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The Triumvirate and Its Aftermath (1771–84)


With the blandly untroubled benefit of hindsight, historians have sometimes categorized the years between 1770 and 1774 as witnessing the last chance for absolute monarchy to reassert itself in the face of the parlements. In this scenario, Maupeou – central member of a ‘Triumvirate’ which comprised Controller-General Terray and, from June 1771, the duc d’Aiguillon as Foreign Minister – emerges as a far-sighted, statesmanlike figure vainly seeking to remove a persistent thorn in the flesh of absolutism and to restructure the state’s administration and finances in ways which would pre-empt the Revolution of 1789. Only the unexpected death of Louis XV in 1774 and the decision of his successor, the young and inexperienced Louis XVI, to dismiss the Triumvirate prematurely ended what was – through no fault of Maupeou’s – ‘a failed revolution’.1

Despite Madame de Pompadour’s fatalistic invocation of the forthcoming ‘deluge’, government did not sit and wait for the regime’s collapse, and the Maupeou period represents only one of a number of attempts to manage the political system and to reform the state in the period following the Seven Years War. Considering the appalling state of the monarchy in the dark days of that conflict, there is indeed some merit in viewing the period overall as marking less a record of inevitable terminal decline, than a chronicle of patchy recovery in which a variety of statesmen offered differing reform pathways. The Maupeou years were not necessarily the most politically promising of the manifold initiatives of the period. Nor was Maupeou himself cut of a different cloth from other statesmen in his position: his principal motivation appears to have been personal ambition to topple Choiseul and the wish to establish himself as Principal Minister. Far from setting out perspicaciously to renovate the political system, he stumbled backwards and unintentionally into the limelight, overthrowing the delicately balanced Choiseulian system and triggering a widely ramified political crisis with more than parlementary dimensions at a moment when the regime was faced with the severest financial and economic crisis of Louis XV’s reign. Although the Triumvirate was able to face down opposition and the regime live to fight another day after the Triumvirs’ demise, the ‘Maupeou revolution’ stirred up and radicalized public opinion, making state-driven reforms without public consultation more contestable.

The years from 1769 to 1771 represent the forgotten financial and economic crisis of the eighteenth century, whose severity in many respects bears comparison with the more epochal years of 1787-9. Bad harvests from 1768 onwards produced a doubling in the price of grain, with the cost of bread reaching its highest levels since the famine years of 1709–10. Middling and large grain producers made their fortunes – though at the expense of consumers and small producers. Failure of the wine harvest produced widespread misery too, while the manufacturing sector also experienced bankruptcies and labour lay-offs. Unlike in 1709–10, demographic fall-out was limited – there were more births than deaths throughout the crisis – but this only meant that more individuals survived to vent their anger. That anger was targeted at government. The state legislation on free trade in grain which had been introduced in 1763–4 was widely unpopular and fanned the flames of rumour, reigniting belief in the state’s complicity in a ‘famine plot’ (pacte de famine). Predictably, the tax take plummeted, causing a shuddering impact on state finances. So severe was the shortfall in revenue that tax farmers and major tax officials whose short-term credit customarily helped government through such sticky moments found themselves stretched and several went bankrupt.

‘Necessity’, Terray explained to Louis XV, ‘led me by the hand.’2 An improviser through and through, the new Controller-General proved adept at the fiscal trouble-shooting the crisis required. The raft of measures he introduced in 1769, involving arbitrary reductions of interest on certain government financial obligations and suspension of payment on others, drastically reduced state outgoings. There was an outcry in some circles – the nouveau riche Voltaire claimed to have had his nails ‘cut to the quick’ in the operation, for example.3 Yet Terray acted nimbly to support the credit of those financiers on whom the state most depended and he also took care to protect rents on the Paris Hôtel-de-Ville, in which most parlementary magistrates as well as a great many middling Parisian families had substantial investments. Despite this clever footwork, the worsening economic crisis of early 1770 necessitated harsher measures, which the parlements would be sure to block. The impulse to crush the parlements thus owed less to strategic astuteness or reforming zeal than to short-term personal and political goals. The Paris Parlement stood as the major obstacle in the pathway to power of the ambitious Maupeou and in the political future of the harassed duc d’Aiguillon. It now also inhibited the introduction of financial reforms on which Terray’s tenure in power depended. Choiseul’s customary strategy of leaving an avenue open towards the Parlement looked quite out of the question for each man. Indeed, deep-dyed hostility towards the magistrates acted as a political adhesive, glueing Maupeou, d’Aiguillon and Terray together in a united mission of destruction.

A Parisian parlementaire himself, Maupeou marked his striking conversion from poacher to gamekeeper in February 1771 when he followed up his exile of the Paris Parlement by introducing an edict which, formally chastising the magistrates for treasonous disobedience, set about restructuring the whole administration of higher justice. The Parlement’s sprawling jurisdiction was fragmented among six new ‘higher courts’ (cours supérieures), situated in Arras, Blois, Châlons-sur-Marne, Clermont-Ferrand, Lyon and Poitiers, each of which would judge civil and criminal cases on appeal. Though only the Paris Parlement was permitted a role in registering royal legislation, its powers of remonstrance were severely circumscribed, and its membership much reduced. Even more striking was the stipulation that magistrates in the new courts were not to be venal office-holders, but salaried state appointees, promised progressive ennoblement for long service. The old magistrates were offered reimbursement for their lost offices. Many, assuming that Maupeou would eventually crack under pressure and restore the parlements, refused to go through the formalities for this and launched a coruscating assault on the new system.

The Triumvirate’s attack on the Paris Parlement was merely the capstone of what became an even more ambitious reform programme. The collegial complaints of provincial parlements against the harsh treatment meted out to the Parisian institution gave Maupeou little option but to bring them too into his line of fire. With the exception of docile Pau, all were remodelled, and four (troublesome Rouen, plus Douai, Metz and Dombes) were abolished. Parlementary jurisdictional authority was split among ‘higher courts’. These benefited by receiving the attributions of a number of other courts which were also dissolved (including the Cour des Aides, the Grand Conseil and the Amirauté courts in Paris, and the Lyon Cour des Monnaies and the Clermont Cour des Aides). These measures were intended to produce a more rational and efficacious judicial map, but it was also hoped that the dissolution of such courts would free up judicial personnel to staff the new institutions. Judicial officials were offered promotion and sundry sweeteners, as state functionaries throughout France fished for loyal recruits in much the way that d’Aiguillon had done at the start of the Brittany crisis in 1766.

The rational, innovatory and meritocratic flavour of the new arrangements was much trumpeted by Maupeou and Terray, as was their abolition within the new courts of épices (the emoluments – or ‘seasonings’ – which plaintiffs paid for judgements). The measures were prized as part of a more general royal campaign to make justice ‘prompt, pure and free’. Such claims were, however, little more than window-dressing for reforms whose underlying rationale was narrowly financial and political. The 3,500 (mainly judicial) posts made non-venal as a result of the reform of the parlements accounted for only around 2.5 per cent of the total number of venal offices. Terray did seriously consider a long-term campaign to reimburse all venal office-holders, but the spectre of John Law deterred any kind of commitment in this area. The notion was more than offset, anyway, by short-term financial pressures to strengthen rather than diminish the prevalence of venality. Terray’s ministry saw a larger number of creations – at the lowest estimate, around 9,000 posts – than at any time in Louis XV’s long reign. In November 1771, for example, municipal officials in all incorporated towns, which since Laverdy’s reforms of 1764–5 had been electable, were made venal once more. This was viewed as a nakedly cynical ploy to squeeze money out of the townships, which were encouraged to buy the right to continue election. A similar ploy was evident in Terray’s decision to make a certain number of masterships in trade guilds both hereditary and venal. The Parisian attorney, Régnault, wryly noted that ‘it was certainly not the good and solace of the people [which] were in view’ in such measures.4

Terray also showed great ingenuity in making the existing venal network more financially productive for the state. An edict rationalizing office-holding in February 1771 decreed that venal officers should themselves assess the value of their own posts. Office-holders were restrained from inflating them (and thus securing a larger return on the investment) by the Controller-General’s cunning insistence that the valuations should form the basis of tax liability: a new ‘hundredth penny’ (centième denier) tax was extended to all offices, bringing in high yields. A greater degree of standardization was also introduced into the ways in which office-holders were paid. In addition, individuals utilizing venal office-holding as a ladder into the nobility were required to pay a higher premium for the privilege. Terray extended this new spirit of rationalization into remodelling the structures of the state’s financial management. More efficient, more centrally controlled financial institutions were developed which reduced state outgoings and increased revenue. The silencing of the parlements allowed the Controller-General to issue an unopposed decree in November 1771 that one vingtième should become a permanent tax, while an additional one should be continued until 1781. In regard to direct taxes, Terray was convinced that ‘every owner of capital, rich and poor, must contribute as much as possible in the same proportion’.5 With the parlements now safely out of the way, he also accentuated the trend, established by Machault, of using royal Intendants to revise (or ‘verify’) tax assessments in a way which squeezed more money out of the landed elite.

In the context of parlementary nullity, Terray’s ruthless squeeze on both tax-payers and venal office-holders – who found themselves rueing the king’s ‘prompt, pure and free’ justice – pulled the state through its financial crisis. In 1772, the budget came close to balancing – a remarkable achievement less than a decade after the Treaty of Paris. By then Terray had also survived the worst effects of the country’s economic woes. No minister could expect popularity in time of high grain prices, but Terray’s decision in July 1770 to abandon doctrinaire adhesion to free trade in grain took the bile out of popular attacks on the government. The export of grain was now abolished. Though promoting free trade within the kingdom, Terray even attenuated this when the Intendants, on whom he relied for economic and social data, claimed that it was threatening the social fabric. There were grain riots in parts of the south-west in 1773, but by then economic recovery was well on its way, drawing the claws of popular discontent.

Terray’s strategy of staying well-informed and utilizing administrative remedies to forestall problems was typical of the Triumvirate’s policies more generally. D’Aiguillon was an arch-pragmatist as regards foreign policy. If very little was achieved in this area, this was mainly because very little was attempted. As the Malvinas crisis of 1770 had underlined, war with England was off the agenda. The collapse of Choiseulian grand strategy also highlighted the limitations of France’s options in Europe too, especially in the east. The Francophile Poles whom Choiseul had nurtured were unable to prevent the First Partition of Poland in 1772 by Russia, Prussia and France’s ally, Austria. In addition, the Turks, whom France had urged into war with Russia in 1768, suffered a drubbing, and in the Treaty of Kainardji in 1774 conceded that the Russian fleet could be given access to the Black Sea. D’Aiguillon’s attempts to reconfigure France’s alliances in northern Europe were unproductive: friendly approaches to England were rebuffed, while attempts to use the dynamic Swedish monarch Gustavus III to counter the growing power of Prussia and Russia had produced little fruit by 1774.

D’Aiguillon’s rejection of an adventurist foreign policy was wholeheartedly endorsed by Louis who, as he approached the seventh decade of his reign, showed every sign of having religiously heeded his great-grandfather’s deathbed injunction to avoid wars. He may well have felt that he had to leave a peaceful and tranquil country to his own grandson and heir, the duc de Berry, whom in 1770 he had married to Marie-Antoinette, daughter of Austrian empress Maria Theresa, in ceremonies of unparalleled splendour. Thoroughly disenchanted with the Choiseulian spirit of compromise with the parlements, as he grew older, Louis was also becoming (again, very much like his great-grandfather) more open to dévot influence at court. Louis retained his taste for hunting and mistresses and was developing a penchant for a certain kind of grandeur: he gave the green light to the extensive remodelling of the Versailles palace, for example, and followed up the marriage of Berry with similarly lavish ceremonies for the marriages of his two younger grandsons, the comtes de Provence and Artois. The king was finally seeming more at ease on the State Councils. The political dinosaurs of earlier periods had died or (like Choiseul) been exiled, and the growing aristocratization of government clearly suited him. The disgrace of Choiseul and his brother, Praslin, meant the loss of two dukes, but this was balanced by the arrival of the hyper-elitist d’Aiguillon at the heart of government. He was joined, moreover, by another courtier, the marquis de Monteynard, appointed War Minister (though he – like the jurist Bourgeois de Boynes, who made a far from competent Navy Minister – was a political nonentity).

The key policies of the Triumvirate were very much the king’s. At the lit de justice of 13 April 1771, at which he formally registered the decree establishing the new Parlement on the ruins of the old, he ended his short speech with the words, ‘I will never change [my policies]’, with a vehemence which sent shivers through his audience.6 When in the ensuing political fracas, the opponents of government tried to argue that the king had been misled by his ministers, he countered, ‘You say that I have not been fully informed; nothing is more false.’ This personal identification by the king with the policies of the Triumvirate was the strongest card in his ministers’ hand. In particular, it helped contain factional mischief at court. The Princes of the Blood had developed numerous links of patronage with parlementaires over previous decades, and the Parlement’s demotion in status reflected badly on the princes who had come to vaunt the political role which their right to attend the Parlement’s Court of Peers had given the institution. Led by the perennial irritant, Conti, and using arguments culled from Le Paige, the princes made formal objections to the government’s attack on the Parlement. When they made their complaint public in the Gazette d’Utrecht, the king exiled them from court for their pains, only allowing them back in 1772. Similar toughness was shown to court-connected provincial dignitaries – such as the duc d’Harcourt and the prince de Beauvau, Commanders of Normandy and Languedoc respectively – who endeavoured to show solidarity with princes and parlements. A delegation of Norman gentry boldly requesting in 1771 the calling of the Normandy estates (which had been abolished in 1666) was despatched prestissimo to the Bastille.

Royal endorsement helped the Triumvirate overcome opposition to their reforms. The new Parlement of Paris, installed by lit de justice in April 1771, and its provincial analogues, established between August and November, were primed to start work before Christmas. Start work they did. Doggedness and ruse, arm-twisting and political bribery brought sufficient new magistrates into the fold, and also helped crush the opposition of the Parisian barristers, who had been amongst the most vocal defenders of theparlementaires. The presumption that all the parlements of France would stand shoulder to shoulder in the union des classes thus proved unfounded. Furthermore, although parlementary propaganda invariably portrayed the legal cohorts flocking to Maupeou’s banner as low-born, technically incompetent, politically spineless and Jesuit-supporting careerists, this damning description simply did not fit. Differing less from their predecessors in terms of experience and social background than in ideological commitment, they formed an incipient ‘king’s party’ relatively secure from the blandishments and polemical stances of the old parlementaires and willing to be mobilized by ministers and provincial Intendants.

The Triumvirate’s achievement was all the more impressive in that it also involved outfacing one of the most turbulent and vehement public outcries in the eighteenth century thus far. ‘Political questions have become almost the sole topic of conversation at court, in society, in the city and indeed in all the kingdom,’ the Austrian ambassador, the comte de Mercy, informed Maria Theresa.7 Repression was a key part of the government’s strategy in dealing with this public outcry. Censorship was tightened up, and police spies worked overtime in a crack-down on ‘dangerous’ books, authors and publishers, many of whom were soon languishing in the Bastille. The famous prison had to have special new storerooms built to house growing mountains of seditious literature seized from printshops and peddlers (and among which figured 6,000 copies of the new edition of the Encyclopédie, which had got caught up in the crossfire). The editorial team of the official Gazette de France was replaced by a more compliant crew, and unprecedented pressure was also put on foreign-based newspapers such as the Gazette de Leyde to ensure that they did not support the parlementary cause.

The government also looked to influence the public debate in creative as well as repressive ways. By late 1771, over 100 pro-government pamphlets had been penned by a wide variety of authors, including Voltaire, who deserted the philosophe team to support a government he regarded as the lesser of two evils. The ageing veteran of the Calas affair had had too many tangles with the parlements to hold them in much esteem: ‘I would prefer to obey a good lion, born stronger than myself,’ he noted, ‘than two hundred rats of my own kind.’8 He also warmed to rumours that Maupeou was planning a sweeping codification of the laws as well as introducing major educational and welfare reforms. The bloodless royalist coup d’État performed against his Riksdag by enlightened ruler Gustavus III of Sweden in August 1772 gave credence to the idea of a European wave of reaction against the excesses of representative government.

In the royalist legitimations of Maupeou’s policy, there was a remarkable absence of strong religious themes. The government did not lack for dévot support (and indeed was assailed by its opponents as ardently Jesuitophilic). Yet there was little dwelling on the claims of divine right. The expectation of deferential obedience was grounded in historically derived, social utilitarian arguments which reflected the enlightened temper of the times, and not on the basis of theological doctrine. The materialist turn to political discourse evident since the Seven Years War thus proved an enduring legacy of Choiseul’s ministry. The king’s own propagandists were divesting him of his sempiternal sacral aura; Fénelon’s virtuous utilitarianism was winning out over Bossuet’s intimations of royal divinity.

Pamphlets provided a secular sanctification of the king as the friend of the needy and the benefactor of the nation, whereas the nobility in contrast was comprehensively demonized. For all their self-serving talk of ‘fundamental laws’, the Robe nobility and the sovereign courts were viewed as being quite as obstructive as the ancient aristocracy of the Sword in acting as a check on social improvements engineered by the beneficent monarch. The parlements’ opposition to Maupeou was represented as resistance to the social good of free and cheap justice, and the crushing of selfish nobility as a hopeful harbinger of national felicity. Voltaire and the other pamphleteers mixed absolutist rhetoric with examples from the historical record to demonstrate that the crown’s claims to political legitimacy were more solidly grounded than the Parlement’s. Claims that, as one irate pamphleteer bemoaned, ‘the government wants to make us all happy by bringing back the Dark Ages’ were countered by the view that ‘France was never happier or more tranquil than when her kings were most absolute’.9 More absolutism, the slogan seemed to go, more happiness.

The welfare rhetoric of the embryonic king’s party was forthrightly challenged by opponents of the Maupeou coup. Published anonymously, smuggled from hand to hand and under the cloak and read in secret, anti-governmental pamphlets vaunting a quite distinct version of patriotism beat the censor and the police official. Outnumbering those of their opponents three or four to one, they received the tacit support of the magistrates and barristers and drew sustenance from right across the political spectrum, including court aristocrats and Princes of the Blood and a good sprinkling of individuals from the philosophe movement, such as Helvétius, Raynal, d’Holbach and Mercier. Many of the most assertive voices belonged to lawyers who comprised the vestiges of the old parti janséniste, which, one well-informed pamphleteer asserted, having disposed of the Jesuits, had now managed ‘to turn themselves into a party of patriotism’, with Le Paige, still in his Temple lair, very much in the thick of things.10 Roughly half the anti-governmental pamphlets of the Maupeou years were authored by Jansenists, and around one-third of arrests and police interrogations of suspects for publishing offences were of Jansenists. Unsurprisingly, the historically based arguments, which Le Paige and his ilk had familiarized over the decades of the Jansenist struggle and which Montesquieu was held to have endorsed, were staples of patriot propaganda. Maupeou’s attack on the parlements – heirs of the representative institutions of the Merovingians – was viewed as an assault on the nation’s fundamental laws which even the monarchy, in the past, had admitted it was in a state of ‘happy powerlessness’ to change.11 The Triumvirate was ‘ministerial despotism’ incarnate.

There were some emergent themes which stood out against this familiar backcloth. One fresh element within anti-government discourse was its lack of religious resonance. Just as the king’s party rarely deployed the language of divine right, so these quondam Jansenist enthusiasts rarely utilized religious argumentation. The abolition of the Jesuits had removed the classic Jansenist scapegoat, and a new spirit of secularism was abroad in the patriot as well as the Maupeou camp. A second distinctive feature of patriot propaganda was the way in which their demands transcended the corporative interest of the sovereign courts and hovered as yet still tentatively around the supra-corporative notion of the nation. A good deal of patriot polemic followed the ringing appeal of Malesherbes, for example, who, in the remonstrances he penned in 1770 on behalf of the Paris Cour des Aides, had gone so far as to call for the meeting of the Estates General. This august forum, which debated matters of national importance, had last met in 1614 – and its quasi-permanent recess was coextensive with the reign of the absolutism which now was under attack.12 Notions of national sovereignty and a national ‘general will’ were starting to appear.

A third feature of the Maupeou polemics was a particularly intense contest over the meanings and implications of the most basic terms in the political lexicon, facilitated by the fact that patriots and their opponents shared much the same vocabulary. ‘The war of the pen is beginning,’ Madame d’Épinay wrote to the abbé Galiani in April 1771, ‘heads are in ferment, the dictionary is changing and we hear nothing but big words like reason of state, aristocrat and despotism.’13 The ubiquity of the word despotism was very much a case in point. While royalists maintained the traditional distinction between ‘absolutism’ and ‘despotism’, many of their opponents attacked practices and prerogatives which a few decades previously would have been regarded as uncontestable truisms about the monarchical constitution. Despotism was evident, it was held, not only in the policies of his ministers, Intendants and police and tax officials but also in the personal life of the ruler. Personalized and often openly pornographic attacks on Louis XV, his mistresses and his ministers – such as Thévenot de Morande’s Le Gazetier cuirassé (‘The Armour-plated Gazetteer’) – purported to bring under the public gaze the immoral and corrupt realities of court life. A good king should be a faithful and virtuous servant of the nation’s interest: Louis XV, it seemed, was the polar opposite. Despotism was also allegedly detectable in lack of respect for individual ‘freedoms’ – and this too was another word whose meanings were being contested. Though the sense of freedom as historically validated and legally enforcible privileges – such as the liberties of the provinces, cities and other corporative bodies, including the parlements – still remained intact, there was a growing tendency to give a more positive and universalist spin to the term, in ways which echoed Rousseau and the natural law tradition.14 Thus, the exile of individual parletnentaires by lettre de cachet was viewed as symptomatic of a more generalized lack of respect for individual freedom. In much the same way, the government’s tough stance on censorship was interpreted as an assault on a ‘natural’ right of free speech and freedom of conscience. The Maupeou debates thus registered a sea-change taking place in the political culture and vocabulary of Bourbon France. Absolutist verities were not only being challenged in more systematic and more daring forms than hitherto; the parameters of political debate were also being widened by both government and its critics.

The apparent strengths of the patriot movement were only a light veneer, however, over its many weaknesses. However many arguments the patriots won, it proved impossible to mobilize the public opinion whose support was endlessly evoked. This was all the more the case in that the vague and baggy language which the patriots spoke obscured rather than clarified very different interests of the individuals – princes, parlementaires, lawyers, philosophes, or whoever – who used it. A notable diminuendo in pamphlet production from 1772 highlighted the growing efficiency of the state’s policing operations and the erosion of public support for the patriot cause. Although the bumptious Beaumarchais would make effective fun of the new Paris Parlement in several best-selling pamphlets in 1773, the patriot movement had by then seemingly failed to cut the political mustard.

Maupeou thus seemed triumphant, while Terray – though endlessly ridiculed for corruption – had come close to balancing the state budget in 1772 and by 1773 had ridden out the worst of the economic and financial crises he had faced on coming into office. Yet those who lived by faction in the Bourbon polity risked perishing by it. Despite the considerable political credit they had amassed by 1774 for outfacing parlementary and popular opposition, the Triumvirate’s situation was still fragile. One of their great strengths had been their unity and cohesion. Strapped tightly to each other by their collective need to do down the Paris Parlement in 1770–71, the three members had less in common once that threat had been exorcized. More fissiparous tendencies started to develop between them. Relations between Maupeou and Terray went from the cool-but-cooperative to the distant-cum-glacial, while d’Aiguillon started to develop his own agenda, cosying up in particular to the Princes of the Blood. This seemed like treason to Maupeou, since the refusal of the princes to attend his new Parlement (and thus to confer on it the prestige of being a Court of Peers) was in his eyes a continuing weakness in the institution.

Although rumours were abroad in 1774 that Maupeou’s ministerial days would soon be over, the support of his ruler did not waver. Yet if Louis’s strength of commitment never failed, his body did. Taken ill while out hunting, the king was diagnosed as suffering from smallpox – though he himself was the last to know, realizing what was happening to him only when he glimpsed his own pock-ridden hand. At once he sought to use the decay of his physical body to demonstrate the eternal value of the monarch’s ceremonial body. ‘Now I know what is going on,’ he told Madame du Barry, ‘we must not start up again the scandal at Metz … I owe myself to God and my people.’15 The mistress was despatched from court at once and Louis set about dying like a Christian in imitation of his great-grandfather, whose image and representations had dogged every aspect of his long reign. Though the contagious nature of the disease ruled out the attendance of the dauphin for deathbed advice, other court ceremonials played out mechanically around the increasingly hideous figure of the ruler, nailed in suffering to a campbed in the midst of the royal chamber at the heart of the solar temple of the Sun King. Louis’s belated rallying to piety won him some small measure of public sympathy, chroniclers noticed, but this meant little to the factional vultures gathering for the royal demise. The stock of the Choiseulists rose, while dévot activists like Richelieu and d’Aiguillon, who had composed with the now-exiled du Barry, cast round desperately for allies. With its mainstay and prop on his deathbed, the ministry looked as ripe for removal as the monarchy for a new direction.

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