Majesty in Canada: Essays on the Role of Royalty

By Colin M. Coates | Go to book overview

Glorifying and Exporting French Kingship:
Political and Legal Models in the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Centuries

SYLVAIN SOLEIL

There can be no question concerning the widespread influence of the French monarchy through the world in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and in particular in its colonies in North America, India, and the Caribbean. To evaluate this influence, it is first necessary to examine the process of glorifying French political and legal models. How did France build a discourse which presented its political system as exceptional? How did it export it? How was this model considered abroad? These are some aspects of a broader research project initiated by a number of public lawyers and legal historians at the law school of the Université de Rennes in France.1 The discourse on the French political, administrative, and cultural model influenced the French presence in its colonies, and New France offers a prime example of this. This discourse was inspired by such sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury ideas as “the French king, because of his Catholic faith, is exceptional”; “France is more virtuous than other countries”; “the French political system is different from and superior to other systems in Europe.”2 There are three issues to consider. First, what are the grounds for French exceptionalism? Second, why and how were the idea of French exceptionalism and the French model exported and received outside the country? Third, where does New France fit into this intellectual development?

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