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Embezzlement and High Treason in Louis XIV's France

The Trial of Nicolas Fouquet

Vincent J. Pitts

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Louis XIV’s vendetta against his disgraced finance minister exposed dark truths about the state's finances.

From 1661 to 1664, France was mesmerized by the arrest and trial of Nicolas Fouquet, the country’s superintendent of finance. Prosecuted on trumped-up charges of embezzlement, mismanagement of funds, and high treason, Fouquet managed to exonerate himself from all of the major charges over the course of three long years, in the process embarrassing and infuriating Louis XIV. The young king overturned the court’s decision and sentenced Fouquet to lifelong imprisonment in a remote fortress…

Louis XIV’s vendetta against his disgraced finance minister exposed dark truths about the state's finances.

From 1661 to 1664, France was mesmerized by the arrest and trial of Nicolas Fouquet, the country’s superintendent of finance. Prosecuted on trumped-up charges of embezzlement, mismanagement of funds, and high treason, Fouquet managed to exonerate himself from all of the major charges over the course of three long years, in the process embarrassing and infuriating Louis XIV. The young king overturned the court’s decision and sentenced Fouquet to lifelong imprisonment in a remote fortress in the Alps.

A dramatic critique of absolute monarchy in pre-revolutionary France, Embezzlement and High Treason in Louis XIV's France tells the gripping tale of an overly ambitious man who rose rapidly in the state hierarchy—then overreached. Vincent J. Pitts uses the trial as a lens through which to explore the inner workings of the court of Louis XIV, who rightly feared that Fouquet would expose the tawdry financial dealings of the king's late mentor and prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin.

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Embezzlement and High Treason in Louis XIV's France

Vincent J. Pitts

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Reviews

Reviews

A fine book. It is a compelling account of a political drama in mid-seventeenth century France, but it is also a window into the process by which rule of law gradually became established...[and] I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

... Pitts gives us a well-organized, concise narrative of what amounts to a highly extractive economy whereby the few at the top accumulate the most to live in ostentatious slender.

Pitts has written an excellent, detailed synthesis of the Fouquet affair and explained clearly the complex legal and financial issues that lay at the heart of the trial. This book will interest scholars and can be recommended for undergraduates.

Pitts is a natural storyteller who draws the reader into the world of nobles and financiers. The book gives the reader a good sense of some of the main features of high politics of the time: court intrigue, shifting alliances, rivals scheming for power, shady dealings, patronage, piety, high officials skirting the law. At times the crafty plotting of the historical characters is reminiscent of Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
240
ISBN
9781421418247
Illustration Description
8 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Prelude
1. The Long Reach
2. The Superintendant at Work
3. Fall of a Titan
4. Setting the Stage and Writing the Script
5. The Best-Laid Plans of Men and

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Prelude
1. The Long Reach
2. The Superintendant at Work
3. Fall of a Titan
4. Setting the Stage and Writing the Script
5. The Best-Laid Plans of Men and Ministers
6. To Do Justice without Consideration of Fortune or Self-Interest
7. A Performance beyond Comparison
8. The Honor and Conscience of Judges
9. Aftermath
Appendix. Ministerial Fortunes in Seventeenth-Century France
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Vincent J. Pitts

Vincent J. Pitts has taught at Quinnipiac University and at Southern Connecticut State University. He is the author of La Grande Mademoiselle at the Court of France, 1627–1693, also published by Johns Hopkins, and The Man Who Sacked Rome: Charles de Bourbon, Constable of France, 1490–1527.Histoire Sociale - Social History