Chief minister of France

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The chief minister of France or, closer to the French term, chief minister of state (French: principal ministre d'État), or prime minister of France[1] were and are informal titles given to various personages who received various degrees of power to rule the Kingdom of France on behalf of the monarch during the Ancien Régime ("Old Regime").[2] The titles were however informal and used more as job descriptions.


As the titles were unofficial, the monarch maintained all his powers, giving to the chief minister the task of carrying out his orders. However, during the times when the king was absent from the country, very sick, unwilling or unfit to govern, the chief minister had a powerful role, becoming the real mind behind the administration of the country.[3]

Usually, the chief ministers were members of the King's Council (the archaic form of cabinet) or high members of the French nobility or the Catholic clergy.

With the eruption of the French Revolution in 1789, the chief minister progressively lost importance and influence in national politics. Finally, with the arrival of the constitutional monarchy in 1791, the role of chief minister ceased to exist.

In fact, according to the Encyclopédie Larousse, after 1661, Louis XIV and his descendants refused to allow one of their ministers to be more important than the others, so the terms were not in use.[4]


  First Estate (Clergy)       Second Estate (Nobility)       Third Estate (Commoners)
Officeholder Official Position Term in Office Estate King
and Reign
Clouet-montmorencyanne.jpg Anne de Montmorency,
Baron and Lord of Chantilly

Grand Master of France
1 January 1515 1541 Second Reign of
Francis I

Claude d'Annebaut.jpg Claude d'Annebault,
Baron of Retz

Admiral of France
1541 31 March 1547 Second
Clouet-montmorencyanne.jpg Anne,
Duke of Montmorency

Grand Master of France
1 April 1547 10 August 1557 Second Reign of
Henry II

Position vacant
(absolute rule by Henry II)
King of France
11 August 1557 10 July 1559 N/A
Francois de Lorraine.JPG Francis,
Duke of Guise

Grand Master of France
10 July 1559 5 December 1560 Second Reign of
Francis II

Michel-Hospital.jpg Michel de l'Hôpital
Chancellor of France
5 December 1560 13 March 1573 † Third Reign of
Charles IX

René de Birague.jpg Cardinal René de Birague
Chancellor of France
30 May 1574 24 November 1583 † First Reign of
Henry III

Philippe Hurault Chancelier de France.jpg Philippe Hurault,
Count of Cheverny

Chancellor of France
24 November 1583 12 May 1588 Second
Position vacant
(absolute rule by Henry III)
King of France
12 May 1588 2 August 1589 N/A
Maximilien-de-Sully.jpg Maximilien de Béthune,
1st Duke of Sully

Superintendent of Finances
2 August 1589 29 January 1611 Second Reign of
Henry IV

De Neufville2.jpg Nicolas de Neufville,
1st Marquis of Villeroy

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
30 January 1611 9 August 1616 Second Reign of
Louis XIII

Concino Concini.jpg Concino Concini,
1st Marquis d'Ancre

Marshal of France
9 August 1616 24 April 1617 † Second
Duque-de-Luynes.JPG Charles d'Albert,
1st Duke of Luynes

Grand Falconer of France
24 April 1617 15 December 1621 † Second
Position vacant
(absolute rule by Louis XIII)
King of France
15 December 1621 12 August 1624 N/A
Cardinal de Richelieu mg 0052.jpg Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis,
1st Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs & War
12 August 1624 4 December 1642 † First
Cardinal Mazarin by Pierre Mignard (Musée Condé).jpg Cardinal Jules Mazarin,
1st Duke of Mayenne and Rethel

Bishop of Metz
5 December 1642 9 March 1661 † First Reign of
Louis XIV

Colbert domaine de chantilly PE343.jpg Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Controller-General of Finances
9 March 1661 6 September 1683 † Third
Louvois1.jpg François-Michel Le Tellier,
1st Marquis of Louvois

Secretary of State for War & Maison du Roi
7 September 1683 16 July 1691 † Second
Position vacant
(absolute rule by Louis XIV)
King of France
17 July 1691 1 September 1715 N/A
Hyacinthe Rigaud Dubois detail.jpg Cardinal Guillaume Dubois
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
12 September 1715 10 August 1723 † First Reign of
Louis XV

Philippe d'Orléans, Regent et la comtesse de Parabère (Marie Madeleine de La Vieuville) par Santerre.jpg Philippe II,
13th Duke of Orléans

Regent of the Kingdom
10 August 1723 2 December 1723 † Second
Gobert, attributed to -Louis Henri of Bourbon, Prince of Condé - Versailles, MV3727.jpg Louis Henri,
7th Prince of Condé

Grand Master of France
2 December 1723 11 June 1726 Second
Cardinal de Fleury by Rigaud.jpg Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury
Bishop of Fréjus
11 June 1726 29 January 1743 First
Position vacant
(absolute rule by Louis XV)
King of France
29 January 1743 3 December 1758 N/A
Choiseul, Etienne François duc de.jpg Étienne François de Choiseul
1st Duke of Choiseul

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs & War
3 December 1758 24 December 1770 Second
René-Augustin de Maupeou.PNG René-Nicolas de Maupeou
Chancellor of France
25 December 1770 23 August 1774 Second
Graincourt, attributed to - Turgot.jpg Jacques Turgot
Controller-General of Finances
24 August 1774 12 May 1776 Third Reign of
Louis XVI

Jean Frederic Phelypeaux Count of Maurepas.PNG Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux,
3rd Count of Maurepas

Minister of State
14 May 1776 21 November 1781 † Nobility
Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes.jpg Charles Gravier,
Count of Vergennes

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
21 November 1781 13 February 1787 † Second
Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne.PNG Archbishop Étienne Charles de Loménie
Archbishop of Toulouse
1 May 1787 25 August 1788 First
Necker, Jacques - Duplessis.jpg Jacques Necker
Controller-General of Finances
25 August 1788 11 July 1789 Third
Baron de Breteuil.jpg Louis Auguste Le Tonnelier,
Baron of Breteuil

Secretary of State of the Maison du Roi
11 July 1789 16 July 1789 Second
Necker, Jacques - Duplessis.jpg Jacques Necker
Controller-General of Finances
16 July 1789 3 September 1790 Third
Armand-Marc Comte de MONTMORIN-SAINT-HEREM.jpg Armand Marc,
Count of Montmorin and Saint-Hérem

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
3 September 1790 3 September 1791 Second
Constitutional cabinet
(supervisioned by Legislative Assembly)
N/A 3 September 1791 21 September 1792 N/A

After the 10 August 1792, Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned. However, after the fall of the First Empire in 1814, "Chief Ministers" appeared to represent the monarchy until its full Restoration. The position definitively ending only with the creation of the office of "President of the Council of Ministers" in 1815.

Portrait Name
Prior/Contemporary office Term of office Political Party Government King
Talleyrand 01.jpg Charles Maurice,
Prince of Talleyrand

Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 April 1814 2 May 1814 Nonpartisan Prov. Gov. Louis XVIII
Louis XVIII of France.png
Creation of the Charter of 1814. Napoleon exiled in his "reign" on Elba. Removed by Louis XIII after his arrive from England, due to his Bonapartist past.
BLACAS.JPG Pierre-Louis,
Count of Blacas
Minister for the Maison du Roi
2 May 1814 8 July 1815 Legitimist King's Ministry
De facto Chief Minister, due to Louis XVIII's diffidence to Talleyrand. Despite Talleyrand was envoy to Congress of Vienna, Metternich negotiate secretly with Louis XVIII and Blacas. Fled with the Royals to Ghent during the Hundred Days. Felled in disgrace after the return in Paris, he was dismissed and send as Ambassador to the Two Sicilies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Testament Politique du Cardinal Duc de Richelieu, Premier Ministre de France sous le Règne de Louïs XIII
  2. ^ "Ancien Régime". Larousse. 
  3. ^ Jean Bérenger (1996). Histoire, économie et société, Vol. 15-1. Persée. pp. 37–46. 
  4. ^ Ancien Régime in Encyclopédie Larousse ("Après 1661, Louis XIV impose une nouvelle formule, qui joue à la fois sur les ministres et sur les conseils, sans accepter la primauté d'un ministre.")
  5. ^ Emmanuel Waresquiel (2003). Talleyrand, le prince immobile. Broché. p. 488.