Victor, 3rd duc de Broglie

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Victor, duc de Broglie, French statesman

Achille-Léonce-Victor-Charles, 3rd duc de Broglie (November 28, 1785January 26, 1870), was a French statesman and diplomat.

He was born at Paris, the son of Charles-Louis-Victor, prince de Broglie and grandson of Victor-François, 2nd duc de Broglie. While his grandfather emigrated, his parents were imprisoned during the Terror. His father was guillotined in 1794, but his mother managed to escape to Switzerland, where she remained until the fall of Robespierre. She then returned to Paris with her children and lived there quietly until 1796, when she married the Marc-René-Voyer de Paulmy, marquis d'Argenson, grandson of Louis XV's minister of war. On his grandfather's death in 1804, Victor de Broglie became the third duc de Broglie. Under the care of his step-father, the young duke received a careful and liberal education and made his entrée into the aristocratic and literary society of Paris under the First French Empire.

He was the father of Albert, 4th duc de Broglie (18211901).


In 1809, Broglie was appointed a member of the Council of State, over which the emperor presided in person. In addition, he was sent by the emperor on diplomatic missions, as attaché, to various countries. Though he had never been in sympathy with the principles of the Empire, the duc de Broglie was not one of those who rejoiced at its downfall. In common with all men of experience and sense, he realized the danger to France of the rise to power of the forces of violent reaction. With Decazes and Richelieu, he saw that the only hope for a calm future lay in the reconciliation of the Restoration with the French Revolution. By the influence of his uncle, Amédée de Broglie, his right to a peerage had been recognized, and to his own great surprise he received, in June 1814, a summons from Louis XVIII to the Chamber of Peers. There, after the Hundred Days, he distinguished himself by his courageous defence of Marshal Ney, for whose acquittal he, alone of all the peers, both spoke and voted. After this defiant act of opposition it was perhaps fortunate that his impending marriage gave him an excuse for leaving the country. On February 15, 1816, he was married at Leghorn to Albertine, baroness Staël von Holstein, the daughter of Madame de Staël. He returned to Paris at the end of the year, but took no part in politics until the elections of September 1817 broke the power of the ultraroyalists and substituted for the Chambre introuvable a moderate assembly. Broglie's political attitude during the years that followed is best summed up in his own words:

From 1812 to 1822 all the efforts of men of sense and character were directed to reconciling the Restoration and the Revolution, the old régime and the new France. From 1822 to 1827 all their efforts were directed to resisting the growing power of the counter-revolution. From 1827 to 1830 all their efforts aimed at moderating and regulating the reaction in a contrary sense.[1] (

During the last critical years of Charles X's reign, Broglie identified himself with the liberal party, among whom Royer-Collard and Guizot were the most prominent. The July Revolution placed him in a difficult position; he knew nothing of the intrigues which placed Louis Philippe on the throne; the revolution accomplished, however, he was ready to uphold the fait accompli with characteristic loyalty, and on 9 August 1830 took office in the new government as President of the Council and Minister of Public Worship and Education. As he had foreseen, the ministry was short-lived, and on 2 November he was once more out of office.

During the critical time that followed, he consistently supported the principles which triumphed with the fall of Laffitte and the accession to power of Casimir Périer in March 1831. After the death of the latter and the insurrection of June 1832, Broglie took office once more as Minister for Foreign Affairs (October 11). His tenure of the foreign office was coincident with a very critical period in international relations. But for the sympathy of Britain under Palmerston, the July Monarchy would have been completely isolated in Europe, and this sympathy the aggressive policy of France in Belgium and on the Mediterranean coast of Africa had been in danger of alienating. The Belgian crisis had been settled, so far as the two powers were concerned, before Broglie took office, but the concerted military and naval action for the coercion of the Dutch, which led to the French occupation of Antwerp, was carried out under his auspices. The good understanding of which this was the symbol characterized also the relations of Broglie and Palmerston during the crisis of the first war of Muhammad Ali with the Porte, and in the affairs of the Spanish peninsula their common sympathy with constitutional liberty led to an agreement for common action, which took shape in the treaty of alliance between Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal, signed at London on April 22, 1834. Broglie had retired from office in the March preceding, and did not return to power until March of the following year, when he became head of the cabinet. In 1836, the government having been defeated on a proposal to reduce the five percents tax, he once more resigned, and never returned to official life. In the words of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica:

He had remained in power long enough to prove what honesty of purpose, experience of affairs, and common sense can accomplish when allied with authority. The debt that France and Europe owed him may be measured by comparing the results of his policy with that of his successors under not dissimilar circumstances. He had found France isolated and Europe full of the rumours of war; he left her strong in the English alliance and the respect of Liberal Europe, and Europe freed from the restless apprehensions which were to be stirred into life again by the attitude of Thiers in the Eastern Question and of Guizot in the affair of the Spanish Marriages.[2] (

From 1836 to 1848 de Broglie held almost completely aloof from politics, to which his scholarly temperament little inclined him, a disinclination strengthened by the death of his wife on September 22, 1838. His friendship for Guizot, however, induced him to accept a temporary mission in 1845, and in 1847 to go as French ambassador to London.

The revolution of 1848 was a great blow to him, for he realized that it meant the final ruin of the Liberal monarchy, in his view the political system best suited to France. He took his seat, however, in the republican National Assembly and in the Convention of 1848, and, as a member of the section known as the "Burgraves", fought against both socialism what he foresaw as a coming autocratic reaction. He shared with his colleagues the indignity of the coup d'état of December 2, 1851, and remained for the remainder of his life one of the bitterest enemies of the imperial régime, though he was heard to remark, with that caustic wit for which he was famous, that the empire was the government which the poorer classes in France desired and the rich deserved.

The last twenty years of his life were devoted chiefly to philosophical and literary pursuits. Having been brought up by his step-father in the sceptical opinions of the time, he gradually arrived at a sincere belief in the Christian religion. "I shall die," he said, "a penitent Christian and an impenitent Liberal."[3] (

His literary works, though few of them have been published, were rewarded in 1856 by a seat in the Académie française, replacing Louis de Beaupoil, comte de Sainte-Aulaire, and he was also a member of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques. In the labors of those learned bodies he took an active and assiduous part.


Besides his Souvenirs, in 4 vols. (Paris, 1885–1888), the duc de Broglie left numerous works, of which only some have been published. Of these may be mentioned Ecrits et discours (3 vols., Paris, 1863); Le Libre Echange et limpt (Paris, 1879); Vues sur le gouvernement de la France (Paris, 1861). This last was confiscated by the imperial government before publication. See Guizot, Le Duc de Broglie (Paris, 1870), and Mémoires (Paris, 1858-1867); and the histories of Thureau-Dangin and Duvergier de Hauranne.

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Preceded by:
Edouard Mortier, Duc de Treviso
Prime Minister of France
Followed by:
Adolphe Thiers
Preceded by:
Jules, Prince de Polignac
Prime Minister of France
Followed by:
Jacques Laffitte

Preceded by:
Louis de Beaupoil, Comte de Sainte-Aulaire
Seat 24
Académie française
Succeeded by:
Prosper Duvergier de Hauranne
de:Victor de Broglie

fr:Victor de Broglie


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