Honneurs de la Cour

The Honneurs de la Cour (Honors of the Court) were ceremonious presentations to the sovereign at the Royal Court of France that were formal for women but more casual for men. It was an honour granted only to the families of ancient nobility. It allowed them to approach the King and the Queen of France.[1]


The Honors of the Court "were the most prestigious noble honour of the 18th century, meant to honour the most ancient and representing noble families".[2]

Formally such presentations were only granted to noble families able to prove a lineage dating back to 1400 A.D. without tracks of ennoblement. However, the king could grant exemptions to families that had been dedicated to serve him. He could also refuse a valid candidate with sufficient nobility whose family was not involved enough in the king's wars as nobles were primarily mounted warriors who had sworn allegiance to their sovereign and promised to fight for him. On a list of candidates he would then place a remark next to the name of the refused applicant saying "ne se peut" (can't be) or "attendre" (wait).

The Honors of the Court should not be mistaken for court life. The oldest nobility did not always match the court nobility. Many families living at court were descendants from less ancient nobility while many nobles of antique nobility did not stay at court. Moreover, life at the Versailles Court was expensive and many were unable to afford it.

The nobleman who was granted the presentation would follow a royal hunt on board of one of the king's carriages. At that point he would be casually introduced to the king. A noblewoman's presentation was much more formal, taking place during a specific ceremony.

From 1715 to 1790,[3] 942 families were granted the Honors of the Court; 880 of them were French. François Bluche, who studied the royal genealogical archives, said that among the 942 families "462 were able to prove a noble lineage dating back to 1400, if excluding sovereign houses and foreign nobles who, unlike one can think, made up more than half of the French nobleman received at Court".[4] He has limited his work to a list of 43 Houses especially flattered by the King's archive, these 43 families are considered of major regional or national importance and members of the highest 18th century nobility.

According to Régis Valette[2] only 280 of the 880 French families who were granted the Honors of the Court still remain today.

List of families who were granted the Honneurs de la Cour

The following table provides an incomplete list of families who were granted the Honors of the Court, including dates (when available) and sources. The ones listed by François Bluche,[4] considered the most prominent French noble families of the 18th century, are marked with bold script.

Name Dates Sources
d'Arenberg 1749, 1767, 1771, 1774, 1776 et 1785 Valette,[2] Piot[5]
de Béon Bluche
de Bourbon-Busset 1753, 1767, 1772 and 1773 Valette, Piot
de Broglie 1746, 1747, 1750, 1752, 1753, 1754, 1756, 1770, 1771, 1779, 1782, 1785 and 1786 Valette, Piot
de Butler and de Butler d'Ormond 1747 Valette, Piot
de Chabannes 1759, 1760, 1782, 1784 and 1787 Bluche, Valette
de Chabot 1778 Valette
de Chastellux 1765, 1768, 1773 and 1787 Bluche, Piot, Valette
de Choiseul 1733 Bluche, Valette
de Clermont-Tonnerre 12 times Bluche, Valette
de Croismare 1775, 1783, 1785 De Magny, M. (1844)[6]
de Colbert 1748, 1758, 1759, 1763, 1764, 1768, 1770, 1772, 1778, 1782 and 1787 Valette
de Coucy 1776 Bluche, Jougla (t. 3, n° 11398)
de Croÿ Valette
Diesbach de Belleroche 1773 Valette, Piot
de Drée 1782 and 1783 Valette, Piot
de Durfort and de Durfort-Civrac before 1732, and 22 times between 1737 and 1788 Bluche, Valette, Piot
d'Estaing 1784 and 1785 Bluche
de Faucigny-Lucinge 1785 and 1787 Valette, Piot
de Ficquelmont 1777 and 1789 Bluche, Valette
de Foucauld (de Pontbriand and de Malembert) 1765, 1769 and 1788 Valette, Piot
de Gironde 1770 and 1779 Valette
de Gontaut-Biron Bluche, Valette
de Gouffier Bluche
de Gramont Valette
d'Harcourt Valette
d'Harville Valette
de la Croix de Castries 1744, 1753, 1776 and 1786 Valette
de La Rochefoucauld Bluche, Valette
de Las Casas dates Valette
de La Tremoïlle Bluche
de Mancini dates Pauchet
de Mérode dates Valette
de Montaigu dates Valette
de Montalembert dates Valette
de Montesquiou-Fezensac dates Valette
de Montmorency Bluche, Valette
de Noailles Bluche, Valette
de Polignac Bluche, Valette
de Rochechouart, de Rochechouart de Mortemart 1732, 1738, 1751, 1752, 1756, 1757, 1764, 1772, 1773, 1774, 1776, 1779, 1780 and 1783 Bluche, Valette
de Rohan Bluche
de Rougé dates Valette
de Sabran Bluche
de Sade dates Valette
de Ségur dates Valette
de Vogüé dates Valette

Notes and references

  1. "Notice historique sur les honneurs de la Cour" (PDF) (in French). Institution Saint Georges pour la Noblesse. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-21. ...(etre admis aux) honneurs de la Cour, c'est-a-dire aux cercles, aux receptions, aux bals du Roi et de la Reine, pour monter dans les carrosses de Sa majeste et l'accompagner a la chasse; in English: [the Honors of the Court meant] to be allow to attend the circles, receptions and balls of the King and the Queen, to get into His Majesty's carriages and to go hunting with the King.
  2. Régis Valette, Catalogue de la noblesse française au XXIe siècle, éd. Robert Laffont, Paris, 2007
  3. The Honneurs were codified in 1715 (the first year of Louis XV's reign), there were no more presentation after the fall of the monarchy in 1790.
  4. Bluche, François (1957). "Les Honneurs de la Cour". L'intermédiaire des Chercheurs et des Curieux. Les Cahiers nobles. Paris.
  5. Piot
  6. De Magny, M. (1844) Premier registre de livre d'or de la noblesse de France, Paris: Collège héraldique de France, p. 190.

See also

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