Private Ambition and Political Alliances in Louis XIV's Government

Private Ambition and Political Alliances in Louis XIV's Government

The Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain Family 1650-1715

Sara Chapman


University of Rochester Press



An exploration of the personal and professional networks of political power during the reign of Louis XIV, focusing on the influence of his minister Louis Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain.
This book explores the processes of state-building and the nature of political power in France during the reign of Louis XIV (1642-1715) through a study of a prominent ministerial family, the Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain. During the initial development of French governmental institutions in early modern France, patron-client ties provided networks for the transmission of political power that often paralleled or underpinned formal state institutions. In the absence of an efficient state bureaucracy, these informal patron-client ties tended to be grounded in personal connections between patrons and clients: marriage, kinship, or friendship. During the second half of the reign of Louis XIV, however, earlier state-building and centralizing initiatives began to take root.
Although this study focuses primarily on one family, the Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain, it provides a broad study of institutions and political authority in the early modern French state from 1670 to 1715. Louis Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain and his son Jérôme became members of the small circle of Louis XIV's most important advisors and, as royal councillors, they headed virtually every administrative division in the royal government over the course of their careers: finances, the navy, the colonies, the king's household, and the justice system.
This study maps the evolution and development of the family's personal networks of power that included political patrons and clients in the parlements (law courts) in Paris, the royal court, among the clergy, in the outlying provinces, in the navy, and in the French colonies. The Pontchartrain family's complex political networks also show the important role of noblewomen in political networks and state-building. Marriage alliances proved to be an important factor in the family's ability to weather political crisis and scandals that beset the clan in the early seventeenth century.

Sara Chapman is Assistant Professor of History at Oakland University.


May 2004
3 black and white illustrations
308 pages
6x9 in
Changing Perspectives on Early Modern Europe
ISBN: 9781580461535
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS013000, POL010000, HIS037040
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Table of Contents

The Origins of the Pontchartrains' Patron-Client
From Brittany to Versailles: Building Clienteles and Cultivating Clients
Louis de Pontchartrain as Controller General of Finances and the Institutions of Royal Finances
The Controller General and Informal Networks of Political Power
The Pontchartrains as Secretary of State for the Navy and Colonies
Louis de Pontchartrain as Chancellor, 1699-1714


The dense scholarship and ground-breaking detail of the present work . . . will certainly contribute to an overdue reassessment of the role of the Phelypeaux in the political history of the ancien regime. HISTORICAL JOURNAL

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