Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet, duc de Belle-Isle

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Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet
Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet.jpg
Half-Length Portrait of Charles-Louis-Auguste Fouquet (1684-1761), Maréchal de France and Duc de Belle-Isle by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (exhibited at the Salon of 1748). Private collection.
Born(1684-09-22)22 September 1684
Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Belle-Isle, France
Died26 January 1761(1761-01-26) (aged 76)
AllegianceRoyal Standard of the King of France.svg  Kingdom of France
Rank Marshal of France
Awards Ordre du Saint-Esprit Chevalier ribbon.svg Order of the Holy Spirit
Order of the Golden Fleece Rib.gif Order of the Golden Fleece

Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet, duc de Belle-Isle (22 September 1684 26 January 1761) was a French general and statesman.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.


Life and career

Born in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Belle-Isle was the grandson of Nicolas Fouquet, who served as Superintendent of Finances under Louis XIV. His family was in disgrace because of Fouquet's brash ambition in the eyes of Louis XIV. Determined to blot out his family's prior disgrace, he entered the army at an early age and was made proprietary colonel of a dragoon regiment in 1708. He rose during the War of the Spanish Succession to the rank of brigadier, and in March 1718 to that of Maréchal de Camp. [1] He was present at the capture of Fuenterrabía in 1718 and of San Sebastián in 1719 during the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718–1720.) [2]

Nicolas Fouquet French politician

Nicolas Fouquet, marquis de Belle-Île, vicomte de Melun et Vaux was the Superintendent of Finances in France from 1653 until 1661 under King Louis XIV. He had a glittering career, and acquired enormous wealth. He fell out of favor, accused of peculation and lèse-majesté. The king had him imprisoned from 1661 until his death in 1680.

War of the Spanish Succession 18th-century conflict in Europe

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was a European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700, eventually evolving into a global conflict due to overseas colonies and allies. His closest heirs were members of the Austrian Habsburg and French Bourbon families; acquisition of an undivided Spanish Empire by either threatened the European balance of power.

Aided by the rise of Cardinal Fleury, Belle-Isle was made lieutenant-général, and grew in influence over French military policy. [3] In the War of the Polish Succession he commanded a corps under the orders of Marshal Berwick, capturing Trier and Traben-Trarbach and taking part in the Siege of Philippsburg in 1734. When peace was made in 1736, Louis XV gave Belle-Isle the governments of three important fortresses: Metz, Toul, and Verdun offices that he would hold until his death. This was in recognition of both his military services and of his taking part in the negotiations for the cession of Lorraine. [2]

André-Hercule de Fleury Catholic cardinal

André-Hercule de Fleury, Bishop of Fréjus, Archbishop of Aix was a French cardinal who served as the chief minister of Louis XV.

War of the Polish Succession war in Europe 1734–1738

The War of the Polish Succession (1733–35) was a major European war sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II, which the other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests. France and Spain, the two Bourbon powers, attempted to check the power of the Austrian Habsburgs in western Europe, as did the Kingdom of Prussia, whilst Saxony and Russia mobilized to support the eventual Polish victor. The slight amount of fighting in Poland resulted in the accession of Augustus III, who in addition to Russia and Saxony, was politically supported by the Habsburgs.

James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick Anglo-French military leader

James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick, 1st Duke of Liria and Jérica, 1st Duke of Fitz-James, GE, KOGF was an Anglo-French military leader, illegitimate son of King James II of England by Arabella Churchill, sister of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Berwick was a successful general in the pay of Louis XIV of France.

Miniature of Duc de Belle-Isle, after a painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud, depicted as commander during the War of the Spanish Succession (National Museum in Warsaw). Anonymous Duc de Belle-Isle.jpg
Miniature of Duc de Belle-Isle, after a painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud, depicted as commander during the War of the Spanish Succession (National Museum in Warsaw).

Belle-Isle's military and political reputation was now at its height, and he was one of the government's principal advisers on military and diplomatic affairs. In 1741 he was sent on diplomatic mission to Frankfurt, Germany as French Plenipotentiary to carry out, in the interests of France, a grand scheme of political reorganization in the moribund empire, and especially to obtain the election of Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria as emperor. The long tradition of Franco-Austrian rivalry had crystallized around Belle-Isle, who had emerged as the leader of the bellicose bloc of French policy makers towards the House of Austria. [4] In the eventful year of 1741, he was at the masthead of French interventionist policy in Germany—characterized by scholar Richard Lodge as a "scheme for the humiliation of the House of Austria," [5] —and of the beginnings of the War of the Austrian Succession. French aggression was in large part made possible by the precedent set by the Frederick II of Prussia and his conquest of Silesia. France's initial victories—including the election of Charles Albert to Holy Roman Emperor—were short lived, and by 1743 the war was proving to be very disappointing for France, as Belle-Isle's military command in Germany was full of setbacks and losses. His aggressive strategy towards Austria was predicated on the swift defeat of an impotent and disorganized Austria, along with the lynchpin that was Franco-Prussian alliance. [6]

Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

Charles VII was the Prince-elector of Bavaria from 1726 and Holy Roman Emperor from 24 January 1742 until his death in 1745. A member of the House of Wittelsbach, Charles was the first person not born of the House of Habsburg to become emperor in three centuries, though he was connected to that house both by blood and by marriage.

War of the Austrian Succession Dynastic war in Austro-Hungary

The War of the Austrian Succession involved most of the powers of Europe over the issue of Archduchess Maria Theresa's succession to the Habsburg Monarchy. The war included peripheral events such as King George's War in British America, the War of Jenkins' Ear, the First Carnatic War in India, the Jacobite rising of 1745 in Scotland, and the First and Second Silesian Wars.

Belle-Isle was named Maréchal de France in 1741 and received control of a large army, with which it is said that he promised to make peace in three months under the walls of Vienna. The truth of this story is open to question, for no one knew better than Belle-Isle the limitations imposed upon commanders by the military and political circumstances of the times. He was, according to one scholar, "the most important single influence on French policy in the crucial year of 1741." [7] However, the circumstances in which he found himself severely limited his efforts both as a general and as a statesman. [2] Following his initial victories, Belle-Isle suffered regression and defeat. His aggressive policies had proved disastrous, however the daring French retreat from Prague would distinguish Belle-Isle's military brilliance and bravery. In ten days he led 14,000 men—5000 men stayed in the city under the command of François de Chevert [8] —into and across the Upper Palatine Forest whilst being harassed by the enemy's light cavalry and suffering great hardships. But by never allowing himself to be cut off, he was able to reach the relative safety of Eger, after losing 1500 men. [8] His subordinate, François de Chevert, and his 5000 men, defended Prague so well that the Austrians allowed them to leave the city through an honourable capitulation. The means by which this was obtained supposedly included Chevert threatening to burn down the city. [9] The campaign, however, had discredited Belle-Isle; he was ridiculed in Paris and Fleury is said to have turned against him, and to complete his misfortunes, he was taken prisoner by the English in going from Cassel to Berlin through Hanover. [2]

Vienna Capital city and state of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Prague Capital city of the Czech Republic

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the northwest of the Czech Republic on the Vltava river, Prague is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

François de Chevert was a French general.

He was forced to remain a year in England, in spite of the demands of Louis XV and the Emperor Charles VII. During the French campaigns of 1746–47, Belle-Isle was in command of the Army at Piedmont on the Alpine frontier. His troops conquered Antibes and Nice, only to suffer a decisive defeat at the Battle of Assietta. The disastrous battle would claim the life of Belle-Isle's younger brother, the soldier and diplomatist, the Chevalier de Belle-Isle, who fought bravely as a French commander in the battle. Following the defeat, French forces were weakened and demoralized. However, Belle-Isle still managed to repel an invasion of Provence by Austrian and Italian forces and push the fighting back into the plain of Lombardy. At the peace, having thus retrieved his military reputation from the disasters of 1742–43, Belle-Isle was made a Peer of France in 1748. [10] King Louis XV would make him Secretary of State for War in 1758, a position Belle-Isle would hold until his death in 1761. [11]

Antibes Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Antibes is a Mediterranean resort in the Alpes-Maritimes department of southeastern France, on the Côte d'Azur between Cannes and Nice.

Nice Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Nice is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The metropolitan area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. Nice is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the principality of Monaco and 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the French-Italian border. Nice's airport serves as a gateway to the region.

Battle of Assietta battle

The Battle of Assietta was fought in the Italian campaign of the War of the Austrian Succession on 19 July 1747. It resulted in a defeat for France against the army of the Kingdom of Sardinia.

During his three years as Secretary of War, Belle-Isle undertook many reforms. Most Important was the development of a French military school for officers, seeing as the officer corps was shown to be inadequate during the wars of the past few decades. [12] This included the suppression of the proprietary colonelcies of nobles who were too young to command; and he instituted an Order of Merit. These reforms of the officer corps were similar to the structure of the Prussian army in that it attempted to place merit and honour above the blind appointments of nobility. The successfulness of his reforms is debated, because by this time the Seven Years' War was in progress. According to one scholar, Walter L. Dorn, Belle-Isle's efforts came "too late to make a difference" in the war and the continuing decline of French military power. [12]

The opera house of Metz, built during the dukedom of Belle-Isle over the city. Metz Theatre nuit.jpg
The opera house of Metz, built during the dukedom of Belle-Isle over the city.

Belle-Isle was a close friend of Count Saint-Germain and in 1760 allowed him to travel to The Hague in order to secure a peace treaty, obtain funding for France, and set up a whole separate company to manage France's treasury. The French Foreign Minister, Duc de Choiseul, was strongly against this and tried to have Count Saint-Germain arrested. [13]

Belle-Isle held an interest in literature throughout his life, and was elected a member of the French National Academy in 1740; so he founded the National Academy of Metz in 1760. Also, Belle-Isle is regarded today as a builder-ruler. As benefactor of the city, he initiated during his dukedom the modernization of the centre of Metz in a context of Enlightenment. Belle-Isle awarded royal architect Jacques-François Blondel for the embellishment of the town square and the construction of the city hall, the parliament, and the guardhouse lodging. He also decided the edification of the royal Governor and Intendant palaces and the opera house of Metz, describing it as "one of the most beautiful France's opera-theater" at his time. Just before his death, he stated: "The city of Metz is my mistress." However, his dukedom over Metz would end with his death because his only son, the Comte de Gisors, had been killed on 23 June 1758 in the Battle of Krefeld. A commemorative plate honors him today on the forecourt of the opera house of Metz.


  1. Scott (2006) , p. 53
  2. 1 2 3 4 Chisholm (1911)
  3. Anderson (1995) , p. 83
  4. Anderson (1995) , p. 53
  5. Lodge (1970) , p. 81
  6. Lodge (1970) , p. 115
  7. Anderson (1995) , p. 25
  8. 1 2 Hassall (1896) , p. 157
  9. Hassall (1896) , p. 113
  10. Hassall (1896) , p. 189
  11. Hassall (1896) , p. 253
  12. 1 2 Dorn (1940) , p. 86
  13. Cooper-Oakley (1912)

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  • Anderson, M. S. (1995). The War of the Austrian Succession 1740–1748. New York: Longman. ISBN   9780582059504.
  • Cooper-Oakley, Isabella (1912). The Comte De Saint Germain, the Secret of Kings (2nd ed.). London: Whitefriars Press.
  • Dorn, Walter L. (1940). Competition for Empire 1740–1763. London: Harper & Brothers.
  • Hassall, Arthur (1896). The Balance of Power 1715–1789. London: Macmillan.
  • Lodge, Richard (1970). Studies in Eighteenth-Century Diplomacy 1740–1748. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Scott, Hamish M. (2006). The Birth of a Great Power System 1740–1815. New York: Pearson/Longman. ISBN   9780582217171.

Preceded by
Marc-René de Voyer, marquis de Paulmy
Secretary of State for War
3 March 1758 27 January 1761
Succeeded by
Étienne François, duc de Choiseul