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Arthur-Richard Dillon

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Arthur-Richard Dillon

Arthur Richard Dillon (1721–1806), French archbishop, was the son of Arthur Dillon (1670-1733), one of the Irish Wild Geese who became a general in the French service.[1]

He was born at St Germain, entered the priesthood and was successively curé of Elan near Mézières, vicar-general of Pontoise (1747), bishop of Evreux (1753) and archbishop of Toulouse (1758), archbishop of Narbonne in 1763, and in that capacity, president of the estates of Languedoc.

He devoted himself much less to the spiritual direction of his diocese than to its temporal welfare, carrying out many works of public utility, bridges, canals, roads, harbours, etc.; had chairs of chemistry and of physics created at Montpellier and at Toulouse, and tried to reduce poverty, especially in Narbonne.

From about the age of fifty, until she died shortly before Dillon, he lived with his wealthy, widowed niece, Mme. de Rothe. The pair were considered to be lovers, an arrangement considered scandalous even by the jaded standards of the day. They maintained a household primarily at the chateau Hautefontaine, where Dillon kept an extravagant hunt.

In 1787 and in 1788 he was a member of the Assembly of Notables called together by Louis XVI, and in 1788 presided over the assembly of the clergy. Having refused to accept the civil constitution of the clergy, Dillon had to leave Narbonne in 1790, then to emigrate (accompanied by de Rothe) to Coblenz in 1791. Soon afterwards he and de Rothe fled to London, where he lived until his death in 1807, never accepting the Concordat of 1801, which had suppressed his archiepiscopal see.

Between March 2002 and June 2003, part of the St Pancras graveyard was excavated[2] in preparation for the London terminus of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. During archaeological investigation, Dillon's body was found to have been buried wearing a set of porcelain dentures. It is believed that he purchased them from a Parisian dentist named Nicholas De Chemant.[3]

The body of Archbishop Dillon was returned to France in March 2007 and now lies in Cobbe Museum (currently housed at Hatchlands, East Clandon)

Footnotes

References

  • L Audibret, Le Dernier President des Etats du Languedoc, Mgr. Arthur Richard Dillon, archevêque de Narbonne (Bordeaux, 1868); L de Lavergne, Les Assemblées provinciales sous Louis XVI (Paris, 1864).

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  • Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Cobbe Museum

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