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Loménie de Brienne, Étienne Charles de


French prelate, minister of Louis XVI; b. Paris, Oct. 9, 1727; d. Sens, Feb. 16, 1794. His family had included ministers of state since the time of Henry III. He studied at the college of Harcourt and at the Sorbonne, which he left in 1751 after sustaining theological theses of doubtful orthodoxy. He was ordained in 1752 and was preferred rapidly, becoming in 1760 bishop of Condom and in 1763 archbishop of Toulouse, where he was an able civil and religious administrator and a philanthropist. Besides the Brienne canal that connects the Garonne with the canal of the Midi, he sponsored other public works, education and libraries, and hygienic reforms. However, his faith came to be suspect at this time. As a friend of the philosophes and overly tolerant, he was reputed to be an atheist.

As president of the committee of jurisdiction of general assemblies of the clergy, he worked diligently and exerted a decisive influence, especially beginning in 1766 as part of the committee responsible for the ruinous reform of the religious orders. In 1780 he was replaced by the archbishop of Arles. Joseph II and Marie Antoinette failed to secure his appointment as minister in 1783, but in December of 1787 he replaced Calonne. A few good measures marked a mediocre ministry, and in August of 1788 he was succeeded by J. Necker. He was compensated with the archbishopric of Sens and the rich Abbeys of saint-ouen and corbie. He went to Italy, was made cardinal in December of 1788, and returned to France at the end of 1789. He took the oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy on Jan. 30, 1791, without ceremony, but not without raising a strong reaction. After being reproved by the pope, he resigned his cardinalate and was expelled by the college of cardinals on Sept. 26, 1791. He was then elected bishop of Yonne and passed the last two years of his life at the Abbey of Saint-Pierre-le-Vif. He was twice arrested during the French Revolution, resigned his ecclesiastical income and functions on Nov. 15, 1793, and died, perhaps of apoplexy, while being interrogated. Writers in his own day and since have attacked him with bitterness and contempt, but his clergy at Toulouse and at Sens were fond of him.

Bibliography: j. perrin, Le Cardinal de Loménie de Brienne (Sens 1896). m. marion, Histoire financière de la France depuis 1715, 3 v. (Paris 191421). c. laplatte, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart, et al. (Paris 1912) 10:693698, bibliography.

[w. e. langley]

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