Primary Source

Lamoignon, "The Principles of the French Monarchy" (1787)


On 19 November 1787, the King convoked the Parlement of Paris to enforce registration of an edict allowing the indebted royal treasury to borrow an additional 420 million livres. When the King appeared before the magistrates, his Keeper of the Seals, Chrétien–François de Lamoignon spoke for him. Lamoignon did not explain what the additional money would be spent on but instead argued that the King’s will had to be obeyed if France was to prosper, thus staking the monarchy’s legitimacy on the acceptance of this single bond issue.


First sirs, it is easy to anticipate that the justice of the first Parlement of the Kingdom would be to propagate the new and ill-considered doctrine that . . . would establish a dangerous concert between your principles and the declamations of the other royal courts.

This general commotion could bring you the most bitter regrets, by generating ideas in others contrary to your own view. By rejecting the example that you have given to the court, the King has no doubt about the true principles at issue; they are engraved in the heart of all his subjects and if they could ever be altered, it would be in the Parlement of Paris that the King would be sure to see them restored in their original purity.

These principles, universally acknowledged by the entire kingdom, are that the King alone must possess the sovereign power in his kingdom; that He is answerable only to God in the exercise of his power; that the tie which binds the King to the Nation is by nature indissoluble; that the interests and reciprocal obligations between the King and his subjects serve only to reassure that union; that the Nation's interest is that the powers of its head not be altered; that the King is the chief sovereign of the Nation and everything he does is with her interests in mind; and that finally the legislative power resides in the person of the King independent of and unshared with all other powers.

These sirs are the invariable powers of the French Monarchy. . . . His Majesty finds them consecrated in the text of your decree of 20 March 1766. . . .

As a consequence of these principles and of our History, it is clear that the King only has the right to convoke an Estates-General; that he alone must judge if this convocation is necessary; and that he needs no other power for the administration of his kingdom.


Discours de M. de Lamoignon, Garde des Sceaux de France à la Séance du Roi au Parlement le 19 novembre 1787 (Bibliothèque nationale de France: [Microfiche LB39-467]).

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"Lamoignon, "The Principles of the French Monarchy" (1787)," in World History Commons, [accessed October 3, 2023]