Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Early Modern Europe -- Revolt in Prerevolutionary France: The Prince De Conti's Conspiracy against Louis XV, 1755-1757 by John D. Woodbridge

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Early Modern Europe -- Revolt in Prerevolutionary France: The Prince De Conti's Conspiracy against Louis XV, 1755-1757 by John D. Woodbridge

Article excerpt

Revolt in Prerevolutionary France: The Prince de Conti's Conspiracy against Louis XV 1755- 1757. By John D. Woodbridge. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1995. Pp. xx, 242. $39.95.)

A conspiracy by the Prince de Conti offers fertile ground for historical imagination, involving a charismatic personality, tantalizing links to centers of great power, and profound social forces. Since, by definition, conspiracy cloaks itself in secrecy, the historian needs more than the usual caution. In this felicitous study the author strives for a just balance between literary drama and scientific rigor.

The Prince de Conti was Louis XV's cousin and for several years one of his most trusted confidants, especially in foreign affairs. In the 1750's the two men had a falling out, the prince resenting Madame de Pompadour's influence over the king which threatened to overshadow his own. He also approved the Parlement of Paris asserting the rights of the princes and peers as well as its own constitutional prerogatives against the despotism of the king's ministers. Failing to bring the king to his own mind, Conti retired from the court.

What he did next is shrouded in murk, penetrated chiefly by a couple of spies working for Pompadour and the police. The spies claimed Conti was trying to organize a plot to ascend the throne in the place of Louis XV with the blessing of Jansenists and other opponents of absolute royal power, as well as armed support from Huguenot insurgents and English soldiers on the western coast of the country. The alleged plot also may have involved Joseph Damiens' failed attempt to assassinate the king.

From this material Woodbridge teases an intriguing argument for Conti's conspiracy. …

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