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Colbert De Croissy, Charles

COLBERT DE CROISSY, CHARLES, Marquis (1625-1696), French diplomatist, like his elder brother Jean Baptiste Colbert, began his career in the office of the minister of war Le Tellier. In 1656 he bought a counsellorship at the parlement of Metz, and in 1658 was appointed intendant of Alsace and president of the newly-created sovereign council of Alsace. In this position he had to re-organize the territory recently annexed to France. The steady support of his brother at court gained for him several diplomatic missions - to Germany and Italy (1659-1661). In 1662 he became marquis de Croissy and président à mortier of the parlement of Metz. After various intendancies, at Soissons (1665), at Amiens (1666), and at Paris (1667), he turned definitely to diplomacy. In 1668 he represented France at the conference of Aix-la-Chapelle; and in August of the same year was sent as ambassador to London, where he was to negotiate the definite treaty of alliance with Charles II. He arranged the interview at Dover between Charles and his sister Henrietta of Orleans, gained the king's personal favour by finding a mistress for him, Louise de Kéroualle, maid of honour to Madame, and persuaded him to declare war against Holland. The negotiation of the treaty of Nijmwegen (1676-1678) still further increased his reputation as a diplomatist and Louis XIV. made him secretary of state for foreign affairs after the disgrace of Arnauld de Pomponne, brought about by his brother, 1679. He at once assumed the entire direction of French diplomacy. Foreign ambassadors were no longer received and diplomatic instructions were no longer given by other secretaries of state. It was he, not Louvois, who formed the idea of annexation during a time of peace, by means of the chambers of reunion. He had outlined this plan as early as 1658 with regard to Alsace. His policy at first was to retain the territory annexed by the chambers of reunion without declaring war, and for this purpose he signed treaties of alliance with the elector of Brandenburg (1681), and with Denmark (1683); but the troubles following upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes (1685) forced him to give up his scheme and to prepare for war with Germany (1688). The negotiations for peace had been begun again when he died, on the 28th of July 1696. His clerk, Bergeret, was his invaluable assistant.

Bibliography. - His papers, preserved in the Archives des affaires étrangères at Paris, have been partially published in the Recueil des instructions données aux ambassadeurs et ministres de France (since 1884). See especially the volumes: - Autriche (t. i.), Suède (t. ii.), Rome (t. vi.), Bavière (t. viii.), Savoie (t. xiv.), Prusse (t. xvi.). Other documents have been published in Mignet's Négociations relatives à la succession d'Espagne, vol. iv., and in the collection of Lettres et négociations ... pour la paix de Nimègue, 1676-1677 (La Haye, 1710). In addition to the Mémoires of the time, see Spanheim, Relation de la cour de France en 1690, ed. E. Bourgeois (Paris and Lyons, 1900); Baschet, Histoire du depôt des affaires étrangères; C. Rousset, Histoire de Louvois (4 vols., Paris, 1863); E. Bourgeois, "Louvois, et Colbert de Croissy," in the Revue historique, vol. xxxiv. (1887); A. Waddington, Le Grand Electeur et Louis XIV (Paris, 1905); G. Pagis, Le Grand Electeur et Louis XIV (Paris, 1905).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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