François de Neufville, 2ème duc de Villeroy (7 April 1644 – 18 July 1730) was a French soldier.
Villeroy was born in Lyon into noble family which had risen into prominence in the reign of Charles IX.
His father Nicolas de Neufville, marquis de Villeroy, Marshal of France (1598-1685) was governor of the young King Louis XIV who later created him a duke. François was brought up in close relations with Louis XIV and became a member of his inner circle. As a young child he played with the King and his younger brother the Prince Philippe in the Palais Royal (home of Louis XIV and his mother Anne d'Autriche) and the nearby Hotel de Villeroy (home of the young François de Villeroy and his father the governor Nicolas V de Villeroy - the historic Hotel de Villeroy is located 500 m walking distance from the Palais Royal on 34 rue des Bourdonnais / 9 rue des Déchargeurs). Even though Francois de Villeroy was 6 years younger than Louis XIV they were friends, probably because the young Louis XIV enjoyed to have a protective role with a younger child.
An intimate of the king, a finished courtier and leader of society and a man of great personal gallantry, Villeroy was marked out for advancement in the army, which he loved, but where career soldiers had always a juster appreciation of his incapacity than Louis. In 1693, without having exercised any really important and responsible command, he was made Marshal of France. In 1695, when François Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville, duc de Luxembourg died, he obtained the command of the army in Flanders (see War of the Grand Alliance); William III found him a far easier opponent than the "little hunchback" (the duc de Luxembourg). Villeroy was responsible for the senseless bombardment of Brussels in 1695, which occasioned its reconstruction in the 18th century giving it the regularity and unity of architecture seen today (although it was again damaged in both World Wars).
In 1701 Villeroy was sent to Italy to supersede Nicolas Catinat and was soon beaten by the inferior army of Prince Eugene of Savoy at Chieri (see War of Spanish Succession). In February 1702 he was made prisoner at the surprise of the Battle of Cremona.
In the following years he was pitted against the Duke of Marlborough in the Low Countries. Marlborough's own difficulties with the Dutch and other allied commissioners, rather than Villeroy's own skill, put off the inevitable disaster for some years, but in 1706 Marlborough attacked him and thoroughly defeated him at Ramillies. Louis consoled his old friend with the remark, "At our age, one is no longer lucky," but superseded him in the command, and henceforward Villeroy lived the life of a courtier, his secretary was Pierre-François Godard de Beauchamps, and although suspected of being involved in plots, maintained his friendship with Louis.
Under the Régence Villeroy was governor of the child King Louis XV and held several other high posts between 1717 and 1722, when he fell in disgrace for plotting against Philippe II of Orléans, the regent for Louis XV, and was sent to be governor of Lyon, virtually in exile. His family suffered a further disgrace when two younger members, the duc de Retz and the marquis d'Alincourt were exiled for having homosexual relations in the gardens at Versailles. Louis XV recalled Villeroy into high office when he came of age. Villeroy died at Paris in 1730.
Marriage and children
He married on March 28, 1662  with Marguerite-Marie de Cossé-Brissac (1648-1708), and had 7 children:
- Louis Nicolas de Neufville de Villeroy (1663-1734), Duc de Villeroy, who married Marguerite Le Tellier de Louvois, daughter of the Marquis de Louvois;
- Camille de Neufville de Villeroy ;
- François Paul de Neufville de Villeroy (1677-1731), Archbishop of Lyon (1714) ;
- François-Catherine de Neufville de Villeroy (died 1700) ;
- Madeleine Thérèse de Neufville de Villeroy (1666-1723), a nun ;
- Françoise Madeleine de Neufville de Villeroy, married João de Sousa, 3rd Marquis of Minas ;
- Catherine Anne de Neufville de Villeroy (1674-1715), a nun ;
- The Man Who Would Be King: The Life of Philippe d'Orleans, Regent of France by Christine Pevitt. Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in Great Britain, 1997. Page 301.
- Luc-Normand Tellier, Face aux Colbert : les Le Tellier, Vauban, Turgot ... et l'avènement du libéralisme, Presses de l'Université du Québec, 1987, pp. 448-451.Etext
- This entry has re-edited material originally public domain text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
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