Royal Bastardy and Dynastic Crisis

Matthew Gerber

in Bastards

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199755370
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932603 | DOI:
Royal Bastardy and Dynastic Crisis

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The political dimensions of bastardy were most evident in the public controversy stemming from Louis XIV’s attempt to declare his extramarital offspring capable of inheriting the French throne. The Affair of the Princes, which erupted shortly after the king’s death in 1715, resulted in the publication of more than forty political pamphlets, most of which concluded that Louis XIV had transgressed a principle of dynastic succession according to which the French crown passed independently of human will. Like the inalienability of the royal domain, this principle had been developed to safeguard public interests from the private passions of particular kings, much as customary inheritance laws were designed to protect children from spendthrift parents. In the wake of the Affair of the Princes, Louis XV refused to publicly acknowledge his extramarital offspring. Anxiety over royal sexuality and political corruption nevertheless continued in the eighteenth century, though it was now targeted on royal mistress rather than extramarital offspring.

Keywords: royal bastards; affair of the princes; dynastic succession; royal domain; inalienability; royal mistresses; political pornography; Marie-Antoinette

Chapter.  10413 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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