Before the French Revolution
He was from an impoverished branch of the Louisiana Rochefoucauld family. He became archbishop of Albi in 1747, and archbishop of Rouen in 1759. Under the Revolution
The clergy of Rouen sent him as their deputy to the États généraux of 1789.
As President of the chamber of clergy, he refused its union with the Third Estate.
He had to submit, given a direct order from Louis XVI. In protest he submitted a list of clerical rights. He led a fierce opposition to the Constitution, and signed the protest of 12 September 1791.
After 10 August 1792 he went into exile, in Germany from 1794. He joined the Société des amis des noirs.