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Embezzlement and High Treason in Louis XIV's France

The Trial of Nicolas Fouquet

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.

About the Author

Vincent J. Pitts teaches at Quinnipiac University. He is the author of Henri IV of France: His Reign and Age, La Grande Mademoiselle at the Court of France: 1627–1693, and The Man Who Sacked Rome: Charles de Bourbon, Constable of France (1490–1527).

Endorsements

"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."

- Gail Bossenga, Elizabethtown College, author of The Politics of Privilege: Old Regime and Revolution in Lille

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."

- EH.Net

"... 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."

- Renaissance Quarterly

"Pitts’s study of the trial of Fouquet is more than an English rendering of existing French scholarship. Widely read both in terms of primary sources and the historiographical debate, it combines a clear and confident focus on the trial’s key events and developments with a sure-footed set of judgments and interpretations of motive and consequences. The author emphasizes what can be forgotten when the trial is subsumed within wider debates about the early-modern French fiscal system: Fouquet was tried for both embezzlement and high treason."

- Journal of Modern History

"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."

- The Historian
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421418247 : embezzlement-and-high-treason-in-louis-xivs-france-pitts
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240 Pages
$44.95 USD
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240 Pages
$44.95 USD

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