André-Hercule de Fleury

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

André-Hercule de Fleury (born June 22, 1653 in Lodève , Hérault , † January 29, 1743 in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris ) was a French cardinal and statesman .


Youth and advancement

Cardinal de Fleury, painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud , 1730.

Fleury's signature: Signature André-Hercule de Fleury.PNG
Cardinal de Fleury, oil painting by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun after Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1775

Fleury was the son of the tax collector Jean de Fleury , Seigneur de Dio, and his wife Diane de La Treille. At the age of six, de Fleury came to Paris to the Collège de Clermont (now Lycée Louis-le-Grand ) and later to the Collège d'Harcourt (now Lycée Saint-Louis ), which were run by Jesuits . He was then ordained a priest and at the age of 15 became a canon in Montpellier in 1668 . As such, Fleury studied at the Sorbonne and received a licentiate in theology in 1676 .

Under the influence of Cardinal Pierre de Bonzi (1631–1703), Fleury was appointed almsman to Queen Marie Therese , wife of Louis XIV , in 1683 ; Fleury continued to hold this office for the king after the queen's death shortly afterwards. In 1686, Fleury received the Rivour Abbey (Diocese of Troyes ) as a benefice and in 1698 he was ordained Bishop of Fréjus . In 1714, after seventeen years in this rural diocese, he decided to look for a position at the court. He became a teacher of Louis XV. , the great grandson and heir of the king. Without any particular ambition, he gained an influence on the child that would prove to be very permanent.

prime minister

After the death of the regent Philippe II. Charles de Bourbon, duc d'Orléans on December 2, 1723, Fleury, now seventy years old, initially decided not to extend his supremacy and proposed that Louis IV. Henri de Bourbon be appointed Prime Minister . Fleury was by common law in all conversations between Louis XV. and its Prime Minister present. This saw his political influence diminished and tried to persuade the king not to involve Fleury in all discussions. But the king refused. After Fleury learned of this incident, he withdrew from the court so as not to give rise to further arguments. But now Ludwig ordered his Prime Minister to write to the Bishop of Fréjus to ask for his return. Finally, on July 11, 1726, the king banished the Duc de Bourbon and his mistress Madame de Prie from court. Fleury rejected the title and office of prime minister for himself, but his appointment as cardinal in the same year (September 11th) by Pope Benedict XIII. ensured its primacy over all other ministers. However, he never traveled to Rome to receive the cardinal's hat and a titular church; he also did not take part in the conclaves of 1730 and 1740.

Fleury was modest in a natural way - the appointment as Metropolitan of Reims he had rejected in 1722 - and prudent, and these qualities brought in to manage one, with the result that 1738 / 39 a surplus of 15,000,000 livres was instead of the usual deficit . In 1726 he set the currency standard and ensured the government's creditworthiness by paying off the debts with the interest. By enforcing the street frontage of the peasants as provided for by feudal law , he ensured that the French roads were in good condition, but at the price of arousing angry discontent. During the seventeen years of his actual reign, the country found a period of recovery after the extravagances of Louis XIV, and general prosperity increased rapidly. Inner peace was only disturbed in those years when Fleury found the time ripe to take action against the Jansenists . He had priests arrested who refused to accept the bull Unigenitus Dei filius , and met the opposition of the Paris Parliament , which is why he exiled forty of its members.

In foreign affairs his chief preoccupation was the maintenance of the peace, which he shared with Sir Robert Walpole ; this led to the continuation of good relations between France and England. He was reluctant to support the ambitious plans of Elisabetta Farnese , Queen of Spain, to succeed her son Don Carlos in the duchies of Parma and Tuscany in 1729 . Fleury had saved in the army and navy, as everywhere, and when he was forced to go to war in 1733 he was barely prepared for it. Public opinion forced him to support the claims of Ludwig's father-in-law Stanislaus Leszczynski (ex-King of Poland) to the Polish crown against the Russian-Austrian candidate after the death of August II . But sending a French expedition of 1,500 men to Danzig only humiliated France.

Fleury was urged to more energetic measures by the great seal keeper Germain Louis Chauvelin and so he concluded a closer alliance with the Spanish Bourbons and sent two armies against the Austrians. Military successes on the Rhine and in Italy secured the favorable terms of the Treaty of Vienna (1735–1738). France had joined forces with the other powers to ensure the succession of Maria Theresa under the Pragmatic Sanction , but after the death of Charles VI. In 1740, Fleury found an excuse for rejecting his appointments through some diplomatic subtlety because he found the warring party superior in the king's council.


After the disasters of the Bohemian campaign, Fleury wrote a confidential, humble letter to the Austrian Field Marshal Count Joseph Lothar von Königsegg-Rothenfels , who published it the following day. Fleury denied his own letter and died a few days after the French evacuation of Prague on January 20, 1743 in Issy near Paris. He was with a monumental tomb, the Louis XV. had built for him, buried in the church of Saint-Louis du Louvre in Paris.

Fleury had enriched the royal library with many valuable oriental manuscripts through personal donations. From 1717 he was a full member of the Académie française , the Académie des sciences and the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres , as well as provisional member of the Sorbonne and the royal Collège de Navarre . Fleury also brought Lorraine to France in 1736 .


  • Georges Hardy: Le cardinal de Fleury et le mouvement janséniste. - Paris: H. Champion, 1925
  • Arthur McCandless Wilson: French foreign policy during the administration of Cardinal Fleury, 1726–1743: a study in diplomacy and commercial development. - London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1936
  • Maxime de Sars: Le cardinal de Fleury: apôtre de la paix. - Paris: Hachette, 1942
  • Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret: Le Cardinal de Fleury: Le Richelieu de Louis XV. - Zurich: Payot, 2002. - ISBN 2-228-89652-7
  • Jean Mercadier: Le Cardinal de Fleury. - Millau: Beffroi, 2002. - ISBN 2-9503554-8-X

Web links

predecessor Office successor
Louis d'Aquin Bishop of Fréjus
Pierre de Castellane