From Gens d’armes to Gentilshommes: Dressage, Civility, and the Ballet à Cheval

  • Kate van Orden
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


In 1594, the great horseman Antoine de Pluvinel opened France’s first military academy, aiming, he said, to render his students “capable of serving their Prince well, whether in peace or in war.”1 The academy filled a genuine need, as before that time young French nobles keen to fulfill the military calling of their estate had had to travel to Italy for training, where they studied at the riding school of Cesare Fiaschi in Ferrara or in Naples with Federico Grisone, Giovanni Battista Pignatelli (at whose school Pluvinel had studied for six years), or Cesare Mirabbello. After a stay that usually began no earlier than age 14 and lasted one or two years, students returned to France, where they commanded respect through their poise in the saddle.


Seventeenth Century Military Academy French Academy Social Commerce Military Career 
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  1. 1.
    Antoine de Pluvinel, L’Instruction du roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval ed. René de Menou (Paris: Michel Nivelle, 1625), 200. Pluvinel outlines the program of study, concluding that it aims “de les rendre capables de bien servir leur Prince, soit en paix, soit en guerre.” On Pluvinel’s academy and subsequent ones modeled on it seeGoogle Scholar
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© Karen Raber and Treva J. Tucker 2005

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  • Kate van Orden

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