Honour for Money: Venality in Society

William Doyle

in Venality

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780198205364
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191676598 | DOI:
Honour for Money: Venality in Society

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In France, men would acquire public offices only because they brought tangible and worthwhile advantages, or because there was no alternative. Most often the decisive reason was the latter. Offices were public monopolies, and almost no public function or profession could be exercised without one. Many services not strictly public were also provided by venal monopolies. To buy office was to buy into an occupation otherwise closed. Yet offices were much more than mere licences to follow a certain profession or trade. An office was an occupation of acknowledged status or rank. Offices are rich in privileges and prestige and impose no duties on those who occupy them. In addition, offices were regarded as an alternative or complementary investment to real estate. Estimates of ennoblements have ranged between 120,000 and 400,000. But the proportion of the nobility owing their status to the purchase of office over a century was substantial, continuing the pattern set in previous centuries.

Keywords: France; public offices; venality; venal monopolies; privileges; prestige; investment; real estate; ennoblements; nobility

Chapter.  22642 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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