Malesherbes, Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de (krātyăNˈ gēyōmˈ də lämwänyôNˈ də mälzĕrbˈ) [key], 1721–94, French minister of state. After serving as counselor to the Parlement of Paris, he succeeded (1750) his father as president of the Court of Aids at Paris. His father, then chancellor of France, made him director of the press, the chief censor. His liberal policy permitted the publication of the Encyclopédie. Fearing royal absolutism, he opposed the dissolution of the parlement in 1771 and was exiled to his country estate. On the accession of Louis XVI (1774), Malesherbes was appointed secretary of state for the royal household. His responsibilities included ecclesiastical affairs, the administration of Paris and some provinces, and appointments at court. He attempted to improve prison conditions and limit the use of lettres de cachet. Malesherbes resigned (1776) after the failure of the reform program of his friend A. R. J. Turgot. For the next 13 years he campaigned for the civil rights of French Protestants and Jews. Recalled in 1787, he was made minister without portfolio but resigned the next year and retired from political life. In 1792, at his own request, he was appointed a defender of Louis XVI in the king's trial. Malesherbes was soon afterward arrested and guillotined as a royalist along with his daughter and grandchildren.
See biography by J. M. S. Allison (1938); study by E. P. Shaw (1966).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.