Louis Rohan - Encyclopedia

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LOUIS [[Rene Edouard ROHAN, Cardinal De]] (1734-1803), prince de Rohan-Guemenee, archbishop of Strassburg, a cadet of the great family of Rohan (which traced its origin to the kings of Brittany, and was granted the precedence and rank of a foreign princely family by Louis XIV.), was born at Paris on the 25th of September 1734. Members of the Rohan family had filled the office of archbishop of Strassburg from 1704 - an office which made them princes of the empire and the compeers rather of the German prince-bishops than of the French ecclesiastics. For this high office Louis de Rohan was destined from his birth, and soon after taking orders, in 1760, he was nominated coadjutor to his uncle, Constantine de RohanRochefort, who then held the archbishopric, and he was also consecrated bishop of Canopus. But he preferred the elegant life and the gaiety of Paris to his clerical duties, and had also an ambition to make a figure in politics. He joined the party opposed to the Austrian alliance,. which had been cemented by the marriage of the archduchess Marie Antoinette to the dauphin. This party was headed by the duc d'Aiguillon, who in 1771 sent Prince Louis on a special embassy to Vienna to find out what was being done there with regard to the partition of Poland. Rohan arrived at Vienna in January 1772, and made a great noise with his lavish fetes. But the empress Maria Theresa was implacably hostile to him; not only did he attempt to thwart her policy, but he spread scandals about her daughter Marie Antoinette, laughed at herself, and shocked her ideas of propriety by his dissipation and luxury. On the death of Louis XV. in 1774, Rohan was recalled from Vienna, and coldly received at Paris; but the influence of his family was too great for him to be neglected, and in 1777 he was made grand almoner, and in 1778 abbot of St Vaast. In 1778 he was made a cardinal on the nomination of Stanislaus Poniatowski, king of Poland, and in the following year succeeded his uncle as archbishop of Strassburg and became abbot of Noirmoutiers and Chaise-Dieu. His various preferments brought him in an income of two and a half millions of livres; yet the cardinal was restless and unhappy until he should be reinstated in favour at court and had appeased the animosity which Marie Antoinette felt against him. In pursuit of this object he fell into the hands of a gang of intriguers, the comtesse de Lamotte, the notorious Cagliostro and others, whose actions form part of the "affair of the diamond necklace." This story is disentangled elsewhere (see Diamond Necklace), and diverging views are still taken of it. Rohan certainly was led to believe that his attentions to the queen were welcomed, and that his arrangement by which she received the famous necklace was approved. He was the dupe of others, and at the trial in 1786 before the parlement his acquittal was received with universal enthusiasm, and regarded as a victory over the court and the unpopular queen. He was deprived, however, of his office as grand almoner and exiled to his abbey of Chaise-Dieu. He was soon allowed to return to Strassburg, and his popularity was shown by his election in 1789 to the states-general by the clergy of the bailliages of Haguenau and Weissenburg. He at first declined to sit, but the states-general, when it became the national assembly, insisted on validating his election. But as a prince of the church in January 1791 he refused to take the oath to the constitution, and went to Ettenheim, in the German part of his diocese. In exile his character improved, and he spent what wealth remained to him in providing for the poor clergy of his diocese who had been obliged to leave France; and in 1801 he resigned his nominal rank as archbishop of Strassburg. On the 17th of February 1803 he died at Ettenheim.

See the Memoires of his secretary, the abbe Georgel, of the baroness d'Oberkirch, of Beugnot, and of Madame Campan; and works cited under Diamond Necklace.

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