Research Subjects: Miscellaneous




The Ancien Régime Peerage (4 August 1789)

By Stephen Millar

On 4 August 1789 – the day the feudal system was abolished in France – 54 individuals held 66 peerages from the ancient regime.[1] These duke-peers represented the top level of the aristocracy (unlike in the British peerage system, peerages in 1789 France were only held by princes ranked ‘of the blood’ or dukes).[2]

Ranking the highest were six medieval ecclesiastical peerages, followed by 60 lay peerages. Although 11 princes of the blood held lay peerages, the ecclesiastical peerages ranked first; next came the Bourbon princes of the blood; ranking last were the 37 non-royal duke-peers (in order of date of registration/reception of the peerages in Parlement). These 37 duke-peers held 39 titles (compared with 25 families holding 28 dukedoms in the United Kingdom ).

Other member of a duke-peer’s family could hold a second ducal title, either hereditary or brevet (lifetime only): in 1667, the eldest son of the 3rd duc de Luynes was granted the hereditary title duc de Chevreuse; the duc de Noailles’ second son was created brevet duc de Poix in 1767.

By 1789, the great French families (and their branches) had accumulated several ducal titles: the Montmorency-Luxembourg family held Piney, Montmorency, Chatillon, Laval and Beaumont; the Noailles family held Noailles, Ayen and Poix (plus the 1747 Spanish title of duc de Mouchy); the Vignerot du Plessis family – decended from Cardinal Richelieu – held the peerages of Richelieu and Fronsac. In contrast, only three British dukes held ‘double’ dukedoms.

The individual holding the greatest number of French peerages at the end of the ancient regime was Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, duc de Pontievre and a legitimized prince of the blood. Decended from an illegitimate son of King Louis XIV, he held a total of seven peerages.

With two exceptions – the 4th duc de Richelieu and 6th duc de Bouillon – non-royal duke-peers possessed a single peerage title and several subsiduary non-peerage titles (for example, the 1st duc de Coigny held the titles of marquis du Bordage and marquis de La Moussaye).

French peerages had to be registered with – and received by – Parlement before they were considered valid. If unregistered, the title was considered a brevet title (which expired with the grantee’s death). The last unregistered peerage in the ancient regime was Taillebourg, granted by King Louis XV to Louis-Stanilas de La Tremoille (the 18-year-old son of Anne-Frederic de La Tremoille, comte de Taillebourg) in 1749. Louis-Stanilas, a distant relative of the 8th duc de Thouars, died in Paris the same year (without heirs) before the peerage could be registered.

Eight duke-peers died during the Revolutionary and Consular periods: the duc de Brissac was killed at Versailles during the ‘September Massacres’; the bishop-comte de Beauvais was killed a year later in the Carmelite prison; five dukes – Orleans, Biron, Villeroy, Gesvres and Clermont-Tonnerre – were guilotined; the duc d’Enghien was executed at Vincennes at the end of the Consulate.

Part A. Sixty-six peerages held by fifty-four individuals

1. Ecclesiastical peerages (6 peerages held by 6 clerics)

Six medieval ecclesiastical peerages occupied the highest rank in the pre-Revolutionary French peerage.

Appointed by successive Popes, each ecclesiastic peer performed a specific function during coronations: the archbishop-duc de Rheims annointed and crowned the king; the bishop-duc de Laon carried the Saint-Ampoule containing the sacred ointment; the bishop-duc de Langres bore the royal sceptre; the bishop-comte de Beauvais carried the the king’s mantle; the bishop-comte de Chalons carried the king’s ring; the bishop-comte de Noyons carried the royal belt.

In 1674, King Louis XIV added a seventh ecclesiastical peerage – the duchy of Saint-Cloud – for the archbishopric of Paris (the king also nominated archbishop Francois de Harlay de Champvallon for the rank of cardinal). However, this new creation was ranked with the duc-peers and not with the ‘original’ medieval ecclesiastical peers [see 48. Saint-Cloud below].

Only three ecclesiastical peerages – Rheims, Langres and Chalons – survived the Revolution.

1. Archbishop-duc de Reims

Alexandre-Angelique Talleyrand de Perigord (18 October 1736-20 October 1821) was appointed as archbishop of Rheims by Pope Pius VI on 27 October 1777. In 1817, he was elevated to the rank of cardinal.

2. Bishop-duc de Laon

Louis-Hector-Honore-Maxime de Sabran (04 December 1739-23 March 1811) was appointed bishop of Laon by Pope Pope Pius VI in 1780.

3. Bishop-duc de Langres

Cesar-Guillaume de La Luzerne (07 July   1738-21 June 1821) was appointed as bishop of Langres by Pope Clement XIV on 24 June 1770. In 1817, he was elevated to the rank of cardinal.

4. Bishop-comte de Beauvais

Francois-Joseph de La Rochefoucauld-Bayer (28 February 1736-02 September 1793) was appointed as bishop of Beauvais by Pope Clement XIV on 01 June 1772. He was killed in 1793 in the Carmelite Prison.

5. Bishop-comte de Chalons

Anne-Antoine-Jules de Clermont-Tonnerre (01 January 1749-21 February 1830) was appointed as bishop of Chalons by Pope Pius VI on 23 December 1781. In 1822, he was elevated to the rank of cardinal.

6. Bishop-comte de Noyon

Louis-Andre de Grimaldi (17 December 1736-1808) was appointed as bishop of Noyon by Pope Pius VI on 16 October 1777.

2. Sixty lay peerages held by forty-eight individuals

a. Four peerages held by two Princes of the Blood, (rank 2):

7. Anjou (registered 03 May  1771) and 8. Alencon (registered 07 January 1775)

Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, comte de Provence (17 November 1755-16 September 1824) was the brother of King Louis XVI. He reigned as King Louis XVIII twice: from 06 April 1814 to 20 March 1815 and from 08 July 1815 to 16 September 1824.

9. Chateauroux (registered 05 July   1776) and 10. Poitou (formerly Auvergne and Mercoeur; registered 12  November 1773; exchanged 1778)

Charles-Philippe, comte d’Artois (09 October 1757-06 November 1836) was the youngest brother of King Louis XVI. He reigned as King Charles X from 16 September  1824 to 02 August 1830.

b. Ten peerages held by eight Princes of the Blood (rank 3):

11. Angouleme (registered 12 November 1773)

Louis-Antoine, duc d’Angouleme (06 August 1775-03 June 1844) was the eldest son of the comte d’Artois [see 9. Chateauroux above]. He became King Louis XIX (titular) on 02 August 1830, but abdicated in favour of his nephew (Henri-Dieudonne d’Artois, duc de Bordeaux) twenty minutes later.

12. Berry (registered 05 July 1776)

Charles-Ferdinand, duc de Berry (24 January 1778-14 February 1820), was the youngest son of the comte d’Artois [see 9. Chateauroux above]. He was shot and mortally-wounded in Paris on 13 February 1820; he died the following day.

13. Orleans (registered 10 May 1661), 14. Valois (registered 10 May 1661) 15. Nemours (registered 03 September 1672)

Louis-Philippe-Joseph d’Orleans, duc d’Orleans (13 April 1747-06 November  793) was the head of the Bourbon-Orleans branch of the House of Bourbon. He inherited his titles from his father, Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orleans, on 18 November 1785. Despite having some republican sympathies – he had been elected as a deputy for the National Convention and voted for the death of Louis XVI – he was arrested, tried and guillotined during the Reign of Terror.

16. Chartres (registered 10 May  1661)

Louis-Philippe d’Orleans, duc de Chartres (06 October 1773-26 August 1850), was the eldest son of the duc d’Orleans [see 14. Orleans above] He reigned as Louis-Philippe, King of the French, from 07 August 1830 to 24 February 1848.

17. Montpensier (registered 20 April 1695)

Antoine-Philippe d’Orleans, duc de Montpensier (03 July   1775-18 May 1807) was the second son of the duc d’Orleans [see 14. Orleans above]. He died in exile in Salthill, Ireland, aged 31.[3]

18. Guise(registered 30 July   1704)

Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Conde and duc de Guise (09 August 1736-1818),  was head of the Bourbon-Conde branch of the House of Bourbon.[4]

19. Bourbon (registered 05 April 1661)

Louis-Henri de Bourbon, duc de Bourbon (13 April 1756-30 August 1830) was the only son of the prince de Conde [see 18. Guise above].

20. Enghien (formerly Montmorency; registered 09 March 1633; changed 1689)

Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon, duc d’Enghien (02 August 1772-21 April 1804) was the only son of the duc de Bourbon [see 19. Bourbon above].

c. Seven peerages held by one legitimized Prince of the Blood (rank 3):

21. Penthievre (registered 16 December 1698)

22. Chateauvillain (registered 29 August   1703)

23. Rambouillet (registered 29 July   1711)

24. (County of) Eu (peerage extended 1775)

25. Aumale (registered 14 July   1776)

26. Gisors (registered 07 February 1777)

27. Amboise(registered 07 December 1787)

Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, duc de Penthievre (16  November 1725-04 March 1793) was the son of Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse and Marshal of France (an illegitimate son of King Louis XIV).

d. Thirty-five ducal peerages held by thirty-four peers:

28. Uzes (registered 03 March 1572)

Francois-Emmanuel de Crussol, 9th duc d’Uzes (01 January 1728-1802), inherited his title from Charles-Emmanuel de Crussol, 8th duc d’Uzes, on 03 February 1762.

29. Elbeuf (registered 29 March 1582)

Charles-Eugene de Lorraine-Guise, duc d’Elbeuf (28 September 1751-1825) inherited the title from Emmanuel-Maurice de Lorraine on 14 August 1763 (the title was passed to a cadet branch of the House of Lorraine).

30. Montbazon (registered 13 March 1595)

Jules-Hercule de Rohan, 8th duc de Montbazon (25 March 1726-1800), inherited his title from Hercule de Rohan, 7th duc de Montbazon, in 1757.

31. Thouars (registered 07 December 1599)

Jean-Bretagne-Charles-Godefroy de La Tremoille, 8th duc de Thouars (04 February  1737-15 May  1792), inherited his title from Charles-Armand-Rene de La Tremoille, 7th duc de Thouars, on 23 May  1741.

32. Sully (registered 09 March 1606)

Maximilien-Gabriel-Louis de Bethune d’Orval, 8th duc de Sully (02 July  1756-1800), inherited his title from Maximilien-Antoine-Armand de Bethune d’Orval 7th duc de Sully, on 1786.

33. Luynes (registered 14  November 1619)

Louis-Joseph-Charles d’Albert, 6th duc de Luynes and 4th duc de Chevreuse (04  November 1748-20 May  1807), inherited his title from Marie-Charles-Louis d’Albert, 5th duc de Luynes and 3rd duc de Chevreuse, on 08 October 1771.

34. Brissac (registered 08 July 1620)

Louis-Hercule-Timoleon de Cosse, 9th duc de Brissac (15 April 1734-09 September  1792), inherited his title from his father, Jean-Paul-Timoleon de Cosse, 7th duc de Brissac (12 October 1698-17 December 1780), after his second resignation in 1760. His childless elder brother (the 8th duc de Brissac from 1756) was killed 29 August 1759 and the title reverted back to the former 7th duc de Brissac, who had first resigned in 1756).

35. Richelieu (registered 04 September  1621) and 36. Fronsac (registered 05 July   1634)

Louis-Antoine-Sophie de Vignerot du Plessis, 4th duc de Richelieu and 7th duc de Fronsac (04 February 1736-1791), inherited his titles from Louis-Francois-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, 3rd duc de Richelieu, 6th duc de Fronsac and Marshal of France, on 08 August 1788.

37. Albret and 38. Chateau-Thierry [see e. below].

39. Rohan (registered 15 July   1652)

Louis-Marie de Rohan-Chabot, 4th duc de Rohan (17 January 1710-28 November 1791), inherited his title from his father, Louis-Bretagne de Rohan-Chabot, 3rd duc de Rohan, on 10 August 1738.

40. Piney (registered 29 December 1581, but ranked from 1662)

Anne-Charles-Sigismond de Montmorency-Luxembourg, 10th duc de Piney (1737-1803), inherited his title from Charles-Francois-Frederic de Montmorency-Luxembourg, 9th duc de Piney and Marshal of France, in 1764.

41. Gramont (registered 15 December 1663)

Louis-Antoine de Gramont, 7th duc de Gramont and brevet duc de Lesparre (19 April 1722-1801), inherited his title from Lieutenant-General Louis de Gramont, 6th duc de Gramont, after he was killed at the Battle of Fontenoy (11 May  1745).

42. Villeroy (registered 15 December 1663)

Gabriel-Louis de Neufville, 5th duc de Villeroy (08 October 1731-28 April 1794) inherited his title from his uncle, Louis-Francois, 4th duc de Villeroy, in 1766. He was guillotined in 1794.

43. Mortemart (registered 15 December 1663)

Victurnien-Jean-Baptiste de Rochechouart, 7th duc de Mortemart (08 February 1752-04 July 1812), inherited his title from his father, Jean-Baptiste de Rochechouart, 6th duc de Mortmart, on 30 July 1771.

44. Saint-Aignan (registered 15 December 1663)

Paul-Marie-Victoire de Beauvilliers, 7th duc de Saint-Aignan (02 August  1766-1811), inherited his title from his father, Paul-Etienne-Auguste, 6th duc de Saint-Aignan, on 19 October 1771.

45. Noailles (registered 15 December 1663)

Louis de Noailles, 4th duc de Noailles and marshal of France (24 January  1713-22 August 1793), inherited his title from Adrien-Maurice, 3rd duc de Noailles and Marshal of France, on 24 June 1766.

46. Aumont (registered 02 December 1665)

Louis-Marie-Guy, 6th duc d’Aumont (05 August 1732-20 October 1799), inherited his title from Louis-Marie-Augustin, 5th duc d’Aumont, on  15 April 1782.

47. Gesvres (formerly Tresmes; registered 15 December 1663; changed in 1670)

Louis-Joachim de Potier, 6th duc de Gesvres (09 May 1733-07 July   1794), inherited his title from his father, Louis de Potier, 5th duc de Gesvres, on 28 December 1774. He was guillotined in 1794.

48. Saint-Cloud (registered 18 August 1690)

Antoine-Eleonore-Leon Le Clerc de Juigne, archbishop of Paris and 6th duc de Saint-Cloud (02  November 1728-19 March 1811) was appointed by Pope Pius VI on 22 December 1781. Although Saint-Cloud was an ecclesiastical peerage, it ranked with the non-ecclesiastical duke-peers. King Louis XVIII did not resinstate the peerage in 1814.

49. Bethune-Charost (registered 18 August  1690)

Armand-Joseph, 6th duc de Bethune-Charost (01 July 1738-27 October 1800) inherited his title from his father, Francois-Joseph, 5th duc de bethune-Charost, on 26 October 1739.

50. Harcourt (registered 28 February 1710)

Francois-Henri, 5th duc d’Harcourt (12 January 1726-22 July 1802), inherited his title from Anne-Pierre, 4th duc d’Harcourt and Marshal of France, on 02 December 1783.

51. FitzJames (registered 23 May  1710)

Jacques Charles Fitz-James, 5th duc de Fitz-James (26 November 1743-11 August 1805), inherited his title from Charles, 4th duc de Fitz-James and Marshal of France, after his resignation in 1769.

52. Chaulnes (registered 01 December 1711)

Marie-Joseph-Louis d’Albert d’Ailly, 4th duc de Chaulnes and brevet duc de Picquigny (24  November 1741-1792) inherited his title from Michel-Ferdinand d’Albert d’Ailly, 3rd duc de Chaulnes, on 23 September  1769.

53. Villars-Brancas (registered 05 September 1716)

Louis de Brancas, 5th duc de Villars-Brancas (05 May 1714-1794), inherited his title from Louis-Antoine, 4th duc de Villars-Brancas, after his resignation in 1751.

54. Valentinois [see e. below].

55. Nevers (registered 31 December 1720)

Louis-Jules-Barbon Mazarini-Mancini, 2nd duc de Nevers (16 December 1716-25 February  1798), inherited his title from his father, Philippe-Jules-Francois de Mazarini-Mancini, 1st duc de Nevers, in 1768.

56. Biron (registered 22 February 1723)

Armand-Louis de Gontaut, 7th duc de Biron (13 April 1747-31 December 1793), inherited his title from Charles-Antoine-Armand de Gontaut, 6th duc de Biron and Marshal of France, on 29 October 1788.

57. Aiguillon (peerage re-registered 28 May  1731)

Armand-Desire du Plessis, 5th duc d’Aiguillon (31 October 1761-04 May  1800), inherited his title from Emmanuel-Armand du Plessis, 4th duc d’Aiguillon, on 01 September  1788.

58. Fleury (registered 14 March 1736)

Andre-Hercule-Marie-Louis de Rosset, 3rd duc de Fleury (25 April 1770-16 January  1815), inherited his title from his grandfather, Andre-Hercule de Rosset, 2nd duc de Fleury, in 1788.

59. Duras (registered 25 June 1756)

Created in 1688, this hereditary duchy was elevated to the peerage by King Louis XV for Emmanuel-Felicite de Durfort, 4th duc de Duras and Marshal of France (19 December 1715-06 September 1789).

60. La Vauguyon (registered 15 December 1758)

Paul-Francois de Quelen de Stuer de Caussade, 2nd duc de La Vauguyon (30 July 1746-14 March 1828), inheirited his title from Antoine-Paul-Jacques de Quelen de Stuer de Caussade, 1st duc de La Vauguyon, on 04 February  1772.

61. Praslin (registered 10 December 1762)

Renaud-Cesar-Louis de Choiseul, 2nd duc de Praslin (18 June 1735-05 December 1791), inherited his title from his father, Cesar-Gabriel de Choiseul, 1st duc de Praslin, on 15 November 1785.

62. La Rochefoucauld (orginally registered 04 September 1631; transmission through marriage 1762; registered 24 April 1769)

Louis-Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, 1st duc de La Rochefoucauld (11 July 1743-14 September 1792), inherited his title from his cousin, Louis-Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld de Roye, duc d’Anville. He was shot in 1792.

63. Clermont-Tonnerre (registered 05 July   1775)

Charles-Henri-Jules de Clermont-Tonnerre, 2nd duc de Clermont-Tonnerre (06 April 1720-26 July 1794), inherited his title from Gaspard de Clermont-Tonnerre, 1st duc de Clermont-Tonnerre and Marshal of France, on 16 March 1781.

64. Aubigny [see e. below].

65. Choiseul (registered 10 December 1787)

This peerage was created for Claude-Cleradus-Gabriel de Choiseul-Beaupre. (26 August 1760-01 December 1838). He had married Marie-Stephanie de Choiseul-Stainville (niece of Etienne de Choiseul, duc de Choiseul d’Ambroise) on 10 October 1778.[5]

66. Coigny (registered 14 December 1787)

This peerage was created for Marie-Francois-Henri de Franquetot, 2nd duc de Coigny (28 March 1737-19 May 1821). He had inherited his non-peerage title from his grandfather, Francois de Francquetot de Coigny, Marshal of France, in 1756. Coigny was the final peerage created by King Louis XVI prior to the French Revolution.

e. Four peerages held by three foreign peers:

Sovereign duchy of Bouillon

37. Albret and 38. Chateau-Thierry (both peerages registered 02 December 1665)

Godefroid-Charles de La Tour Avergne, 6th duc de Bouillon (26 January 1728-03 December 1792) held the French peerages of Albret and Chateau-Thierry. He inherited his titles from his father, Charles-Godefroid de La Tour-Avergne, duc de Bouillon, on 24 October 1771.

Sovereign Principality of Monaco

54. Valentinois (registered 02 September 1716)

Honore-Anne-Charles-Maurice Goyon de Matignon-Grimaldi, duc de Valentinois (17 May  1758-16 February  1819), inherited his title from his father, Honore-Camille-Leonore Goyon de Matignon-Grimaldi, duc de Valentinois, after he resigned the duchy in 1777.

Duchy of Richmond and Lennox ( United Kingdom and Ireland)

64. Aubigny (registered 01 July   1777)

James Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond and 3rd Duke of Lennox (22 February  1735-29 December 1806) inherited his titles from Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, on 08 August 1750.

Part B. Non-peerage ducal titles (28)

Dukes holding hereditary titles (the duc de Laval) or ‘brevet’ – lifetime or courtesy – titles (the duc de Liancourt), were not part of the ancient regime peerage. Like the duke-peers, they were ranked chronologically – the hereditary dukes by date of registration, the brevet-dukes by date of creation:

1. Hereditary ducal titles in 1789:

1. Louis-Joseph-Charles d’Albret, duc de Chevreuse (1667) (see 33. Luynes above]

2. Anne-Leon de Montmorency-Luxembourg, 5th duc de Montmorency (1688)

3. Anne-Charles-Sigismond de Montmorency Luxembourg , 4th duc de Chatillon (1696)

4. Charles de Rohan, duc de Rochefort (1728)

5. Louis de Noailles, duc d’Ayen (1737) [see 45. Noailles above]

6. Victor-Francois, 2nd duc de Broglie (1742)

7. Louise-Felicite d’Aumont, 2nd duchesse de Rethel-Mazarin (1746)

8. Anne-Alexandre-Marie-Sulpice de Montmorency-Laval, 2nd duc de Laval (1758)

9. Anne-Christian de Montmorency-Luxembourg, 2nd duc de Beaumont (1765)

10. Jean-Laurent de Durfort de Civrac, 2nd duc de Lorge (previously Quintin; 1774)

11. Louis-Alexandre d’Aumont, 1st duc de Villequier (1774)

12. Florent-Louis de Chatelet, 1st duc de Chatelet (02 February 1777)

13. Anne-Emmanuel de Croy, 2nd duc de Croy

14. Armand-Jules-Francois de Polignac, 1st duc de Polignac (1783)

15. Charles-Rene de Maille, 1st duc de Maille (1784)

16. Pierre-Marc de Levis, 2nd duc de Levis (1784)

17. Charles-Francois de Saulx, 1st duc de Saulx-Tavannes (29 March 1786)

18. Louis-Joseph de Caumont, 1st duc de La Force (1787)

2. Brevet ducal titles in 1789:

1. Louis de Brancas, duc de Lauragais (1731) [see 53. Villars-Brancas above]

2. Antoine-Antonin de Gramont, duc de Lesparre (1739)

3. Louis-Francois de La Rochefoucauld, duc d’Estissac (1758)

4. Marie-Joseph-Louis d’Albert d’Ailly, duc de Picquigny (1761) [see 52. Chaulnes above]

5. Louis-Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld de Roye, duc d’Anville (1746) [see 62. La Rochefoucauld above]

6. Philippe-Louis-Marc-Antoine de Noailles, duc de Poix (1767)

7. Francois-Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, duc de Liancourt (1765)

8. Joseph-Anne de Croy, duc d’Havre (1773)

9. Louis-Antoine de Gramont, duc de Lesparre (1774) [see 41. Gramont above]

10. Louis-Antoine de Rohan-Chabot, duc de Chabot (1782)

In the ancien regime, the title of (non-royal) prince usually meant the holder either was a sovereign prince (prince de Dombes), had been authorized to use a foreign princely title (prince de Beauveau-Craon), had been created prince (prince de Soubise) or was using a courtesy title from a ducal house (prince de Marsillac).

The non-peerage titles of marquis, comte, vicomte, baron, and chevalier made up the remaining members of the French aristocracy.



[1] Titles of nobility were explicitly abolished on 19-23.06.1790.

[2] The title of non-royal prince ranked below that of duke-peer.

[3] The duc d’Orleans’ third and youngest son, Louis-Charles d’Orleans, comte de Beaujolois (07.10.1779-30.05.1808), did not hold a peerage.

[4] Louis-Francois-Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Conti (01.09.1734-13.03.1814), head of the Bourbon-Conti branch of the House of Bourbon, sold his only duke-peerage (Mercoeur) in 1770. The prince of Conti was later banished from France by the Directory, living in exile in Barcelona, Spain , until his death.

[5] The Choiseul family’s other peerage, Choiseul-Stainville, had become extinct on 02.06.1789.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2007


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