Cardinal de Rohan  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Louis René Édouard de Rohan known as the Cardinal de Rohan (25 September 1734 – 16 February 1803), prince de Rohan-Guemenée, was a French bishop of Strasbourg (then Strassburg), politician, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, and cadet of the Rohan family (which traced its origin to the kings of Brittany). He was born in Paris.


Members of the de Rohan family had filled the office of Bishop of Strasbourg since 1704, which made them princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the compeers rather of the German prince-bishops than of the French ecclesiastics. Louis de Rohan was destined for this high office from birth. Soon after taking orders, in 1760, he was nominated coadjutor to his uncle, Constantine de Rohan-Rochefort, who then held the bishopric, and he was also appointed titular bishop of Canopus, Egypt. 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. In 1761 he was elected to seat 36 of the Academie Française.

Édouard de Rohan was a member of the political party opposed to the Austrian alliance. This party was headed by the duc d'Aiguillon, who, in 1771, sent de Rohan on a special embassy to find out what was being done in Vienna with regard to the partition of Poland. De Rohan arrived at Vienna in January 1772, and made a great noise with his lavish charitable festivals. But the empress Maria Theresa was hostile to him; not only did he attempt to thwart her policy, but he also spread scandals about her daughter, Marie Antoinette.

On the death of Louis XV in 1774, de Rohan was recalled from Vienna, and coldly received in Paris; but his family's influence 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 (the king of Poland). In 1779, Édouard succeeded his uncle, Constantine de Rohan-Rochefort, as bishop of Strasbourg, though he spent much of his career working in Paris, as he preferred an elegant lifestyle to his clerical duties; also in 1779, Édouard became abbot of Noirmoutiers and Chaise-Dieu. Despite his enhanced status, the cardinal was restless and unhappy, seeking to appease 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, and others, perhaps including the notorious Cagliostro, whose actions form part of the "affair of the diamond necklace". De Rohan was certainly led to believe that his attentions to the Queen were welcomed, and that she approved his arrangements for her to receive the famous necklace. He was the dupe of others, however, and at the trial in 1786 before the parlement his acquittal was received with universal enthusiasm, and regarded as a victory over the royal court and the unpopular queen. He was deprived of his office as grand almoner and exiled to his abbey of Chaise-Dieu. He was accompanied there by his secretary, Louis Ramond de Carbonnières; de Rohan wished to visit the thermal spas of the Pyrenees, and the following year they both spent the summer and the autumn in Barèges, where Ramond commenced his geological investigations.

De Rohan was soon allowed to return to Strasbourg, and his popularity was shown by his election in 1789 to the Estates-General by the clergy of the bailliages of Haguenau and Wissembourg. He at first declined to sit, but when the Estates-General became the National Assembly it insisted on validating his election. However, in January 1791, as a prince of the church, 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 office as Bishop of Strasbourg.

His brother Ferdinand Maximilien Meriadec de Rohan (1738-1813) was Prince of Rohan-Guemenee; Archbishop of Bordeaux; Prince-Archbishop of Cambrai; Prince-Bishop of Liege and de facto son-in-law to Bonnie Prince Charlie by his mistress Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany.

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