Colbert to Louis XIV, 1670
Colbert to Louis XIV, 1670

Contrôleur Général des Finances

The contrôleur général des finances, or in English, Comptroller (Controller) General of Finance(s), was the head of finances and a chief minister in the royal government of 17th and 18th century France.

Image Above
Cover page of the 16 page memo written in 1670 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert to his King:

Mémoire adressé à Louis XIV sur l'Etat des finances et la nécessité de réduire les dépenses à soixante millions.

"Memorandum to Louis XIV on the state of finances and the need to reduce spending to sixty million."


The Controllers-General of Finance in a Nutshell

Controllers-general took care of French royal accounts from 1547 until 1790.

Starting with Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1665, the contrôleur général replaced the surintendant as head of finances. At the same time, this position metamorphosed from administrator to chief minister in His Majesty's government.

The post lost some of its powers when France suffered a serious financial crisis in the late 18th century. Comptrollers came and went, unable to effect the necessary reforms.


Controllers General from 1547-1665

:: Creation of the Controllers General
It was French King Henry II who created this job position in 1547. Originally, two Comptrollers General of Finance were responsible for verifying all amounts that left or were received by the treasury.

However, these two posts could vary in that they were sometimes either combined with or replaced by intendants des finances. In any case, comptrollers and intendants always remained subordinate to the surintendant des finances, who had the rank of a minister and the authority to approve expenses.

:: Under Louis XIV (ruled 1643-1715)
Since 1657, Jean-Baptiste Colbert (intendant of finances) had been scheming against his supervisor Nicolas Fouquet (surintendant of finances).

Colbert won.

In 1661,  Louis XIV dismissed Fouquet and abolished the post of surintendant altogether. Henceforth, Louis authorized spending himself, while leaving the daily management of finances to Colbert, who was still intendant des finances but now also the head of a newly created committee of finance.

In 1665, Colbert became contrôleur général and with his appointment the job description for contrôleur général des finances changed enormously.


Controllers General from 1665-1790

Under Colbert, who occupied several ministerial posts, the contrôleur général became the minister of finance and economy.

Under his supervision was the budget, taxation, money, the royal domain (crown lands), water and forests, mines, industry, commerce, agriculture, bridges and roads, etc.

See also Taxation in Pre-Revolutionary France

And since he was minister of finance, all other ministers had to depend on him.

He even overshadowed the chancellor, because it was the controller general who picked the intendants of the provinces, who in turn corresponded mainly with him. Hence, next to the King, the controller general became the second most powerful man in France.


List of all Controllers General from 1547-1790

Here follows a list of all contrôleurs généraux des finances from 1547, when the post was created, to 1790, when the last controller general resigned.

On April 27, 1791, the  Constituent Assembly created the new post, Ministre des Contributions et revenus publics.

Actually, this list here goes on until 1792, the end of the ancien régime.


Finance Minister

Years in Office / King



Jean Duthier (du Thier)
? - 1559

April 22, 1547-1554
under Henry II

In 1547, Henry II added to the financial reforms his father and predecessor Francis I had started, and created the post of two contrôleurs that were responsible for recording the movement of funds to and from the Treasury.

He announced du Thier to become secrétaire des finances, together with three other Secrétaires d'Etat. These fellows were Guillaume Bochetel, Claude Clausse, and Claude de l'Aubespine.

In 1545, du Thier bought Beauregard castle, by the way, located approx. two car hours south of Paris. You are welcome to visit it today.

André Blondet (Blondel) de Rocquencourt
? - 1558

October 31, 1554-November 7, 1558
under Henry II

Died while in office.

The image on the left is Blondet's tomb slab, created by Ponce Jacquio(t).

You can visit it today in the musée du Louvre.

Simon Goille
lived ?-?

November 15, 1558 - August 13, 1559
under Henry II


Guillaume de Marillac
lived 1521-1573

November 6, 1568 - January 24, 1573
under Charles IX

Died while in office.

Charles de Saldaigne d'Incarville

February 11, 1596 - July 16, 1599

Henry IV

Died while in office.

Jean de Viene (Vienne)
lived 1557-1608

July 16, 1599 - June 28, 1608

Henry IV

Died while in office.

Gilles de Maupeou 1553-1641
Gilles de Maupeou
lived 1553-1641

June 28, 1608 - January 26, 1611

Henry IV

First Term

King Henry IV was assassinated on May 14, 1610.

Pierre Jeannin 1540-1622
Pierre Jeannin
lived 1542-162

January 26, 1611 - May 24, 1616

Louis XIII

(or rather under Marie de Médicis while Louis was a minor until 1614)

Received for his services, among other things, the intendance des finances for his son-in-law Pierre de Castille.

Claude Barbin
lived 1

May 24, 1616 - April 24, 1617

Louis XIII

Praised for his "common sense and clean hands."

But Barbin had been recommended by Marie de Médicis's friend Concino Concini, who was as unpopular as he was greedy. Concini was assassinated on April 24, 1617.

Gilles de Maupeou 1553-1641
Gilles de Maupeou
lived 1553-

April 26, 1617 - 1619

Louis XIII

Second Term

Pierre de Castille

September 25, 1619 - 1623

Louis XIII

Son-in-law of Pierre Jeannin

Controller-general and intendant des finances

Jean Bochart (Bochard) de Champigny
lived 1

January 23, 1623 - January 1626

Louis XIII


Simon Marion de Druy
lived 1572-1628

March 1, 1626 - October, 1628

Louis XIII


Pierre de Duret de Chevry

January 12, 1634 - September 18, 1636

Louis XIII

Died while in office.

Michel Particelli d'Émery 1596-1650
Michel Particelli d'Émery
lived 1

May 1643 - July 9, 1648

Louis XIV


Antoine Le Camus
lived 1603-1687

April 20, 1648 - 1657

Louis XIV

From 1655 together with Claude Ménardeau de Champré

Claude Ménardeau de Champré

May 13, 1655 - September 18, 1657

Louis XIV

Together with Antoine Le Camus

Barthélemy Hervart (Herwart)
lived 1

October 20, 1657 - December 12, 1665

Louis XIV

Together with Louis Le Tonnelier de Breteuil

Louis Le Tonnelier de Breteuil
lived 1609-1685

October 20, 1657 - December 12, 1665

Louis XIV

Together with Barthélemy Hervart

Jean-Baptiste Colbert 1619-1683
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
lived 1619-1683

December 12, 1665 - September 6, 1683

Louis XIV

After Surintendant Nicolas Fouquet was dismissed in 1661, the surintendance was abolished.

From 1665, Colbert performed the duties of surintendant as contrôleur général.

Colbert died on September 6, 1683.

Claude Le Peletier
lived 1631-1711

September 6, 1683 - September 20, 1689

Louis XIV


Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain 1643-1727
Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain
lived 1643-1727

September 20, 1689 - September 5, 1699

Louis XIV

Created the capitation (head tax) in 1695.

Michel de Chamillart 1652-1721
Michel de Chamillart
lived 1652-1721

September 20, 1699 - February 20, 1708

Louis XIV


Nicolas Desmarets (des Marets or Desmaretz), marquis de Maillebois
lived 1648-1721

February 19, 1708 - September 15, 1715

Louis XIV

Recommended that France should declare bankruptcy.

Desmaretz went with his king.

Adrien Maurice, duc de Noailles 1678-1766
Adrien Maurice, duc de Noailles
lived 1678-1766

September 15, 1715 - January 28, 1718

Louis XV (actually Philippe II, duc d'Orléans because Louis was a minor)

Président du conseil des finances

Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmy, marquis d'Argenson 1652-1721
Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmy, marquis d'Argenson
lived 1652-1721

January 28, 1718 - January 4, 1720

Louis XV

Directeur de l’administration principale des finances

John Law 1671-1729
John Law
lived 1671-1729

January 4 - May 27, 1720

Louis XV

Born in Edinburgh, Law was in France from December 1713 to December 1720.

After his dismissal on May 27, 1720, Law was earmarked for a trip to the  Bastille. But he was recalled to fix his mess because no one else could.

Félix Le Pelletier de la Houssaye
lived 1663-1723

December 11, 1720 - April 21, 1722

Louis XV


Charles-Gaspard Dodun
lived 1679-1736

April 21, 1722 - June 14, 1726

Louis XV


Michel Le Peletier des Forts
lived 1675-1740

June 14, 1726 - March 19, 1730

Louis XV

Claude Le Peletier's nephew.

Philibert Orry, comte de Vignory 1689-1747
Philibert Orry, comte de Vignory
lived 1689-1747

March 20, 1730 - December 5, 1745

Louis XV


Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville 1701-1794
Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville
lived 1701-1794

December 6, 1745 - July 28, 1754

Louis XV

Created the vingtième.

See also War of the Austrian Succession.

Was also after replacing the dons gratuits with individual tax.

Made too many enemies and was transferred to another post, later dismissed. Died in prison thanks to the Reign of Terror. Machault was 93 years old.

Jean Moreau de Séchelles 1690-1760
Jean Moreau de Séchelles
lived 1690-1760

July 30, 1754 - April 24, 1756

Louis XV

Got mad on the job, left his office to his son-in-law, Peyrenc de Moras.

François-Marie Peyrenc de Moras
lived 1718-1771

April 24, 1756 - August 25, 1757

Louis XV

Moras, Jean Moreau de Séchelles' son-in-law, created the  second vingtième to finance war expenses, which led to the collective resignation of the parlement in December 1756.

Jean de Boullongne 1690-1769
Jean de Boullongne
lived 1690-1769

August 25, 1757 - March 4, 1759

Louis XV

In August 1758, Boullongne created the don gratuit for cities. This backfired and he was dismissed.

According to rumor, Boullongne fractured his kneecap in a tennis match in October 1767 and died fourteen months later as a result of this injury.

Étienne de Silhouette
lived 1709-1767

March 4 - November 21, 1759

Louis XV

Silhouette cried when he was told that he had to resign.

Voltaire noted that Silhouette's ideas, although very beautiful, were used very inopportunely. During peaceful times they might have worked.

See also Seven Years' War.

Henri-Jean-Baptiste-Léonard Bertin 1720-1792
Henri-Jean-Baptiste-Léonard Bertin
lived 1720-1792

November 23, 1759 - December 13, 1763

Louis XV

Created a third vingtieme.

On December 13, 1763, Bertin had to resign because of opposition from parlement.

But Louis created a new post for him and made him head of a bunch of departments, e.g. agriculture, rivers, commerce, mining, and manufacturing.

Clément-Charles-François de L'Averdy
lived 1724-1793

December 13, 1763 - October 1, 1768

Louis XV

Had many administrative reforms in mind, but ran into a brick wall in 1767, when, after having had several bad harvests, he discovered 250 million in debts, "forgotten" by

High prices of grain and a misinterpreted treaty between L'Averdy and the Baker Malisset, which ensured steady supply of grain for the capital, gave cause to rumors of a "famine pact." L'Averdy was dismissed in 1768.

Guillotined on November 24, 1793.

Étienne Maynon d'Invault
lived 1721-1801

September 22, 1768 - December 22, 1769

Louis XV

Didn't put up with Chancellor Maupeou, so he quit.

Joseph-Marie Terray 1715-1778
Joseph-Marie Terray
lived 1715-1778

December 22, 1769 - August 24, 1774

Louis XV

Abbé Terray came highly recommended by Chancellor Maupeou, together with whom Terray implemented very effective reforms.

Under Terray, French revenues enjoyed a rare breather. But it came at a price. Maupeou and Terray were tagged as despotic and generally disliked.

Terray's career didn't survive the switch from Louis XV to Louis XVI.

Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, baron de l'Aulne 1727-1781
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, baron de l'Aulne
lived 1727-1781

August 24, 1774 - May 12, 1776

Louis XVI

Capable minister.

His reforms came as the Six Edicts of 1776, which among other things, abolished the corvées.

Parlement and everyone whose wings had been clipped by Turgot's reforms raised a huge stink. Vergennes didn't like him either.

Louis not only dismissed Turgot, he also had all his reforms repealed by October 1776.

Jean-Etienne Bernard de Clugny de Nuits 1729-1776
Jean-Etienne Bernard de Clugny de Nuits
lived 1729-1776

May 21 - October 18, 1776

Louis XVI

Revoked all of Turgot's reforms.

Created the royal lottery.

Died on the job, suddenly, age 47.

Louis-Gabriel Taboureau des Réaux
lived 1718-1782

October 21, 1776-June 29, 1777

Louis XVI

Taboureau was promoted to shield Necker's appointment to directeur général du Trésor Royal on October 22, 1776.

Necker was a Protestant and couldn't be officially employed at the contrôle général des finances.

However, Necker had been working as finance minister since June 1776.

Jacques Necker 1732-1804
 Jacques Necker
lived 1732-1804

June 29, 1777-May 19, 1781

Louis XVI

Directeur général des finances

Necker served three terms:
- First term from 1776 to 1781
- Second term from August 1788 to July 1789
- Third term from July 20, 1789 to September 18, 1790 (with Lambert sitting on his lap)

Jean-François Joly de Fleury
lived 1718-1802

May 21, 1781 - March 29, 1783

Louis XVI


Henry-François de Paule Lefèvre d'Ormesson 1751-1808
Henry-François de Paule Lefèvre d'Ormesson
lived 1751-1808

March 29 - November 2, 1783

Louis XVI

The Caisse d’escompte crisis and the attempted reform of the ferme générale highlighted d'Ormesson's time in office.

Charles Alexandre de Calonne 1734-1802
 Charles-Alexandre de Calonne
lived 1734-1802

November 3, 1783 - April 8, 1787

Louis XVI

Tried to secure more loans via government spending. Later, he resumed the financial policy of Turgot and Necker.

Calonne's reforms were met by too much opposition. Vergennes and Miromesnil were just some of his enemies.

Louis had to dismiss him.

Michel Bouvard de Fourqueux
lived 1719-1789

April 10 - May 1, 1787

Louis XVI

Sixty-eight year old Fourqueux lasted three full weeks.

Pierre-Charles Laurent de Villedeuil
lived 1742-1828

May 3 - August 30, 1787

Louis XVI


Claude-Guillaume Lambert
lived 1726-1794

August 31, 1787-August 25, 1788

Louis XVI

Served two terms.

This was his first term. He will be back in July 1789.

Jacques Necker 1732-1804
 Jacques Necker
lived 1732-1804

August 25, 1788 - July 11, 1789

Louis XVI

Directeur général des finances

Necker served three terms:
- First term from 1776 to 1781
- Second term from August 1788 to July 1789
- Third term from July 20, 1789 to September 18, 1790 (with Lambert sitting on his lap)

Claude-Guillaume Lambert
lived 1726-1794

July 22, 1789-November 26, 1790

Louis XVI

This is Lambert's second term. This time he was placed under Necker's authority.

He resigned in 1790 and was guillotined on June 23, 1794.

Antoine Nicolas de Valdec de Lessart
lived 1741-1792

November 30, 1790-May 28, 1791

Louis XVI

Ministre des Finances
November 30, 1790 - April 27, 1791

Ministre des Contributions et revenus publics
(New post created by the  Constituent Assembly)
April 27 - May 24, 1791

Lynched by the September 1792 mob

Louis-Hardouin Tarbé
lived 1753-1806

May 24, 1791-March 24, 1792

Louis XVI

Ministre des contributions et revenus publics

Resigned on March 15, 1792, but his successor wasn't appointed until March 24.

Étienne Clavière
lived 1735-1793

March 24, 1792-June 13, 1792

Louis XVI

Ministre des contributions et revenus publics

This is his first term. He will be back on August 10, 1792.

Joseph-Emilie-François Hervé de Beaulieu
lived 1752-1807

June 18, 1792-July 29, 1792

Louis XVI

Ministre des contributions et revenus publics

Quit his job on July 10, 1792, but had to wait three weeks for his replacement.

René Leroux Delaville (Le Roulx Delaville)
lived 1743-1797

July 29 - August 10, 1792

Louis XVI

Ministre des contributions et revenus publics

Finance minister for 12 days.

On August 10, 1792, the mob stormed the Tuileries and deposed the King. Leroux-Delaville was dismissed and Clavière recalled.

Étienne Clavière
lived 1735-1793

August 10, 1792 - June 13, 1793

Louis XVI
(who had been imprisoned in August 1792)

Ministre des contributions et revenus publics

This is his second term. His first term lasted from March to June 1792.

A Girondin, Claviere stabbed himself one day before he had to appear before the Revolutionary Tribunal.





The monarchy was officially abolished and
the French Republic proclaimed on September 21, 1792.






See also Taxation in Pre-Revolutionary France.




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