Reflections on the Regency (1715–1723)
In this article, the authors reflect on an interesting and complex period in French history, that which occurred after the death of Louis XIV when the country was ruled by Philippe II, the Duke of Orléans. The authors consider the relatively brief regency (1715–1723) as an example of a special type of historical epoch, which they denote with the term “conservative transition”. Characteristic of monarchical and authoritarian regimes, such epochs are distinguished by a comparatively peaceful transition of power in conditions of social instability that threaten revolution and/or or coup d’état. As a result of such transitions, the authorities are strengthened and power is transferred to the same social group in whose hands it lay before the beginning of the crisis. The experience of Philippe of Orléans and his advisor Guillaume Dubois demonstrates that guaranteeing a conservative transition requires extraordinary political and economic measures and the skilful mobilisation of the ruling class. This discussion of the regency allows the authors to offer a concise description of France at the moment of Peter I’s visit (April-June 1717) and to propose a new view of this extremely controversial period in French history.