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ETIENNE FRANCOIS CHOISEUL

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Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 262 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ETIENNE FRANCOIS CHOISEUL, Duc DE (1719–1785), French statesman, was the eldest son of Francois Joseph de Choiseul, marquis de Stainville (1700–1770), and bore in early life the title of comte de Stainville. Born on the 28th of June 1719, he entered the army, and during the War of the Austrian Succession served in Bohemia in 1741 and in Italy, where he distinguished himself at the battle of Coni, in 1744. From 1745 until 1748 he was with the army in the Low Countries, being present at the sieges of Mons, Charleroi and Maestricht. He attained the rank of,lieutenant-general, and in 1750 married Louise Honorine, daughter of Louis Francois Crozat, marquis du Chatel (d. 1750), who brought her husband a large fortune and proved a most devoted wife. Choiseul gained the favour of Madame de Pompadour by procuring for her some letters which Louis XV. had written to his cousin Madame de Choiseul, with whom the king had formerly had an intrigue; and after a short time as bailli of the Vosges he was given the appointment of ambassador to Rome in 1753, where he was entrusted with the negotiations concerning the disturbances called forth by the bull Unigenitus. He acquitted himself skilfully in this task, and in 1757 his patroness obtained his transfer to Vienna, where he was instructed to cement the new alliance between France and Austria. His success at Vienna opened the way to a larger career, when in 1758 he supplanted Antoine Louis Rouille (1689–1761) as minister for foreign affairs and so had the direction of French foreign policy during the Seven Years' War. At this time he was made a peer of France and created duc de Choiseul. Al-though from 1761 until 1766 his cousin Cesar, duc de Choiseul-Praslin (1712-1785), was minister for foreign affairs, yet Choiseul continued to control the policy of France until 1970, and during this period held most of the other important offices of state. As the author of the " Family Compact " he sought to retrieve by an alliance with the Bourbon house of Spain the disastrous results of the alliance with Austria; but his action came too late. His vigorous policy in other departments of state was not, however, fruitless. Coming to power in the midst of the demoralization consequent upon the defeats of Rossbach and Crefeld, by boldness and energy he reformed and strengthened both army and navy, and although too late to prevent the loss of Canada and India, he developed French colonies in the Antilles and San Domingo, and added Corsica and Lorraine to the crown of France. His management of home affairs in general satisfied the philosophes. He allowed the Encyclopedie to be published, and brought about the banishment of the Jesuits and the temporary abolition of the order by Pope Clement IV. Choiseul's fall was caused by his action towards the Jesuits, and by his support of their opponent La Chalotais, and of the provincial parlements. After the death of Madame de Pompadour in 1764, his enemies, led by Madame Du Barry and the chancellor Maupeou, were too strong for him, and in 1770 he was ordered to retire to his estate at Chanteloupe. The intrigues against him had, however, increased his popularity, which was already great, and during his retirement, which lasted until 1774, he lived in the greatest affluence and was visited by many eminent personages. Greatly to his disappointment Louis XVI. did not restore him to his former position, although the king recalled him to Paris in 1774, when he died on the 8th of May 1785, leaving behind him a huge accumulation of debt which was scrupulously discharged by his widow. Choiseul possessed both ability and diligence, and though lacking in tenacity he showed foresight and liberality in his direction of affairs. In appearance he was a short, ill-featured man, with a ruddy countenance and a sturdy frame. His Memoires were written during his exile from Paris, and are merely detached notes upon different questions. Horace Walpole, in his Memoirs, gives a very vivid description of the 1688-1695); and Histoire de l'Eglise (re vols., 1703—1723) He is remembered, however, by his gossiping Memoires (1737), which contain striking and accurate pictures of his time and remarkably exact portraits of his contemporaries, although he has otherwise small pretensions to historical accuracy. The Memoires passed through many editions, and were edited in 1888 by M. de Lescure. Some admirable letters of Choisy are included in the correspondence of Bussy-Rabutin. Choisy is said to have burnt some of his indiscreet revelations, but left a considerable quantity of unpublished MS. Part of this material, giving an account of his adventures as a woman, was surreptitiously used in an anonymous Histoire de madame la comtesse de Barres (Antwerp, 1735), and again with much editing in the Vie de M. l'abbe de Choisy (Lausanne and Geneva, 1742), ascribed by Paul Lacroix to Lenglet Dufresnoy; the text was finally edited (187o) by Lacroix as Avenlures de l'abbe de Choisy. See also Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, duke's character, accuses him of exciting the war between Russia and Turkey in 1768 in order to be revenged upon the tsarina Catherine II., and says of his foreign policy, " he would project and determine the ruin of a country, but could not meditate a little mischief or a narrow benefit." " He dissipated the nation's wealth and his own; but did not repair the latter by plunder of the former," says the same writer, who in reference to Choiseul's private life asserts that " gallantry without delicacy was his constant pursuit." Choiseul's widow, a woman " in whom industrious malice could not find an imperfection," lived in retirement until her death on the 3rd of December 18o8. See Memoires du due de Choiseul, edited by F. Calmettes (Paris, 1904) ; P. Boutaric, L'Ambassade de Choiseul d Vienne en 1757-1758 (Paris, 1872) ; Duc de Cars, Memoires (Paris, 1890) ; F. J. de P., Cardinal de Bernie, Memoires et lettres (Paris, 1878); Madame de Pompadour, Correspondence (Paris, 1878); Revue historique, tomes 82 and 87 (Paris, 1903-1905) ; Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III., edited by G. F. R. Barker (London, 1894) ; G. Mangros, Le duc et la duchesse de Choiseul (Paris, 1903) ; and La Disgrace du duc et de la duchesse de Choiseul (Paris, 1903) ; E. Calmettes, Choiseul et Voltaire (Paris, 1902) ; A. Bourguet, Etudes sur la politicise etrangere du duc de Choiseul (Paris, 1907); and Le Duc de Choiseul et l'alliance espagnole (Paris, 1906). See also the Edinburgh Review for July 1908. CHOISEUL-STAINVILLE, CLAUDE ANTOINE GABRIEL, Duc DE (1760-1838), French soldier, was brought up at Chanteloup, under the care of his relative, Etienne Francois, duc de Choiseul, who was childless. The outbreak of the Revolution found him a colonel of dragoons, and throughout those troublous times he was distinguished for his devotion to the royal house. He took part in the attempt of Louis XVI. to escape from Paris on the loth of June 1791; was arrested with the king, and imprisoned. Liberated in May 1792, he emigrated in October, and fought in the " army of Conde " against the republic. Captured in 1795, he was confined at Dunkirk; escaped, set sail for India, was wrecked on the French coast, and condemned to death by the decree of the Directory. Nevertheless, he was fortunate enough to escape once more. Napoleon allowed him to return to France in 1801, but he remained in private life until the fall of the Empire. At the Restoration he was called to the House of Peers by Louis XVIII. At the revolution of 1830 he was nominated a member of the provisional government; and he afterwards received from Louis Philippe the post of aide-de-camp to the king and governor of the Louvre. He died in Paris on the 1st of December 1838.
End of Article: ETIENNE FRANCOIS CHOISEUL
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