Guillaume Dubois, libertine cardinal (P-A Jamin)

Tell Guillaume Dubois, cardinal exhausted by the memorialist Saint-Simon who saw in him a stingy, perfidious and overly ambitious man, remained in the collective memories for the film of Bertrand Tavernier, "Let the celebration begin", it is the task that Pierre-André Jamin had decided, judging the cardinal if not relatively unknown, at least unrecognized.

A competent statesman at the heart of the Regency

A great worker endowed with a certain intelligence, son of an apothecary from Brive-la-Gaillarde, born in 1656, the year in which Pascal composed his Provincials, Guillaume Dubois was one of these men of the Church - as had been a Richelieu or a Mazarin - who were closely linked to royal power and exercised the highest functions. A student at the Saint-Michel college in Paris, he had to teach to support himself due to very meager finances. Among his pupils, let us quote Choiseul and especially the Duke of Chartres, future Duke of Orleans. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1718, the Archbishop of Cambrai became cardinal in July 1721. It was late in his career that he achieved a certain notoriety, crowned in 1722 by his accession to the ministry. Note that after Mazarin's death on March 9, 1661, Louis XIV had decided to abolish the function of "prime minister". It was therefore in favor of Dubois that it was restored. Diplomat, Guillaume Dubois was at the origin of the Franco-English alliance concluded in The Hague in 1718 for the maintenance of the Treaty of Utrecht. Always concerned with ensuring the prosperity of France, he also made sure that France and Spain come closer. Elected in 1922 to the French Academy (chair 28), created in 1635, "the Immortal" died August 10, 1723 of an abscess in the bladder.

If many works evoke Cardinal Dubois, very few ultimately concern him directly and exclusively. Wishing to fill this void, Pierre-André Jamin sought to do the work of a historian. The author indeed cites his sources, and has built a formal bibliography. But the rigidity, generally little appreciated by the general public, specific to the texts of historians, is not always present here. Which ultimately makes it easy to understand. However, we regret the excesses of the publisher, which is reflected in the price (29 euros) of this expensive book, and the general presentation may have too many illustrations.

Editorial presentation

The analysis of the writings of the time shows that the one who ensured the education of the future Regent was of a much more complex character: ambitious, intelligent, funny, liar, perverse ...

A revolutionary ahead of his time and a hard worker, he was as much a politician as he was a visionary. It was he who implemented Philippe d'Orléans' international policy aimed at a prosperous and peaceful Europe after years of war. But his social ascent will not be forgiven him by the aristocratic milieu of his time and, later, the well-meaning chroniclers and historians. They will retain of him only his debauchery and his contempt for the established order.

The work of Pierre-André Japin suggests that the life of Cardinal Dubois deserves to be better known as evidenced by the opinions and anecdotes of his contemporaries.


Pierre-André Jamin has a long career as a professor of Letters behind him. Familiar with literary bibliographic and biographical research, this time he chose a purely historical approach, based on a substantial set of documents contemporary or immediately after the Regency.

Guillaume Dubois, libertine cardinal of Let the party begin by Pierre-André Jamin. Athena, 2009.

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