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Warrior Pursuits

Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern France

Brian Sandberg

Publication Year: 2010

This cultural history of civil warfare in early seventeenth-century France examines how warrior nobles’ practices of violence shaped provincial society and the royal state. Warrior Pursuits analyzes in detail how provincial nobles engaged in revolt and civil warfare in southern France between 1598 and 1635. The southern French provinces of Guyenne and Languedoc suffered almost continual religious strife and civil conflict in this period, providing an excellent case for investigating the dynamics of early modern civil violence. Brian Sandberg’s extensive archival research on noble families in these provinces reveals that violence continued to be a way of life for many French nobles, challenging previous scholarship that depicts a progressive “civilizing” of noble culture. He argues that southern French nobles engaged in warrior pursuits—social and cultural practices of violence designed to raise personal military forces and to wage civil warfare in order to advance various political and religious goals. Close relationships between the profession of arms, the bonds of nobility, and the culture of revolt allowed nobles to regard their violent performances as “heroic gestures” and “beautiful warrior acts.” Warrior nobles represented the key organizers of civil warfare in the early seventeenth century, orchestrating all aspects of the conduct of civil warfare—from recruitment to combat—according to their own understandings of their warrior pursuits. Building on the work of Arlette Jouanna and other historians of the nobility, Sandberg provides new perspectives on noble culture, state development, and civil warfare in early modern France. French historians and scholars of the Reformation and the European Wars of Religion will find Warrior Pursuits engaging and insightful.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xv-xxvii

In these quarters . . . we speak of nothing but the assemblies of soldiers and of the ordinary passage of those of Languedoc in small groups.” So a French nobleman described the outbreak of civil conflict in southern France in 1614, which was marked by mobilization of troops “against the wishes of monsieur de Montmorency,” the provincial governor of...

Note on Citations and Translations

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pp. xxviii-xxx

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pp. 3-8

Henri II de Montmorency fumed when he heard of the surrender of the garrison at the ch


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1. The Great Quantity of Nobility That Is Found Here: Southern France and Its Warrior Elite

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pp. 10-31

Nobles in each s

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2. The Grandeur and Magnificence of His Household: Noble Households and Kinship

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pp. 32-51

When describing Henri II de Montmorency’s youth and the negotiations for his marriage, Montmorency’s secretary and biographer marveled at “the grandeur and magnificence of his house hold.” Henri married Maria Felicia Orsini, daughter of a Roman noble, in a ceremony at the Louvre in July 1613. Less than a year later, the young duc de Montmorency received news of his father’s death in the province of Languedoc and headed to his family’s château near Pézenas to take up his father’s provincial government.1...

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3. He Had No Trouble Helping Himself to Money: Cr

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pp. 52-75

When Jean- Louis de La Valette duc d’Épernon raised Catholic forces in southwestern France in 1617, “he had no difficulty helping himself to money from [the king’s] receipts for the levy of his troops.” He justified his use of royal tax money on grounds that he was acting to oppose Calvinist sedition in La Rochelle and to advance “the king’s service.” Nearly five thousand men soon assembled, funded “with these sums, although small, and something of his own,” according to the duc’s...


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4. With the Assistance of My Particular Friends: Clientage and Friendship

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pp. 78-113

In 1621, after seizing control of the small town of Montcrabeau in southern France “with the assistance of my particular friends,” François d’Esparbès de Lussan marquis d’Aubeterre anticipated royal validation of his action.1 Provincial nobles often referred to their armed noble followers as amis, or friends, during civil conflicts in Languedoc and Guyenne. Friendship in this context alluded to a masculine bond among nobles engaging...

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5. The Dignity and Authority of Their Charges: Officeholding and Political Culture

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pp. 114-149

In the midst of an increasingly chaotic and serious civil conflict in southwestern France in 1625, Henri de L

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6. Actions the Most Perilous Being the Most Honorable: Honor and Courage

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pp. 150-185

A Catholic noble who fought in Languedoc in the 1620s argued that “honor being the most precious recompense that one could acquire from a good action, and the actions the most perilous being the most honorable, it would be wrong for these troops to remain silent about the glory that they acquire in this process.”1 Early modern French nobles clearly valued honor very highly, and they frequently discussed their personal and family honor in their correspondence. Late sixteenth- and early seventeenth- century moralists and...


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7. The Call to Arms from All Quarters: Rituals of Arming

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pp. 188-221

Rumors of war circulated throughout southern France in 1625, prompting a noble to record that “all of a sudden, we heard armorers everywhere, and the hammering of arms, which everyone amassed; soon afterwards, we saw nothing but the enrollment of soldiers and heard the call to arms from all quarters.”1 At the first hints of disorder, warrior nobles across the extensive provinces of Languedoc and Guyenne rapidly mobilized troops and braced them-selves for yet another civil war. As they armed, nobles engaged in rituals of...

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8. A Great Multitude of Soldiers: Personal Armies

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pp. 222-251

As political contention and confessional hostility mounted in Guyenne late in the summer of 1613, one of the prominent nobles of Périgord reportedly worked “to raise a great multitude of soldiers,” assembling his own field army of 2,000–3,000 infantry before “leading them to besiege a town in peacetime.”1 While this account expresses shocked indignation at this sudden mobilization, the military elites of Guyenne and Languedoc often managed to assemble impressive personal military forces during early seventeenth...

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9. The Zeal of This Nobility: Violent Performances

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pp. 252-283

Warrior nobles enthusiastically immersed themselves in violence during the fractious conflicts that divided southern France. A Languedoc noble praised “the zeal . . . of this nobility for the king’s service,” demonstrating provincial warrior nobles’ passionate commitment to royal service and to the profession of arms.1 Early seventeenth-century military elites often described their ardent desire for war and impatience to engage in combat in passionate terms. The culture of revolt cultivated intimate...

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pp. 284-292

Violence permeated the daily lives of provincial nobles in southern France in the early seventeenth century. Personal participation in civil warfare defined the warrior nobility and shaped their political culture in this period. Provincial military elites participated in religious violence and civil conflict through bellicose activities that ordered their the social and cultural practices. In sharp contrast to previous historical arguments that the very conceptions of nobility were becoming less focused on military roles in the late ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 293-294


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pp. 295-341


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pp. 343-381


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pp. 383-393

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899690
E-ISBN-10: 0801899699
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801897290
Print-ISBN-10: 0801897297

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 14 halftones
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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OCLC Number: 794700435
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Warrior Pursuits

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Subject Headings

  • Elite (Social sciences) -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
  • France -- History -- Bourbons, 1589-1789.
  • Militarism -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
  • Violence -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
  • Social conflict -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
  • Political culture -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
  • France, Southern -- Social conditions -- 17th century.
  • France, Southern -- Politics and government -- 17th century.
  • Nobility -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
  • Soldiers -- France, Southern -- History -- 17th century.
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