The King of France Used Lettres de Cachet to uphold Parental Authority and Family Honor

April 23, 2020

Louis XV lettre de cachet

It was for the father, in his capacity as judge over his children, to claim the assistance of the royal power. Malesherbes writes: “Only the father has the right to demand a lettre de cachet.” When the honor of their family was at stake the people of the lower classes were no less severe than those of higher position. A glazier named Allan, living in the Rue Neuve-Guillemain, who perambulated the streets of Paris looking out for broken windows, informed the commissioner of police that he had solicited a lettre de cachet against his son because “he was giving him just reasons to fear ignominious consequences for his family on account of his thieving propensities.” The worthy man further declared that he was so poor that it would be impossible for him to offer any contribution towards his son’s keep in prison.

Frantz Funck-Brentano, The Old Regime in France, trans. Herbert Wilson (New York: Howard Fertig, 1970), 208.


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