Claude de Mesmes, comte d'Avaux

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Claude de Mesmes
Claude de Mesmes comte d'Avaux detail.png
Detail of the portrait by Anselm van Hulle
Died19 November 1650
OccupationDiplomat, Superintendent of Finances

Claude de Mesmes, comte d'Avaux (1595–1650) was a 17th-century French diplomat and public administrator. He was sent in various missions to Venice, Rome, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland by Richelieu.

In 1635 he guided the negotiations of the Treaty of Stuhmsdorf, which extended the truce between Poland and Sweden. These two countries had fought each other in the Polish-Swedish war of 1626–1629, which ended in a truce rather than a piece. France wanted peace between Poland and Sweden because the Swedes were fighting for France in Germany and the Poles would have menaced their flanc.

In 1638 he negotiated a new alliance between France and Sweden in the Treaty of Hamburg. He also was plenipotentiary at the Peace of Westphalia and ended his career as Superintendent of Finances.

Birth and origines

Claude was born in 1595 as one of five children, three sons and two daughters,[1] of Jean-Jacques de Mesmes and his wife Antoinette de Grossaine. His father was knight and seigneur de Roissy, numbered Jean-Jacques II de Mesmes in the Paris branch of the family.[2] His mother was a rich heiress, who had brought her husband the seigneuries of Avaux, Irval, Breuil, Besancourt, Bellefontaine, and Vandeuil.[3]

Family tree
Claude de Mesmes with his parents and other selected relatives. He never married.



d. 1658
cmd. Abbot
d. 1671
Knt. of



b. 1668

Knt. of
XXXClaud de
Also see the list of siblings in the text.

He appears below among his brothers as the second son:

  1. Henri (1585–1650), who was numbered Henri II de Mesmes and became président à mortier at the parlement of Paris;[4]
  2. Claude (1595–1650), the subject of this article; and
  3. Jean-Antoine (1598–1673), who inherited Henri's office of président à mortier and was the only one of the brothers that fathered sons.[5]

His sisters were Jeanne et Judith:

  1. Jeanne, who married François Lambert d'Herbigny; and
  2. Judith, who married Antoine Maximilien de Belleforière [fr].[6]
The coat of arms of the comtes d'Avaux, detail from the portrait by Anselm van Hulle[a][b]

Judicial and administrative career

He followed his elder brother Henri by starting a career at the parlement of Paris. He became maître des requêtes and then, in 1623, conseiller d'état.[7]

Comte d'Avaux

In January 1638 Louis XIII raised the seigneurie of Avaux to a comté for him and his father. However, the act was only registered in 1648.[8] Strictly speaking, Claude de Mesmes therefore became comte d'Avaux only late in his life, in 1648, whereas his father never became count as he died in 1642, well before the registration date. However, Claude de Mesmes used the title immediately in 1638 for his negotiations in Hamburg. Surely that was what the king intended. In the French version of the Treaty of Hamburg, he writes Nous, Claude de Mesmes, Comte d'Avaux, Conseiller d'Etat,[9] whereas in the Treaty of Stuhmdorf of 1635, he still was only Dominus de Avaux (Seigneur d'Avaux).[10][11]

Claude de Mesmes was the second comte d'Avaux according to the numbering found in Boulliot,[12] so his father seems to have been accepted and counted as the first comte d'Avaux.

His portrait by Anselm van Hulle is adorned with his coat of arms. The escutcheon is surmounted by the coronet of a French count. By error, as it seems, the coronet has seven rather than the usual nine balls. The escutcheon is quartered. First quarter: Or crescent sable (for Mesmes). Second and third quarter: argent two lions passant gules (for Bigorre). Fourth quarter: Or, chief gules, base azure waved, charge mullet sable (for Lassus in Guyenne).[a][b] A red label with three pendants appears on the head of the escutcheon. This label would have been needed before his father's death, in 1642, to indicate that he was a cadet and his father was the count. However, the date on the engraving is 1648. This seems another error.

Order of the Holy Spirit

In 1637 Claude de Mesmes became greffier (secretary) of the Order of the Holy Spirit.[13] This office allowed him to wear the cordon bleu, which is the blue sash shown on his portraits. The offices of this order are often passed on in families, but Claude de Mesmes (now d'Avaux) sold his in 1643 to Noël de Bullion, sieur de Bonnelles.[14]

Father's death and partition

His father decided to share his possessions between his three sons. At the father's death, in 1642, Henri inherited Roissy, the traditional main seat of the family and the family's townhouse in Paris. Claude, our subject here, inherited Avaux and with it the title of comte d'Avaux. Jean-Antoine, the youngest brother, inherited Irval and probably Vandeuil, which is the village next to Irval Castle.

Claude de Mesmes painted by Anselm van Hulle and engraved by Paulus Pontius in 1648. Note the cordon bleu, worn as a sash over the right shoulder, and the cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit.[c]

Diplomatic career

As diplomat Claude de Mesmes first served under Cardinal Richelieu, the first minister of Louis XIII, and then under Cardinal Mazarin, who took over as first minister from Richelieu in 1642. He was sent to Italy and then into northern Europe: Poland, Denmark and Sweden.[15] Finally, he participated in the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia.


Claude de Mesmes's first major post was French ambassador to Venice, where he arrived in 1627, just one year before the outbreak of the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–1631), which was triggered by the death of Vincenzo II, the last male of the Mantuan Gonzaga line. Several candidates contended the succession. The emperor supported Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, whereas France and Venice supported Charles Gonzaga, duc de Nevers. In 1629 an Imperial army beleaguered and took Mantua, but the troops were soon recalled to Germany to fight in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). France therefore prevailed and the duc de Nevers acceded to the ducal throne of Mantua.

Claude de Mesmes did not hesitate to spend money to enhance the prestige of France and his king: in October 1628 he celebrated the capture of La Rochelle by feasts and firework in Venice.[16]

After Venice he was sent to Rome, Mantua, Florence and Turin.

Treaty of Stuhmsdorf

During the later phase of the Thirty Years' War, France was allied with Sweden. Richelieu feared that the Polish menace on their left flank would distract the Swedes from fighting the emperor in Germany. The Polish-Swedish war of 1626–1629 had ended with the truce signed at Altmark after the Swedish defeat at Honigfelde. This truce was to expire in July 1635[17] and the new Polish king, Władysław IV Vasa, seemed poised to resume the war.[18]

To ensure a timely renewal of the truce, Richelieu sent Claude de Mesmes to Poland as a mediator. The French delegation left Paris on 11 July 1634. Claude de Mesmes was accompanied among others by his secretary Charles Ogier [fr], who kept a diary. Avoiding war-torn Germany, the delegation travelled via Denmark and Sweden. On the way Claude de Mesmes stopped in Copenhagen in 1634 to represent France at the wedding of crown prince Christian with Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony. While in Copenhagen they received the news of the Swedish defeat at Nördlingen on 27 August (old style), which further weakened Sweden's position. From Denmark the delegation travelled to Sweden where they passed the winter and met officials in Stockholm. They arrived in Dantzig (now Gdańsk) on 17 May 1635[19] and proceeded to Marienburg (now Malbork) where they took up quarters in the castle.

The French delegation arrived late. The negotiations had started on 24 January in the church of the small town of Holland (now Pasłęk) in Ducal Prussia.[d] The Brandenburger delegation, which was mediating, stayed in that town. The Polish delegation (in fact the one representing the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) stayed at Mohrungen (now Morąg).[20] Brandenburg was represented by Siegmund of Brandenburg, Andreas von Kreytzen [de], and Peter Bergmann. Siegmund of Brandenburg was a cousin of the ruling elector George William. The Polish delegation was led by the great chancellor of the crown Jakub Zadzik. The magnate Rafał Leszczyński also was part of the Polish delegation. He wanted peace but mainly for religious reasons as he was a Calvinist. The Swedish delegation stayed in Elbing (now Elbląg), 30 km to the north-west, which was the seat of the Swedish authorities in Prussia. It was led by Count Brahe.[21] The English delegation arrived some weeks late and participated in the talks from the 5th of February on.[22] It was led by Sir George Douglas of Mordington (died 1636),[23] who was assisted by Francis Gordon (died 1643), the English agent at Dantzig. The negotiations at Holland soon stalled.

Marienburg Castle where d'Avaux stayed during the negotiations for the Treaty of Stuhmsdorf.

However, King Władysław asked Douglas and Bergmann to make another attempt in which the French delegation participated. The negotiations restarted on 28 May at Stuhmsdorf (now Sztumska Wieś).[24] The delegations moved to new quarters. The Polish delegation moved to Marienwerder (now Kwidzyn), where they stayed in the castle. The Swedish delegation moved to Jonasdorf (also called Johannsdorf and now Janówka) to the north-east of Marienburg. The mediators stayed in Marienburg castle. Stuhmsdorf was chosen as the meeting-place because it was about equidistant between Marienwerder and Jonasdorf.[25] [26] The negotiations led to the signing of the Treaty of Stuhmsdorf on 2 September 1635 (old style).[27]

Renewals of the alliance with Sweden

France supported Sweden almost right from the beginning of the Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years' War, which started in earnest with Gustavus Adolphus's invasion of Pomerania in 1630. In the Treaty of Bärwalde in 1631 France promised a subvention of 1,000,000 livres (400,000 Riksdaler) per year to the Swedish army.

Richelieu sent d'Avaux (as he was called now) to Hamburg in 1638 to negotiate a new alliance with Johan Adler Salvius, sent by Queen Christina. The negotiations led to the Treaty of Hamburg, signed on 15 March 1638, an extension of the alliance between France and Sweden for three year.[28] This alliance was again renewed in 1641.[29]

Peace of Westphalia

In 1642 Richelieu died and Mazarin took over as chief minister. D'Avaux's relationship with Mazarin was difficult as he was considered part of the previous administration. In 1643 he was sent to Germany to take part in the lengthy negotiations that eventually led to the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War. In 1644 the official negotiations started in Münster where the Catholic delegations resided. The French delegation was led by the duc de Longueville, and comprised Anne-Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, the leader's wife, d'Avaux, and Abel Servien.[30] D'Avaux, who was more conciliatory, repeatedly clashed with Abel Servien, who was more demanding and had been dubbed "l'ange exterminateur de la paix" (the peace-killing angel) by the negotiators.[31] D'Avaux was finally excluded from the negotiations.[32]


Between 1644 and 1650 d'Avaux built himself a new stylish townhouse in the Marais quarter of Paris. It was designed by Pierre Le Muet. The present address is 71 rue du Temple, but in his time this plot was in rue Sainte-Avoye.[33] This mansion stayed in the family until 1688, when it was sold to Paul de Beauvilliers, the future 2nd duc of St Aignan for 153,000 livres.[34] It therefore became known as the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan. This house must not be confused with the Hôtel de Mesmes, which stood almost opposite to it on the other side of the same street.[35] His elder brother Henri lived in the Hôtel de Mesmes.

Later life and death

Although the dispute with Servien damaged his reputation, d'Avaux ended his life as a member of the high Council of the Realm and superintendent of finances[13] (1649–1650). His nephew Jean-Antoine (died 1709) was to follow in his footsteps and become the other famous diplomat of the family.

D'Avaux died on 19 November 1650. He had never married. At his death, the title and most of the lands passed to Jean-Antoine (Jean-Antoine I de Mesmes), his younger brother, because Henri, his elder brother, had died some months before him, also in 1650, and left no male heir.[36][e] Jean-Antoine also inherited his elder brother Henri's charge as président à mortier of the Parlement of Paris.[38][39]


  1. ^ a b The background of the fourth quarter should have been stippled, indicating Or, according to the heraldic convention.
  2. ^ a b The coat of arms has been "blazoned" (described) by Pattou,[40] Lainé,[41] and La Chesnaye des Bois.[42] The blazonings by Lainé and La Chesnaye des Bois are both marred by a few obvious errors, which are corrected in the blazoning by Pattou. The first quarter is sometimes said to be for Avaux rather than for Mesmes.[43]
  3. ^ The Latin motto running around the oval frame of the portrait reads: Extremum hunc deus alme mihi concede laborem (Kindly grant me, god, this last work). This is an adaptation of the first sentence of Virgil's 10th Eclogue, which reads Extremum hunc Arethusa mihi concede laborem. The text in the cartouche beneath the portrait reads Claudius de Mesmes Comes d'Avaux Regii Ordinis Commendator Supremus aerarii Praefectus Regisque Christianissimi ad Pacem publicam Legatus (Claude de Mesmes, comte d' Avaux, officer of the royal order, superintendent of finances, and ambassador of the most christian king to the public peace).
  4. ^ The Duchy of Prussia was at that time ruled by George William, Elector of Brandenburg in personal union being Margrave of Brandenburg in the Empire and Duke of Prussia in Poland
  5. ^ Indeed Henri's only son Jean-Jacques, born in 1643, had predeceased him at a young age.[37]


  1. ^ Saint-Simon 1910, p. 222=: "... qui fut père de trois fils qui établirent puissamment cette famille, et de deux filles dont l'aîné épousa le sieur Lambert d'Herbigny, maÎtre des requêtes, l'autre Maximilien de Belleforière, qui fut mère du marquis de Soyecourt ..."
  2. ^ Moréri 1759, p. 495, right column, line 33: "JEAN JACQUES de Mesmes, II du nom, chevalier, seigneur de Roissi, ..."
  3. ^ Moréri 1759, p. 495, right column, line 44: "Il avait épousé, le 28 août 1584, Antoinette de Grossaine, fille unique de Jerôme de Grossaine, seigneur d'Irval, d'Avaux, de Breuil, de Besancourt, & de Bellefontaine, vicomte de Vandeuil, ...."
  4. ^ Saint-Simon 1910, p. 223: "Le sieur de Mesmes fut lieutenant civil à Paris, en 1613, et député du tiers état aux derniers états-généraux tenus à Paris, en 1614. Il mourut président à mortier en 1650, et il avait épousé ..."
  5. ^ Moréri 1759, p. 495, right column, bottom: "Du mariage de JEAN-JACQUES de Mesmes sortirent trois fils & deux filles, qui furent HENRI, II du nom, chevalier, seigneur de Roissy, qui suit; Claude de Mesmes, chevalier, comte d'Avaux, dont on trouvera un article séparé : & JEAN-ANTOINE de Mesmes, seigneur d'Irval, qui a continué la postérité ;"
  6. ^ La Chesnaye des Bois 1771, p. 285: "Il [Belleforière] eut de son mariage, contracté le 17 Septembre 1618 avec Judith de Mesmes ..."
  7. ^ a b Moréri 1759, p. 496, right column: "Il fut depuis maître des requêtes, & conseiller d'état, dont il prêta le serment le 6 août 1623."
  8. ^ a b La Chesnaye des Bois 1770, p. 478, top: "AVAUX, en Champagne, diocèse de Reims, Terre & seigneurie érigée en comté par Lettres du mois de Janvier 1638, registrées le 4 Août 1648 en faveur de Jacques de Mesmes, Seigneur de Roissi, Conseiller d'état, & de son second fils Claude de Mesmes, ..."
  9. ^ Dumont 1728, p. 161: "Nous, Claude de Mesmes, Comte d'Avaux, Conseiller d'Etat, Greffier des Ordres du Roi"
  10. ^ Dumont 1728, p. 115, right column, middle: "Domini Ludovici XIII Franciæ & Navarriæ Regis Christianissimi per Illustrissimum Dominum Claudium de Mesmes, Equitem auratum, Dominum de Avaux, Comitem Consistorianum & S. R. Majest. per Septemtrionem extraordinarium Legatum, ..."
  11. ^ Wicquefort 1745, p. 674: "Domini Ludovici XIII Franciae & Navarriae Regis Christianissimi per Illustrissimum Dominum Claudium de Mesmes, Equitem auratum, Dominum de Avaux, Comitem Consistorianum & S. R. Majest. per Septemtrionem extraordinarium Legatum, ..."
  12. ^ Boulliot 1830, p. 258, footnote: "... Claude de Mesmes, deuxième comte d'Avaux ..."
  13. ^ a b c La Chesnaye des Bois 1770, p. 478, line 4: "... & de son second fils Claude de Mesmes, Greffier des ordres du Roi, Plénipotentiaire à la paix de Munster, & Sur-Intendant des Finances, ..."
  14. ^ a b Saint-Simon 1895, p. 202: "... M. d'Avaux, ce celèbre ambassadeur, surintendant des finances, vendit sa charge de greffier de l'ordre, en 1643, à M. de Bonnelles ..."
  15. ^ Moréri 1759, p. 496, right column, bottom: "Le roi, quatre ans après, en l'an 1627, l'envoya à Venise en qualité d'ambassadeur. Il fut ensuite avec la même qualité à Rome, à Mantoue, à Florence & à Turin. De-là il reçut l'ordre de passer en Allemagne où il vit la plupart des princes de l'empire; & à son retour il rendit si bon compte de ses négociations que le roi l'envoya peu après en Danemarck, en Suède et en Pologne.
  16. ^ a b Boppe 1887, p. XXXIII: "À Venise, il célébrait pendant quatre jours, par des festins et des feux d'artifice, la prise de la Rochelle."
  17. ^ Fowler 1656, p. 141: "... at the sixe yeares Truce concluded an. 1629 and expiring in July 1635 ..."
  18. ^ Pulaski & Tomkiewicz 1937, p. xviii: "Le nouveau souverain Ladislas IV, fils de Sigismond était connu par son énergie, son talent militaire et ses grandes ambitions personnelles."
  19. ^ Ogier 1656, p. 259: "Anno 1635 die 17.Maii, quae Dominicae Ascensioni sacra erat, Illustrissimus Claudius MEMMIUS, Regis Christianissimi extraordinarius Legatus, Gedanum sive Dantiscum ingressus est."
  20. ^ Fowler 1656, p. 142, line 26: "His Lordship understanding that the Commissioners for the crown of Poland had their residence at a little town called Morung (in Prussia) ..."
  21. ^ Bain 1911: "In 1635 he [Per Brahe] conducted the negotiations for the armistice with Poland."
  22. ^ Fowler 1656, p. 142, line 33: "... or hasten to the place nominated for the Treaty, being a Town in that Province named Holland;"
  23. ^ Fowler 1656, p. 216: "He was a native of Scotland and descended from that branch of the noble house of the Duglasse entitled the Baronnie of Torthorrell, being son to Sir George Duglasse Knight, whose father (whilst living) had been, and whose brother then was Lord thereof."
  24. ^ Pauli 1763, p. 590: "Den 28sten Mai war in Stuhmsdorf die erste Zusammenkunft."
  25. ^ Fowler 1656, p. 154: "the Thursday following, the 14/24 of May at Stumbs-dorff"
  26. ^ Geijer 1832, p. 298: "Zwar glückte es, besonders durch französische Vermittlung (englische, holländische und brandenburgische Abgeordnete waren zu dem selben Zwecke zugegen), den 2. Sept. 1635 gegen den Willen des Reichskanzlers, mit Aufopferung der Eroberungen Gustav Adolfs in Preussen, den Waffenstillstand mit Polen auf sechsundzwanzig Jahre zu erneuern;"
  27. ^ a b Bain 1908, p. 199: "Unable to gain Poland as an ally yet anxious to prevent her from attacking Sweden while still in difficulties, England, France, and the Dutch Republic then mediated the Truce of Stuhmsdorf to last for 26 years from September 12, 1635 whereby, without the knowledge and greatly to the indignation of Axel Oxenstjerna, the Swedish Senate retroceded to Poland all the Prussian conquests of Gustavus Adolphus, while retaining Livonia provisionally."
  28. ^ a b Richelieu 1823, p. 240: "... le dit sieur d'Avaux et l'ambassadeur de Suède Salvius firent un nouveau traité pour trois ans, à commencer au 15 mars 1638, ..."
  29. ^ Geijer 1832, p. 312: "Die Kriegserklärung gegen den Kaiser geschah erst 1638; den 6. März desselben Jahres ward endlich das neue Bündnis mit Frankreich abgeschlossen, erst auf drei Jahre, darauf wieder verlängert."
  30. ^ Tellier 1987, p. 69, line 4: "À la tête de la délégation française : Henri II d'Orléans, duc de Longueville, de la maison Orléans-Longueville et sa seconde épouse, Anne-Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, princess de sang et sœur du vainqueur de Rocroy. Les assistent deux négociateurs attitrés : Claude II de Mesmes, comte d'Avaux et Abel Servien."
  31. ^ Tellier 1987, p. 69, line 15: "Il était d'un caractère emporté, volontiers colérique ; certains le surnommeront, au cours des négociations qui s'ouvrent 'l'ange exterminateur de la paix'."
  32. ^ Dezobry & Bachelet 1869, p. 185: "Tout à coup, par les intrigues de son collègue Servien, il fut destitué, après 20 ans de services et à la veille de conclure le traité."
  33. ^ Piganiol de La Force 1765, p. 326: "L'Hôtel de Beauvillier est de l'autre côté de la rue, & fut bâti par Claude de Mesmes, comte d'Avaux, célebre par ses négotiations & par ses Ambassades ..."
  34. ^ Le Moel 1977, p. 76: "Après la mort de leur fils Louis de Rochechouart, duc de Montemart, il fallut vendre l'hôtel le 29 juillet 1688 pour 153,000 livres à Paul de Beauvillierl."
  35. ^ Piganiol de La Force 1765, p. 325: "L'Hôtel de Mesmes est dans la rue Sainte-Avoye, & s'étend jusqu'à la rue du Chaume & celle de Braque. C'étoit autrefois l'Hôtel de Montmorenci ..."
  36. ^ Saint-Simon 1910, p. 225, line 10: "D'Avaux ne se maria point, et mourut comme son frère aîné, en 1650, quelques mois après lui."
  37. ^ Moréri 1759, p. 496, left column, line 32: "... dont il eut, Jean-Jacques de Mesmes, né l'an 1643, mort jeune;"
  38. ^ Moréri 1759, p. 496, left column, line 48: "... & enfin président à mortier au parlement de Paris, l'an 1651, après la mort de Henri de Mesmes son frère aîné :"
  39. ^ Saint-Simon 1910, p. 225, line 13: "Le sieur d'Irval prit le nom de Mesmes à la mort de son frère ainé, dont il eut la charge de président à mortier. Il laissa deux fils ..."
  40. ^ Pattou, Etienne. "Famille de Mesmes" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  41. ^ Lainé 1819, p. 234: "Armes: écartelé au 1 d'or, au croissant de sable, qui est de Mesmes; aux 2 et 3 d'argent, à deux lions léopardés de gueules, lampassés et armés d'azur, qui est de BIGORRE; au 4 d'or, au croissant de sable, à la champagne ondée d'azur; au chef de gueules, qui est de LASSUS."
  42. ^ La Chesnaye des Bois 1775, p. 88: "Les armes: d'or, au croissant de sable, écartelé aux 2 et 3 d'or, à deux lions ou léopards rampans, qui est DE BIGORRE; au 4 d'or à l'étoile de sable; à la pointe ondée d'azur; qui est DE LASSUIS, des plus illustres en Guienne, fondue en 1480, en celle des MESMES."
  43. ^ La Chesnaye des Bois 1770, table at the end of the volume: "AVAUX: d'or au croissant de sable."

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