Thursday, 2 May 2019

Archbishop Leclerc de Juigné

Archbishop Leclerc de Juigné by Joseph Siffred Duplessis.  Signed on the left.  
Oil on canvas 64 x 54cm.  From the Estate of Professor Dr. Hermann Bauer and Anna Bauer. 

This sensitive and evocative portrait by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis depicts Antoine-Éléonor-Léon Leclerc de Juigné (1728-1811), the last Archbishop of Paris under the Ancien régime.  The picture belonged to the Barvarian art historian Hermann Bauer, whose collection was auctioned in Munich on 20th March. (It fetched the comparatively modest price of 12,700 euros.)

His 19th-century biographer, the abbé Lambert, gives the following description of the Archbishop:

M. de Juigné was well-favoured as far as the gifts of nature were concerned.  Tall, well- built, he was endowed with a majestic bearing, an air of nobility and modesty, a face which was gentle, friendly, thoughtful, pleasing to all.  His expression combined a saintly seriousness with gentle serenity.  His eyes announced the sincerity of his feelings; the affability of all his words showed his goodness of heart.
Vie de messire Antoine-Éléonor-Léon Leclerc de Juigné (1823), p.4

Archbishop Juigné's career to 1789 

As was universal among French prelates on the eve of Revolution, Le Clerc de Juigné came from the high nobility. The Le Clerc de Juignés were an ancient Angevin family who traced their line back to the 10th century.  Their lands were centred on Juigné-sur-Sarthe in the Pays-de-la-Loire: you can still visit their 15th-century château de Verdelles in nearby Poillé-sur-Vègre.  By the 18th century, however, the marquis preferred to reside in the newer and more comfortable château de Juigné.   In 1750 the family also held vast areas of land and forest, around the lac de Grand-Lieu, to the south-east of Nantes. Over the generations they had devoted themselves to royal service, as soldiers, administrators and ecclesiastics.  The Archbishop's father, the marquis,  colonel of the regiment d'Orléans had been killed at the battle of Guastalla (in the War of the Polish Succession) in 1734.  His older brother, Jacques Gabriel Louis Le Clerc de Juigné (1727-1807), who inherited the title, was another career soldier. He was to be elected as a representative of the nobility to the Estates-General in 1789, go into exile in 1791 and subsequently serve in the Army of the Princes

Website of the  château de Verdelles:

Archbishop de Juigné was educated in Paris at the Collège de Navarre and the seminary of St.Nicolas-du Chardonnet, where he gained his licence de Théologie.  In 1754 he was ordained a priest. He was a scholarly man, who was thoroughly conversant with the Scriptures and read Greek fluently.  His natural diffidence was increased by a health that was sometimes frail - he suffered from colds and debilitating migraines.  Despite his lack of ambition, he was soon on the conventional path to high ecclesiastical office.   His first position, in 1758, was  as grand-vicaire to Mgr Bazin de Bezons, bishop of Carcassonne, a cousin of his mother's.  In 1760 he was became one of the two agents-general of the clergy, another step on the road to preferment, and one which required both administrative skills and tact.  In 1763, at the age of only thirty-six, he was nominated to the bishopric of Châlons-sur-Marne.  Here he was to remain for the next seventeen years.  In 1781 he succeeded Christophe de Beaumont as Archbishop of Paris.  This was the occasion when Louis XVI famously rejected the candidature of Loménie de Brienne with the observation that an Archbishop of Paris "should at least believe in God".  Le Clerc de Juigné was Vergennes's candidate (they were related) and the King's personal choice;  a succinct summons arrived by letter at Châlons;  Louis subsequently assured his "cousin Archbishop" firmly that he was the best man for the job: "if I had found someone more worthy than you for the see of Paris, you would not have it." (Vie, p.36.) 

The only other contemporary painting of Juigné (at least on the internet) is this badly damaged one, by Louis Brossard de Beaulieu, in Versailles.  It probably dates to the time of his inauguration as Archbishop of Paris in 1781.

Leclerc de Juigné was one of the 18th-century's many serious-minded and energetic prelates, who set about their duties with dedication and a strong sense of pastoral vocation.  He was actively involved in the spiritual renewal of his diocese, and carried out an unceasing rounds of episcopal visitations - in Paris he managed to visit even the rural parishes neglected by his predecessor.  In Châlons he used funds allotted for an episcopal palace to found a new seminary. In doctrinal terms his task was made more difficult, in both Châlons and Paris, by constant Jansenist scrutiny. His pastoral manual, published in 1786, attracted a torrent of abuse from the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques,  although modern experts say it was one of the most rigorous in use at the time.  It was denounced before the Parlement of Paris and the dossier transmitted to royal advisers, though in the event no further action was taken.

Personally Leclerc de Juigné lived austerely.  In Paris, he continued the tradition that the Archbishop's palace should have "neither mirrors nor fine furniture".  To travel on ceremonial occasions he contented himself with an ancient "voiture de gala" which was over a century old. When the abbé Bourbon, illegitimate son of Louis XV,  died in 1788, the Archbishop refused his ornate chapel and even his books ("how can I have books covered in gold when my poor are covered in rags?").  He unstintingly carried out the duties of his office, conducting services for many hours, and insisting on walking barefoot in penance on Good Friday despite his weak health.

The abbé Lambert notes that the Archbishop's charitable works were  done mostly in secret.  However, there is the odd anecdote. At ten o'clock one evening in 1776 a courrier came to inform him of a fire that devoured Saint-Dizier, a town forty miles or so away from Châlons. The bishop drew not only on his own funds, but on those of his two brothers and his servants, and hurried to the scene.  In the hope of saving a few victims he threw himself into the middle of the flames with such lack of caution that he was mistakenly reported to have been killed.  On the eve of Revolution, in the terrible winter of 1788 to 1789 he sold his plate, used his own patrimony, and borrowed to the tune of 400,000 livres on the credit of his brother the marquis. A pastoral letter from this time, his last before the Revolution,  exhorts the rich to come to the aid of suffering humanity.
Lettre pastorale pour le soulagement des Pauvres, 1788.

The Archbishop during the Revolution

Gentle and conciliatory by nature, Leclerc de Juigné, was to be rapidly overwhelmed by the unfolding of Revolutionary events.  As Archbishop, he was unanimously elected to the Estates-General.  On June 19th he opposed the union of the three orders in the chamber of clergy but was narrowly defeated. (135 voted for his proposal, 127 against, and 12 more expressed reservations)

Popular fury was now  unleashed against him. He was accused of conspiring with the King, whom he visited in Marly and with the Queen when he attended the ailing dauphin at Meudon.  Following the Royal Session on 23rd June, he was badly unnerved when his carriage was attacked and pelted with stones.  He was coerced into joining the Third Estate, now National Assembly, on the 26th, the day before the royal order which obliged the remnant of his colleagues to do so.  He arrived accompanied by the Archbishop of Bordeaux  and made a short oration expressing his "love of peace" and "devotion to la patrie".

As member of the National Assembly, he participated in a number of initiatives.  He led the deputation sent on 2nd July to the king to ask pardon for the Gardes françaises who had been  liberated from the Abbaye prison.  He also took a prominent part in the deputation sent to Paris on 15th July following the storming of the Bastille, when he initiated the celebration of a Te Deum in Notre Dame "for the re-establishment of peace".  He was in Paris once again on 17th July to greet Louis XVI.  The Archbishop also took part,  perhaps with unfeigned enthusiasm, in the surrender of feudal privilege on the night of 4th August and proposed to end the session with a Te Deum in the chapel of the palace. On the 11th he renounced ecclesiastical tithes  - a lost to  the Church of an estimated 60-80 million livres. On 26th September he offered the silverware of the churches of Paris to the national coffers.

The end of September and beginning of October brought new trials. Following the October Days, the Assembly received a deputation from the insurgents, in which their spokesman  Maillard  accused the Archbishop personally of hoarding grain and reducing the people to starvation. The level of hostility must have left little doubt that his life was in danger. 
Anonymous posthumous portrait 
On 15th October, following the final session of the Assembly in Versailles, he left France under pretext of taking the waters in Aix-les-Bains in Savoy and fled to exile in Chambéry. .  He was sixty one years old. 

On several occasions the Archbishop's motivation was discussed in the Assembly.  On 5th January 1790, he was accused of  fulfilling some secret mission.  The abbé Maury defended him and spoke of "threatening and anonymous letters" which had driven him to leave. D'Espréménil related that Lafayette and Bailly had told him his head was no longer safe inside the kingdom.  According to family tradition he left at the express order of Louis XVI himself. In 1792, the French occupation of Savoy obliged him to retreat to Constance, and later to Augsburg . It was not until 1802, having resigned as Archbishop, that he was allowed to return to France. He died in Paris on 19th March 1811.


Mgr. Leclerc de JuignéCollection d'ordonnances, mandements et lettres pastorales de Monseigneur l'Archevêque  de Paris depuis 1781, jusques et compris 1790  (1790)

Vie de messire Antoine-Éléonor-Léon Leclerc de Juigné ,... par M. l'abbé Lambert (1823);2

 Odéen Jean Marie Delarc,  L'église de Paris pendant la révolution française, 1789-1801, Volume 1 (1895)

Jean Duchene, "Monseigneur Leclerc de Juigné (1728-1811). Archevêque de Paris de 1782 à 1801",  Histoire, économie & société , 1994  vol.13-4  p.605-8.


The Archbishop's attitude to the Revolution

On 24 April 1789, the Archbishop  published a Mandement prescribing prayers for God's blessing on the forthcoming assembly. He expresses his fervent hope that a means can be found to ameliorate the financial and economic situation.  Although his frame of reference is traditional Christian charity, some of his ideas and expressions are strikingly close to Revolutionary rhetoric;  he claims to speak "not only as a pastor but as a citizen" and refers to Solon, Lycurgus and Phocion:
The interests of the people must come first.  The salvation ("salut") of the people, that is the supreme law, the first principle and the final end of all just government.  We do not fear to say that the great, even kings themselves, exist only for the happiness of the people.  For how could Supreme Wisdom and Goodness have sacrificed the happiness of the multitude to the glory of a small number of fortunate men?  In giving rulers to men, God has given them protectors.  He wished, according to the sublime words of J.-C., for the first among men to be the servants of all.  This is the order of nature.  It is thus that God has made the human race.
"Mandement ordering public prayers in his Diocese, for the Estates-General of the Kingdom", Collection d'ordonnances (1790), p.186. See: Delarc, L'église de Paris pendant la révolution française, vol. 1, p.127-30.

Mgr de Juigné has left a series of  instructions and pastoral letters which testify to an enlightened spirituality and an elevation of thought.  They are enriched by his profound knowledge of scripture and the Fathers, and are written in admirable style.  He often pays homage to the piety and high moral intentions of Louis XVI whom his functions had led him to know personally.  He denounces forcefully the unbelief and immorality of his time; although in other aspects of his discourse he shows himself a man of the Enlightenment. The success of incredulity is entirely rooted in human passion, Mgr de Juigné declared; this explanation for the progress unbelief manifestly played an important role in his thought....

Like most of his colleagues he saw natural disasters, and the troubles of the times generally, as the result of divine anger. God seeks to waken men to a consciousness of their faults, and to purify them through their suffering and trials.
From: Jean Duchene, "Monseigneur Leclerc de Juigné (1728-1811). Archevêque de Paris de 1782 à 1801",  Histoire, économie & société , 1994  vol.13-4  p.605-8.

Some notable incidents

Attacks on the Archbishop June 1789
 On the night of 23rd [following the Royal Session],Versailles was lit up; everywhere people armed with torches, ran through the streets like bacchantes. The Archbishop was attacked in his carriage by a group of men holding heavy sticks;  they swore at him, threw stone and forced him to scramble hurriedly to the safety of his lodgings in the Maison de la Mission of Notre-Dame. When challenged, his attackers observed:  "We know that the person of the Archbishop is sacred, we do not want his person, but only his head!".  The next day outside the chamber of the Clergy a threatening crowd was waiting for him; they invaded his coach; they accused him of plotting against the people and being one of the primary instigators of the Royal session.  His coach was showered with stones, but luckily he was saved by the quick action of his coachman.  That evening  the crowd lay seige to the Maison de la Mission  demanding his head, throwing stones and breaking windows.  The Guards were unable to contain the crowds. They were calmed only by reading a declaration from the Archbishop in which he promised to join the Third. (Delarc, p.143-5)

15th July 1789 - aftermath of the storming of the Bastille.
The Archbishop showed himself at the Hôtel-de-Ville, at the front between Bailly and Lally-Tollendal and was, like them, acclaimed by the people. He might even have believed for a moment that the misunderstanding between the pastor and his flock had disappeared;  in his joy he proposed to the crowd piled into the rooms of the Hôtel-de-Ville that they go to Notre-Dame to sing a Te Deum "for the reestablishment of peace". The proposition was accepted by all:  the Archbishop walked on the arm of the abbé Lefebvre, distributor of gunpowder at the Hôtel-de-Ville on the 14th, who left his magazine like Vulcan emerging from his furnace.  Bailly who had just been nominated mayor to replace the unfortunate Flesselles, Lafayette, the new commander of the National Guard, the deputies of the National Assembly and an immense crowd went to celebrate in the ancient basilica of the Monarchy, the advent and the first victory of the new Sovereign, the French people.

As the chords of the Te Deum resounded through the vaults of his Cathedral, Mgr de Juigné must have reflected bitterly, for  the great convent of saint-Lazare had already been sacked...

Note: According to Droz, Histoire de Louis XVI, tii, p.338: At the Hôtel-de-Ville, a crown of flowers was offered to Bailly;  he wanted to refuse it but the hand of the Archbishop of Paris, held it firmly on his head.(Delarc, p.148-9)

The judgment of posterity

If Mgr de Juigné had lived and finished his episcopal career in peaceful times...he would certainly have left the memory of a prelate who was pious, charitable, devoted to his duties; but he had to face the first, formidable crises  of the French Revolution.  From the first it was easy to see that he was not made for a fight; with the best of intentions he lacked the sang-froid and the sure eye to navigate himself and others in the storm.....In 1846 the doyen of the curés of Paris, the abbé Frasey, curé of St-Nicolas-des-Champs,then 82 years old, said of Mgr Juigné, who he had observed for several years: "he was loved by the clergy, but he did not have much force of character".  Such indeed is the judgment of history on the last Archbishop of Paris before the Revolution. (Delarc p.12-13)

The unhappy fate of Archbishops of Paris....

In truth Mgr de Juigné spent thirteen years in exile, during which he knew hardship and poverty; he only saw France and Paris again after resigning as Archbishop...He opened that unhappy path followed by several of his 19th-century successors, who struggled in their turn, against the blind anger of the multitude, and fell victims to civil upheaval;  Mgr de Quélen wandering Paris from hiding place to hiding place, disguised as a plasterer, to avoid being massacred by the victors of July;  Mgr Affre finding a glorious death on the barricade and Mgr Darboy, shot in La Roquette for staying valiantly at his post until the last moment (Delarc, p.165)

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