Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count of Maurepas
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas (9 July 1701 – 21 November 1781) was a French statesman.
He was born at Versailles, the son of Jérôme Phélypeaux, secretary of state for the marine and the royal household. Maurepas succeeded to his father's charge at fourteen, and began his functions as minister of the royal household at seventeen, while on 16 August 1723 he undertook the actual administration of the navy, a position he held until 23 April 1749. Although essentially light and frivolous in character, Maurepas was seriously interested in scientific matters, and he used the best brains of France to apply science to questions of navigation and of naval construction.
He was disgraced in 1749, and exiled from Paris for an epigram against Madame de Pompadour. On the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, twenty-five years later, he became a minister of state and Louis XVI's chief adviser, a position he held until 1781. He gave Turgot the direction of finance, placed Lamoignon-Malesherbes over the royal household and made Vergennes minister for foreign affairs. At the outset of his new career he showed his weakness by recalling to their functions, in deference to popular clamour, the members of the old Parlement ousted by Maupeou, thus reconstituting the most dangerous enemy of the royal power. This step, and his intervention on behalf of the American states, helped to pave the way for the French Revolution.
Jealous of his personal ascendancy over Louis XVI, he intrigued against Turgot, whose disgrace in 1776 was followed after six months of disorder by the appointment of Jacques Necker. In 1781 Maurepas deserted Necker as he had done Turgot, and he died at Versailles on 21 November 1781.
Maurepas is credited with contributions to the collection of facetiae known as the Etrennes de la Saint Jean (2nd ed., 1742). Four volumes of Memoires de Maurepas, purporting to be collected by his secretary and edited by J.L.G. Soulavie in 1792, must be regarded as apocryphal. Some of his letters were published in 1896 by the Soc. de l'hist. de Paris. His eloge in the Academy of Sciences was pronounced by Condorcet.
He married a distant cousin, Marie-Jeanne Phélypeaux, daughter of Louis Phélypeaux, marquis de La Vrillière.