French Nobility in the 17th and 18th Centuries Essay

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Pages: 7

Paper Assignment #1
The Nobility of France:
17th and 18th Century Impressions

The nobility of the Kingdom of France has been evaluated by various scholars of history. There is something to be said, however, for those who chronicled their impressions while living them in the 17th and 18th centuries. The excerpts of Charles Loyseau’s A Treatise on Orders, written in 1610, and Isabelle de Charriere’s The Nobleman, written in 1763 provide two very different glimpses on the French nobility from differing time periods. From these two accounts, it is clear that there was a marked shift in the way some viewed the nobility and their role in the operation of the French state. While Loyseau praises the nobility nearly wholeheartedly,
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While these ethnic distinctions had long passed, there remained certain vestiges of that order (Mason and Rizzo 1999: 18). From this understanding the position of the nobility came from the historic order of the country but not without its own prerequisites. Loyseau notes that while honor and rank are necessary they must be earned “by merit, and maintain[ed]… by gentleness” (Mason and Rizzo 1999: 17). In essence, noble merit for Loyseau came from traditional distinctions as well as service to France. Likewise, Charriere seems to hold a similar conception of noble merit. When she contrasts the actions and characteristics of the Baron d’Aronville and his son with that of Valaincourt it becomes clear what she feels are the characteristics. Especially in the case of Valaincourt, whose father “…who, by distinguished services and many virtues, had merited this honor” (Mason and Rizzo 1999: 38). As she seems to imply with her final characterizations of both Valaincourt and the Baron, Valaincourt was much closer to the noble actions of his father than the Baron was with his distant ancestor (Mason and Rizzo 1999: 38). Additionally, the Baron’s son seemed to be in direct contrast to these noble ways upheld by Valaincourt’s father to such an extent that there was nothing noble about him. All the while, the Baron d’Aronville holds firmly to his sense of his family’s superiority derived from nothing other than his heritage. In this sense, at least for Charriere,