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"Y être, c’est (encore) en être" : déclassement social et aspirations nobiliaires parmi les familles maintenues en noblesse en France sous la Restauration

Articles

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Abstract

International audience During the French Restoration, 111 families which were on the edge of the “SecondState” at the end of the Ancien Regime succeeded in having their nobility officiallyconfirmed, whereas 34 lineages were anoblished after asking for letters of confirmationof nobility. However, some twenty of these applicants were already engagedin a process of social decline which sometimes took roots in the last decades of the18th century. This article focuses on the mechanism, forms and stakes of the socioeconomicdowngrading of these peripheral members of the nobiliary world, who didnot hesitate to spotlight their fragile situation as a consequence of their loyalty tothe Bourbon dynasty and to use it as an argument to ask the royal administrationfor financial assistance, positions and honours as compensations for what they hadendured during and since the French Revolution. It also stresses on the persistenceof a strong desire for aristocracy among the French post-revolutionary elites: evenif being noble was then a symbolic distinction above all, the applicants for such letterpatents and their descendants still hoped that they could get more or less longtermprofits if they legally reintegrated the nobility – whereas it obviously dependedmostly on their ability to seize the financial, matrimonial, professional, public andmundane opportunities which were (unequally) presented to them in the 19th-centurysociety.

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