An agent of the French king under the ancien régime. The office was developed as an emergency measure to counter disobedience during the 1630s, building on an earlier practice of sending royal officials from the central councils on tours of inspection in the provinces. Under Richelieu and Louis XIV their authority was extended into every sphere of administration, and they became the principal link between the central government and the provinces. They supervised local courts, oversaw the tax system, and kept the crown informed about the political and economic situation in their généralités (administrative units). The office was abolished at the Revolution, but many of the same functions were later performed by the préfets.
Subjects: Literature — World History.