Today we remember one of the darkest tricks played on the Jesuits, with devastating consequences.
In 'Etienne Francois Duc de Choisel' the Jesuits had met an enemy much more subtle that Pombal of Portugal. He was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman, and twice he was Foreign Minister of French. He is supposed to have achieved a pact between the Bourbon monarchs against the Jesuits. Very close to Madame de Pompadour he grew in influence and power. He sent a secret letter to Rome asking for the Jesuits in Versailles to be instructed to be more lenient confessors. Madame Pompadour was openly living as a mistress to the King, and resisted the call from the Jesuits to retire from the court.
Choisel worked hard to bring Spain and France together again, in fact he was sent to Madrid to be the French Ambassador there and became a key figure to Charles III. As the historian Cretinaue claims – the personality of the King of Spain, Charles III, a fervent Christian, was very stable – he was not likely to change his opinions of a life time overnight. He was appreciative of the Jesuits, particularly their outstanding work in the missions, in bringing so many new people underneath his flag, more than Colombus and Pizzaro combined. He also seemed to be resistant to the philosophical arguments against the Jesuits . So how do we understand his sudden turn against the Society?
Due to the stability and depth of Charles, crafty Choisel realised that to turn the King against the Jesuits, it needed to get personal. The Kings sudden fury against the Jesuits could only be due to one thing – that it had been proven to him that the Jesuits questioned his legitimacy. This unlikely event happened when a letter purported to have been written by Fr General Ricci was found and presented to the King in which Ricci allegedly said that he was gathering documents proving irrefutably that Charles III was a child of adultery. The infamous ‘Ricci Letter’ had been slipped into the luggage of two Jesuits leaving Spain for Rome. It is claimed that is was a forgery by de Choisel.