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The Damiens Affair and the Unraveling of the ANCIEN REGIME, 1750-1770

The Damiens Affair and the Unraveling of the ANCIEN REGIME, 1750-1770

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Damiens Affair and the Unraveling of the ANCIEN REGIME, 1750-1770
    Book Description:

    This book examines an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Louis XV of France and the trial of his assailant, Robert-Francois Damiens, revealing the beginnings of the French Revolution in the ecclesiastical controversies that dominated the Damiens affair.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5728-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Dale K. Van Kley

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-12)

      The rigorous cold that came in with the French New Year in 1757 affected soldier, courtier, and sovereign alike. On the morning of January 5 in La Vilette, near Paris, one Jean-François Le Clerc, a veteran gunner on his way back from Linchaus to Douai on roundabout business for the king, took refuge in a cabaret where he warmed himself with ademi-septierof wine after removing a handkerchief that he had secured around his face “to protect himself from the cold.” Cold comfort indeed, this stop, because had he only kept his handkerchief over his mouth or not entered...

    • CHAPTER 1 Damiens
      (pp. 13-55)

      By mid-january the combined efforts of the magistracy and the police had filled in the missing spaces that remained after the assassin’s first four or five interrogations. His full name was Robert-François Damiens, although he had usually called himself François; he came from the village of Tieulloy in Artois, although its inhabitants indeed pronounced it Culoy or Cueilloloy; and he was in fact forty-two years old, although it was still most common in the eighteenth century not to know one’s precise age.¹ It is probably not evidence of deviousness on his part that Damiens gave his age as forty, thirty-six...

    • CHAPTER 2 Damiens’ Masters as Judges
      (pp. 56-96)

      Damiens was not tried by the parlement of Paris or even by its whole Grand’ chambre, for these institutions had temporarily ceased to exist in the wake of the king’s lit de justice and the mass resignations that followed. Refusing to reconstitute the parlement in response to the “striking” magistrates’ collective offer to take back their resignations, the king instead confided Damiens’ trial to the Grand’ chambre’s remaining ten “loyal” presidents and approximately fifteen councillors, to which he added a number of retired or honorary councillors and the princes and peers of the realm.¹ For this reason alone Damiens’ trial...


    • CHAPTER 3 Damiens’ Masters as Magistrates: The Refusal of Sacraments Controversy and the Political Crisis of 1756-1757
      (pp. 99-165)

      The set-to between the king and the parlement of Paris in 1757 that Damiens aspired to influence represents the climax of a half-century of religious and ecclesiastical controversy that so dominated the French scene until about 1765 that the whole eighteenth century there might just as appropriately have been christened the century ofUnigenitusas that of “lights.” The beginnings of this drama stretch back to the various condemnations of Jansenism culminating in the bullUnigenitusin 1713; the denouement and conclusion may be said to extend well into the 1760s with the suppression of the Jesuits and the controversy...

    • CHAPTER 4 Damiens’ Masters as Theorists: Constitutional Thought from 1750 to 1770
      (pp. 166-225)

      In the course of a homily delivered in advance of a solemn mass celebrating the king's recovery, Jean-Etienne de Caulet, the bishop of Grenoble, seized the occasion to expound upon the nature of “absolute government” that “made for the happiness of people.” Distinguishing, in the spirit of Bossuet, between “arbitrary” and absolute government, the bishop of Grenoble defined the latter in terms of a prince who “owed an account to no one for what he ordained” and whose judgments, if abusive, had no other remedy than in “the authority itself that resides in his person.” The subjects, in such a...

    • CHAPTER 5 Damiens’ Peers
      (pp. 226-265)

      Both parties, then, to the politico-religious disputes of the 1750s and 1760s tended diversely to oppose and undermine the royal good pleasure in the very act of exalting it. Although magnifying the “prince’s” right in relation to ecclesiastical “independence,” Jansenist and parlementary polemicists also telescoped it together with that of the parlement and the nation at the first sign of independence by the person of the prince himself. And while raising the royal will to new levels of irresponsibility in relation to its lay subjects, episcopal apologists melted it down as it approached the sun of their own sacrosanct jurisdiction....

  6. Conclusion
    (pp. 266-270)

    The same Ravaillac and Châtel precedents that condemned Damiens to his horrible and anachronistic execution in the place de Grève carried with them draconian consequences for his family. These required that the assailant’s parents and children “leave the realm with the injunction never to return on pain of hanging and strangulation without formality or trial” and that his brothers and sister change their family name or incur the same penalty.¹ So important to Damiens’ judges was the matter of this arrêt’s precise conformity to the precedents in question that the attorney general had to be urged by his chief substitute...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 271-351)
  8. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 352-356)
  9. Index
    (pp. 357-373)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 374-374)