Noblesse de robe

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Noblesse de robe (informally also Robins ) is the name for the French official nobility at the time of the Ancien Régime . Noble by virtue of their office, in contrast to the birthright / sword nobility ( noblesse d'épée ). This social class included all aristocratic members of state authorities, particularly in the financial and legal sectors. Since these nobles often had a university education, they also wore indicating gowns or robes , which gave their group its name.


Nicolas René Berryer , a typical representative of the high official nobility (Minister of Justice, Minister of the Navy, Minister of Police under Louis XV. ) In his robe.

Until the end of the 17th century, the members of the noblesse de robe were very often of bourgeois origin and had achieved their new status by acquiring offices in state finance and law. Emergence and rise of the noblesse de robe hung directly on the development of medieval - feudal country to early modern - absolutist state beginning. With the expansion of the state's financial and legal administration, an extensive functional elite became necessary, which could essentially only be provided by the commoners, since the French nobility generally had no university qualifications. In addition to the consideration of the bourgeois ethos of achievement and education, which prevailed here at a decisive point, the promotion of the noblesse de robe by the monarchy had political reasons and aimed at consolidating absolutist rule. The kings of France (especially Louis XIV. ) Gradually ousted the old nobility from birthright participation and filled most offices with men who owed them and enjoyed their trust. While these were set clear limits for their political ambitions due to their origin and dependency, the old nobility was concentrated at the royal court ( Versailles ) and turned back into the role of courtiers and ladies-in-waiting.

The nobles of the robe was standing directly in front of the noblesse d'épée ( nobility of the sword ), which was composed of nobles in military functions and the in the minds of many middle-class origins noblesse de robe as a haven understood the old nobility and tradition. At the same time, there was permeability between the two aristocratic groups, and sons from families of the noblesse de robe could certainly make a military career, such as Louis-Charles-Auguste Fouquet de Belle-Isle , who, as the grandson of the French finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, himself became Marshal of France rise. The savoir-vivre literature for the courtier of the 17th century, which was shaped by Italian humanism , promoted the approximation of the aristocratic groups, with pedagogical treatises on the civilization of customs trying to bourgeoisie the old nobility and ennoble the new nobility.

While the old nobility of France in origin, lifestyle and tradition "ritterbürtigen" the mostly also agricultural worn-German nobility corresponded to that resembled noblesse de robe in some ways the letter Adel , who has been Emperor Charles IV. From about 1350 in the Holy Roman Empire awarded the French model and which also consisted mainly of civil servants and military careerists, but in contrast to the Italian nobility only rarely made up of merchants who had become rich. A comparable displacement of the medieval nobility from the influential positions by the modern nobility did not take place in the Holy Roman Empire due to its class structure and the later and mostly milder expression of absolutist rulers.


Since the introduction of the Paulette in 1604, many offices or positions were freely transferable and purchasable by law (previously they reverted to the king when the incumbent died); the Paulette , named after the royal private secretary Charles Paulet , required the incumbent to pay one sixtieth of the original purchase price annually. On the one hand, the Paulette ensured a steady flow of money into the state treasury; Between 1620 and 1634, at one of the high points of the purchase of offices , France drew an average of 37 percent, and a maximum of 52 percent, of the annual state income from this source. On the other hand, it created a growing sense of togetherness within the noblesse de robe , in that the offices were in fact hereditary, as these were usually passed on from the fathers to their sons. However, new nobility often disguised their own lower origins and, like Jean-Baptiste Colbert, for example, acquired a false nobility descent. Despite or because of the viability of the offices (the Paulette was harshly criticized as the cause of many social grievances), the noblesse de robe increasingly sealed off in the 18th century against the entry of further formerly bourgeois officials into their group and protested violently against the increasing number Purchasable state positions that served to support the monarchy financially.

The withdrawal of part of the bourgeoisie from trade and commerce in favor of aristocratic lifestyles (investment in land) withdrew capital from the economy and had a lasting effect on the mercantilist development of France. After the bourgeoisie had acquired money and influence in the 15th and 16th centuries, the social exclusion of the noblesse de robe (and thus its detachment from the bourgeoisie) brought about a renewed feudalization of France.


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