Cardinal de Fleury, chaplain to queen Marie-Thérèse, tutor to Louis XV and then First Minister of the king, occupied one of the most important functions of the kingdom. Nothing escaped the control of Cardinal de Fleury, nicknamed “His Eternity”, in the administration, the economy, foreign policy, etc. He continued to manage the affairs of state until his death in 1743, as had other cardinals before him such as Richelieu and Mazarin.
Regarded by some historians as the “Richelieu of Louis XV”, André Hercule de Fleury studied theology at the Sorbonne university before becoming chaplain to queen Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV, in 1677. He was introduced into the court and carried out his ecclesiastical functions during religious ceremonies. In 1692, he officiated at the wedding of the duc d’Orléans, the future Regent, with Mademoiselle de Blois. He was appointed to the diocese of Fréjus in 1699 and moved his residence there.
But Louis XIV died in 1715, and his last will and testament appointed Fleury as tutor to the young Louis XV. The appointment was officially ratified the following year by the kingdom’s Regent, the duc d’Orléans. In 1717, “Monsieur de Fréjus” was elected to the French Academy, and ten years later received the ultimate consecration when in 1726 he replaced the duc de Bourbon in the post of First Minister. In September of the same year he was appointed cardinal by Louis XV. A trusted adviser to the king, he played a key role in the management of the state’s affairs.
Cardinal de Fleury promoted peace in Europe and established the economic stability of the kingdom, but he was unable to prevent the rising power of the Parliament of Paris. Yet, in spite of his influence on the king, his majesty decided to adopt an offensive foreign policy. The old Cardinal de Fleury could not prevent the king from leading France into the Austrian War of Succession in 1741. On the death of the cardinal in January 1743, Louis XV took the decision to reign alone. No First Minister succeeded “His Eternity”, the nickname given to the cardinal for his longevity.