Becoming a prince: the school of power in France

The editions of the CNRS have just given a pocket version of the book by Pascale Mormiche, Become a prince. The school of power in France in the 17th-18th century, resulting from his thesis.

A subject rarely mentioned

The education of princes was a subject long neglected, allowing the popular belief that they had been poorly educated to settle. This truism seemed to impose itself with even more evidence for those of the end of the Ancien Régime. The question of Louis XVI's education had thus become an issue in itself and Pierrette Girault de Coursac, one of his main hagiographers, had devoted her thesis to it.

Pascale Mormiche offers here the most complete study on the education of French princes in modern times that we can find. And that was a much needed study. She dissects everything: from educational methods and treatises through personnel and power networks to the ideal of the prince that these educations convey.

Its diachronic approach makes it possible to better understand the evolutions of education and what they reveal about the thought of an era. In particular, we follow the greater or lesser fortunes of philosophy, Latin and history over time. We learn how the royal education gradually distinguished itself from that of the princes of the blood. We discover the growing role of science and the reluctance it arouses. Finally, we will find the answer to almost all the questions we could ask ourselves on the subject. The only thing that escapes this sum is what concerns oral education and which, by definition, has left no traces.

There is nevertheless here a regret to express. A thesis is not such as a work intended for the public, even if it concerns students. The author spanning two entire centuries and many princes, it is not always easy to be familiar with the staff of each of them and a clarification for more readability would undoubtedly have been appreciated. In short, it would have been desirable for this new edition to benefit from more extensive editorial work and, at least, cleared of its innumerable typos.

Our opinion

This is a very essential work for curial studies in modern times, but which remains relatively difficult to access. Enthusiasts will know how to overcome this constraint while waiting for a publisher to offer the author to produce a truly popularized version.

Pascale Mormiche, Becoming a prince. The school of power in France in the 17th-18th century, Editions du CNRS, January 2015.

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