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About this book

This book analyses the evolving relationship between the French monarchy and the French nobility in the early modern period. New interpretations of the absolutist state in France have challenged the orthodox vision of the interaction between the crown and elite society. By focusing on the struggle of central government to control the periphery, Bohanan links the literature on collaboration, patronage and taxation with research on the social origins and structure of provincial nobilities. Three provinical examples, Provence, Dauphine and Brittany, illustrate the ways in which elites organised and mobilised by vertical ties (ties of dependency based on patronage) were co-opted or subverted by the crown.

The monarchy's success in raising more money from these pays d'etats depended on its ability to juggle a set of different strategies, each conceived according to the particularity of the social, political and institutional context of the province. Bohanan shows that the strategies and expedients employed by the crown varied from province to province; conceived on an individual basis, they bear the signs of ad hoc responses rather than a gradnoise plan to centralise.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
This book is about relations between the central government of France and the provincial nobility during the early modern period. It focuses specifically on the Bourbon monarchs of the seventeenth century and their efforts to extend a measure of control over the semi-autonomous peripheral provinces and the nobilities that dominated them. I have chosen as illustrations the provinces of Provence, Dauphiné, and Brittany, which were the objects of royal designs to siphon off greater revenues in the form of taxation. In each of these pays d’états, royal policy provoked resistance and rebellion on the part of the nobility — or, more accurately, on components within the nobility — which in turn exposed the fundamental contours and structures of provincial society.
Donna Bohanan

Chapter 1. Nobility: Metamorphosis

Abstract
For some time modern historians wrote about a crisis of the nobility in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France. By ‘crisis’ they were referring to a decline in aristocratic power, wealth, and number. Such a decline had for these historians broad political implications because it effectively removed the primary obstacle to monarchical power — a recalcitrant, essentially independent warrior nobility — to be replaced by a rising middle class, a group whose political strength derived from the supportive role in which it had been cast by virtue of its alliance with the monarchs of the sixteenth century. For the crisis historians, the decline of the aristocracy was paralleled by the rise of the middle class and was ipso facto accompanied by the growth of monarchical power.
Donna Bohanan

Chapter 2. Crown: State-building

Abstract
Just as historians have revised interpretations of the changes that occurred within the early modern nobility, so they have offered alternative and more finely nuanced analyses of the construction of the early modern state. Over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, central government struggled, ultimately with a measure of success, to extend its authority from the center to the periphery of the realm. This was not a steadily deterministic process, and there were major setbacks along the way, not the least of which were decades of religious and civil war that tore the country apart at its very seams. The expansion of monarchical authority brought central government into direct conflict with the many groups, duly constituted bodies, and regions in whose interest it was to oppose and obstruct the process of state-building. Within these various expressions of regionalism, constitutionalism, and traditionalism, aristocratic voices clearly resonated. Indeed, the provincial nobilities of France figured prominently in the great episodes of conflict and resistance to reform. Finally, their complicity made possible the relations with central government that have subsequently been called absolutism.
Donna Bohanan

Chapter 3. Provence: The Opportunities of Factionalism

Abstract
Living at the Mediterranean fringe of the realm, the inhabitants of scenic Provence fought valiantly in the seventeenth century to prevent the encroachment of royal authority and the erosion of provincial liberties. Provence was not like other parts of France. Of course, the same is true to some extent for all the French provinces, but it is particularly true for those that lay at the periphery. Deeply imbedded in the regional identity of Provence was the belief that its residents had their own special rights and privileges, the most important of which was the right of provincial estates to approve, apportion, and collect taxes. In short, Provence was a pays d’états, and in the seventeenth century its nobility would instigate and lead popular rebellions protesting the introduction of royal agents and authority. But it was also the same nobility that, in its complicity, would assist the crown finally in establishing greater control over the province. State-building in Provence, and elsewhere in the pays d’états, rested on a collaborative relationship forged by the crown and its ministers with the provincial nobility. This relationship between the province and the crown, or, more specifically, between the elites and the crown, bore the character of clientelism, and the construction of royal clienteles proceeded rather differently from one province to the next. In this great effort to infiltrate the outlying provinces, the crown confronted the legendary regional diversity that has become a sine qua non for French historians.
Donna Bohanan

Chapter 4. Dauphiné: The Potential in Class Conflict

Abstract
Dauphiné was another pays d’états where the issue of provincial rights and privileges produced a series of conflicts in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Here the crown by its efforts to increase taxation and revenue ignited a great contest between the nobility and the crown on the one hand, and the nobility and the third estate on the other. In contrast to Provence where the cleavages were essentially vertical and factional in nature, in Dauphiné efforts to raise taxes revealed deep divisions between the estates. In protecting its own interests, the third estate questioned the traditional privileges of nobility to the extent that the very notion of nobility came under attack. But this social conflict was much more complex than a simple dichotomy of noble vs. roturier. Over time it revealed fissures within the second and third estates. In challenging the rights of the nobility and in guarding their own interests, urban elites were placed in opposition to the peasantry and to urban artisans. As it played out, the conflict in Dauphiné encompassed a series of contests: noble vs. commoner, town vs. country, professionals vs. artisans, and bourgeois elites vs. anoblis. It brought into focus the growing divisions and subdivisions in provincial society. And the crown, in responding to the crisis over taxation, hardened the layers of horizontal solidarities, capitalized on an emerging national conscience, and succeeded in bringing about its desired tax reforms.
Donna Bohanan

Chapter 5. Brittany: The Limits of Elite Solidarity

Abstract
Far removed from Provence and Dauphiné lay Brittany, the last of the three pays d’états and a fiercely independent province. Unlike the others, however, Brittany and its provincial estates were not objects of tax reform under Louis XIII. Cardinal Richelieu did not attempt to introduce the élus and élections to the province, and thereby avoided the confrontations that such initiatives provoked elsewhere. Indeed, the Bretons only fell subject to the scrutiny of an intendant in 1634, and the intendant only became a permanent fixture in 1689. Thanks to the minister’s special interest in Brittany and to the cooperation of its elites, the province was spared most of the changes, reforms, and attendant conflicts that defined the histories of Provence and Dauphiné in the early seventeenth century. It was only after Richelieu was gone and under Colbert that relations between the province and the crown deteriorated to the point of violence. The expenditures of Louis XIV’s reign induced the crown to make demands sufficient to threaten the financial interests of the Breton landed elite. The resulting breakdown of cooperation between king and provincial nobles contributed to the rebellion of 1675. In resorting to hard-hitting tactics, Louis and his agents exposed the self-interests of the parlementaires and revealed the extent to which horizontal ties had formed in this provincial society and the challenges that they posed for central government.
Donna Bohanan

Conclusion

Abstract
In examining the relationship between the crown and the provincial nobilities of three great pays d’états, this book has sought to convey several interpretations and perspectives. First, it maintains that the nobility, revived, enlarged, and more modern, claimed social and political power within the locality that made them the major force with which the monarchy had to contend in order to increase revenue from the remote parts of the realm. Nobles dominated life in the provinces; they dominated provincial political institutions and they dominated provincial society. Although the institutional context varied somewhat from one province to the next, nobles maintained control through the local estates and as a result of venal officeholding. As magistrates and seigneurs, the political arena was theirs to control and they presented a determined obstacle to the expansion of royal authority.
Donna Bohanan
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