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Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne
Archbishop of Sens
In office
Preceded byCardinal Paul d'Albert de Luynes
Succeeded byCardinal Anne Louis Henri de La Fare
Personal details
Born(1727-10-09)9 October 1727
Died19 February 1794(1794-02-19) (aged 66)
ProfessionPolitician, Bishop
Chief Minister of France

Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne (French pronunciation: [etjɛnʃaʁləlɔmenibʁijɛn]; 9 October 1727 – 19[1] February 1794) was a French clergyman, bishop, cardinal, politician and finance minister of Louis XVI.

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Early career

He was born in Paris, in the Loménie family from Flavignac, some twenty kilometres from the city of Limoges, in the Limousin region of France, currently part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Their origins have been traced back there to the 15th century.

The Loménie de Brienne were the junior branch of the Loménie family and had succeeded in implanting themselves into the world of the French royal court over several centuries. They had been ennobled in 1552 when Martial de Loménie became secretary to King Henry II of France, and later acquired the lordship of Versailles (1561–1571). By an advantageous marriage in 1623 the Loménie became counts of Brienne. They continued in high ranking positions in the state, occupying important government posts in foreign affairs under Louis XIV and towards the end of the Ancien régime at the ministry of war. Charles-François de Loménie de Brienne was Bishop of Coutances (1668–1720) and their adopted cousin Pierre-François de Loménie was briefly to be Coadjutor Archbishop of Sens (1789–1794).

A capable student, Étienne-Charles entered the clergy, seeing this as the path to attaining a distinguished position. In 1751 he became a doctor of theology, though there were doubts as to the orthodoxy of his thesis.[2] The same year he was appointed vicar general (grand vicaire) to the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen, Nicolas de Saulx-Tavannes. After visiting Rome, he was made Bishop of Condom on 19 Dec 1760, and on 21 Mar 1763 was translated to become Archbishop of Toulouse.[3] In the years 1766 to 1769, he was commendatory Abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, and from 1788 commendatory Abbot of Corbie. In 1772, he chaired the Commission des Réguliers, set up to suppress religious houses that were in terminal decline.

His many famous friends included A.R.J. Turgot, André Morellet and Voltaire, and in 1770 he was elected to the Académie française. He was three times head of the bureau de jurisdiction at the general assembly of the clergy. He also took a lively interest in political and social questions of the day, and addressed to Turgot a number of memoires on these subjects, including one on pauperism .[4][5]

Though some contest the suggestion,[6] Loménie de Brienne has not rarely been regarded as an unbeliever from the outset.[7] In 1781, at the death of the Archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont, there was a lobby to make Loménie de Brienne his successor, but Louis XVI refused, allegedly exclaiming: ‘The Archbishop of Paris should at least believe in God!'.[8]


Arms of the Loménie de Brienne family
Louis XVI le 19 novembre 1787 – Musée de la Révolution française

In 1787, in the Assembly of Notables, Loménie de Brienne led the opposition to the fiscal policy of Calonne. Close to Queen Marie-Antoinette, Loménie de Brienne was then appointed to succeed him during deliberations by nobles held on May 25, 1787.[9] Once in power, he succeeded in making the parlement register edicts dealing with internal free trade, the establishment of provincial assemblies and the redemption of the corvée. In May 1788 the process of tax collection was faulting and the loyalty of the army was slipping. As a result, Louis XVI suspended parlements in May 1788 and created 47 courts.[10] When the parlement refused to register edicts on the stamp duty and the proposed new general land-tax, Loménie de Brienne persuaded Louis XVI to hold a lit de justice to enforce their registration. The king also agreed to exile the parlement to Troyes (18 August 1787) as a further measure to crush opposition. When the parlement agreed to prolong the direct tax on all kinds of income, the councillors were recalled to Paris. A further attempt to force the parlement to register an edict for raising a loan of 120 million livres met with determined opposition. The struggle of the parlement against Loménie de Brienne ended on 8 May in its consenting to an edict for its own abolition, with the proviso that the Estates General should be summoned to remedy the disorders of the state.[11] Loménie de Brienne resigned as finance minister on 25 August 1788.[12]

Loménie de Brienne, who had in the meantime been made Archbishop of Sens (confirmed by Rome 10 Mar 1788), now faced almost universal political opposition. He was forced to suspend the Cour plenière which had been set up to take the place of the parlement, and to promise that the States General should be summoned. Even these concessions were not enough to keep him in power, and on 29 August he had to retire, leaving the treasury empty.

On September 14, 1788, the publicly-hated Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes was finally recalled, and this led to renewed energy on the part of revolutionaries, who began rioting in Paris. Rioters tried to burn down the homes of both Lamoignon and Brienne.[13]

Rise and fall

On 15 December following, he was made a cardinal, and went to Italy, where he spent two years.

An adopted nephew, Pierre-François de Loménie, was appointed at his request Coadjutor of the diocese in his absence. Étienne-Charles consecrated him. He was to follow his uncle in swearing the oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, but along with other members of the family the coadjutor was guillotined on 10 May 1794, having in the meantime repented of his submission.[14]

After the outbreak of the French Revolution Étienne-Charles returned to France, and took the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790, one of the few bishops of the Ancien regime to do so,[15] and he encouraged many of his priests to do the same. Subsequently, he had himself elected constitutional Bishop of the Yonne department.[16] He was repudiated by Pope Pius VI, and in 1791 at the Pope's insistence resigned in pique as a cardinal, just in time to avoid being stripped of the dignity.[11]

He bought the former Abbey of Saint-Pierre-le-Vif in the city centre of Sens and had the majestic church, burial place of his predecessors as Archbishop of Sens, demolished, installing himself in the abbot's house with members of his family. He had a gift for winning popularity and a section of the local population were his ardent supporters. Nevertheless, the days even of the Constitutional Church were soon done. Though he had refused to ordain constitutional bishops,[17] at the height of the Revolution, on 15 November 1793, he renounced the priesthood, but his past and present conduct made him an object of suspicion to the then prominent revolutionaries. He was arrested at Sens on 18 February 1794, and that same night died in prison, whether from a stroke or by poison, some said by suicide, though the shock of the failure of his bravado and all his frantic efforts at survival would perhaps have been enough to kill him.[18]


The chief works published by Loménie de Brienne are:

  • Oraison funébre du Dauphin (Paris, 1766)
  • Compte-rendu au roi (Paris, 1788)
  • Le Conciliateur, in collaboration with Turgot (Rome, Paris, 1754)


  1. ^ "Étienne-Charles de Loménie de Brienne – French cardinal and statesman". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Etienne-Charles de Lomenie de Brienne".
  3. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Etienne-Charles de Lomenie de Brienne".
  4. ^ Chisholm 1911, pp. 936–937.
  5. ^ von Guttner, Darius (2015). The French Revolution. Nelson Cengage. pp. 38–42. Archived from the original on 2023-04-03. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  6. ^ Cf. Bernard Plongeron, L’Eglise constitutionnelle à l’épreuve du Directoire: réorganisation, liberté des cultes, papauté et concile national de 1797, in Hervé Leuwers (dir.), Du Directoire au Consulat: 2. L’intégration des citoyens dans la Grande Nation, |Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille, 2000, p. 161.
  7. ^ Claude Manceron, Anne Manceron, La Révolution française: dictionnaire général, Renaudot, Paris, 1989, p. 81.
  8. ^ Cf. ‘Il faudrait au moins que l'archevêque de Paris crût en Dieu’: cf. Jean-Denis Bredin, in Sieyes. La clé de la Révolution française, Fallois, Paris, 1988, p. 42.
  9. ^ Peter Kropotkin (1909). "Chapter 6". The Great French Revolution, 1789–1793. Translated by N. F. Dryhurst. New York: Vanguard Printings. It came to be known – every one talked of it and after every one had talked about it, the Notables, drawn from the upper classes and practically a ministerial assembly, separated on May 25 without having done or decided anything. During their deliberations Calonne was replaced by Loménie de Brienne, Archbishop of Sens.
  10. ^ Haine, Scott (2000). The History of France (1st ed.). Greenwood Press. pp. 72. ISBN 0-313-30328-2.
  11. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 937.
  12. ^ Schama, p. 238.
  13. ^ Peter Kropotkin (1909). "Chapter 5". The Great French Revolution, 1789–1793. Translated by N. F. Dryhurst. New York: Vanguard Printings.
  14. ^ Honoré Fisquet, La France pontificale, Paris, 1864, Tome II pp. 165–166; Jean Montier, Martial de Brienne, dernier abbé de Jumièges et son oncle Loménie de Brienne, ministre de Louis XVI, Durand & fils, Fécamp, 1967.
  15. ^ Schama, p. 240.
  16. ^ Paul Pisani, Repertoire biographique de l’Épiscopat constitutionnel (1791–1802), Picard, Paris, 1907, pp. 82–84.
  17. ^ Armand Jean,  Les évêques et les archevêques de France depuis 1682 jusqu'à 1801,  Picard, Paris, 1891, p. 367.
  18. ^ Paul Pisani, Repertoire biographique de l’Épiscopat constitutionnel (1791–1802), Picard, Paris, 1907, p. 83.


This page was last edited on 8 December 2023, at 16:04
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