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Feudalism, Venality, and RevolutionProvincial Assemblies in Late-Old Regime France$
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Stephen Miller

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526148377

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526148384

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The king’s entourage and public clashes over provincial assemblies

The king’s entourage and public clashes over provincial assemblies

(p.14) 1 The king’s entourage and public clashes over provincial assemblies
Feudalism, Venality, and Revolution

Stephen Miller

Manchester University Press

Historians generally regard the monarchy as either a modernizing leveler of decentralized feudal rights or as a traditional edifice shielding the vested interests of the nobility. I argue that the monarchy displayed both characteristics, embodying what I call “incomplete centralization.” It comprised, on the one hand, reformist statesmen such Turgot, Du Pont de Nemours, and Calonne, who envisioned broad-based assemblies in seven of the provinces to streamline the state and eliminate tax privileges; and, on the other hand, court nobles accustomed to doling out feudal domains, church offices, and other privileges as patronage to build support for their factions in Versailles. These nobles prevailed upon Louis XVI to put the aristocracy in control of the assemblies. They also incited opposition among noble clients in the provinces to the fiscal reforms entrusted to the assemblies. Their actions contributed directly to the exclusion of commoners who then began to turn against the regime upon seeing it accord inordinate influence to the nobles close to the king.

Keywords:   royal reforms, court aristocracy, status, privilege, revolutionary politics

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