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Buying a position

Buying a position, power in Europe — Robe nobility and city patricians

  • legends and myths

Mantle nobility and urban patricians

A feature of «illegal» feudalism is the presence of privileged groups of people and corporations. These are no longer only those upper classes that existed in the Middle Ages. In France, for example, a special estate appeared — the nobility of the mantle (meaning the judicial mantle), opposed to the old military estate — the nobility of the sword.


The new «knights of the law» — lawyers occupied various state and, most often, judicial positions and received a noble title for this. The replenishment of this class took place in the most corrupt way.

The practice of selling posts existed, and not only in France, but there it was most common. The royal power, always in need of money, officially appointed those who would pay for them. Anyone could become a «knight of the law» with a legal education and sufficient funds. There was a fee, from a small fee for a post, say, a parliamentary, i.e., judicial (recall, in France, parliaments are royal courts), bailiff to a huge amount for the post of president of the Paris Parliament (i.e., the Supreme Court).

And these posts could be resold, donated, bequeathed, just by paying a certain tax to the treasury.

Rather privileged categories were representatives of the wealthy urban elite, especially in France and the Netherlands, and in England too. They turned, where in fact, and where formally (for example, at one time in Amsterdam), into a closed corporation, completely concentrating the management of cities in their hands. By the way, in France, most of the nobles of the mantle were recruited precisely from these urban patricians.

But compared to traditional feudalism, “illegal” feudalism was a more flexible system, providing conditions for increased social and personal mobility. At the same time, these «new privileged» were a significant force, often opposed to royal power. It was very difficult for the central government to control individual officials in the field.

Officials, and indeed representatives of more or less privileged classes, from which these officials were recruited, resisted control in every possible way. So, in France, the parliaments, especially the Parisian, for a long time behaved quite independently, but in relation to the crown.

According to the traditions of the country, it was the Parlement of Paris that had to register royal decrees. And often advisers refused to register, arguing that this decree was contrary to the laws of the country.

The king was asked to first change the previous laws, and then issue this decree. It is surprising that such independence was ensured precisely by corruption! Councilors and other officials considered their posts to be personal property, and not royal favor.

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