Family, ambition and service : the French nobility and the emergence of the standing army, c. 1598-1635
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This thesis will contend that a permanent body of military force under royal command, a ‘standing army’, arose during the first three decades of the seventeenth century in France. Such a development constituted a transformation in the nature of the monarchy’s armed forces. It was achieved by encouraging elements of the French nobility to become long-term office-holders within royal military institutions. Those members of the nobility who joined the standing army were not coerced into doing so by the crown, but joined the new body of force because it provided them with a means of achieving one of the fundamental ambitions of the French nobility: social advancement for their family.The first four chapters of this thesis thus look at how the standing army emerged via the entrenchment of a system of permanent infantry regiments within France. They look at how certain families, particularly from the lower and middling nobility, attempted to monopolise offices within the regiments due to the social benefits they conferred. Some of the consequences that arose from the army becoming an institution in which ‘careers’ could be pursued, such as promotion and venality, will be examined, as will how elements of the the nobility were vital to the expansion of the standing army beyond its initial core of units. Chapters Five and Six will investigate how the emergence of this new type of force affected the most powerful noblemen of the realm, the grands. In particular, it will focus on those grands who held the prestigious supra-regimental military offices of Constable and Colonel General of the Infantry. The thesis concludes that the emergence of the standing army helped to alter considerably the relationship between the monarchy and the nobility by the end of the period in question. A more monarchy-centred army and state had begun to emerge in France by the late 1620s; a polity which might be dubbed the early ‘absolute monarchy’. However, such a state of affairs had only arisen due to the considerable concessions that the monarchy had made to the ambitions of certain elements of the nobility.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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