Language & Society: 1500-1800 Conflict in Continuity in Seventeenth Century France

Service to the Crown might bring hereditary office and a title for the upwardly mobile of Louis X/V's France, but not acceptance by the traditional 'aristocracy of the sword'. Close scrutiny reveals attempts to incorporate a new breed of noble into an essentially static society.

During the reign of Louis XIII the definition of social groups was the principal preoccupation of French high society, and of the pamphleteers, jurists and theorists who put their services at its disposal. These often passionate debates were prompted by two long-term trends within the kingdom. First there were the attempts by the Crown to encroach upon some of the aristocratic and clerical privileges which hampered its tasks of protecting the realm, maintaining order and giving good justice, financing the government and increasing certain kinds of economic activity. Secondly there was the problem of incorporating a new and influential group, the bureaucracy (whose senior members claimed to be noble), into the traditional hierarchy of social categories.

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