The Memoir of the Princes of the Blood (1788)

The following petition, titled the ‘Memoir of the Princes of the Blood’, was handed to the king in December 1788, at the conclusion of the second Assembly of Notables:

“Your Majesty has stated to the princes of the blood that, when they wish to tell him what might be useful in his service and to the State, they may address themselves to him. The comte d’Artois, Prince de Conde, the duc de Bourbon, the duc d’Enghien and Prince Conti believe it to be their duty to respond to this invitation from Your Majesty…

Sire, the State is in danger; your person is respected, the virtues of the monarch ensure the homage of the nation; but Sire, a revolution is brewing in the principles of government; it is being brought on by the ferment of opinion. Reputedly sacred institutions, which this monarchy has made to prosper for so many centuries, have become matters for debate, or are even described as injustices.

The writings which appeared during the Assembly of Notables, the reports which have been delivered to the undersigned princes, the demands put forward by various provinces, towns or corporations; the objectives and the style of these demands and these reports; everything proclaims, everything reveals a system of deliberate insubordination and contempt for the laws of the State. Each author sets himself up as a legislator; eloquence or the ability to write, even when devoid of study, knowledge and experience, seems to be sufficient to determine the constitution of empires; whoever puts forward a daring proposition, whoever proposes to change the law, is sure of having readers and an audience.

Such is the unhappy progress of this agitation that opinions which a short time ago might have seemed reprehensible, today appear to be reasonable and fair; and that which good people are indignant about today will in a short time perhaps pass as regular and legitimate.

Who can say where the recklessness of opinions will stop? The rights of the throne have been called into question; the rights of the two orders of the State divide opinions; soon property rights will be attacked…

May the Third Estate therefore cease to attack the rights of the first two orders; rights which, no less ancient than the monarchy, must be as unchanging as its constitution; that it limit itself to seeking the reduction in taxes with which it might be burdened; the first two orders, recognising in the Third Estate citizens who are dear to them, will, by the generosity of their sentiments, be able to renounce those prerogatives which have a financial dimension, and consent to bear public charges in the most perfect equality.”