Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern France
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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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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Henri II de Montmorency fumed when he heard of the surrender of the garrison at the ch�teau de Privas in February 1621. The duc de Montmorency had personally established this garrison overlooking the southern French town less than a year earlier, intending to calm the religious violence between Calvinists and Catholics in the surrounding region of Vivarais. As governor of the sprawling province of Languedoc...
PART I: THE PROFESSION OF ARMS
1. The Great Quantity of Nobility That Is Found Here: Southern France and Its Warrior Elite
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Nobles in each s�n�chauss�e across France assembled in the summer and autumn of 1614 to select deputies, usually one from each estate, to attend the meeting of the Estates General that Marie de M�dicis had called to deal with the problems of civil conflict in the kingdom. The deputies from the province of Languedoc who made the journey north to Paris for the opening of the Estates General in October were overwhelmingly warrior nobles. Many of the clergy elected as deputies of the first estate, such as Louis...
2. The Grandeur and Magnificence of His Household: Noble Households and Kinship
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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...
3. He Had No Trouble Helping Himself to Money: Cr�dit and Noble Finances
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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...
PART II: THE BONDS OF NOBILITY
4. With the Assistance of My Particular Friends: Clientage and Friendship
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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...
5. The Dignity and Authority of Their Charges: Officeholding and Political Culture
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In the midst of an increasingly chaotic and serious civil conflict in southwestern France in 1625, Henri de L�vis duc de Ventadour wrote to his fellow noble officers who were in session at a meeting of the estates of Languedoc: to renew the offers of my services and to beg you to continue the favor of your affections, in which I desire to preserve myself, and to increase [them] as much as possible. And for this purpose I shall return to...
6. Actions the Most Perilous Being the Most Honorable: Honor and Courage
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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...
PART III: THE CULTURE OF REVOLT
7. The Call to Arms from All Quarters: Rituals of Arming
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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...
8. A Great Multitude of Soldiers: Personal Armies
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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...
9. The Zeal of This Nobility: Violent Performances
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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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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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Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 14 halftones
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science