Choiseul, Etienne-François, Comte de Stainville

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Choiseul, Etienne-François, Comte de Stainville

CHOISEUL, ETIENNE-FRANÇOIS, COMTE DE STAINVILLE. (1719–1785). (Later duc de Choiseul [pronounced shwa zearl].) French soldier and diplomat. Son of the marshal generally known as Plessis-Praslin, he entered the army and rose to the grade of lieutenant general. Choiseul entered the diplomatic service and advanced rapidly through ability and the sponsorship of the royal mistress, madame de Pompadour. As ambassador at Vienna in 1757, he started negotiations that led to the marriage of Marie Antoinette to the future Louis XV1. In 1758 he was awarded the title of duc de Choiseul. As minister of foreign affairs from 1758 to 1770, minister of war from 1761 to 1770, and minister of the navy from 1761 to 1766, he brought about the Family Compact (1761) and conducted a covert diplomatic system known as the Secret du Roi. Although he came to power too late to save France from humiliation in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), he started rebuilding the army and navy. Foreseeing the opportunity for France to profit from inflaming differences between England and its American colonies, he sent secret observers (including De Kalb) to America after 1764 and expanded the spy service in England. As the result of conflicting reports from his agents, he had concluded by 1770 that open disruption was not imminent. Another major Bourbon power, Spain, was also struggling at this time. Choiseul undertook to support it in its conflict with England over the Falkland Islands, hoping for a war in which it could defeat England. His failure to promote this policy to Louis XV and the other ministers brought about his political downfall on 24 December 1770.

In disgrace at his estate Chanteloup from 1770 to 1774, he finally obtained the intervention of Marie Antoinette with Louis XVI to return to court, but the king received him coldly, and he returned to his estate. Financial difficulties plagued him in his final years, and he died near ruin.

SEE ALSO De Kalb, Johann.


Abarca, Ramon E. "Bourbon 'Revanche' against England: The Balance of Power, 1763–1770." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1965.

Butler, Rohan. Choiseul, Father and Son. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

                         revised by Robert Rhodes Crout