Bernis, François Joachim de Pierre de
BERNIS, FRANÇOIS JOACHIM DE PIERRE DE
French cardinal and statesman; b. Saint–Marcel de l'Ardèche, Diocese of Viviers, May 22, 1715; d. Rome, Nov. 2, 1794. François, descendant of a noble but impoverished family, was educated in the humanities by the Jesuits and then studied theology at Saint-Sulpice. Through his cousin, the Baron de Montmorency, he was introduced to the Parisian court, where his charm and gallantry became well known. In 1744 in recognition of his poetical writings he was admitted to the French Academy, and under the patronage of Mme. de Pompadour he received a pension of 1,500 livres and apartments in the Tuileries. Louis XV appointed him ambassador to Venice in 1751. There he learned much of diplomacy and intrigue and earned the gratitude of Pope Benedict XIV for his intervention in papal differences with the Venetian government. In 1755 he returned to Paris, where he was ordained to the priesthood, and the next year he was sent to Vienna to secure an Austrian alliance with maria the resa against England and Prussia in the maneuvers that later led to the Seven Years' War (1756–63). On his return (June 27, 1757) he replaced Pierre Rouillé as minister of foreign affairs, but the adverse course of the war lost him popular favor and the support of Mme. de Pompadour. His office was given to Étienne François, Duke de Choiseul in November 1758, and Bernis retired in disgrace to his abbey of Saint-Médard near Soissons. He had received the cardinal's hat from Clement XIII on October 2 of that year, and after regaining the friendship of Louis XV in 1764, he was made archbishop of Albi and five years later, ambassador to Rome. He was a powerful influence in selecting a candidate sympathetic to the French crown in the conclaves of 1769, which elected G. Vincenzo Ganganelli as Clement XIV, and 1775, which chose Angelo Braschi as Pius VI. He represented Louis XV in the negotiations for the suppression of the Jesuits, and though he seems to have found the mission distasteful, he terminated it successfully through the pressure of the Bourbons of France, Spain, and Naples. When he refused to take the constitutional oath demanded by the Revolutionary government on March 3, 1790, he lost his rich incomes. He spent his last years taking care of French exiles in Rome. He was buried in the French church of St. Louis in Rome.
Bibliography: Memoirs and Letters of Cardinal de Bernis, tr. k. p. wormsley, 2 v. (Boston 1902). r. chalumeau, Catholicisme 1:1492–93. m. des ombiaux, Éloge du Card. de Bernis (Paris 1944). p. calendini, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 8:847–849. s. skalweit, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 2:257–258. m. cheke, The Cardinal de Bernis (New York 1959).
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