A Royal Stooge


A slave whetting his knife? Yes, but listening intensely to the conversations held by his master. Is it a conspiracy? Yes, but not the conspiracy of the slave against his master, but of the master against Caesar, the conspiracy the slave is going to betray! The art historians have difficulty agreeing on which slave and which Caesar, there are a few good candidates. It doesn’t matter. Let’s say it’s a conspiracy against Nero. What matters is that here at Versailles the sculpture represents a whistle-blower.

You may be tempted to ask if there had been too many conspiracies at the court of Versailles. No, not too many:  La Truaumont against Louis XIV, Damiens against Louis XV, and finally the Necklace Affair, which is not a conspiracy against the royal family but rather around it, and that one was under Louis XVI. So, one per each king. And I suppose this fact might have given them a good reason to glorify a snitch.

A royal stooge is an institution, of course. Louis XIV had a whole system of meaningful rewards established for reporting not just a conspiracy, but any kind of abuse, waste or misappropriation. The system wasn’t perfect, since as Casanova informs us, it was easy to report, but difficult to collect. From the king’s point of view this is, of course, not a small advantage! That’s what the state was all about, quick to grab and slow to return. Hey, I am not a tea-party agitator! What? Are you planning to kill the President?

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This entry was posted in Casanova, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI. Bookmark the permalink.

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