Charles Forbes René de Montalembert

Charles Forbes René de Montalembert (15 April 1810 in London – 13 March 1870 in Paris) was a French publicist, historian and Count of Montalembert, Deux-Sèvres, and a prominent representative of Liberal Catholicism.

Charles Forbes René de Montalembert
Charles Forbes René de Montalembert


Charles Forbes René de Montalembert who was born on 15 April 1810, was of French and Scots ancestry. His father, Marc René, belonged to the family of Angoumois, which could trace its descent back to the 13th century, while charters show the history of the house even two centuries earlier. For several generations the family had been distinguished, both in the army and in the field of science. Montalembert senior had fought under Condé, and subsequently served in the British army. He married Eliza Rose Forbes, whose father, James Forbes, belonged to a very old Scottish Protestant family. Charles, their eldest son, was born in London. At the French Restoration of 1814, Marc René returned to France, was raised to the peerage in 1820, and became ambassador to Sweden, where Charles completed his education in 1826.[1]


Montalembert's early years were spent in England, where he was largely raised by his grandfather, who, although a Protestant, encouraged him to follow the religion of his father. In 1819 he attended the Lycée Bourbon and at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris. In 1829 he was a contributor to the review Le Correspondant. In September and October 1830, he travelled in Ireland, where he met Daniel O'Connell; he was thinking of assisting the cause for which O'Connell was struggling by writing a history of Ireland, when he learned that the House of Commons had passed the Irish Emancipation Act.[1]

Charles de Montalembert was under twenty-five at his father's death in 1831 and therefore too young to take his seat as a peer, but he retained other rights. Combined with his literary and intellectual activity, this made him a person of some importance. He was a Liberal, in the English sense, and disagreed with the new regime on only the religious question. He would have approved of the policy of the golden mean represented by Louis Philippe. He wished to see the Church free from state control and attacked the monopoly of public instruction by which the monarchy fortified its position. This latter scheme first brought Montalembert to public attention when he was formally charged with unlicensed teaching. He claimed the right of trial by his peers and made a notable defence with a deliberate intention of protest in 1832.

On the other hand, he thought that the Church should not obstinately oppose new ideas. He had eagerly entered into the plans of his friends, Lamennais and Lacordaire, and he collaborated with them in the newspaper, L'Avenir ("The Future"). He especially distinguished himself in "L'Avenir" by his campaigns in favour of freedom for Ireland and Poland, and for these he received the congratulations of Victor Hugo and Alfred de Vigny. In 1831 he thought of going to Poland and joining the insurgents there. He was instrumental in setting up the Polish Library in Paris and its associated literary society for the Great Emigration into France.[1]

The Ultramontane party was roused by the boldness of Montalembert and his two friends who then left for Rome. They failed to win any mitigation of the measures which the Roman curia took against L'Avenir. Its doctrines were condemned in two encyclicals, Mirari vos in 1832 and Singulari Nos in 1834, and Montalembert submitted. In 1835 he took his seat in the Chamber of Peers, and his competence soon made him famous.[2] He clung to his early liberalism, and in 1848 saw the end of a government towards which he had always been hostile. In 1848 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. He was at first inclined to support Napoleon III, but was soon alienated by his policy.[2] Montalembert remained in the Chamber until 1857, when he was obliged to retire to private life. He was still recognised as a formidable opponent of the Empire. Meanwhile his Liberal ideas had made him some irreconcilable enemies among the Ultramontanists. Louis Veuillot, in his paper, L'Univers religieux, opposed him. In 1855 Montalembert answered them by reviving a review which had for some time ceased publication, Le Correspondant. This he used to fight the party of Veuillot and the far-left Liberals of the Revue des deux mondes.

At a noted Catholic congress in Malines, Belgium in 1863, Montalembert gave two long addresses on Catholic Liberalism. He was also a staunch supporter of the independence of education from the state:

I do not want to be constrained by the state to believe what it believes to be true, because the State is not the judge of truth. However the State is bound to protect me in the practice of the truth that I choose, that is to say, the exercise of the religion that I profess This is what constitutes religious freedom in the modern state, which the free state is bound to respect and guarantee, not only for each citizen in particular, but for groups of citizens joined together to profess and propagate their belief, that is to say, for corporation, for associations, and for churches.”[3]

He took great interest in the débuts of the Liberal empire. He severed his connection with Père Hyacinthe Loyson as he had with Lamennais and made the submission expected of him to the Council. It was his last fall. Montalembert became increasingly isolated, politically, for his support of religious freedom in education; and by the Church for his liberal views.[3]

Charles de Montalembert died in 1871.

Plaque Charles de Montalembert, 5 impasse de Valmy, Paris 7
Memorial plaque to Charles de Montalembert, 5 impasse de Valmy, Paris 7

Family etc.

Montalembert married Mlle de Merode, daughter of Félix de Mérode. His daughter married the vicomte de Meaux, a Roman Catholic statesman and distinguished writer.

Montalembert was a close friend of Edwin Wyndham-Quin, 3rd Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl with whom he toured Scotland in 1862, staying at Dunraven Castle on his return journey. The viscount travelled with Montalembert to Switzerland the following year and stayed at Maîche, Doubs (Montalembert's country property) on his return.


In addition to being an eloquent orator, Montalembert wrote in a style at once picturesque, fiery and polished. He was an ardent student of the Middle Ages, but his medieval enthusiasm was strongly tinctured with religious sentiments. His first historical work, La Vie de Ste Elisabeth de Hongrie (1836), is not so much a history as a religious manifesto, which did much to restore the position of hagiography. It met with great success, but Montalembert was not elected a member of the Académie française until 1851, after the fall of the July monarchy.

From this time he gave much of his attention to a great work on monasticism in the West. He was at first attracted by the figure of St. Bernard and devoted one volume to him. He later withdrew it on the advice of his friend Dupanloup, and the entire printing was destroyed. He then enlarged his original plan and published the first volumes of his Moines d'occident (1860), an eloquent work which was received with much admiration in those circles where language was more appreciated than learning. The work, unfinished at the time of the author's death, was completed later from some long fragments found among his papers. Volumes VI and VII appeared in 1877.

Like Chateaubriand he kept a close (now published) record of acquaintances, invitations,necrology.

Works (selection)

  • Défense de l'école libre devant la Chambre des Pairs (1831)
  • Histoire de sainte Élisabeth, reine de Hongrie (1836)
  • Monuments de l'histoire de sainte Élisabeth (1838)
  • Du vandalisme et du catholicisme dans l'art (1839)
  • The Obligation of Catholics in the Matter of Freedom of Teaching (1843)
  • Catholic Interests in the Nineteenth Century (1852)
  • Political Future of England (1855)
  • Pius IX and France in 1849 and 1859 (1860)
  • Les moines d'Occident depuis saint Benoît jusqu'à saint Bernard ("The Monks of the West from St. Benedict to St. Bernard," Paris: J. Lecoffre Fils et Cie., 1877)
  • Emmanuel Mounier, ed., Montalembert (Paris, 1945), an anthology of his writing


  1. ^ a b c Goyau, Georges. "Comte de Montalembert." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 21 November 2015
  2. ^ a b  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Montalembert, Charles Forbes René, Comte de" . Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.
  3. ^ a b "Charles le Comte de Montalembert", The Acton Institute, 20 July 2010


  • Thomas Bokenkotter, Church and Revolution: Catholics and the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice (New York: Doubleday, 1998)
  • E.E.Y. Hales, Pio Nono: A Study of European Politics and Religion in the Nineteenth Century (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1954)
  • R.P. Lecanuet, Montalembert d'après son journal et sa correspondence, 3 vols. (Paris, 1895)
  • Jean Maurain, La politique ecclésiastique du Second Empire de 1852 à 1869 (Paris, 1930)
  • George Weill, Histoire du Catholicisme libéral en France (1828–1908) (Paris, 1909)
  • Roger L. Williams, Gaslight and Shadow: The World of Napoleon III (New York: Macmillan, 1957), Ch. 3: "Montalembert and Liberal Catholicism"
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Montalembert, Charles Forbes René de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 751.
  • Charles de Montalembert, Journal intime inedit, vii volumes, Texte établi, présenté et annoté par Louis Le Guillou et Nicole Roger Taillade, Honoré de Champion Paris, ...-2008[Bibliothèque des correspondances,mémoires et journaux, ...-39]

External links

Alexis-François Rio

Alexis-François Rio (20 May 1797 – 17 June 1874) was a French writer on art. Without any strict method or criticism, he expressed preference for the art of the 15th century. He contributed greatly towards recovery of the neglected art of the Middle Ages.

André-Marie Ampère

André-Marie Ampère (; French: [ɑ̃pɛʁ]; 20 January 1775 – 10 June 1836) was a French physicist and mathematician who was one of the founders of the science of classical electromagnetism, which he referred to as "electrodynamics". He is also the inventor of numerous applications, such as the solenoid (a term coined by him) and the electrical telegraph. An autodidact, Ampère was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and professor at the École polytechnique and the Collège de France.

The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him. His name is also one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

Bogdan Hutten-Czapski

Bogdan Franciszek Serwacy Hutten-Czapski h. Leliwa (b 13 May 1851 in Smogulec, d. 7 September 1937 in Poznan) was a Polish Count, politician, curator of the University of Warsaw and the Warsaw University of Technology , President of the Association of Polish Knights of Malta. Bogdan was the grandson of two Polish generals - Józef Grzegorz Longin Hutten-Czapski (1760-1810) and Stanisław Kostka Mielżyński (1778-1826), and was the only Polish great landowner who during the Partition devoted himself entirely to the service of the Prussian state.

Collège-lycée Jacques-Decour

The collège-lycée Jacques-Decour is a school in Paris on the avenue Trudaine.

Concours général

In France, the Concours Général is the most prestigious academic competition held every year between students of Première (11th grade) and Terminale (12th and final grade) in almost all subjects taught in both general, technological and professional high schools. Exams usually take place in March, and their results are known in June or July. Students who show great ability in one field are selected to participate by their teachers and their school principal. Most of the time, no more than one student per high school is allowed to participate in the competition, which requires strong knowledge of college level topics. In the humanities and social sciences, the exams involve one or more essays and last 5 hours. In the sciences, the exams last almost as long and are problem-based.

In a given subject, up to 18 awards can be given:

up to 3 Prizes. A student winning a prize takes part in a ceremony held in the main amphitheatre of the Sorbonne University, where he or she is given the diploma and congratulated by the Minister of Education and members of the government.

up to 5 Accessits

up to 10 Regional awardsA student who wins any of the above is called a "lauréat du Concours Général". In Mathematics, the "Lauréat" is invited to a series of conferences at the Institute Poincaré and is usually selected to attend the Clay Institute summer school of science.

Félix de Mérode

Philippe Félix Balthasar Otto Ghislain, Count de Merode (13 April 1791 – 7 February 1857), known as Félix de Merode, was a Belgian politician.

Henry Reeve (journalist)

Henry Reeve (9 September 1813 – 21 October 1895) was an English journalist.

Hôtel Lambert

The Hôtel Lambert (pronounced [otɛl lɑ̃bɛːʁ]) is a hôtel particulier, a grand mansion townhouse, on the Quai Anjou on the eastern tip of the Île Saint-Louis, in 4th arrondissement of Paris. In the 19th century, the name Hôtel Lambert also came to designate a political faction of Polish exiles associated with Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, who had purchased the Hôtel Lambert.

Liberal Catholicism

Liberal Catholicism was a current of thought within the Catholic Church. It was influential in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, especially in France. It is largely identified with French political theorists such as Felicité Robert de Lamennais, Henri Lacordaire, and Charles Forbes René de Montalembert influenced, in part, by a similar contemporaneous movement in Belgium.

Being predominantly political in nature, liberal Catholicism was distinct from the contemporary theological movement of modernism. It is also distinct from both the attitude of Catholics who are described as theologically "progressive" or "liberal".

Lionel de Moustier

Lionel Désiré-Marie-René-François de Moustier (23 August 1817 – 5 February 1869) was a French diplomat and politician.

Louis Veuillot

Louis Veuillot (11 October 1813 – 7 March 1883) was a French journalist and author who helped to popularize ultramontanism (a philosophy favoring Papal supremacy).

Marc René, marquis de Montalembert

Marc René, marquis de Montalembert (16 July 1714 – 29 March 1800) was a French military engineer and writer, known for his work on fortifications.

Mirari vos

Mirari vos - Latin: to wonder at you - (On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism), sometimes referred to as Mirari vos arbitramur, is the first encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI and was issued in August 1832. Addressed "To All Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic World", it is general in scope.


Montalembert can refer to:

André de Montalembert (1483–1553), French officer

Marc René, marquis de Montalembert (1714–1800), French military engineer and writer

Charles Forbes René de Montalembert (1810–1870), French publicist and historian

Montalembert, Deux-Sèvres, a commune in the Deux-Sèvres department in France

Palais des Papes

The Palais des Papes (English: Palace of the Popes; lo Palais dei Papas in Occitan) is an historical palace located in Avignon, Southern France. It is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.

Pope Pius IX and France

The foreign relations between Pope Pius IX and France were characterized by the hostility of the Third Republic's anticlerical politics, as well as Napoleon III's influence over the papal states. This did not stop, however, Church life in France from flourishing during much of Pius IX's pontificate.

Serge Poltoratzky

Serge Poltoratzky (alternate spellings: Sergei or Sergey and Poltoratsky, Poltoratskii or Poltoratskiy), 1803-1884, was a Russian literary scholar, bibliophile and humanitarian. His major literary work was the Dictionary of Russian Authors, which he worked on for decades. He travelled extensively in Europe to find books and manuscripts needed for this work. He was also interested in the letters of Voltaire and in Franco-Russian cultural relations. He wrote articles for the French press on these and other literary topics, often under the pseudonym R.E. According to Yuri Druzhnikov, Poltoratzky was the first to introduce Pushkin's work to a western European audience, in the October 1821 issue of Revue encyclopedique (published in Paris).

Among Poltoratzky's literary friends were Victor Hugo, Nikolay Karamzin, Charles Forbes René de Montalembert, Alexander Pushkin, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve and Vasiliy Zhukovsky. He was also known for giving financial help to impoverished authors and scholars.

Poltoratzky's personal library, which included many rare books and unpublished manuscripts, was donated to the Imperial Public Library, now the Russian State Library.

Singulari Nos

Singulari Nos (subtitled On The Errors Of Lammenais) was an encyclical issued on June 25, 1834 by Pope Gregory XVI. Essentially a follow-up to the better-known Mirari Vos of 1832, Singulari Nos focused strongly on the views of French priest Hughes Felicité Robert de Lamennais, who did not see any contradiction between Catholicism and then-modern ideals of liberalism and the separation of Church and State.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.