|Friendship in the Early Modern French Nobility|
|In 16th- and 17th-century France, noble autobiographies and correspondences are full of mentions of “friends” and “friendship”. In the absence of a market economy and a full-fledged state, friendship takes political, economic and military functions. The place of emotion in these relationships is very doubtful; on the one hand, emotional vocabulary is extremely frequent in the letters; on the other hand, it is hardly credible that all of these formulas were taken at face value by the nobles – if this were the case, we would indeed have to imagine the early modern period as an age of general love, trust, and benevolence. Thus, friendship is rather a code that structures social relationships than a distinct and deeply emotional relationship. This code, however, can be analysed. Who addresses whom as a friend? Which emotions are mentioned in the code of friendship? How is loyalty affirmed? Friendship also has rituals, as for example oaths to confirm the bond of friendship and complicated procedures of reconciliation of friends after a dispute.
There is, moreover, a rhetoric of obligation and fidelity present in the discourse of friendship. Friends promise one another services, which create new obligations. Friendships can even be inherited. The range of the notion of friendship is larger than today: it can also be applied to the relationships between spouses and between close relatives. This can be explained by the absence of a strong notion of romantic love, which forms in the 18th and 19th centuries.
To have friends is also a matter of honour: in general, the more friends a nobleman has and the more illustrious these friends are, the better for his reputation. Friendship appears thus as a central element of noble self-fashioning.
Note: Abstract has been erroneously uploaded under "paper" also, but I haven't been able to erase it.|