Short description

The Duc de Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, François Alexandre Frédéric, died on March 27, 1827 in Paris, at his residence at 9 rue Royale, after a life dedicated to national service and philanthropy. Born on January 11, 1747 at Château de la Roche-Guyon in the Oise region, he was a committed aristocrat and a pioneer of social and educational reform.

His death was marked by an impressive funeral, reflecting the people's gratitude for his contributions. More than 50,000 people attended his funeral procession to the Porte de Clichy, expressing their respect and hostility to the royalist powers that be. His refusal, until his last breath, of religious practices that did not conform to his convictions marked his independence of spirit.

As a pioneer of education for all, he founded the École des Arts et Métiers in Liancourt in 1780, providing technical training for orphans and poor soldiers' children. His educational vision focused on practical and useful instruction, a revolutionary concept at the time. His contribution to the fight against smallpox and the spread of vaccination in France also marked his commitment to public health.

Politically, he supported the principles of a constitutional monarchy, but was forced into exile during the French Revolution because of his moderate positions. Despite political setbacks, he returned to France after Bonaparte's coup d'état in 1799 and continued to work for the well-being of society.

The Duc de Rochefoucauld-Liancourt remains an example of dedication and modernity, having helped shape institutions and ideas that have endured over time. His legacy is celebrated through institutions such as the École Nationale Supérieure des Ingénieurs Arts et Métiers (ENSAM) and the Fondation des Arts et Métiers (located in what is left of his castle in Liancourt), which perpetuate his commitment to education and innovation.

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La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt Mansion
9 rue Royale
75008 Paris

  • Metro: lines 1, 8 and 12 - Staiion Concorde
  • Bus : lines 42, 45, 52, 72, 73, 84, 93 - Tootbus Paris of RATP - Night lines (Noctilien) N11 and N24
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La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt Mansion
9 rue Royale
75008 Paris

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 52′ 03″ N 2° 19' 21″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.86769 2.32253


Full description

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt (François Alexandre Frédéric de) died on March 27, 1827 in Paris at 9 rue Royale (8th arrondissement, near Place de la Concorde). A commemorative plaque has been affixed to the building. He was born on January 11, 1747 at Château de la Roche-Guyon in the Oise département.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt's death: a loss recognized by the people

Until March 23, 1827 (two months after his 8th birthday), he had been very active, but then suddenly felt tired.
suddenly tired. He died at his Paris residence at 9 rue Royale on the afternoon of Tuesday March 27. Until his last breath, he refused all religious practices in which he did not believe. "I agree with the substance, but not the form". He was closer to Protestants, many of whom were his friends.

His funeral took place at Notre-Dame de l'Assomption church, a few hundred meters away, on rue Saint-Honoré. The hearse's journey to Porte de Clichy, en route to Liancourt (60 km north of Paris), was particularly eventful. A crowd of over 50,000 people had responded to an appeal launched the day before in the newspaper "Le Constitutionnel": "All good citizens, all workshop and factory managers, all artists, all workers owe it to the fatherland to accompany to the place of burial the remains of one of our great citizens."

A sadly dramatic funeral for a Pair of France

Paying a vibrant tribute to the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, the common people at the same time demonstrated their hostility to the ultra-royalist power in place and to the little-esteemed King Charles X (he would be overthrown 3 years later in August 1830). Students from the Arts et Métiers centers in Châlons sur Marne and Angers, who venerated their inspector, benefactor and creator of their school, wanted to pay their last respects by carrying the coffin. But such was the confusion, and the crowd so large, that the police believed it to be a political demonstration, and charged the pallbearers in the rue Saint-Honoré. This confrontation and clashes with the students caused the coffin to fall, severely damaging it. So, like his life, even his death was a battlefield affair.

The funeral procession to Liancourt, the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt's estate

The cortege arrived in Liancourt that evening, and it took the carpenter all night to repair the damage. The Duke was laid to rest on the morning of March 3 in the spot he had chosen in the grounds of his estate, with a simple tombstone.

In 1831, King Louis-Philippe I requested that the ashes be transferred to the Pantheon - which the family refused, respecting the Duke's wish to be laid to rest among the people of his beloved Liancourt. His grandson, who admired him, later had a small chapel built, with his grandfather's maxim inscribed on the pediment: "Blessed is he who understands the needs of the poor".

The Liancourt estate was sold in 1919, but it was not until thirty years later, in 1949, that the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt's remains, at the request of the Ingénieurs des Arts et Métiers and the Commune, and in agreement with the fa mille, joined the tomb of his grandson in the village cemetery.

The Arts et Métiers Foundation in Liancourt (Oise)

Today, part of the Liancourt estate, including "La Ferme de la Montagne", has been purchased by the Fondation des Arts et Métiers, a spin-off of the Société des Ingénieurs Arts et Métiers. The Arts et Métiers historical center in Liancourt (Oise) is located on the "Ferme de la Montagne" in Liancourt, the historic birthplace of the school. This 2-hectare estate, comprising 1,300 m2 of 18th-century buildings, is home to several areas of activity. It houses a museum, an archive and a foundation. The museum is devoted to the history of the La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt family, the École des Arts et Métiers and its centers, and the work of students and teachers. The archive center collects and preserves historical documents, mainly from the gadzarts and the École. The Foundation's mission is to introduce young people to science and technology.

Les Ingénieurs des Arts et Métiers (ENSAM)

The Société des Ingénieurs Arts et Métiers currently has 34,000 living members (Ingénieurs Gadzarts). This Grande École (ENSAM) has trained over 100,000 students since it was founded, making it one of France's leading engineering schools. Its aim is to be France's leading technology establishment, serving the business community. Since 2013, it has been part of Hautes Ecoles Sorbonne Arts et Métiers Université (HESAM).

Note: The Société des Ingénieurs Arts et Métiers also owns a Hôtel particulier at 9 bis Avenue d'Iéna (75016), which is the association's headquarters. But it's also the address of an affordable gourmet restaurant open to all, not just its members. It's part of a Restaurant Break on our self-guided Promenade between the Palais de Chaillot and the Arc de Triomphe.

The man who made it all happen: François Alexandre Frédéric de Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt - His ancestors

Through his mother, he descended from Louvois; through his father, Louis François Armand de Roye de La Rochefoucauld, Duc d'Estissac (1695-1783), he also descended from Chancellor Séguier (1588-1672) and, among his ancestors, François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), the famous author of the Maximes.
He first embraced a career in arms: musketeer (1763), colonel of the La Rochefoucauld-cavalerie dragoon regiment (1770), maréchal de camp (1788).
In 1765, by royal decree, he became duc de Liancourt; he was later made duke of La Rochefoucauld in July 1822, a title inherited from his cousin, massacred in 1792 at Gisors (Oise).

Welcomed like a son by the Duc de Choiseul, he remained loyal to him after his disgrace, never consenting to appear at Madame Du Barry's (Maitresse of Louis XV) and rarely showing up at Versailles, "where King Louis XV," wrote his son, "showed him a stern and discontented face". As Paris bored him, and Versailles even more, he became attached to his land of Liancourt in Beauvaisis, which had passed, in the seventeenth century and by succession, from the house of du Plessis de la Roche-Guyon into that of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt and the Encyclopedists

The Duc de Liancourt was an 18th-century intellectual and admirer of the Encyclopedists, Diderot, d'Alembert and Grimm. He was sympathetic to the ideas of the physiocrats, in particular their founder, François Quesnay (1694-1774). But he claimed never to have "strayed" into a Masonic lodge, despite the solicitations of his friends d'Alembert, Condorcet and Baron d'Holbach.
Like his father, Liancourt was a grand seigneur anglophile attracted by political and economic ideas from across the Channel. It was on his return from a stay in England (1769) and his meeting with the English economist Arthur Young that he created a model farm on his lands in Liancourt (Oise), replacing fallow land with artificial meadows, introducing potatoes and turnips, and importing selected livestock. In the 1780s, he added several factories (rope factory, cotton and wool spinning mill, tile and brick factory).

Creation of the Ecole des Arts et Métiers

Wishing to add charity to these innovations, he created a technical school for orphans and the children of poor soldiers in his regiment (1780). Authorized by the King (and approved by Marshal de Ségur and Count de Guibert) in August 1786 to train one hundred students, the Ecole de la Montagne in Liancourt was France's first elementary and technical school, and is considered the founding school of today's Arts et Métiers (ENSAM).
In 1783, succeeding his father, the Duke of Liancourt, who was Grand Master of the King's wardrobe, became a close friend of Louis XVI.

The philanthropic duke ahead of his time

The Duke also believed that an aristocrat should justify the privileges conferred by birth, wealth and education by serving the nation. To this end, he became an industrialist, an agronomist, a school principal, an inspector of hospitals and prisons, and chairman of the vaccinia committee...
"In his inaugural speech on December 19, 1821, he said: "We must contribute to spreading the sentiments of charity and common benevolence, which are so conducive to the reign of peace on earth. Among the prizes awarded by the society were La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt's great battles: the fight against slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the prohibition of gambling and lotteries.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt and education: the backbone of his action

Education is the cornerstone of his conception of society. "He who could read would instruct others. Everyone would like to know how to read. This desire, impotent for the elderly, would be useful for children, and good would come of it.

Education was at the heart of his work. In this context, it was essential for him to educate "the people" and train competent workers, not to educate, but to instruct. According to the Duke, education should be almost exclusively "useful". The two Molard brothers, François Emmanuel as director of the École des arts et métiers in Beaupréau (moved to Angers in 1815), and to a lesser extent Claude Pierre as administrator of the Conservatoire des arts et métiers, worked closely with the Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt in this direction.

Napoleon 1st and the Ecole de Liancourt reference

Under the Consulate, Bonaparte visited Liancourt several times. In Compiègne, he also visited one of the colleges of the Prytanée Français, which was organized for military purposes, but where classical education was given without any real benefit. Napoleon 1st was not fond of the duke, but was well aware of his qualities. On his order, the Liancourt school was transferred and merged with the Compiègne school a few days after a visit to Compiègne. The Moniteur of 6 ventôse an XI (February 25, 1803) announced that, from the following month, instruction at the Collège de Compiègne would be aimed at training good workers and workshop managers; the establishment was placed under the authority of the Minister of the Interior, and later took the title of Ecole d'arts et métiers. Students from Liancourt were transported there as a reference. Three years after this transformation, at the request of the Minister of the Interior, La Rochefoucauld agreed to go and investigate, and following his first visit, on July 4 1806, he was given the title of Inspector General.

The Emperor, while appreciating his qualities, did not count him among his close friends. After his return from exile, La Rochefoucauld resumed and developed his cotton-industry businesses in Liancourt, and decided to decorate him with the ribbon of the Légion d'honneur as a manufacturer.

Mutual education, a modern approach

The duke was one of the first to take an interest in introducing the "mutual education" method to our country. To this end, he translated Lancaster's 1810 work, and had it printed under the title: Système anglais d'instruction, ou Recueil complet des améliorations et inventions mises en pratique aux écoles royales en Angleterre (in-8°, 1815). During the Hundred Days, Carnot (Lazare - mathematician, physicist) made him a member of the Conseil d'industrie et de bienfaisance, one of whose remits was to spread popular education by means of the new method; and when, at the same time, the Société pour l'instruction élémentaire was founded, La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt was one of the first to be elected to the Board of Directors. Although already an old man by this time, we see him closely following the spread of mutual schools. In January 1817, he sent the Society a report on the mutual school established at Beaurepaire, near Pont-Saint-Maxence (Oise), by Baroness de Curnieu, who personally directed the exercises.

In Liancourt, he established two mutual schools, one for boys, the other for girls, run by nuns.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt and the fight against smallpox in France

Edward Jenner, an English country doctor, created the first effective smallpox vaccine in 1796. He discovered that people infected with vaccinia, a mild cow disease, were immune to smallpox. By transmitting vaccinia to a child and then inoculating him with smallpox, he observed that the child did not develop the disease.
Following his travels in the United Kingdom, the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt was well aware of the effectiveness of "vaccinia" against smallpox. He was one of its main propagandists, and became Chairman of the Vaccine Committee.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt and religion

The influence of Protestants on his morality and his conception of education was obvious. The duke rubbed shoulders with Protestant circles and forged ties with Geneva, where the La Rochefoucaulds held salons (Saussure, Bonnet, Lesage, Tronchin...), and with Berne, where his wife had taken up residence in the early days of the Revolution.

His travels were all in Protestant countries, in England, the United States and Northern Europe. None to Italy or Spain. Among the Protestants with whom he was so close, we will simply mention Delessert, whose family originated in the canton of Vaud, his fellow traveler who was always at his side, on the vaccinia committee and at the Caisse d'épargne.

His concern to help the Jews is also noteworthy: "I have received your circular inviting friends of industry to take part in an open subscription for the education of poor Jewish children in Nancy. I will gladly take part in this subscription", which he does for the sum of 20 francs. Jewish children are admitted to the École des Arts et Métiers for as long as La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt is inspector. Liancourt erased religious divisions, at least when it came to education.

To his last breath, he refused to accept any religious practices he didn't believe in. "I agree with the substance, but not the form".

The Duke and his political commitments under the ancien régime

He did not frequent the Court of Louis XV, which he disliked for its irresponsibility and lifestyle. Under Louis XVI, following his father's inheritance of the position of Grand Master of the Garde-Robe, he became an intimate of the king. But few of the people who surrounded the rpi had the duke's knowledge of Anglo-Saxon countries and their modernism, or of the Encyclopedists who advocated fundamental renewals that were difficult for the nobles of the Court to appreciate. He was therefore rather isolated and rarely present.

However, it was the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt as Grand-Maitre de la garde-robe, who penetrated to Louis XVI on the night of July 14-15, waking him to inform him of the popular movements that had been going on in Paris since July 9. To the king's question: "But is this a revolt? the Duke replied with his famous reply: "No, sire, it's a revolution".

The Duke of Liancourt and the Revolution

In 1789, he was only Duke of Liancourt. He became Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt only after his cousin's death in 1792. He supported the principles of a constitutional monarchy. Elected as a deputy of the nobility to the Estates-General held from May 5 to June 27, 1789, he represented the bailliage of Clermont-en-Beauvaisis, but supported the Third Estate.

On July 18, 1789, the Duc de Liancourt was elected President of the Assemblée Nationale. By this time, he had already published or was publishing several works on financial policy and social economics.

At the end of his term of office, he left politics to return to service in Picardy, then in Rouen, as Lieutenant General.

The King's escape to Varennes and the end of the idea of a constitutional monarchy

To the failed flight of June 20-21, 1791 - better known as the "Varennes Flight" or "Flight to Varennes". A few days after the "fatal return" from Varennes, the Duke dared to unmask the plans of the demagogues from the rostrum, in the session of July 14, 1791: "Let's tell the whole truth, the King is only being braved by factious people; it's royalty that's being attacked. It's the throne they want to overthrow."

After the parliamentary surrender, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld was given command of a military division in Normandy. The Duc de Liancourt endeavored to pacify the population.
He was in command of Rouen as lieutenant-general at the time of August 10, 1792. This revolutionary day consummated the fall of the constitutional monarchy. When news of these events reached him, he had all the regular troops and militias under his command swear an oath of loyalty to the king and the constitution.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt's political position: Constitutional Monarchy

Representing the nobility in the Constituent Assembly, but supporting the Third Estate, his position may have seemed ambiguous to many of his peers. But in reality, he wanted a Constitutional Monarchy for France, as he had seen in the United Kingdom. He seemed to agree with Louis XVI.

In July 1792, the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, through the intermediary of M. Bertrand de Molleville, his minister, had offered Louis XVI his entire fortune, subject only to 100 louis de rente. A first loan of 190,000 livres seems to have been made, with the promise to add 900,000 livres in the first fortnight of August. On this occasion, the duke's words, as reported by M. de Molleville, are precise: "You may have believed, like many others, that I was a democrat, because I have been on the left side; but the King, who has known my feelings, my conduct and my motives day by day, and who has always approved of them, knows better than anyone that I was no more a democrat than an aristocrat, but that I was quite simply a frank and loyal royalist..."

The events of August 10, 1792 led him to resign from his position as Commandant of Normandy on August 14, 1782. He immediately emigrated to England, where he was received by the economist Arthur Young, and then to the United States (1794). There he met Talleyrand, Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, "the father of the American Declaration of Independence".

The Emigré Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

Deposed a few days later and hotly pursued by his enemies, he only managed to escape them by embarking at Le Crotoy (Baie de Somme) and crossing into England, where he stayed.

His cousin was less fortunate. Louis Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld was massacred on September 4, 1791 in Gisors (murdered by stoning by the revolutionaries in front of his mother and wife), and the title of Duc de La Rochefoucauld passed to his first cousin, Duc François Alexandre Frédéric de Liancourt, who took over the title of Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt (officialized in 1822).

Until 1794, he lived in the small town of Bury. There, he made friends with the famous Arthur Young1. From exile, at the time of the King's trial, he wrote to Barrère, President of the Convention, asking him to testify on the King's behalf.
He left Europe in 1794, and travelled the United States as an observer and philosopher. He traveled, studied and wrote many economic and technical treatises.

Unappreciated by the exiled Comte de Provence, the future Louis XVIII, he mingled little with his entourage of exiles, and in 1797 unsuccessfully sought permission to return to France. Taking refuge with his son in Altona near Hamburg in February 1798, he waited until the end of 1799 (and after Bonaparte's coup d'état of 18 Brumaire) for authorization to return to France, no doubt with the help of Talleyrand, whom he had met during his exile in Philadelphia. He wrote:
"This step," he wrote, "costs me horribly; it seems an acquiescence to what I believe I must call an injustice. But I am racked with sorrows, overwhelmed with misfortunes, and I feel that I must promptly either leave or succumb to them."

The Duc's return to France

He returned to France after the 18th of Brumaire (November 1799), and lived in seclusion, devoting himself exclusively to charitable works, until the day he was struck off the list of émigrés. He then regained possession of the only part of his estate that had been retained by the government as national property.

Included in this restitution was the Château de Liancourt where, as early as 1780, he had founded a vast school in which 25 soldiers' sons received the maintenance and education they needed to become good workers or well-educated non-commissioned officers in the army. The government paid 7 sous a day for each pupil's food; the rest was paid by the founder. Such was the origin of the famous Arts et Métiers school which, after doubling the wealth and population of the village of Liancourt, was successively transferred to Compiègne and Châlons-sur-Marne, still directed by the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, under the title of Inspector General of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers.
In 1800, he was the first to import the vaccination used to prevent smallpox into France. The process, perfected by the Englishman Edward Jenner, involves inoculating humans with cow vaccinia, a disease that is benign in humans and then preserves them from smallpox, which can be fatal. In 1810, he was awarded the Légion d'honneur by the Emperor.

The return of the Bourbon Kings to the throne

Louis XVIII did not restore the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt's position as Grand Master of the Garde-Robe, but called him to the Chamber of Peers on June 4, 1814, creating him a Peer de France, with the title of Duc de la Rochefoucauld,
He remained a friend of royalty, while rejecting the views of the ultras.

He then held a number of free public offices, advocating the abolition of the slave trade and a ban on gambling and lotteries. On November 15, 1818, he founded the Caisse d'Épargne et de Prévoyance de Paris, France's first savings bank.
Appointed a member of the General Hospital Council in 1816, he was actively involved in the Society of Christian Morals.
In addition to being Inspector General and President of the Conseil de Perfectionnement du Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, he was also a member of the Conseil Général des Prisons, the Conseil Général des Manufactures, the Conseil Général d'Agriculture, the Conseil Général des Hospices de Paris and the Conseil Général de l'Oise. All these functions were unpaid, and required continual sacrifice.
But the Bourbons (Louis XVIII, then Charles X) were no friends of the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. He was dismissed from all his activities with the royal decree of July 14, 1823, and in August he ceased to be chairman of the vaccinia committee, despite the fact that everyone knew "that it was from the Château de Liancourt that vaccinia spread throughout France, this important discovery which has added so much to the rights that the House of la Rochefoucauld had acquired to public recognition over the last six centuries; it was also in this château that one of the first and most well-ordered schools of mutual education was founded". He was enjoying extreme popularity when, on March 23, 1827, he suddenly fell ill with "la maladie", which took his life on March 27, 1827 at 9 rue Royale.

The busy life of François Alexandre Frédéric de la Rochefocauld-Liancourt

After momentarily saving the monarchy by convincing the king not to oppose the Revolution, the Duc de Liancourt was thrust into the political limelight. He even became President of the Assemblée Nationale for a time.
Throughout his life, he was responsible for establishing the concept of "public assistance", developing the very modern idea that "all French people should be equal when it comes to healthcare".
In the same spirit, François de La Rochefoucauld also founded the Arts et Métiers school, to help the most deserving underprivileged. He was also involved in the creation of the Caisse d'Epargne, always with the aim of helping the poorest people to progress.
All these facets make the Duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt a resolutely modern man. An exhibition was dedicated to him in 2023 at the Château de La Roche-Guyon (Oise), whose buildings are still owned by his descendants.

Writings and documents by the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

La Rochefoucauld wrote extensively on agronomy, the abolition of the death penalty, politics, finance and taxation, geography and sociology, as well as reports on begging, the state of hospitals and prisons in the kingdom, the formation of relief workshops for the destitute, and more.
La Rochefoucauld also published several pamphlets on savings banks and other popular writings under the name Père Bonhomme.

This article is largely based on six articles published in the Magazine des Arts et Métiers between May 2018 and December-January 2019 and written by Michel Mignot, Arts et Métiers engineer and historian of the Arts et Métiers Liancourt Foundation.


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