André-Hercule de Fleury
Born at Lodève, 26 June, 1653; died at Paris, 29 January, 1742. He was a protégé of Cardinal de Bonzi and become chaplain to Maria Theresa in 16790, and to Louis XIV in 1683. He was appointed bishop of Fréjus in 1698, but resigned the see in 1715, when he received the Abbey of Tournus and was appointed tutor to the young Louis XV. Naturally cold and imperturbable, he remained in the background during the regency. When Louis XV attained his majority in 1723, it was at the instance of Fleury that the Duc de Bourbon was made prime minister, and quarrelling with the Duke, Fleury pretended to retire to Issy. Louis XV, however, who admired and loved his tutor, sent the Duke into exile, and entrusted the government to Fleury. True to his habits of discretion, and accustomed, as Duclos says, "to bridle the envious ", he never assumed the title of prime minister. He was made cardinal in September, 1726, and until his death remained the guiding spirit in French politics.
Comparing the three cardinals, d'Argenson said: " Richelieu bled France, Mazarin purged it, and Fleury put it on a diet". He alluded in this bantering way to the cardinal's policy of economy which, among other drawbacks, retarded the development of the French military marine at the very period when the mercantile marine, thanks to private enterprise, was making considerable progress. In spite of this, Fluery had the qualities of a great minister. He was the first to foresee that France would not always be at enmity with the Hapsburghs. In connection with the Polish succession and the Duchy of Lorraine, he availed himself of the best advice of the diplomat Chauvelin, when it became necessary to play a cautious game with Austria. But, as Vandal says, the policy of Chauvelin was that of the past. Fleury, in redoubling his efforts to bring about as quickly as possible pleasant relations between the King of France and the emperor, was the precursor of Choisuel, Vergennes, and Talleyrand. He was accused of timidity when, at the outbreak of the War of Austrian Succession he wrote a letter to general Königseck, in which he seemed to apologize for this war. But, in truth, Fleury was simply anticipating the policy of the renversement des alliances (breaking up of the alliances), which began in 1756, and which by uniting France and Austria was to be more in conformity with the Catholic traditions of both countries. The opinions of historians like Vandal and Masson with regard to this renversement des alliances , so long the object of criticism, tends to justify Cardinal Fleury.
During the period of Fleury's power, Jansenism was gaining ground among the masses as a superstitious sect, as is evidenced by the miracles of the deacon Pâris, while among the upper classes it took shape as a political faction. Fleury was the minister who had to contend with a Jansenist opposition in the Parliament of Paris. He reserved to royal authority all matters relating to Jansenists, one consequence of which was a "strike" on the part of the magistrates and lawyers, which Fleury suppressed with certain measures of severity. He became a member of the Academy in 1717 and was the first to propose sending a scientific expedition to the far north and to Peru to measure the degrees of the meridian.
More Catholic Encyclopedia
Browse Encyclopedia by Alphabet
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Browse the Catholic Encyclopedia by Topic
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online