Exile, Imprisonment, or Death: The Politics of Disgrace in Bourbon France, 1610-1789

ISBN : 9780198788690

Julian Swann
560 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jan 2017
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On the accession of Louis XIII in 1610 following the assassination of his father, the Bourbon dynasty stood on unstable foundations. For all of Henri IV's undoubted achievements, he had left his son a realm that was still prey to the ambitions of an aristocracy that possessed independent military force and was prepared to resort to violence and vendetta in order to defend its interests and honour. To establish his personal authority, Louis XIII was forced to resort to conspiracy and murder, and even then his authority was constantly challenged. Yet a little over a century later, as the reign of Louis XIV drew to a close, such disobedience was impossible. Instead, a simple royal command expressing the sovereign's disgrace was sufficient to compel the most powerful men and women in the kingdom to submit to imprisonment or internal exile without a trial or an opportunity to justify their conduct, abandoning their normal lives, leaving families, careers, offices, and possessions behind in obedience to their sovereign. To explain that transformation, this volume examines the development of this new 'politics of disgrace', why it emerged, how it was conceptualised, the conventions that governed its use, and reactions to it, not only from the perspective of the monarch and his noble subjects, but also the great corporations of the realm and the wider public. Although that new model of disgrace proved remarkably successful, influencing the ideas and actions of the dominant social elites, it was nevertheless contested, and the critique of disgrace connects to the second aim of this work, which is to use shifting attitudes to the practice as a means of investigating the nature of Ancien Regime political culture and some of the dramatic and profound changes it experienced in the years separating Louis XIII's dramatic seizure of power from the French Revolution.


1 Head of the Household: Disgrace at the Courts of Louis XIII and Louis XIV
2 Master and Servant: Ministerial Disgrace in the Reign of Louis XIV
3 'Sire, in the name of God, have pity on me': The Personal Experience of Disgrace
4 The Golden Age of Ministerial Exile, 1715-1774
5 Disgrace and Judicial Politics: How, and How Not, to Punish the Parlements
6 Of Secrets and Supper Parties: Disgrace at the Court of Louis XV
7 'The secret of knowing how to be bored': Daily Life in Disgrace
8 Emptying the Chamber Pot: Family and Friendship in Disgrace
9 'The cry of the people is the voice of God': The Popular Politics of Disgrace
10 Disgrace without Dishonour
11 From Disgrace to Despotism: Lettres de cachet, Arbitrary Punishment, and the Campaign for a Law of Public Safety
12 Idol of the Nation: Ministerial Disgrace in the Reign of Louis XVI

About the author: 

Julian Swann has taught at Birkbeck College, University of London, since 1989. He is the author of Politics and the Parlement of Paris under Louis XV, 1754-1774 and Provincial power and absolute monarchy: the Estates General of Burgundy, 1661-1790 as well as many articles on the political and administrative history of early modern France. His next project is to complete a biography of Louis XV.

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