René Louis de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson

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René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, Marquis d' Argenson
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René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, Marquis d' Argenson
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
November 1744 January 1747
Preceded by duc de Noailles
Succeeded by Comte de Puisieux
Intendant French Hainaut
In office
Preceded byJean-Charles Doujat
Succeeded byFélix Aubery de Vastan
Governor of Épernay
In office
Preceded byCarloman Philogène Brulart, Comte de Sillery
Personal details
Born18 October 1694
Died26 January 1757
Other political
Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres
Spouse(s)Marie Madeleine Méliand
Children Marc Antoine (1722-1787)
Alma mater Lycée Louis-le-Grand

René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, Marquis d'Argenson (18 October 1694 26 January 1757) was a politician and friend of Voltaire, who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from November 1744 to January 1747. His younger brother, Marc-Pierre, Comte d'Argenson (1696-1764), was Minister of War from 1743 to 1747.

Voltaire French writer, historian and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

Marc-Pierre de Voyer de Paulmy dArgenson French politician

Marc-Pierre de Voyer de Paulmy, Comte d'Argenson was a French politician



René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy was born 18 October 1694, eldest son of Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson (1652-1721) and Marguerite Le Fèvre de Caumartin (1672-1719). [1] He had a younger brother, Marc-Pierre, Comte d'Argenson (1696-1764), who served as Minister of War from 1743 to 1747.

His father was Lieutenant General of Police and Controller-General of Finances, one of the most important positions in the Ancien Régime. He was a member of the Noblesse de robe or Nobles of the robe, a class that formed the Second Estate whose rank derived from holding judicial or administrative posts. They were usually hard-working professionals, unlike the aristocratic Noblesse d'épée or Nobles of the Sword. [2] Both his grandfather and great-grandfather both served as French ambassador to the Republic of Venice.

The Controller-General or Comptroller-General of Finances was the name of the minister in charge of finances in France from 1661 to 1791. The position replaced the former position of Superintendent of Finances, which was abolished with the downfall of Nicolas Fouquet.

Ancien Régime Monarchic, aristocratic, social and political system established in the Kingdom of France from approximately the 15th century until the later 18th century

The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.

The Nobles of the Sword were the noblemen of the oldest class of nobility in France dating from the Middle Ages and the Early Modern periods; and still arguably in existence by descent. It was originally the knightly class, owing military service, in return for the possession of feudal landed estates.


D'Argneson qualified as a lawyer, and held successively the posts of councillor at the Parlement (1716), maître des requêtes (1718), councillor of state (1719), and Intendant of justice, police and finance in Hainaut. During his five years’ tenure of the last office he was mainly employed in provisioning the troops, who were suffering from the economic confusion resulting from John Law's system and the aftermath of the Mississippi Bubble. [3]

Parlement Ancien Régime justice court

A parlement, in the Ancien Régime of France, was a provincial appellate court. In 1789, France had 13 parlements, the most important of which was the Parlement of Paris. While the English word parliament derives from this French term, parlements were not legislative bodies. They consisted of a dozen or more appellate judges, or about 1,100 judges nationwide. They were the court of final appeal of the judicial system, and typically wielded much power over a wide range of subject matter, particularly taxation. Laws and edicts issued by the Crown were not official in their respective jurisdictions until the parlements gave their assent by publishing them. The members were aristocrats called nobles of the gown who had bought or inherited their offices, and were independent of the King.

An intendant was and sometimes still is a usually public official, especially in France, Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. The intendancy system was a centralizing administrative system developed in France. When France won the War of the Spanish Succession and the House of Bourbon was established on the throne of Spain, the intendancy system was extended to Spain and the Spanish Empire. Regions were divided into districts administered by the intendant. The title continues to be used in Spain and parts of Spanish America for particular government officials.

French Hainaut

French Hainaut is one of two areas in France that form the département du Nord, the easterly area. It corresponds roughly with the Arrondissement of Avesnes-sur-Helpe (east), Arrondissement of Cambrai (south-west) and Arrondissement of Valenciennes (north-west).

D'Argenson returned to court in 1724 to exercise his functions as councillor of state. At that time he had the reputation of being a conscientious man, but ill-adapted to intrigue, and was nicknamed "la bête". He entered into relations with the philosophers, and was won over to the ideas of reform. He was the friend of Voltaire, who had been a fellow-student of his at the Jesuit college Louis-le-Grand, and frequented the Club de l'Entresol, the history of which he wrote in his memoirs. It was then that he prepared his Considérations sur le gouvernement de la France, which was published posthumously by his son. [3]

Lycée Louis-le-Grand French school in the heart of the Quartier latin in Paris, France

The Lycée Louis-le-Grand is a prestigious secondary school located in Paris. Founded in 1563 by the Jesuits as the Collège de Clermont, it was renamed in King Louis XIV of France's honor after he extended his direct patronage to it in 1682. It offers both a sixth-form college curriculum, and a post-secondary-level curriculum, preparing students for entrance to the elite Grandes écoles for research, such as the École normale supérieure (Paris), for engineering, such as the École Polytechnique, or for business, such as HEC Paris. Students at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand are called magnoludoviciens.

Club de lEntresol

The Club de l'Entresol was a think-tank, club and discussion group founded in 1724 by Pierre-Joseph Alary and Charles-Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre on the English model for free discussion of political and economic questions. It met every Saturday, between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., at the home of président Hénault, in place Vendôme in Paris, and was named after the mezzanine there where Alary had an apartment.

D'Argenson was also the friend and counsellor of the minister Germain Louis Chauvelin. In May 1744 he was appointed member of the council of finance, and in November of the same year King Louis XV chose him as secretary of state for foreign affairs, his brother, Marc-Pierre, Comte d'Argenson, being at the same time secretary of state for war. France was at that time engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession, and the government had been placed by Louis XV virtually in the hands of the two brothers. The marquis d’Argenson endeavoured to reform the system of international relations. He dreamed of a "European Republic", [3] and wished to establish arbitration between nations in pursuance of the ideas of his friend the abbé de Saint-Pierre. But he failed to realize any part of his projects. The generals negotiated in opposition to his instructions; his colleagues laid the blame on him; the intrigues of the courtiers passed unnoticed by him; whilst the secret diplomacy of the king neutralized his initiative. He concluded the marriage of the Louis, the Dauphin to Maria, a daughter of King Augustus III of Poland, but was unable to prevent the election of the Francis, Grand-Duke of Tuscany as Holy Roman Emperor in 1745. [3]

Germain Louis Chauvelin French politician

Germain Louis Chauvelin, marquis de Grosbois, was a French politician, serving as garde des sceaux and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under Louis XV.

War of the Austrian Succession Dynastic war in Austria

The War of the Austrian Succession was a war that involved most of the great powers and lesser powers of Europe over the issue of 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.

Charles-Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre French author

Charles-Irénée Castel, abbé de Saint-Pierre was a French author whose ideas were novel for his times. His proposal of an international organisation to maintain peace was perhaps the first in history, with the possible exception of George of Poděbrady's Tractatus (1462–1464). He influenced Rousseau and Kant.

On 10 January 1747 Louis XV thanked d'Argenson for his services. He then retired into private life, eschewed the court, associated with Voltaire, Condillac and d’Alembert, and spent his declining years in working at the Académie des Inscriptions, of which he was appointed president by the king in 1747, and revising his Mémoires. Voltaire, in one of his letters, declared him to be "the best citizen that had ever tasted the ministry". [3] He died on 26 January 1757. [3]


D'Argenson left a large number of manuscript works, of which his son, Marc Antoine René, Marquis de Paulmy, published the Considérations sur le gouvernement de France (Amsterdam, 1764) and Essais dans le goût de ceux de Montaigne (Amsterdam, 1785). The latter, which contains many useful biographical notes and portraits of his contemporaries, was republished in 1787 as Loisirs d’un ministre d’état. D'Argenson's most important work, however, is his Mémoires, covering in great detail the years 1725 to 1756, with an introductory part giving his recollections since the year 1696. They are, as they were intended to be, valuable "materials for the history of his time". There are two important editions, the first, with some letters, not elsewhere published, by the marquis d’Argenson, his great-grand-nephew (5 vols., Paris, 1857 et seq.); the second, more correct, but less complete, published by J. B. Rathery, for the Société de l’Histoire de France (9 vols., Paris, 1859 et seq.). The other works of the marquis d’Argenson, in MS., were destroyed in the fire at the Louvre library in 1871. [4]


D'Argenson married and had a son:

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  1. "René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson". Geneanet. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  2. Gaspar 2013, p. 244.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chisholm 1911, p. 458.
  4. 1 2 Chisholm 1911, pp. 458–459.


Political offices
Preceded by
Adrien Maurice, duc de Noailles
Foreign Minister of France
19 November 1744 10 January 1747
Succeeded by
Louis Philogène Brûlart, vicomte de Puisieulx