Etienne Brienne


Etienne Brienne (1727-1794) was one of Louis XVI‘s finance ministers in the late 1780s.

Born in Paris to an affluent family, Brienne excelled at his studies, obtaining a doctorate while still in his early 20s. He entered the church and progressed through the ranks, becoming an archbishop in 1763. Politically astute and a very efficient administrator, Brienne served in important bureaucratic roles in the church and became known as a reformer.

From May 1787, Brienne served as the president of the Assembly of Notables. In this role he obstinately resisted the package of reforms put forward by the incumbent minister, Calonne. In May 1788 Calonne was removed and replaced with Brienne, who attempted to push through a number of reforms not dissimilar to Calonne’s. This led to Brienne’s own sacking from the ministry.

He became a cardinal in late 1788 and moved to Rome. In 1790 he returned to France to swear the oath required by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, an act that saw him stripped of his cardinalship by the Vatican. Brienne later renounced Catholicism altogether but was nevertheless arrested during the Reign of Terror, dying in prison.

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