Jacques Benigne Bossuet

1627-1704. French Roman Catholic bishop and writer. Born at Dijon, he was educated in Jesuit schools there until sent to the Parisian Collège de Navarre at the age of fifteen. He became a doctor of the Sorbonne in 1652 and was ordained the same year. For seven years he served as archdeacon of the cathedral chapter at Metz, then moved to Paris in 1659 where within two years he had become preacher in the royal chapel. In 1670 Louis XIV appointed him tutor to the dauphin, a task he performed for twelve years with great diligence. In 1681 he became bishop of Meaux, a post he held until his death.

Bossuet had a many-faceted career, but was particularly renowned for his great oratorical skill, his controversialist ability, and his energetic but nonschismatic espousal of Gallicanism.* He also provided a classical statement of the Divine Right of Kings* theory in his Politique tirée de l'Ecriture Sainte (1679). He apparently, however, regarded his Discours sur l'histoire universelle (1681) as his most important work, and most modern scholars would agree. It is a classic statement of the philosophy of history which sees Providence as the key to historical causation. His latter years saw him more and more entrenched as the guardian of orthodoxy in the face of biblical criticism, rationalism, skepticism, and various sectarian groups.

Oeuvres complètes (10 vols., 1877); Correspondance (15 vols., 1909-25); A. Rébelliau, Bossuet, historien du Protestantisme (1892); W.J. Simpson, A Study of Bossuet (1937); P. Hazard, The European Mind (1939); A.G. Martimort, Le Gallicanisme de Bossuet (1953).