An ancient French aristocratic family, originating in the town of La Rochefoucauld (Charente), well known since the 12th century and presently divided into three branches: the main branch of the La Rochefoucaulds and the families of the Ducs of Estisse and De Doudeauville.
François de, cardinal; b. Paris, Dec. 8, 1558; d. Sainte-Geneviève, Feb. 14, 1645. François, orphaned at the age of four by the death of his father on the battlefield, was reared by an uncle, Jean de la Rochefoucauld, Abbot of Marmoutier, and educated at the Jesuit College of Clermont. Appointed abbot of Tournus at the age of 15, he proved himself, despite his youth, an excellent ecclesiastical administrator. He finished his theological and classical education in Rome, and became bishop of Clermont (1584). Protestantism was very strong in his diocese, but the young bishop was successful in reconquering it fully for Catholicism. He did not participate in the religious wars of his age, but he refused to recognize henry iv as King of France till the latter's conversion to Catholicism. Subsequently, close relations were established between the bishop and the monarch. Bishop de La Rochefoucauld became cardinal on the personal intervention of Henry IV at Rome (1607). The cardinal was a deeply respected adviser to the court during the minority of Louis XIII. Appointed bishop of Senlis, he was sent to Rome as royal ambassador. As a diplomatist, he supported the decrees of the Council of Trent, with strong reservations, however, since he was deeply attached to the Gallican Church and the interests of the French monarchy. In 1618 he became great almoner of France, abbot of Sainte-Geneviève in 1619, and then president of the State Council. Two years later, he resigned as president, and consecrated himself to the re-form of religious orders. He founded the Congregation of Sainte-Geneviève, known also as the Congregation of France. He was also vice dean of the College of Cardinals.
François de, litterateur, moralist, known first as the Prince of Marsillac; b. Paris, Sept. 15, 1613; d. Paris, March 17, 1680. As a youth, he participated in various military campaigns and in the continuous intrigues of his aristocratic world against Cardinal de Richelieu. He even played a part in the plot of Cinq-Mars. This was the beginning of a series of political adventures, plots, and rebellions first against Richelieu, then against Mazarin. During the Fronde, he unsuccessfully plotted the murder of Cardinal de Retz and, in the battle of the Faubourg of Saint-Antoine, he was seriously wounded and lost his eyesight for a short period. After 1653 La Rochefoucauld lived in retirement and devoted his time to writing his Mémoires and Maximes morales. The most celebrated and witty women of his age, Mmes. de Sablé, de Lafayette, and de Sévigné were his constant companions. Louis XIV showered him with royal favors. His Mémoires were first published in 1662 in Cologne, although the author disavowed this edition. This work, republished in 1817, is a revelation concerning the history of the Fronde. The original title of the Maximes is Reflections ou sentences et maximes morales; the Saint-Beuve edition (1853) is considered the best. Voltaire said that the Maximes with their high literary value, their deep intellectual honesty, and their precise style greatly contributed to the development of the French sense of taste.
Rochefoucauld-Bayers, François Joseph de la, Bl., bishop of Beauvais; b. Angoulême, March 28, 1755; d. Paris, Sept. 2, 1792. A representative of the clergy in the States General of 1789, he defended the privileges of the clergy and the court. Soon he and his brother Pierre Louis, Bishop of Senlis, were declared "enemies to the constitutional monarchy." The two prelates fled to their sister, the Abbess of Soissons (Marie-Charlotte de la Rochefoucauld). Unwilling to compromise their sister, they returned to Paris. There Rochefoucauld-Bayers, Bishop of Beauvais, was arrested and jailed in the infamous prison of Carmes. Soon his brother, the bishop of Senlis, was arrested also and detained in the same jail. Both were murdered during the general massacre of political prisoners on Sept. 2, 1792.
Feast: Sept. 2
Bibliography: g. de la rochefoucauld, Un Homme d'église et d'état…: Le Cardinal F. de la Rochefoucauld (Paris 1926). m. bishop, The Life and Adventures of Rochefoucauld (Ithaca 1951). É. magne, Le Vrai visage de La Rochefoucauld (Paris 1923). p. caron, Les Massacres de Septembre (Paris 1935). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1926) 415–425. s. skalweit, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 6:799–800.