Charles Alexandre de Calonne

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Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne (born January 20, 1734 in Douai , † October 29, 1802 in Paris ) was a French statesman. He was the general controller of finances (1783–1787) and later one of the leading figures in counterrevolutionary emigration.

Live and act

Viscount de Calonne, portrait by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun . Calonne's signature:
Signature Charles Alexandre de Calonne.PNG

His father, Louis de Calonne (1700–1784) worked as a lawyer at the court in Douai, premier président du parlement , his mother was Anne Henriette de Francqueville. He had other siblings, such as Marie Anne de Calonne, Jacques de Calonne and Marie Madeleine de Calonne.

He followed his father's path, studied law in Paris and was subsequently a public prosecutor, avocat général with the provincial government of Artois. Later Calonne would go to Douai as prosecutor from the Artois court , where he continued his career as prosecutor general, Procureur général . Then he became artistic director of Metz (1768) and Lille (1774).

In 1769 he married Marie-Joséphine Marquet de Mont-Saint-Peyre (1751-1770), the daughter of a financial inspector , receveur général des finances .

During the crisis that preceded the French Revolution , when minister after minister tried in vain to replenish the empty treasury and was dismissed for failure, Calonne was brought in to take charge of matters. On November 3, 1783 he took over his office. He owed his position to Vergennes , who continued to support him for three and a half years; but the king was not well suited to him, and - according to the testimony of an Austrian ambassador - his public image was extremely poor.

When he took office, he said he found outstanding payments amounting to 575.194 million livres , but the income was only 245.209 million livres and not 609.920 million livres as his predecessor had claimed. At first he tried to get credit and to continue the government with the help of loans in such a way that public confidence in the solvency of the state would be preserved. In October 1785 he had gold coins minted and developed the caisse d'escompte . When these measures did not help, he proposed to the king the abolition of internal customs duties and taxes and the taxation of property of the nobility and clergy. Turgot and Necker had attempted these reforms, and Calonne attributed their failure to malevolent criticism by the Parlements . Therefore he had a meeting of notables called for January 29, 1787 , to which he explained the deficit in the treasury. He proposed the introduction of a territorial subsidy that should be applied to all types of property without distinction. This abolition of privileges was badly received by the privileged notables. Calonne now angrily had his reports printed and thereby angered the court against them. Louis XVI released him on April 8, 1787 and banished Calonne, known as "Monsieur Deficit", to Lorraine . Paris was generally relieved.

In reality, his bold reform plan, which Jacques Necker later resumed, might have saved the monarchy if only he had been seriously supported by the king. Soon after, Calonne went to England and maintained a polemical correspondence with Necker about finances. In 1789, when the Estates General , États généraux, were about to be drafted, he returned to Flanders in the hope of being elected; but he was strictly forbidden to enter France. In revenge, he joined the emigre party in Koblenz and wrote for them. In this way he spent almost all of his fortune that his wife, a wealthy widow, had brought into the marriage. In 1802, after he had again moved into domicile in London, he received from Napoleon Bonaparte permission to return to France. He died in Paris a month after arriving in his home country.


He was the builder of the Tranchée de Calonne .


  • Charles Alexandre de Calonne: Lettre de M. de Calonne sur les finances, aux français . impr. de Chaudrillié, Paris 1797 (French, online ).
  • Charles Alexandre de Calonne: Lettre de M. de Calonne au citoyen auteur du prétendu rapport fait à SM Louis XVIII . de Boffe, London 1796 (French, online ).
  • Charles Alexandre de Calonne: Réponse de M. de Calonne à l'écrit de M. Necker, publié en avril 1787, contenant l'examen des comptes de la situation des finances, rendus en 1774, 1776, 1781, 1783 et 1787, avec of the observations on the results of the Assemblée des notables . T. Spilsbury, London 1788 (French, online ).
  • Charles Alexandre de Calonne: Réponse de M. de Calonne aux observations du parlement sur le nouvel emprunt . December 1785 (French, online ).


  • Charles Gomel: Les Causes financières de la Revolution . - Paris: Guillaumin, 1892–93 (2 volumes)
  • René Stourm: Les Finances de l'ancien régime et de la Révolution: origines du système financier actuel . - Guillaumin, 1885 (2 volumes)
  • G. Susane: La tactique financière de Calonne . - Paris: Arthur Rousseau, 1901 <reprint Burt Franklin, 1972; ISBN 0-8337-3461-X

Web links

Commons : Charles Alexandre de Calonne  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  3. Neil Jeffares: Dictionary of pastel ists before 1800. (PDF): March 4, 2011, accessed February 23, 2013 (French).
  4. Charles Alexandre de Calonne: Réponse de M. de Calonne à l'écrit de M. Necker, publié en avril 1787, contenant l'examen des comptes de la situation des finances, rendus en 1774, 1776, 1781, 1783 et 1787, avec des observations sur les results de l'Assemblée des notables . T. Spilsbury, London 1788, p. 91-94 (French, online ).
  5. Thielen, Katharina: The emigrant center Koblenz as a symbol of the counter-revolution and French absolutism. ( Memento of the original from November 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
predecessor Office successor
Henri François de Paule Lefèvre d'Ormesson Controllers General of Finance
November 3, 1783 - April 9, 1787
Michel Bouvard de Fourqueux