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René Hérault

(1691–1740), French lawyer, police chief


Son of Louis Hérault (1645–1724), a tax collector, and his wife, Jeanne Charlotte née Guillard de La Vacherie; in 1719 he married Marguerite Durey de Vieuxcourt (1700–1729); in 1732 he married his second wife, Hélène Moreau de Séchelles (1715–1798). He studied law and was appointed avocat du roi at the Châtelet in 1712; procureur général to the Grand Conseil in 1718; intendant of Tours in 1722. Appointed lieutenant-general of police for Paris in 1725; on his resignation in 1739 he was replaced by his brother-in-law, Claude Henri Feydeau de Marville, and was appointed intendant of Paris and conseiller d'État. As lieutenant-general of police he prosecuted Jansenism and freemasonry; he was much disliked for his efficient secret police system. He was the first person to have the names of streets placed on signs on street corners.

Biographical note by Electronic Enlightenment Project.

Updated November 2011.

EE editions with biographical details

  • Voltaire, François Marie Arouet. Correspondence and related documents. 51 vol. Ed. Theodore Besterman. Geneva, Banbury, Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1968–1977. Print.

Online biographical resources (N.B. some sites require a subscription for access)

Additional biographical information in print

  • Roger Dachez, “Le lieutenant de police René Hérault et sa famille”, Renaissance Traditionnelle: Revue d’études maçonniques et symboliques 72 (1987), pp. 264–268.
  • Suzanne Pillorget, “René Hérault de Fontaine, procureur général au Grand Conseil (1718–1722) et lieutenant général de police de Paris (1725–1739). Histoire d'une fortune”, Actes du 93e congrès national des Sociétés savantes, vol. 2 (Paris 1971), pp. 287–311.

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