Collection of Benjamin Weiss
CARDINAL DE FLEURY
DASSIER, Jean : France, 1736, Bronze, 55 mm
Andre Hercule, Cardinal de Fleury (1653-1743), was a French statesman and cardinal, and chief minister (1726-1743) of Louis XV of France. In his early career, Fleury become chaplain to Maria Theresa in 1679, and to Louis XIV in 1683. He was appointed bishop in 1698, but resigned the see in 1715, when he was appointed tutor to the young Louis XV. Naturally cold and imperturbable, he remained in the background during the regency, but when Louis XV attained his majority in 1723, Louis entrusted much of the functions of the government to Fleury. Although he never assumed the title of prime minister, he was made cardinal in 1726, and until his death remained the guiding spirit in French politics. Fleury's major contributions were to reform the national finances and stabilize the currency after the costly wars of Louis XIV. Fluery's main successes were in foreign policy, where he sought to reduce British power on the continent and improve relations with Austria. His plans were temporarily thwarted by French involvement against Austria and Russia in the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738), but France emerged from the war with greater claims to Lorraine and improved relations with Austria. Fleury was unable, however, to prevent France from entering the War of the Austrian succession against Austria. Comparing the three cardinals who served Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV, it has been said that "Richelieu bled France, Mazarin purged it, and Fleury put it on a diet". (from Encycl. World Hist).