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Guillaume Dubois

French cardinal and statesman, b. at Brive, in Limousin, 1656; d. at Versailles, 1723

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Dubois, GUILLAUME, French cardinal and statesman, b. at Brive, in Limousin, 1656; d. at Versailles, 1723. He was the son of an honorable physician and received his first education froth the Fathers of the Christian Doctrine in his native place, whence he went in 1672, as beneficiary, to the College Saint-Michel in Paris. He had been engaged some nine years in private teaching when he was appointed (1683) sub-preceptor to the Duke of Chartres, nephew of Louis XIV, the full tutorship following four years later. When the Duke of Chartres became Duke of Orleans (1700), Dubois was made his secretary. During the regency of Philippe d’Orleans he rose in rapid succession to the high positions of state councilor (1716), secretary of foreign affairs (1717), Archbishop of Cambrai (1720), cardinal and surintendant des postes (1721), member of the Conseil de regence, and soon after, ministre principal (1722). The French Academy admitted him the same year and the Assembly of the French Clergy elected him president in 1723, the year of his death.

Owing to his humble birth, his stanch opposition to Jansenism, and his bold reversal of the aristocratic regime prevalent under Louis XIV, Dubois was disliked by the noblemen of his day. On the authority of contemporary libels and Saint-Simon’s memoirs, historians of France have long repeated against him such charges as corrupting the morals of his pupil, accepting money from England, seeking, though unworthy, ecclesiastical dignities, etc. The publication by Sevelinges of Dubois’s memoirs and correspondence together with the careful study of contemporary documents by Seilhac, Wiesener, and Bliard—e.g. the diplomatic papers preserved in the archives of the French, English, and Spanish foreign offices—have thrown a new light on the subject and partly verified the words of Fontenelle at the time of the reception of Cardinal Dubois into the French Academy: “Les siecles suivants en sauront davantage; fiezvous a eux”. Far from catering to his pupil’s wantonness, Dubois did what he could to check it, and his Plan d’education pour le duc de Chartres shows a competent and conscientious tutor. The expediency of his foreign policy, resulting in the Triple Alliance of France, England, and Holland against Spain, like the contrary policy of Cardinal de Bernis, must be largely a matter of opinion. In so far as Dubois was concerned, it was the best way of serving the interests of France and counteracting the intrigues of Alberoni. Stair and Stanhope had a high regard, almost amounting to friendship, for the minister of France, but on both sides the charge that bribery was resorted to is untrue. That Dubois was not set against the natural amity between France and Spain was shown later, when, after Alberoni’s fall and the restoration of peace, he successfully negotiated the treaty of 1721 and the marriage of Louis XV with the Infanta and that of the Prince of the Asturias with Mlle de Montpensier. Dubois’s career as a churchman is not above reproach. While there is no foundation for the oft-repeated assertion of his secret marriage, his gross licentiousness, and notorious impiety even at the hour of his death, still it cannot be denied that he sought and used ecclesiastical dignities principally as props to his political prestige. Tonsured at the age of thirteen he bethought himself of sacred Orders only in his old age, when, the better to secure the long coveted and long denied red hat, he asked for the Archbishopric of Cambrai merely as a stepping stone to the cardinalate.

The “Memoires du cardinal Dubois” published by P. Lacroix (Paris, 1829) are apocryphal. His genuine writings were edited by Sevelinges:” Memoires secrets et correspondance inedite du cardinal Dubois” (Paris, 1815).



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