December 12, 1788: Memoir of the Princes
The Memoir of the Princes was sent to the king by the princes of the blood on December 12, 1788, at the close of the second Assembly of Notables. The Notables had been summoned by Necker on November 6 in the hope of winning support for the doubling of the representation of the Third Estate in the Estates General, but they took a firmly “aristocratic” stand, refusing to endanger the dominance of the nobles and clergy in the Estates; of the six working committees into which the Notables divided, only one—chaired by Monsieur, Louis XVI’s next younger brother, the Count of Provence—agreed to “doubling,” and it said nothing about permitting vote by head. The Memoir of the Princes was not signed by Provence, who at this time was trying to maintain a reputation for moderation. Called by Georges Lefebvre “the best manifesto of the aristocracy,”1 this Memoir was almost certainly the work of Antoine Jean Auget, baron de Montyon, who had held many government offices and was closely associated with the Count of Artois, Louis XVI’s youngest brother. Montyon’s traditionalistic, mildly liberal, aristocratic constitutionalism was characteristic of eighteenth-century aristocratic and parlementary critics of absolute monarchy. He was, however, to be one of the few to hold to this point of view through the revolution; most of the great nobles, including the princes for whom he prepared the Memoir in 1788, and including Provence, who at that time posed as considering it too reactionary, were to abandon aristocratic constitutionalism for a revived absolutism. The Memoir of the Princes anticipates some of the arguments of the right during the revolution and of rightist historiography since the revolution.
KeywordsYoung Brother French Revolution Divide Opinion Estate General Public Charge
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