made a good impression - that or his good connections helped him - because he was made a colonel just two years later. Having made an early reputation in the army, it was time to marry. This took place not long after his military promotion (in 1740) when he wed Louise Félicité de Brehan.

As a rising star at the infamous court of France it was only appropriate to take on a mistress. So, Emmaunel-Armand did and in style. He began an affair with the beautiful Marie Anne, Marquise de La Tournelle. However, something got in the way. None else than Emmanuel-Armand's uncle, the Duc de Richelieu, who had set his mind on presenting Marie Anne as the new mistress of Louis XV. As it turned out Marie Anne was loyal to Emmanuel-Armand and rejected the King. Unsurprisingly, Louis XV did not take kindly to this rejection and took a rather drastic measure. Together with the Duc de Richelieu the King took advantage of Emmanuel-Armand's military experience and dispatched him to Italy where he was to fight in the War of the Austrian Succession.

This could easily have been the end of Emmanuel-Armand when he suffered a serious injury. However, the young colonel turned out to be harder to get rid of than anticipated. Rather than perishing on a far away battlefield, Emmanuel-Armand returned to France where he was greeted as a hero.
Thinking that since war did not prove enough to keep Emmanuel-Armand away, the Duc de Richelieu turned his attentions towards another great destroyer of men: love. Shortly after returning to court Emmanuel-Armand as sent on his way again; this time to Languedoc. Here, a beautiful lady was waiting with clear instructions to do everything in her power to seduce him which she succeeded in. Once the Duc de Richelieu learnt of certain romance letters, it did not take long for Marie Anne to find out. That proved the end to Emmanuel-Armand and Marie Anne's affair.

Continuing his military career for a while he then returned to court where he found his place among the Dévot faction. Perhaps a twist of irony but this faction was particularly opposed to Madame de Pompadour - perhaps a bit of resentment there? Besides Madame de Pompadour he was also a fervent opponent of both the Parlement and the Jansenists. Overall, he was soon known to be against any kind of change whatsoever which made him a perfect target for pamphleteers.

If the air in Paris became a bit too hostile, Emmanuel-Armand could soon turn his gaze elsewhere when he was appointed governor of Brittany. However, he did not take long to fall out with his new province. After a detour involving an invasion of Britain, Emmanuel-Armand had become a nuisance to both the Parlement in Paris and Brittany. However, Louis XV remained a firm believer in him, despite their past differences.

Emmanuel-Armand at the invasion of England
Once back at court, Emmanuel-Armand quickly found his way back to the Dévot party. Emmanuel-Armand was made Minister of Foreign Affairs when Louis XV decided to reorganise the government. Surprisingly enough, this promotion was instigated by Madame du Barry. This new government was deeply unpopular and as a minister Emmanuel-Armand was soon a scape-goat. From there on his political career went down-hill. First, he agreed to the division of Poland and then he approved the suppression of the Jesuits - a society he had hitherto been a supporter of.

His final mistake was to fall out with the new Dauphine Marie Antoinette who was opposed to him as a creature of Madame du Barry. When she became Queen Marie Antoinette demanded his exile which was brought about in 1774. This was the end of Emmanuel-Armand as a public figure. He died in 1788 - so forgotten by society that his exact date of death was not recorded.

No comments:

Post a comment